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Ten Psychedelic Spices That Support Mental Health.

Mind-altering spices you probably have in your kitchen.

By writemindmattersPublished 2 years ago 7 min read
Ten Psychedelic Spices That Support Mental Health.

Many positive results have come from micro-dosing on psychedelics such as ketamine, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or ecstasy), LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), and mushrooms (containing psilocybin) to treat mental health conditions.

“Several states and cities in the United States are in the process of legalizing or decriminalizing psilocybin for therapeutic or recreational purposes” — Paul Tullis.

Patients would take around a tenth of the amount it takes to become hallucinogenic with doses carefully managed by a trained psychiatrist. People with a family history of psychosis and schizophrenia can not risk taking psychedelics due to a rare side effect that causes permanent psychosis.

Humans have a long history of experimenting with foods and plants to alter consciousness. Those traditional uses inspired today's common medicines; opium for pain, artemisinin as antimalarial, and anti-cancer drugs derived from Catharanthus roseus and Taxus baccata. The following ten are examples of common spices used for their effects on both the mind and spirit.


1. Vanilla.

Mayans and Aztecs drank vanilla with their cacao, both known for increasing anandamide and producing a euphoric or cannabinoid high. Anandamide is an endogenous (in our body) cannabinoid that, like THC, binds with our cannabinoid receptors and reduces fear and anxiety, among many other mood and physiological benefits.

The transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V (TRPV1) in our peripheral nervous system is called a vanilloid receptor because its effects mimic the vanilla bean.

Like eugenol in vanilla, vanilloid receptors reduce pain and inflammation when activated by cannabidiol (CBD).

Vanilla’s heliotropin elevates mood and reduces anxiety, while its principal constituent, vanillin, increases dopamine and serotonin levels with anti-depressant effects equal to fluoxetine.

2. Black pepper.

Black pepper was used traditionally in India to treat gastric, skin, and sleep conditions. The heat from black pepper, which was more intense in ancient times, causes the body to release endorphins that create feelings of calm and positivity.

By Anas Alhajj on Unsplash

The myristicin in black pepper is structurally connected to MDMA and a precursor for substituted amphetamine, producing hallucinogenic effects. Chewing black peppercorns releases terpenes that help reduce nicotine cravings and cannabis-induced anxiety.

Black pepper also contains guineensine, piperine, and beta-caryophyllene (BCP), a significant component of Cannabis Sativa, all known for stimulating the release of anandamide and reducing depression. Guineensine, in particular, reduces pain and inflammation, while piperine and BCP contribute to mental clarity and sedation, respectively.

3. Cacao.

The Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs ritualistically drank cacao for its psychoactive effects; snorting powdered raw cacao is also said to produce a short-term “high”.

Although reports suggest the anandamide content of cacao is too low to produce a high, the ancients consumed large amounts of cacao, and it’s possible ancient strains contained more significant amounts of anandamide than today’s versions.

Methylxanthines, such as caffeine and theobromine, are mostly credited for the psychoactive properties of cacao. Caffeine and theobromine both stimulate the central nervous system, improving mood, memory, and concentration.

Cacao or cocoa, and chocolate, also increase the production of biogenic amines, serotonin and tryptophan, each known to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.

4. Chilli peppers.

The Incas and pre-Columbian South American shamans used chillis for their soothing effects in spiritual and medicinal rituals. The Mayans and Aztecs included chilli in their cacao drinks to add to their intoxicating effects.

By Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Similar to black peppers, heat from chilli peppers causes a rush of endorphins producing euphoric feelings. In very high doses, some chilli peppers have aphrodisiac and hallucinogenic effects.

Chilli’s main ingredient, capsaicin, triggers our TRPV1 pain receptors to release endorphins and dopamine, reducing pain and anxiety. The capsaicin in chilli peppers is a potent pain relief for nerve pain, headaches, and osteoarthritis; studies also show it has anti-depressant effects.

5. Cloves.

South Africans historically used cloves to support hallucinations during spiritual rituals, while Wiccan spells included cloves for luck and to protect and strengthen relationships. Effectively slowing down the breakdown of nutmeg’s active ingredientsCloves prolong the intoxicating and hallucinogenic effects of nutmeg.

Clove essential oil is 90% eugenol. Eugenol is related to MDMA or ecstasy and is a stimulant and sedative that can lead to dizzy spells and numbness in excess. Cloves are also toxic, causing palpitations and damage to the liver, even in low amounts.

Studies indicate clove oil may reverse learning and memory deficits, partially due to reductions in oxidative stress. In one case study, a young woman that had been chewing cloves to curb nicotine cravings found improvements in her sleep and productivity but had become dependent and was taking excessive amounts.

