Psychoactive natural products: overview of recent developments


Natural psychoactive substances have fascinated the curious mind of shamans, artists,

scholars and laymen since antiquity. During the twentieth century, the chemical composition

of the most important psychoactive drugs, that is opium, cannabis, coca and

“magic mushrooms”, has been fully elucidated. The mode of action of the principal ingredients

has also been deciphered at the molecular level. In the past two decades, the

use of herbal drugs, such as kava, kratom and Salvia divinorum, began to spread beyond

their traditional geographical and cultural boundaries. The aim of the present paper is

to briefly summarize recent findings on the psychopharmacology of the most prominent

psychoactive natural products. Current knowledge on a few lesser-known drugs, including

bufotenine, glaucine, kava, betel, pituri, lettuce opium and kanna is also reviewed. In

addition, selected cases of alleged natural (or semi-natural) products are also mentioned.

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Psychoactive natural products: overview of recent developments. (2014). Annali dell’Istituto Superiore Di Sanità, 50(1), 12–27. Retrieved from
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