Plant as Shaykh extracted from A Sufi Herbal by Frederick R.

Dannaway

Peganum harmala Harmal, Harmel, Isphand, Espand, Syrian Rue Harmal is a truly sacred plant. It banishes sorrows, gives courage, soothes the soul and its powers extend into the realms visionary sacraments, magic and medicine (Hooper 1937). Hooper wrote, “The seeds are reputed to be an alterative and purifying medicine, and are supposed to stimulate the sexual system.” We have written extensively on this most esteemed and holy herb (Dannaway 2009, 2010), speculating a truly high place for it in the Vedic plant pantheon (Plant as Guru). It is intimately associated with The Five primary figures of the Shi’a: The Prophet, Ali, Fatima, Husayn and Hasan and it’s said that Allah commanded the faithful to eat harmal. Its use in Islam as a magic folk medicine, as visionary herb as well as for crafts goes back to ancient Persian rites of sacred incenses and the powerful haoma entheogens. Its use in crafts would have been inadvertently visionary with the dyeing of rugs and resultant transdermal absorption of harmaline and harmine, which might have led to the geometric patterns and the flying carpet transvection as discussed elsewhere. Some speculate the dyeing of the fez, and the sweat from whirling dervishes, may have resulted in the absorption of the alkaloids into the skin. The truly vast and ancient history of the plant is well documented by Flattery and Schwartz in their landmark Haoma and Harmaline. It is erroneously cited all over the internet and in Ratsch’s (2005) otherwise monumental Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs that Peganum harmala is mentioned in the Koran, some entries say “repeatedly” and the verse they cite is from the below hadith about the roots and leaf and seed having angels appointed over them. I wish it were true this were in the Koran actually, it would perhaps encourage some more extremists to feel the soft glow of a loving, fortifying botanical energy. However, our own readings of the Koran have failed to turn up these quotations, and it is not mentioned in any of the many Sunni or Shia herbals we have that cite the plant, (I am sure they would say this is mentioned in the Koran as they are praising it in the hadith), nor is it mentioned in any of the exhaustive texts that actually list each and every plant of the Koran. We have at least four such books from Sunni and Shia authors who have made it their life to find every plant in the Koran and it is not among any of their lists. I have corresponded with Unani Hakeems etc. who greatly extol the virtue of the plant, cite hadith, poems and traditions but they say it is not in the Koran. Therefore, we caution those that quote the same sources, with Ratsch or his translators (we suspect) at the bottom of this error. The verse they cite as from the Koran is likely from the hadith quoted below. If we are the one’s in error, please feel free to contact and point to where this plant or that verse is in the Koran and we will update this and admit our error. Below we will cite the hadith that seems to have been mistakenly thought to come from the Koran, and some poems, chiefly from Iran, extolling the virtues of this mystic plant. The following hadith is found in the Hulyat al-muttaqin of Muhammad Baqir Majlisi,

“As for harmel. Its roots and stem possess the power of a spell. the least of which is leprosy. ewe-eyed. neither its root in the Earth nor its branch in the sky is shaken without there being an angel in charge of it until it becomes debris and whit it becomes. or on Monday. Neighbor on left.s. They will be expelled in the same way from the house in which incense is used. have an angel which protects them until it reaches the end of of its growth or dries up. Its seed are a cure for seventy diseases. of which the easiest is xura (black leprosy?). Before the face.“It is related from the Prophet that over each leaf and seed of the isfand plant an angel is appointed so that through its bark and roots and branches grief and sorcery are set aside. all who have not. blue-eyed. or on Friday. crow-eyed. “That which grows from harmel (harmal). its branches.) wrote. This is the way that all kinds of demons (‘ifrit) without open mouths and outstretched hands were expelled from the seventy two houses. Underground. --May the eve of the envious and envy crack. On Sunday. Fatima collected it For Husayn and Hasan All who are born on Saturday.a. For Satan avoids seventy houses in which it is. and its flowers. And in another account it is related that the Prophet complained to Allah that his people were cowardly.” The Messenger of Allah also said.” Esfand and sepand: Our Prophet selected it. He ordained that it be the incense ( kundur) chosen by the Prophet. So not be heedless of it. It is a remedy for seventy illnesses. neighbor on right. make medical treatment with isfand and frankincense (kundur). Ali planted it. From the Shi’a saint Jafar al-Sadiq it is related that the Devil is made distant seventy houses from a house where is isfand. No smoke rises more quickly to heaven than its smoke. esfand of thirty-three seeds. which expels devils and averts misfortunes. on the ground: Black-eyed. Esfand and esfand seed. and it is a healing for seventy illnesses. All who out by the door. For relatives and friends and strangers. A revelation came down to him to command his people to ingest isfand so that by means of it they might become brave. its leaves. Therefore. its roots. On Tuesday. All who have looked. behind the back. May the eye of the envious and of envy be blind! .” Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (s. making it reach all things and all the people in your house. In its seeds is the cure of seventy-two diseases. all who come in by the door.w. On Thursday. So treat yourselves with it and frankincense. or on Wednesday.

