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What Is LSA? Your Guide To The Complicated Psychedelic

What Is LSA? Your Guide To The Complicated Psychedelic

LSA — also known as ergine — is a psychedelic compound with a long history of use. However, for various reasons, it is not a common psychedelic to use. Based on the family of compounds it belongs to, it shares some similarities with LSD. But there are important differences between the two drugs as well.

This guide will explore all aspects of LSA, including its chemistry, pharmacology, history, effects, and legal status.

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LSA’s Chemistry

LSA is a natural psychedelic compound belonging to the lysergamide class of alkaloids. Lysergamides are amides of lysergic acid. The most well-known example of a lysergamide is lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Lysergamides like LSA and LSD fall under the broader category of alkaloids known as ergolines. Ergoline alkaloids all have a common structure: a tetracyclic ergoline ring.

The chemical structure of LSA is made up of a core structure of lysergic acid. It is structurally similar to LSD. But there are chemical differences between the two, which translates into different effects.

LSA’s Pharmacology

LSA, like classic psychedelics such as LSD, causes psychedelic effects by binding to serotonin 5-HT2A receptors in the brain. However, researchers note that LSD has a stronger affinity for these receptors compared to LSA. This is most likely why the psychedelic effects of LSD are stronger than those of LSA.

LSA is in the seeds of various species of morning glory, as well as Argyreia nervosa (Hawaiian baby woodrose). Many believe that LSA is the primary psychedelic constituent of morning glory and Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds.

Yet this may not be the case, as studies on isolated and synthetic LSA report only minor psychedelic effects.

This suggests the compound plays a small role in the overall psychedelic effects that come from ingesting these seeds. Other lysergamide alkaloids contained in these seeds — including iso-LSA and LSH — may, therefore, add to the experience.

The highest concentration of LSA is in the seeds of Rivea corymbosa, Ipomoea violacea, and Argyreia nervosa.

What Is LSA? A Brief History

The cultural use of LSA extends back to the ancient Maya civilization (250 BCE-900 AD). Both the Maya and Aztec peoples consumed the seeds of Turbina corymbosa (ololiuhqui in the Nahuatl Aztec language) and Ipomea violacea (tlilitzin in Nahuatl) for their psychoactive effects and ability to induce trance states. These are both species of morning glory.

The ancient Mixtec and Zapotec peoples in the Mexican state of Oaxaca also used them, and they are used by these indigenous peoples to this day for the purposes of healing and divination ceremonies.

Ololiuhqui is very common in Mexico. It was given the name morning glory because its flowers close during the night and reopen in the morning. It has round coffee-colored seeds, whereas those of tlilitzin are black. Traditionally, people turn these seeds into a powder and place them in water.

In contrast, peyote and magic mushrooms are taken in a group setting, with ololiuhqui usually taken alone with a healer.

Ethnohistorical accounts of the use of ololiuhqui date to the 16th century. During his travels through Oaxaca, Francisco Hernández — court physician to the King of Spain — described its use among indigenous peoples.

Early Uses Of LSA

In the text Historia natural de Nueva Espãna, he reported that a fully hallucinogenic dose contained 100-150 seeds, ground into a powder, dissolved in cold water. Bernardino de Sahagún, a Franciscan friar and missionary priest, also provided an account of its psychoactive effects.

“There is an herb named coatl xoxouhquij (green serpent), and it grows a seed they call ololiuquj. This seed produces inebriation and madness. People mix it in potions to give to those they wish to harm; those who eat it appear to see visions and terrifying things. Sorcerers mix it with food and drink, and so do those who hate others and wish to do them ill. This herb is medicinal and its seed is used to treat gout; ground seeds are applied to the gout-stricken area.”

Hernandez reported that shaman healers used ololiuhqui to treat bone fractures and dislocations, pelvic troubles in women, syphilis, pain caused by chills, and tumors. Indigenous peoples considered LSA-containing seeds to be sacred and used them to promote physical health.

Hernandez wrote the following.

“It is remarkable how much faith these natives have in the seed, for…they consult it as an oracle to learn many things… especially those… beyond the power of the human mind to penetrate.”

The conquistadors would soon associate these trance states and hallucinogenic effects with witchcraft, refusing all religious significance. In 1591, the physician Juan de Cárdenas gave the following account.

“In sooth they tell us that peyote, and ololiuhque, when taken by mouth, will cause the wretch who takes them to lose his wits so severely that he sees the devil among other terrible and fearsome apparitions; and he will be warned (so they say) of things to come, and all this must be tricks and lies of Satanas, whose nature is to deceive, with divine permission, the wretch who on such occasions seeks him.”

Problemas y secretos maravillosos de las Indias

Subjective Effects Of LSA

Like the more commonly used psychedelics, LSA can induce a range of subjective effects.

