Toé, the 'Witchcraft Plant' That's Spoiling Ayahuasca Tourism
Maybe you know it as angel's trumpet, or Hell's bells, or simply Brugmansia, a genus of flowering plant with seven recognized species. Whatever the case, toé is notorious. Every part of the plant is toxic, seeping alkaloids like atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine, or Colombian devil's breath. And it's reportedly now in the hands of slimy pseudo shamans looking to cash in on the South American drug-tourism boom.
You hear it more and more these days: Seeking profound spiritual awakening, or just some good old-fashioned jungle weirdness, curious ex–Wall Streeters and psychonauts (excuse me, passengers) alike are trekking to, say, Peru in search of that most fabled of shamanic elixirs—ayahuasca. Sipping the brew, which is a mish mash of any number of psychotropic infusions of Banisteriopsis caapi vine that are typically mixed with shrubs rich in DMT, can be life-affirming. It's the subject of Stepping into the Fire (2011), which for all intents and purposes stands as a shining endorsement of the hurl-your-lungs-out trip.
But here's the thing. Like any up-and-up industry, market, or service marked by varying shades of legality and oversight, it's only a matter of time before the scoundrels arrive and fuck it up for everyone.
"For all the root's spiritual and therapeutic benefits," Kelly Hearn writes in Men's Journal, "the ayahuasca boom is as wild and unmanageable as the jungle itself."
In other words, when giddy 20- and 30-somethings from Brooklyn descend upon Iquitos, Peru--which is seeing an uptick in ayahuasca tourism--it's becoming more and more likely that they'll be whisked away to lodges run by pervy, crash-coursed ayahuasqueros out to make a quick buck on unassuming tourists.