Argyreia nervosa is a perennial climbing vine; although it has been regarded as being an invasive, it certainly is a beautiful plant to behold. It is believed to be native to India, and now can be found growing in other areas such as Hawaii, Africa and the Caribbean. Interestingly, this plant in particular has little known use as a traditional medicine, whereas its cousin plants, Rivea corymbosa (ololiuqui) and Ipomoea tricolor (tlitliltzin) do. The chemical constituents of these three species are very similar, however the A. nervosa contains the highest concentrations of psychoactive compounds. Traditionally, the cousin seeds were used for in shamanic rituals in Central America for thousands of years. Ololiuqui, very similar in action to A. nervosa, has been used traditionally to induce an altered state of consciousness, including colorful spiritual visions, euphoria, extreme relaxation, deep sleep and spiritual awareness as well as heightened body sensation.
The alkaloid ergine, also known as d-lysergic acid or LSA, makes up 50% of the alkaloids present in the seeds. LSA is very similar in structure to the synthetic version of d-lysergic acid or LSD. Due to their similarity in structure, the psychoactive effects are also very similar. Ergine is said to alter ones perception of sound and sight, generally speaking, by intensifying their perception. A. nervosa has also been used in Ayurvedic medicine and is still used today. Combined with ghee (clarified butter), A. nervosa is used to treat joint inflammation, and rheumatism. The whole plant is said to have antiseptic qualities.
In the proper environment, the vine can reach a height of 10 meters. It has large trumpet shaped leaves with velvet-like hairs. The flowers themselves are purple in color, fading to a lovely lavender color towards the opening of the flower. The seeds, which contain the LSA, are furry and are found within the seedpods. Typically there are four to six seeds in each pod.