Psychedelics have taken the world by storm in recent years, with investors pouring millions of dollars into psychedelic research and more people considering them as alternative treatments. Research has shown that going through a “psychedelic experience” under controlled and safe conditions can result in profound mental health benefits.
Long before researchers started studying hallucinogenic drugs, people across the world used the substances recreationally because of their unique psychoactive effects. Recent research has now revealed that psychedelic drug use may have started much earlier than anyone thought.
A recent study by Dagmara Socha, a PhD student at the University of Warsaw’s Center for Andean Studies, has found that ancient Peruvians may have consumed psychedelic drugs in their religious and cultural rituals. Researchers studied a set of 22 mummified human remains from Peru and found compelling evidence that ancient civilizations situated along Peru’s southern coast used psychedelics and even engaged in long-distance trade to acquire said psychedelics.
According to the researchers, their findings point to what could be the earliest-known use of ayahuasca’s main ingredient, bantisteriopsis, and the San Pedro cactus that produced mescaline. The findings will be published in the December edition of the “Journal of Archaeological Science.”
The set of mummified human remains included four trophy heads, which are likely a result of the Nazca culture of headhunting. These heads consisted of a female adult, two adult males, and a child whose gender was inconclusive. Researchers found traces of psychedelics on the child and female’s heads, a sign that they may have been given hallucinogenic stimulants before they died. Traces of mescaline were found in the child’s hair, an indication that they ingested the San Pedro cactus, which has long been used for its hallucinogenic effects.
Furthermore, there were traces of benzoylecgonine in the female’s hair, researchers say, which is a major metabolite of cocaine. The researchers posited that the presence of this metabolite indicates that the female chewed on coca leaves before her death.
Since most of the trophy heads come from the Early Nazca period stretching from 0–450 CE, the researchers believe that the two males, the female, and the child met their end through ritual sacrifice. Their findings are proof that some ancient individuals consumed psychedelic drugs before they were sacrificed.
Furthermore, the researchers add that the presence of psychedelic plants in civilizations along the southern Peruvian coast indicates that there may have been established long-distance trade routes as the plants were not local to those civilizations.
The findings of this archeological study make a good case for the relative safety of the psychedelic substances that companies such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) are seeking to develop medicinal formulations from, given such a long history of use around the world.
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