Lagochilus as ethnobotanical

dispelling hype

Many Lagochilus species have a history of use as herbal medicine in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and other places. Outside of these locales, interest in the genus is due to the overstated recreational (nowadays euphemistically called "entheogenic") potential. Lagochilus, L. inebrians in particular, makes a very bitter tea with a barely perceptible calming effect.

R. Gordon Wasson is partly to blame for the hype, as at one point in the 1970's he tossed around the idea that L. inebrians was the mythical Soma of the Rigveda.

Most sources repeat the idea of L. inebrians as a hallucinogen or inebriant. From Hallucinogenic Plants, a Golden Guide (1976): "For centuries it has been the source of an intoxicant among the Tajik, Tartar, Turkoman, and Uzbek tribesmen." This is unsubstantiated and contrary to my personal experience. After nearly 10 years, I'm still looking for a primary source describing use of L. inebrians as an intoxicant.

Interest in Lagochilus picked up on in the early 2000's and 2010's. A common source for Lagochilus inebrians during this time was Daniel Siebert's "Sage Wisdom Botanicals".

B. Schulz's article "Lagochilus inebrians Bge. eine interessante neue Arzneipflanze" in Deutsche Apotheker-Zeitung (Vol. 99, 1959) appears to be the earliest reference in Western scientific literature to Lagochilus as an inebriant: "The intoxicating effects of tea infusions from Lagochilus were well known to the Mohammedan Uzbeks, Turkmens, Tatars and Tajiks of Central Asia and they worshiped this pleasure, despite the strict ban of the Prophet to drink intoxicating drinks for centuries..." However, there is no supporting primary evidence cited for this lurid, exoticizing statement.

documented use

Lagochilus does have a well-supported use in folk medicine as a styptic, both as tisane and poultice.