Backyard Entheogens: Bufo Alvarius!
Blast off with the Sonoran Desert Toad
It was a monster—hideous to look at with a flat face and a large white wart behind each jaw hinge, bulging eyes, and an enormous olive brown to dark green leathery body completely covered in warts. Nothing about it was appealing. The Bufo alvarius is the largest native toad in North America and the source of the psychedelic toad-sucking mythology that has circulated since 1968, when the active compound 5MeO-DMT was first discovered in the toad. 5MeO-DMT is a naturally occurring compound that previously had only been found in certain South American plants (used in virola and epena snuffs) and the pineal glands of certain birds and mammals.
“Of course the licking myth is newspaper hype—it is the venom that is active, and it is smoked.” - Sasha Shulgin
Sometimes called the Colorado River Toad, the Sonoran Desert Toad is found in the Sonoran Desert that makes up much of the southern part of Arizona. It is most likely extinct in its former California range. The practice of using the toad for its psycho activity may date to Pre-Columbian times throughout Mesoamerica, as there are references to it in Mesoamerican mythology, art and iconography.
The Sonoran Desert Toad is found in the Sonoran Desert that makes up much of the southern part of Arizona.
Utilizing the psychoactive toad—it should be noted—is not for the novice, and this article intends only to provide an introduction as more research would be needed before you start “toad-sucking” yourself.
Of the 200 species of Bufo toads only the Bufo alvarius contains the psychoactive 5MeO-DMT. All Bufo toads also excrete bufotenine, which is most probably also psychoactive although this understanding is subject to continual academic debate. The Bufo alvarius can weigh up to two pounds and be eight inches in length. Being so large and with distinguishing large glands around the neck make this toad easily identified. The toad must reach three inches in length before it is sexually mature, and can live up to 15 years or more. One reached 32 years in captivity. While it lives in the desert, the toad needs permanent water so it must reside near springs, canals or man-made watering holes, and is found anywhere from sea level up to 5,300 feet. Being nocturnal, it hides underground in the daytime, coming out at night to breed and eat voraciously on insects, spiders, lizards and other toads—in fact anything it can overcome. Emitting an unimpressive and weak low-pitched honk for a second or less, they are commonly seen and heard during the rainy season. When disturbed, the toads can flee surprisingly fast in an unamphibian-like gallop.
When smoked the indole-based alkaloid (related to DMT and 4HO-DMT or psilocybin) gives an intense and occasionally sensual psychedelic experience of very short duration. One user described it as “being strapped to the nose of a rocket that flies into the sun and evaporates.”
While Bufo alvarius secretes venom, which contains large amounts of one of the strongest naturally occurring hallucinogens, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), licking the toads to get high is an urban myth. The hallucinogenic compounds are released from its parotoid glands, which are located directly behind each jaw hinge where a white wart is also usually found. While 5MeO-DMT is both inactive and toxic when consumed orally it can be safely smoked. To get the best results out of the secreted venom, it needs to be collected, dried and later smoked.
The technique for extracting the venom calls for holding the toad firmly and then squeezing the various multicellular glands around the neck and limbs. When you squeeze the base of the gland gently a small amount of white milky liquid squirts out. It would be best to have the squirt aimed onto a piece of glass or some similar easy-to-scrape surface. Squeeze each gland gently until all the liquid is released onto a glass slide or mirror. Systematically collect the venom from each of the toad’s glands on its neck, arms and fore and hind legs. If you let the toad rest for an hour, each gland can be squeezed again. After this second squeezing though you must wait four to six weeks before being able to obtain more. Be sure to always wash your hands after handling the toads. While the venom is psychoactive when smoked, it is poisonous to consume orally. The white milky venom will dry almost immediately and you can spread it around on the glass to facilitate drying. Once thoroughly dry, it will look like dried glue and can be further chopped and scraped and then stored in an airtight container, in a cool dark place where it will keep forever.
Of the 200 species of Bufo toads only the Bufo alvarius contains the psychoactive 5MeO-DMT.
An average of 250mg of dried venom might be obtained from each toad, and 10% to as much as 25% of the venom would be 5MeO-DMT. (Figure on 15% as an average.) Each toad with a double milking should thus produce between 25mg to 60mg of 5MeO-DMT. Be aware that the percentage of active material can vary for each toad from time to time and thus it would be wise to bioassay each sample carefully.
When smoked the indole-based alkaloid (related to DMT and 4HO-DMT or psilocybin) gives an intense and occasionally sensual psychedelic experience of very short duration. One user described it as “being strapped to the nose of a rocket that flies into the sun and evaporates.” The immediate effect is most certainly overwhelming with an overload of thoughts and perceptions, which fades to a more LSD-like effect of ecstatic euphoria after a few minutes. However, be aware that the response range can be one from bliss to terror. Like most psychedelics there is no hangover. The active dose of 5MeO-DMT when smoked is between three to twenty milligrams, which is less than a match head in size. For smoking, a crack style pipe works well with a hot flame. Don’t take alcohol or other drugs and be in a comfortable setting, sitting or prone for at least 30 minutes. And please, start with a light dose.
Finally, it should be noted that the Sonoran Desert Toad is classified as an endangered species, and as such it is federally protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which makes it illegal to import, export, take (includes harm, harass, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect any wildlife within the United States), possess, sell, or transport. Utilizing the toad for its psychoactive nature is most certainly illegal and the venom of the toads is classified as a controlled substance. 5-MeO-DMT can be made in a laboratory. Thus, the wise shaman would be well advised to seek out a synthetic alternative and leave the toads in peace.
Never consume any psychoactive substance unless you are not 100% sure of its identification. All experimentation with hallucinogens should be done in a safe environment with the presence of an experienced trip sitter. This article should therefore only serve as an initial guide for further exploration of entheogens.
For additional entheogen resources: www.iceers.org
Muraco Kyashna-tochá is a cultural anthropologist with over 50 years of experience exploring the nether regions of her mind with entheogens. She is an award-winning educator and a recognized medical cannabis advocate with extensive experience working on medical cannabis legislation in Washington State.
For more from Muraco Kyashna-tochá go to: www.muraco.org
And follow her on Twitter at: @muraco
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