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Bufo Alvarius: The Psychedelic Toad

Discover Bufo alvarius, a toad native to the US that secretes a milky-white venom containing the powerful psychedelic compound, 5-MeO-DMT.

Overview: Bufo Alvarius is the largest toad native to the United States. It secretes a milky-white venom, which, when smoked or inhaled, induces a rapid, short-acting, and very intense psychedelic experience. This venom contains 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), a powerful psychedelic compound and the only known animal source of this substance. 5-MeO-DMT can be a powerful tool for transformation when used safely and ethically, and preliminary studies suggest that it may have beneficial effects on certain health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and alcohol-use disorder. However, it is important to note that the concentration of 5-MeO-DMT in Bufo venom varies significantly between samples, making it challenging to administer accurate doses. Furthermore, Bufo venom carries risks and should only be used under the guidance of a trained expert in a safe and controlled setting.

Bufo Alvarius: A Look into the World's Only Animal Source of 5-MeO-DMT

Growing up to 7 inches in length, Bufo Alvarius also known as the Colorado River toad or Sonoran Desert toad, is the largest toad native to the United States. Bufo alvarius is a nocturnal amphibian that is primarily active at night. They are known for their distinctive appearance, which includes smooth olive-green skin adorned with small bumpy warts, slanted golden-colored eyes with horizontal pupils, and large parotid glands behind their eyes.

In response to stress or threat, Bufo alvarius secretes a milky-white intoxicating venom from these glands. If the venom of Bufo alvarius gets into the mouth of its predators, it can cause severe nausea or death.

Relatively recently, however, humans discovered that the venom can be dried and smoked to induce a rapid, short-acting, and very intense psychedelic experience. Bufo alvarius venom is the only known animal source of the powerful psychedelic compound, 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) also known as “the God molecule.”

As a result of this discovery, inhalation of Bufo alvarius venom has gained popularity in naturalistic settings for mental health treatment and religious or spiritual exploration. 5-MeO-DMT can be a powerful tool for transformation when used safely and ethically, and preliminary studies suggest that it may have beneficial effects on certain health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and alcohol-use disorder.

An artistic representation of the DMT toad (the real ones aren't cute).

The Discovery of 5-MeO-DMT

It is interesting to note that the structurally related but distinct psychedelic substance N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) was first synthesized in 1931 by a German-Canadian natural product chemist named Richard Helmuth Frederick Manske before it was discovered in nature. Prior to Manske's synthesis, the closest known chemical to DMT was bufotenin, a potent psychedelic that had been isolated from the extract of Bufo Bufo (the common European toad) during World War I.

In 1936, two Japanese chemists named Toshio Hoshino and Kenya Shimodaira modified the chemical structure of bufotenin and discovered 5-MeO-DMT. 5-MeO-DMT was later found in trace amounts in the bark of the Dictyoloma incanescens plant in 1959, sparking further interest in its potential effects. Today, 5-MeO-DMT has been discovered in various plants and fungi, including two species of the agaric genus Amanita - Amanita citrina and Amanita porphyria.

It is important to note that 5-MeO-DMT and DMT are not the same chemicals. 5-MeO-DMT is approximately 10-20 times more potent than DMT and produces different qualitative effects.

The Discovery of 5-MeO-DMT in Bufo Alvarius: A Brief History

The discovery of 5-MeO-DMT in Bufo alvarius was made by an Italian chemist named Vittorio Erspamer in 1967. Erspamer, who was also known for discovering serotonin, was interested in finding serotonin-like compounds in natural sources.

To analyze the chemical composition of venom from the Bufo Alvarius toad, Erspamer used a crude method that involved extracting an entire gland from a dead toad. He was able to identify 5-MeO-DMT in the venom, but his method revealed an unusually high concentration of bufotenin.

It wasn't until later studies using a different method of extraction that the true concentration of bufotenin in Bufo alvarius venom was determined to be much lower.

Varying Concentration of 5-MeO-DMT in Bufo Venom

Research into the chemical composition of this Bufo venom remained dormant until 2019 when a study assessing the psychological effects of 5-MeO-DMT included a chemical analysis of the samples used. The researchers detected trace amounts of DMT and N,N-diethyltryptamine (DET), both never before detected in Bufo alvarius venom.

