Altered states of consciousness (ASC) (aka altered state of awareness) refers to “induced changes in one’s mental state, almost always temporary”. ASC can be induced through pharmacological methods such as using MDMA or opioids and non-pharmacological methods such as hypnosis, meditation and breathwork.
There are some foods that can help you reach an altered state of consciousness without using any other method or drug. Some of these common foods are:
- Chili peppers: People who eat very spicy food experience an endorphin rush because of the pain the hotness causes. This endorphin high is similar to a runner’s high, it is what makes people feel euphoric briefly. Chili and tobacco came from the same botanical family therefore it is no surprise that chili is also composed of an interesting mix of chemicals. The reason why chilis are hot is a substance named capsaicin which is used as a topical painkiller. There is little to no research on these claims however people commonly report feeling high.
- Blue Stilton Cheese: British Cheese Board research supports that different types of cheese can alter your dreams. Participants of the study consumed cheese before bed and even though the research is not very formal, some interesting findings were reached. Common types of cheese seem to inspire benign dreams whereas Blue Stilton cheese which has high levels of relaxant tryptophan facilitated nightmare-free but bizarre dreams that are trip-like.
- Mulberries: The Ohio State University’s Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide suggests eating white, unripe mulberries can cause “stomach upset, stimulation of the nervous system, and hallucinations”.
- Nutmeg: Nutmeg is psychoactive between 5 and 15 grams is consumed. Nutmeg consumers who snort, smoke or eat it report different levels of altered states of consciousness. While this high is very strong, effects include: “mild hallucinations, flu symptoms, dry mouth, nausea, reduced brain function, sweats, runny nose, feverish feeling, anxious nerves, vomiting, and diarrhea”. The effects kick in three to six hours of intake. Nutmeg high reportedly causes a bad hangover and it can leave you feeling sick for days. It is important to note that too much nutmeg can be deadly.
- Sarpa Salpa: This fish, found in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, can cause horrifying hallucinations. Ichthyoallyeinotoxism or Hallucinogenic Fish Poisoning effects are similar to LSD – auditory and visual hallucinations are experienced. This can be caused by the algae and planktons the fish consumes. A substance called indole found in algae and plankton accumulates in the fishes and this is when the hallucinations are observed for up to 48 hours in whoever consumes the fish. But if the fish haven’t accumulated enough indolin it is just a regular meal.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can help sharpen your awareness and increase focus. It is the most consumed psychoactive (mind-altering) substance. Energy and mood changes caffeine facilitates are considered to be a high. Too much caffeine can cause “intoxication, causing nervousness, irritability, anxiety, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches and heart palpitations”. According to research conducted at Durham University, people who consume three cups of coffee per day are more prone to hallucinate. Hallucinations or any form of psychotic experiences exist within a spectrum including the healthy population as well. Everyone can ‘hear’ or ‘see’ something from time to time and caffeine is linked to this phenomenon. Two explanations were given for this: firstly, caffeine could be increasing the levels of a stress hormone which startles the brain and causes it to lightly hallucinate. Secondly, people who experience light hallucinations can cope with this situation with caffeine as self-medication.
- Areca Nuts: Areca nuts are small red nut that grow on palm trees and are popular in Pacific Islands and Asia. “Chewing areca is similar to chewing coffee beans, coca leaves, or tobacco”. They are frequently wrapped in betel leaves (also a stimulant), therefore they are called betel nuts as well. A substance called arecoline which is a component of areca nuts is similar to nicotine. They both facilitate a light euphoria and energy but also have harmful side effects.
- Cacao: Cacao beans and leaves have compounds that can alter your state. Consuming cacao beans will lift your mood. Cacao leaves on the other hand facilitate mild euphoria and work as a stimulant.
- Mouldy Rye Bread: Rye bread can cause trips and hallucinations when it is infected with the ergot fungus. This common grain fungi, called ergot, has a component named ergotamine. Ergotamine is used to produce lysergic acid which is one of the precursor chemicals in LSD. In modern times, farmers clean rye bread with potassium chloride solution to protect it. However, in medieval times farmers did not have such technology. In those times where an entire town bought bread from the same place, it could have potentially led all villagers to hallucinate without ever realising that they were tripping. Modern historians claim that ergot-related hallucinations might be the reason behind Salem Witch Trials.
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