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Ergot (Claviceps purpurea)

ergot2Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) is labeled as a poison in the United States, although it is uncontrolled and legal to possess and cultivate.

Addictive Potential: None

Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unknown

Mandatory Minimum Sentence: Unknown

Mechanism of Action: partial agonist of the Alpha-adrenergic receptor, partial agonist of the Dopamine receptor, partial agonist of the Serotonin receptor, and possibly more

Overview:

Ergot refers to a group of fungi of the genus Claviceps (ergot fungi). The most prominent member of this group is Claviceps purpurea. This fungus grows on rye, wheat, and barley. It can cause ergotism in humans and other mammals consuming seeds contaminated with the fruiting structure of this fungus, called an ergot sclerotium. Since the middle ages, controlled doses of ergot were used to induce abortions and to stop maternal bleeding after childbirth.

The ergot sclerotium contains more than thirty alkaloids (Wassan, Ruck, and Hofmann, 1978). The most notable is ergotamine, at concentration levels of up to 2% of it’s dry mass. Ergotamine is used to synthesize LSD. It is important to note that the alkaloid concentrations of ergot differ because of the host grass and the geographical location in which it was grown. Wassan, Ruck, and Hofmann (1978) analyzed the ergot of wheat and barley and “…they were found to contain basically the same alkaloids as ergot of rye, viz alkaloids of the ergotamine and ergotoxine group, ergonovine, and sometimes also traces of lysergic acid amide.”

Ergot is believed to be used in the kykeon, an entheogenic tea, during the Eleusinian Mysteries. The ingestion of the kykeon was a component of the famous ceremony at Eleusis, performed for nearly two thousand consecutive years to worship Demeter, the Goddess of grain and fertility. Initiates at Eleusis included Socrates, Plato, and many other great names of Greek antiquity.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were composed of the Greater and Lesser Mysteries. Initiates at Eleusis would go through the Lesser Mysteries  first, then they would experience the Greater Mysteries. Ergot is believed to be the active ingredient that was part of the Greater Mysteries, while psilocybin mushrooms are believed to be the active ingredient that was part of the Lesser Mysteries.

Side Effects and Adverse Reactions:

Ergotism is the name for sometimes severe pathological syndromes affecting humans or animals that have ingested ergot alkaloid-containing plant material, such as ergot-contaminated grains. The common name for ergotism is “St. Anthony’s Fire”, in reference to monks who cared for victims as well as symptoms, such as severe burning sensations in the limbs. These are caused by effects of ergot alkaloids on the vascular system due to vasoconstriction of blood vessels, sometimes leading to gangrene and loss of limbs due to severely restricted blood circulation.

The pharmacological activity of the ergot alkaloids may also cause hallucinations and attendant irrational behavior, convulsions, and even death. Other symptoms include strong uterine contractions, nausea, seizures, and unconsciousness.

 Videos:

Ergot Wine Trip Report

Articles:

Prometheus and Kykeon

Research:

Ergot Alkaloids

Ergot of Rye: Introduction and History

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