However, the key takeaway from this research was that the concentration of 5-MeO-DMT in Bufo venom varies significantly between samples. In fact, the 2019 study reported a 50% increase in 5-MeO-DMT from the lowest to the highest potency venom sample.

It's important to recognize this variation in concentration, particularly in the context of Bufo venom ceremonies where facilitators may estimate the appropriate dose of this substance which is thought to have psychological effects at doses as little as 2 milligrams. The significant variation in the concentration of 5-MeO-DMT between Bufo venom samples makes it challenging to administer accurate doses.

The Mysterious Origins of Smoking Bufo Venom

The use of synthetic 5-MeO-DMT wasn't widely known until 1984 when a pamphlet written under the pseudonym 'Albert Most' provided detailed information on the substance, including how to extract it, administer it, and dosage guidelines.

Chemist, filmmaker, and psychedelic explorer Hamilton Morris devoted an episode of his show 'Hamilton's Pharmacopeia' to uncovering the identity of 'Albert Most'. Morris encountered multiple imposters claiming to be ‘Albert Most’ before he was contacted by several friends of the real Albert Most, Ken Nelson, a veteran and psychedelic researcher from Denton, Texas.

Morris credits Nelson with inventing the practice of smoking dried Bufo alvarius venom, which he had documented in the pamphlet. This work was significant because it put the practice of smoking Bufo alvarius venom on the map.

Sustainable Alternatives to Traditional Bufo Alvarius Venom Use

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the harvesting of Bufo toad venom for its psychedelic properties. However, there are concerns about the impact this harvesting could have on the survival of the species.

Rounding up toads for venom harvesting and transporting them in small containers can cause significant stress and introduce fungal pathogens to the toad population, compromising their ability to ward off predators and threatening their survival. Unfortunately, the construction of roads and artificial roadside lights has also led to toads congregating in these areas and being hit by passing vehicles.

Given these concerns, there is a question of whether synthetic 5-MeO-DMT can provide a similar psychedelic experience without putting the Bufo toad population at risk. Some experienced users argue that the “spirit of the toad” is responsible for a qualitatively different experience Others suggest that there is an entourage effect, which refers to the idea that the various compounds present in venom work together to enhance the overall effect when consumed.

However, there is no evidence to support these claims, and researchers believe that any differences between synthetic and natural 5-MeO-DMT experiences are most likely due to differences in dosage. Chemical analyses have shown that synthetic 5-MeO-DMT and 5-MeO-DMT from Bufo toad venom are physically identical, with the same melting point, boiling point, and chromatographic behavior.

Many practitioners have begun to use synthetic 5-MeO-DMT as a safer and more sustainable alternative to harvesting Bufo venom. While the debate about the differences between Bufo venom and synthetic 5-MeO-DMT still exists, most senior practitioners consider the experiences to be identical in nature.

Navigating the Risks of Bufo Alvarius: Understanding the Health Concerns

One important consideration to keep in mind when using 5-MeO-DMT or Bufo venom is the potential health and psychological risks involved. As an extremely potent and fast-acting psychedelic, it can cause vomiting, especially if someone has not fasted beforehand.

In addition, the unknown dosage and chemical compound per dose of Bufo venom can lead to low-level cardiotoxic effects, which can be dangerous depending on the individual's sensitivity and underlying medical conditions.

It is crucial to prioritize safety and consult with a healthcare professional before engaging in any psychedelic experience. Bufo venom/5-MeO-DMT is still a relatively understudied substance, and little is known about the potential long-term effects on mental health.

One potential risk is the occurrence of "reactivations," where an individual experiences moments where they're fully immersed in the medicine experience again, even days, weeks, or months after the initial session. The reasons for these reactivations are not well-understood, however one common reason for reactivations of 5-MeO-DMT experiences is when participants encounter challenging situations during their journey due to resistance. Various factors, such as insufficient preparation, mental health conditions, neurosis, or feeling unsafe, can contribute to this resistance.

As with any substance, it's essential to approach it with caution and awareness of potential risks.

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