Visual Effects

  • Color enhancement
  • Depth perception distortions
  • Objects morphing
  • Color shifting
  • Tracers
  • Geometric hallucinations

Cognitive Effects

  • Introspection
  • Delusion
  • Increased music appreciation
  • Increased sense of humor and laughter
  • Thought acceleration
  • Time distortion

Auditory Effects

  • Enhancement
  • Distortion
  • Auditory hallucinations

Emotional Effects

  • Euphoria
  • Bliss
  • Joy
  • Empathy
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Panic

Mystical Effects

  • Ego death
  • Transcendence of time and space
  • A sense of the holy, sacred, or divine
  • Ineffability
  • A feeling of unity or interconnectedness

Physical Effects

  • Pupil dilation
  • Excessive yawning
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • A pleasurable tingling sensation
  • Physical euphoria
  • Sedation
  • Perception of bodily heaviness
  • Motor control loss

LSA vs. LSD

While structurally similar to LSD, LSA is distinct in many ways.

Natural vs. Semi-Synthetic

Firstly, LSA is a natural psychedelic compound. In contrast, LSD is semi-synthetic, in that it can be derived from ergot alkaloids — yet it is not itself found in nature.

History Of Use

LSA has a long history of use, whereas LSD’s use is much more recent.

The Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938 and the first LSD trip was had by Hofmann in 1943 when he inadvertently absorbed the compound through his fingertips. Studies on LSD began in the 50s. These continued in the 60s, which is when recreational use of the drug really took off.

So, the history of LSD spans less than 100 years, whereas LSA has been in use for millennia.

Effects

As mentioned earlier, LSD provides a much stronger psychedelic experience. However, a person needs to take a high dose of LSA-containing seeds to achieve visual effects. When compared to LSD, the visual effects of LSA are mild in comparison to the intensity of its cognitive and physical effects.

LSA is also predominantly sedating, whereas LSD is quite stimulating.

Other physical effects of LSA are known to be more uncomfortable than those produced by LSD. These unpleasant effects include vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), leading to muscle spasms and contractions, and leg cramps.

Consuming LSA-containing seeds can cause quite intense nausea, as well as vomiting. However, this is thought to be mostly caused by other compounds in the seeds and not LSA itself.

In most countries, LSD is a highly prohibited substance. In the United States, it is a Schedule I drug. This means the assumption is it does not have medical value, while also having a high potential for abuse.

The legal status of consuming, cultivating, and possessing LSA, conversely, differs depending on the country.

In the U.S., there are no laws against possessing LSA-containing seeds. However, possession of the pure compound could land you into trouble with the law. This is because LSA is a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

In the U.K., LSA is like LSD — a Class A substance, categorized as a precursor to LSD. It’s legal to possess Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds in the U.K. It’s also legal to sell them (so long as they are not being sold for the purpose of human consumption).

In Canada, LSA is not illegal to possess — as it is not in Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. But it is likely illegal to sell for human consumption.

In New Zealand, LSA is a controlled substance. However, the plants and seeds of the morning glory species are legal to possess, cultivate, buy, and distribute.

Most Australian regions prohibit the consumption of LSA-containing seeds under state legislation.

What Is LSA’s Safety

There are no studies on the toxicity and long-term health effects of recreational LSA use. The toxic dose is unknown.

Anecdotally, while people may have had physically uncomfortable experiences after consuming LSA-containing seeds, people have not experienced negative health effects from low to moderate doses.

Like other psychedelics, many consider LSA to be non-addictive with a low potential for abuse. There are no withdrawal symptoms when people stop use. Tolerance to the effects of LSA appears quickly after ingestion. After that, tolerance will return to baseline after about seven days.

Since buying and possessing LSA-containing seeds is legal in many countries, procuring LSA may be easier and feel less risky than using prohibited psychedelics. However, because LSA-containing seeds tend to produce weak psychedelic effects while potentially causing a great deal of physical discomfort, this makes them a less appealing option than, say, LSD or magic mushrooms.

Nonetheless, many psychonauts have found that LSA is capable of offering enjoyable and profound psychedelic experiences.

Disclaimer: We do not endorse the illicit use of Schedule 1 psychedelic compounds in a non-therapeutic setting. We do, however, hope the regulations look at the research to understand how these drugs can used in powerfully positive ways.

Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

Dr. Ben Medrano

This post was medically approved by Dr. Ben Medrano

Dr. Ben Medrano is a board certified psychiatrist specializing in Integrative Psychiatry, Ketamine Assisted Therapy and Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration. He received his MD from the University of Colorado School of Medicine with additional training in the Urban Underserved Track (CU-UNITE). Dr. Medrano is most known for his work with ketamine assisted therapy and is the former Senior Vice President and US Medical Director of Field Trip Health - the largest in-office ketamine assisted therapy practice to date. He continues to sponsor Field Trip clinics as a local medical director at multiple sites on the East Coast allowing him to further the field of psychedelic assisted therapy and research.

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