Who gathered it? Fatima.. Thursday-born. laxative. time of harvest or even the climate where burned could increase the active components (Luck 2006). the founder of the Unani system of medicine and whose book Kitab al-Qanun has been called the single most influential book in all of medicine. Bioassay of entheogenic doses of Peganum harmala have reported the feeling of “contact” with an invisible being which might recall the initiatory prophet Khidir. Scientists have long debated the possibility that certain Boswellia species have distinct psychoactive effects (Menon & Kar 1971) with some speculating that geography. By the grace of the King of Men. species. and the use in the dyeing of the fez may well “color” the sweating spinning dervishes of certain Sufi orders. In the local medicine it is for melancholy. To quote from Celestial Botany (Dannaway 2010): “The folklore of various plants in the region associated with haoma. Friday-born. turn away misfortune and pain. From whom do they make it smoke? For the Imam Hasan and the Imam Husayn. and ghalgat-al-dhib. though this theory has been suggested before (Shannon 2008). in whose steps flowers grow. The harmal of isphand (Peganum harmala) ingested alone is entheogenic. Peganum is called sadhab al-barri. Tuesday-born. and intimately linked with the Shia Imams. could be active by a subcutaneous ingestion by way of dyeing the elaborate geometrical carpets famous throughout the Islamic world. which should be consulted for a broad but detailed ethnobotanical survey.) are now understood to provoke psychoactivity (Moussaieff et al. and also harmal. mentions harmel…Harmel is good for the pains of the joints and it contains hazaian powers. rubefacient. Also for antispasmodic. as meaning “drunken or hallucinogenic” as in the intoxication of Sufi mystics. such as the harmal or isphand plant Peganum harmala are well discussed (Flattery 1989) and recently in an article of Moses and the burning bush. a principle use of the plant to obtain the brilliant red hue. 2008). depression and aphrodisiac. Who planted it? The Prophet. Sunday-born.Saturday-born. and we have discussed this and other psychoactive incenses at length in the paper Strange Fires. We yet again beg the reader’s pardon for quoting ourselves once more: Researchers are only just beginning to understand the effects of incenses on the brain. Weird Smokes and Psychoactive Combustibles: Entheogens and Incense in the Ancient Traditions (Dannaway 2010). and of course for skin rashes which is always its most common use… ‘The Great Ibn Sina (Avicenna). The use of harmal as an incense is widespread in the ancient world.” The word hazaian was explained to me by a friend in Lebanon.” Quoted in Dale Pendell’s Pharmako/Gnosis. Mahmoud Z. Monday-born. and even seemingly innocuous substances like frankincense (Boswellia sp. Modern Mazdean Gnostics employ the stimulant herb Ephedera which was an early substitute for the haoma but there is some interesting research on the interaction of Ephedera and Peganum harmala. . is an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript from Dannaway: “In Lebanon.

would obviously synergize and potentiate the effects with inhalation of MAO-Inhibiting b-carbolines. and the smoke is blown up the vagina with “special pipes” for uterine pains. entheogen. some of which held secret recipes for incenses used for oracular purposes. In Pakistan it is said that the seeds are used to “neutralize the enchantments of a jin (Jinn) and to banish all evil spirits away in general. .” (Ratsch 2005). extending to peripheral nomadic groups and ancient cultures and to medieval mystics.Some scholars and media have discussed possibilities that THC is produced from "pyrochemical modifications" that occur when the resin is burned (Ratsch 2005. like the kundur incense mentioned in Shia Islamic hadith. severe labor. Its smoke can be used to treat a wide variety of complaints. The Biblical associations of illicit magical incenses and foreign women informed the world-view of religious persecutors into the Early Modern Era and revealed the persistent use of psychoactive plants. Ancient texts and scholarly treatments reveal a highly developed complex of psychoactive incense cults. alum. medicine. It is said that such a treatment usually results in a rapid improvement. or even fuel source. A person who has fallen under the spell of or has been possessed by a jin is urged to inhale as much as possible the smoke rising from the crackling seeds on the charcoals. and olibanum. such as the use of Peganum harmala in hard Iranian winters (Flattery & Schwartz 1989). Martinetz. (Ratsch 2005). noting more toxic examples whose inhalation could be lethal." The addition of other psychoactive substances. A very logical method of investigation would be to note the effects of burning a plant to judge its smoke in terms of aromatic and magical (psychoactive) qualities. especially vaginal or gynecological. Even "olibanum [frankincense] addiction" is discussed and. infertility. The seeds are burnt to keep away the evil eye at most important occasions in Iran. as fumigations of alum and Syrian rue are used to disperse demons and evil influences. weapon. etc. Ratsch writes the seeds are used in smoking blends. Ratsch (2005) also cites that an incense to promote sexual moods on wedding nights consists of Syrian rue. He describes a method of extraction using 15 grams of seeds and lemon juice that are boiled together until a paste forms. and for the evil eye in Turkey. it is an example of a "mild narcotic whose effects are appreciated in religious rituals. which combines frankincense and the entheogen Peganum harmala (Flattery & Schwartz 1989). Faure 1990. Lohs & Janzen 1989) writes. Lohs & Janzen 1989). witches and alchemists. In India the smoke is used to clean wounds. This is dried and smoked. as Martinetz (Martinetz. It is clear that the ancients made a very thorough investigation of all vegetation they encountered as a potential food source. A plant's effects on the mind and body would be remembered and enshrined as holy or as containing a god or the means of communicating with the spirits. This article discusses Old World incense mystics in the context of the "strange fires" ( es zara) mentioned in the Bible.

