The Spirtual Use of Datura Stramonium by the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

Images of Datura stramonium as it grows in street planters in Antofagasta, Chile, by Etnojardines as contributed to the Creative Commons on

Jimson Weed
Datura Stramonium

Varieties of this genus were taken for their narcotic effect by tribes in California and the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central and South America. In general, the leaves, stems, and roots were gathered, pounded, and allowed to soak in water for several hours, after which the solution was strained and drunk. Its uses varied between tribes but commonly attracted the interest of users for purposes of divination.
Harold E. Driver, a lifetime student of the ways of the Indians of North America, outlines some of the uses of this plant:

In California, the drug was usually taken at the age of puberty or later by a group of young people under the supervision of elders... Where definate male puberty initiations existed, the drinking of Datura was a part of these rites... A considerable number of California tribes used it as an anesthetic for setting broken bones or otherwise treating the injured. Medicine men also took the drug in order to "see sickness." ... IN the Oasis it was most often taken... to bring success on a deer hunt, to alleviate vomiting and dizziness, to induce the drinker to utter prophecies, or simply for the pleasure derived from the accompanying dreams and visions. At Zuni, Datura was believed to be one of the medicines derived from the gods, and its use was limited to rain priests and directors of the Little Fire and Cimex fraternities... If a man had been robbed and wished to discover the thief, the priests gave him a dose of Datura. Here also it was used as an anesthetic to set fractured bones or perform surgery on a patient.

The Mohaves and Paiutes employed the plant for similar purposes, while the Mariposa gave the liquid to the young women of their tribe when the reputed aphrodisiac properties were desired.

- pp. 99- 100, Earth Medicine- Earth Foods by Michael A. Weiner (1972)

Datura Stramonium, South America, Jimson Weed
Datura Stramonium