Lurking in your refrigerator, just behind those pickles you bought in 2006, there could be some innocent ingredients that can make you hallucinate.
First thing’s first: We can’t recommend you actually try to get high on these foods. Just like anything taken in excess or any chemicals that meddle with your perception, it can be extremely dangerous, not least because many of these foodstuffs can be toxic and have some very nasty side effects. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Anyhow, without further ado, let’s get going on with this strange ramble down the chemical family tree.
The prized choice of health-food hipsters, rye bread has a psychedelic secret. The rye grain is especially susceptible to ergot infections, the fungus from which LSD was first synthesized from. This means that eating some tainted rye bread can give you a hallucinogenic trip.
Ergot poisoning is thought to have been widespread throughout history, especially in the Middle Ages of western Europe. Some scientists have even said that symptoms of ergot-coated rye could be a medical explanation of the “bewitchment” of people seen during the Salem witch trials of the 1690s.
Altered perception and being burnt at the sake aside, Ergot poisoning doesn’t sound like fun. Other symptoms include painful muscular contractions, splitting headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Far out, man
Fans of The Simpsons will remember the episode where Homer eats the “Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango”, a chili pepper grown by the inmates of an insane asylum deep in the jungles of Guatemala. The pepper is so hot it throws him into a surreal hallucinatory world. While you are unlikely to meet a coyote voiced by Johnny Cash after eating a hot chili, it can genuinely make you hallucinate.
NPR producer Marshall Terry ate one of the world’s hottest chilies a few years ago and it ended with him puking, muttering gibberish, then suffering from a bout of hallucinations. There’s also anecdotal evidence of the world’s hottest curry having a similar effect.
Chilis in themselves do not have any psychoactive compounds and chili-induced hallucinations are not well understood, scientifically speaking. However, it’s likely that this trip is a mixture of panic caused by the pain and a rush of feel-good endorphins. Be warned though, a very brief trip comes with a side order of swearing, squinting, sweating, diarrhea, choking, vomiting, and 24 hours of regret.
Nutmeg, the spice your grandma dusted into apple pies, is capable of producing a perception-altering high. That’s because it contains a natural compound called myristicin that has mind-altering effects if ingested in large quantities. You can also find it in parsley and dill, albeit in much smaller quantities.
Some say the high is loosely comparable to the effects of LSD, although it can last for up to two days. In fact, Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography that it was his drug of choice when serving time in Charlestown prison.
In 2010, poison control centers across the US received an influx of nutmeg intoxication victims, fuelled by viral YouTube videos. It’s fair to say that most of their experiences sounded pretty unpleasant.
Morphine, heroin, and a few other potent painkillers are synthesized from the stuff you normally find on top of your bagels: poppy seeds. As Mythbusters once explained, eating enough poppy seed bagels can actually make you fail a drug test. However, the I Can Has Science blog has gone one step further and done the math to prove you can even get stoned on these little black crunchy things.
The potency of a poppy seed depends on its variety. One of the strongest is the Spanish poppy seed, which is approximately 0.025 percent morphine by weight. That means if you eat around 40 grams (1.41 ounces) of these seeds, that would equate to 10 milligrams of morphine – perhaps enough to feel its effect.
Urban folklore will tell you that white mulberry fruit can cause mild hallucinations, although there’s not much scientific literature on the matter. White mulberry fruits are edible to humans, however, numerous forestry authorities say that the unripened fruit can cause stomach irritation, sickness, and even hallucinations.
There’s a bucketload of fish that are claimed to have hallucinogenic properties. The most famous of which is Sarpa salpa, known commonly as the dreamfish, which is a species of sea bream that’s caught in the East Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
As explained in one medical case study, two men experienced an array of visual and auditory hallucinations within hours of eating a specimen of Sarpa salpa in a restaurant. Scientists aren’t 100 percent certain what caused these hallucinations, although some believe it could have been associated with toxins from macroalgae that accumulated in the flesh of the fish.
Just like any good meal, this list ends with coffee.
Whether it’s coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks, if you ingest too much caffeine, you could have a monumental loss of grip on reality. A study from 2009 found that heavy drinkers (seven cups a day or more) of caffeinated beverages are more likely to hallucinate and sense the presence of deceased people. However, one interpretation of these results was that those students who were more prone to hallucinations used caffeine to help cope with their experiences.
Of course, caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, yet a coffee-induced trip is virtually unheard of. That’s because you start suffering from some pretty horrendous jitters, anxiety, shakiness, faintness, and diarrhea before you consume enough. I’ll have a decaf, thanks.