epilepsy. and nervous conditions. combining the MAOI powers of Peganum harmala with the various Acacia species. being a mixture of broken leaves. There is indeed much overlap. Acacia species can be a potent source of entheogenic tryptamines. etc. and scholars. or Sudaba. Some theories are better than others. seems to be increasingly vindicated over time. As alcohol is haram in Islam. alchemy. which is simply his opinion. Flattery and Schwarz (1989) describe the entwining botanical mythologies and folklore of Peganum harmala or Syrian Rue with Ruta graveolens or Common Rue. Hooper informs us that a drug of it is sold at the market. and hten decanting which gives a very potent product. it’s rather presumptuous to be so sure of any given candidate. whereby the ashes are calcinated and combined. and an antidote to poisons (Morrow 2011). Such an admixture was suggested by Flattery and Schwartz. rue is used to treat phlegm. one can produce an alcohol-free tincture. stems. though there is ample documentation of alcohol in Islamic alchemy. and making matters more confusing it is said to be the Peganon of Scripture.Some friends in Lebanon informed me several years ago that there are traditional methods of vinegar extractions very similar to modern experimenters who often simply boil a quantity of seeds in vinegar or water and vinegar. as do all herbs. and for insanity. Some experimentation with a glycerite tincture would be interesting. In Al-Kindi. Very subtle tinctures can be made to provide threshold doses. but as there is no certainty to historical mysteries. as perhaps first suggested by Ananda Bossman. In the appendix below we have discussions on the fiqh of using alcohol in medicine. that link up in Islam with the “celestial botany” of Iran. with some context from Islamic alchemists and Imams. Another admixture plant could be the pomegranate. one-sided attacks on certain theories. It has been speculated for quite some time that there might have been an Islamic or Sufi equivalent ayahuasca. some associated with the pre-Islamic goddess al-Uzza whose sacred grove was destroyed by the Prophet. Ruta graveolens is called Sudab. which Ott rejected as grasping at straws. straining. Rue in small doses is a tonic. expounded by some Israeli scholars such as Shanon. and this may reflect an ancient Iranian and Indian connection to the haoma/soma. digestive and aphrodisiac. rheumatism. . It benefits from a spagyric processing. Especially odious are the attacks directed against John Allegro whose work. His work provides a Semitic context of entheogens. Ott’s obsession with proving Wasson correct leads him to vicious. as the evidence of soma-rich plants and complicated botanical admixtures and elixirs have a truly ancient legacy in those regions. while certainly controversial. stalks and fruits. or the herb of grace (Hooper 1937). though they are quite distinct in appearance and effects.

amnesia. emmenagogue. Morrow has collected some of the more dramatic medical studies that show Peganum harmala exhibits antioxidative activity and antitumor activity and as useful in treating such diseases as Parkinsons. Haoma and Harmaline. epilepsy. haoma (Persian). colic. hermelkraut. sedative. hermel. spicy. Hooper. menstrual problems. Strange Fires. harmalkraut. harmal rutbah (Arabic/Iraq). moly. sipand (Persian). steppenraute. 2010. syrische raute. pegano. antiperiodic. It is considered hypnotic. besasa (Egypt. Syrian rue. and Psychoactive Combustibles: entheogens and incense in ancient traditions. Flattery & Schwartz. and abortificent. urinary and sexual disorders. mountain rue. techepak (Ladakhi). diuretic herb that stimulates the uterus and digestive system. it is said that harmal is “bitter. harmel. 2009. sciatica.From Morrow’s (2011) excellent work on the Shia herbal medicine. It is used internally for stomach complaints. peganon. tukhm-i-isfand. Folk Names: Aspand (Kurdish). hermelraute. Weird Smokes. harmelraute. Frederick R. and jaundice and externally for hemorrhoids and baldness. David. wilde raute Sources cited above can be found in the following books: Dannaway. Useful Plants and drugs of Iran and Iraq. pegano. harmelkraut.scribd. harmal. hom (Persian). http://www. alterative. gandaku. and is reputedly aphrodisiac. epnubu (Egypt). Celestial Botany: Entheogenic Traces in Islamic Mysticism. churma. lactagogue. . nervous and mental illnesses. 1937. uzarih (Turkish).com/doc/15744793/Celestial-Botany-Entheogenic-Tracesin-Islamic-Mysticism Dannaway. Frederick R. harmale. "plant of Bes"). 1989. kisankur.

John Andrew. Batool (translator) 2007. Ratsch. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs. Christian. Pendell. Islamic Medical Wisdom. Dale. Pharmako/Gnosis. See also. 2004. Encyclopedia of Islamic Medicine. Mike Jay’s Blue Tide for added information and first hand accounts Any references not listed can be found in the above cited books.Ispaphany. 2011. 2005. Morrow. .

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