6. Saffron.

In ancient times, Saffron was an aphrodisiac, with Minoan wall paintings suggesting links to its use for fertility as far back as 3000BC. During the middle ages, saffron heightened senses for trance-like states; then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, saffron was smoked to simulate the effects of opium.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses saffron to treat depression, fear, and confusion. The crocin in saffron increases dopamine and glutamate, reduces depression, and combats morphine withdrawal.

Saffron’s psychoactive effects are stimulating, causing uncontrolled laughter and feelings of joy, while further doses cause sedation and sleep.

Saffron has demonstrated benefits to the central nervous system in both human and animal trials, particularly for treating depression, dementia, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's disease. The challenge for modern medicine is that saffron is costly because it must be hand-picked, and each crocus flower only produces three saffron threads or stigmas.

7. Cinnamon.

Ancient Egyptians combined cinnamon with cannabis oil for massages said to connect the receiver with deities; the practice was reserved solely for priests or people of high ranking. It has been suggested that a teaspoon of cinnamon can give you hallucinations, sparking a worldwide fad of cinnamon challenges in 2010.

By Mae Mu on Unsplash

In phase IV clinical trials, only 13 out of 3093 reported hallucinations as a side-effect of taking cinnamon. Eugenol and cinnamaldehyde work together to dilate capillaries and increase the absorption of other chemicals, hence its use with nutmeg and cannabis to enhance their psychoactive effects.

Cassia cinnamon is the most common cinnamon that most of us are familiar with; Ceylon cinnamon is the other less common variety. Ceylon cinnamon has shown potential as an anti-depressant and anxiolytic in several trials. Cassia cinnamon has a higher coumarin content which is carcinogenic and hepatotoxic in large doses.

8. Ginger.

Ginger has a long history of use in magic and medicine as a hallucinogenic and aphrodisiac. People of the Secoyas, South Pacific, Papua New Guinea, and the Siberut island of Indonesia all have links to the use of ginger for connecting with the gods and communicating with the dead.

A review of new psychoactive products in Ireland shows that almost 12% of ‘legal highs’ contained ginger.

Common ginger and ginger lily or galangal are stimulants, aphrodisiacs, and hallucinogens used in products sold for their psychoactive properties and traditionally in New Guinea.

The roots and rhizomes of Ginger contain gingerol and shogaol, known to have stimulant and sedative effects. Ginger inhibits thromboxane synthetase, similar to tricyclic anti-depressants, and nine compounds of ginger show interactions with serotonin receptors, suggesting benefits for anxiety.

9. Nutmeg.

It’s believed that Nostradamus took large amounts of nutmeg in the middle of the night to achieve a trance-like state, leading to many of his famous predictions. Nutmeg also has a history of use by students, musicians, and 12th-century European prisoners as a cheap alternative to marijuana because it stimulates our endocannabinoid receptors and inhibits the breakdown of dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline.

Nutmeg is classified under psychoactive substances as a sedative, narcotic, deliriant, very mild hallucinogen, and stimulant. Nutmeg’s myristicin content, discussed above under black pepper, is structurally similar to ecstasy. Studies found pure myristicin’s psychoactive effects weaker than nutmeg on its own, suggesting that it's the combination of myristicin, elemicin, eugenol, and safrole that contribute to nutmeg’s effects.

Nutmegs effects have a slow onset and long duration. People unaware that nutmeg can take two to four hours to take effect may be tempted to ingest more and risk around 48 hours of considerably adverse effects from dry mouth and dizziness to vomiting and severe delirium.

10. Turmeric.

Turmeric dates back 4000 years in India as a culinary, medicinal, and spiritual spice; it still features in Hindu rituals today. Turmeric’s psychoactive component is curcumin which exhibits activity that replicates THC, the principal psychoactive component of cannabis.

By Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash

Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions help to improve cognitive dysfunction and memory impairment. Curcumin’s neuroprotective activity has the potential to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Three case studies of patients with severe symptoms of Alzheimer's showed significant improvements in memory, irritability, depression, and anxiety following treatment with turmeric.

Curcumin demonstrates considerable anti-depressant effects, though its limited bioavailability (the body’s ability to absorb and retain substances) means that curcumin must include other compounds such as black pepper’s piperine to enhance curcumin's bioavailability.


Indigenous cultures all over the world have incorporated spices into their cooking and medicines for generations. Spices are often combined to take advantage of their synergistic effect, where they work together to strengthen and lengthen the effects of other spices.

Health is perceived holistically in traditional cultures where mental and emotional difficulties are potentially reflections of physical, spiritual, or family and social problems.

All of the above spices are best enjoyed for their culinary uses; their effects can be toxic when taken in high doses. However, taken in small quantities, these spices can benefit many areas of our health, from digestive and cardiovascular to immune and mental health.

Thank you for reading❤.


About the Creator


Writing about all matters of the mind, narcissism, personality disorders, parenting, writing, naturopathy, nutrition, and hopefully chapters from fantasy books I'll one day write.

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