3.8.6 Mapacho

Mapacho #

Binomial / Botanical Name Nicotiana Rustica
Street Names Aztec Tobacco; Wild Tobacco
Major Active Compound Nicotine; Beta-Carbolines
Indigenous Source Peru; Vietnam
Form Leaves
RoA Smoked
Personal Rating On Shulgin Scale ++*


Mapacho (nicotiana rustica) has a rich history of entheogenic use, primarily amongst South American shamans, and sometimes during ayahuasca ceremonies. It is not to be confused with common tobacco (nicotiana tabacum), not least because its nicotine content is commonly stated to be about 20 times higher.

My experience with this was, shall we say, not successful. Perhaps being a non-smoker didn’t help, but it was a sorry story.


I undertook the experiment at about 6pm. I loaded the leaves, still pungent and fresh, into a large bong, and took two enormous hits. I’m not sure why I was so greedy: perhaps it was the foolish notion that it was only tobacco.

It was a pretty rough smoke, and then boom: I was suddenly dizzy and was almost falling over as I slumped towards a soft chair. I thought I might pass out, but I didn’t.

I felt rough, very rough, with head spinning and a sense of nausea.

This gradually wore off and I returned to some sort of normality in about 15-20 minutes. I didn’t fully recover until the next day, and I had a very poor night’s sleep.

I was completely overwhelmed by it, and vowed never to smoke it again. It didn’t feel healthy at all.

Did I actually use the words “vowed never to smoke it again”? I suspect that the following report, circa 2016, could fall under the heading “he never learns”.


Last week I was in Vietnam, and as I tend to whenever I am in a far flung country, I checked out the local (legal) psychoactive scene. In this case, I found very little. Occasionally, however, I did notice small groups of men in the streets smoking something from huge bamboo pipes. I presumed this to be tobacco, although I hoped it was something else.

Naturally I couldn’t resist, so I approached a couple of chaps, who looked friendly enough, and offered a few local shekels for a toke.

They refused the money but proffered the pipe freely. In fact, they urged me to sit down, an offer which I accepted.

Taking a large hit I immediately realized why.

I was hit for six. I was dizzy, I thought I was fainting, and I felt nausea coming-on. It wasn’t nice. It felt very much like a re-run of my earlier nicotiana rustica ordeal.

I didn’t slump into a heap this time, but I was close.

After a few minutes, and many deep breaths, I started to slowly get my head together, and I took a photograph of the packet.

On returning to the hotel, later in the evening, I asked the concierge if they could translate the front of this and explain what it was. Yes, it was indeed nicotiana rustica, which also bore the words Aztec tobacco and wild tobacco. I also discovered that its more formal name there was thuoc lao.

What did I deduce from this second slap in the face?

  1. Perhaps this feeling is normal, and people get off on it. God knows how. By seating me the locals obviously knew what was coming.

  2. I had consumed about 3 bottles of beer: the experience sobered me up instantly, and I remained so for the rest of the evening. Indeed, I didn’t feel like engaging any further intoxicant of any type, and didn’t drink for the rest of the night.

    After about half an hour, I felt half-decent and strangely clear-headed. In fact, I felt quite good. Perhaps this phase is the attraction.

  3. Like the first time, it felt rather toxic and unhealthy. It’s hard to see how anyone could get used to this, but they do appear to. I have no idea what it does to the health of habitual users, but it certainly can’t be good news.

Despite the flip side, I’m glad that I re-sampled, largely to have experienced it in a more authentic setting than my room. However, I don’t see any scenario at all in which I will repeat it again.

This time I mean it.

ADDITIONAL SAFETY NOTE: It is reported that due to its high nicotine content large doses of mapacho can present the risk of acute poisoning and potentially death. Take it easy!