Mapacho | Ritual and Ceremonial Use of Tobacco

Published: Jan 24, 2023

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Mapacho | Ritual and Ceremonial Use of Tobacco

© Image from Apollo

Mapacho is the South American name for the tobacco plant Nicotiana rustica, which is typically found in rainforests. It’s sometimes also called jungle tobacco. In any case, Mapacho is a very strong type of tobacco containing much more nicotine compared to the Nicotiana tabacum plant, the latter generally used in commercial cigarettes.

In indigenous South and Central American healing traditions, the Shamans, Curanderos, or Tabaqueros often use Mapacho as an entheogenic ritual in a variety of healing practices, such as in Ayahuasca, San Pedro cactus, Rapé, Sananga, and other ceremonies.

In therapeutic or healing ceremonies, Mapacho is commonly used for the smoke it produces, which is blown around both the ceremony area and the patient as a means to ward off the influence of bad spirits, and to clean or spiritually purify the patient from negative energies. The patient i.e. participant usually also blows the Mapacho smoke through the ceremony space and on themselves.

Mapacho smoke may also be used by the Shaman to interpret messages from “the mother of tobacco,” by studying the patterns, symbols, or forms of the exhaled smoke. Mapacho is then applied as a Sacred Plant Teacher used to receive information from the spirits regarding the illness and/or needs of their patient.

The Mapacho tobacco is a psychoactive substance, said to be grounding, relaxing and stimulating at the same time, energizing and revitalizing, protecting, purging, antidepressant, and hallucinogenic, while containing MAO inhibitors (MAOI) which increase Serotonin in the brain and prolong DMT psychedelic effects, the latter being an important active compound found in the Ayahuasca brew.

There are a variety of ways to utilize Mapacho; for instance, it can be soaked or infused in water and then orally consumed, snorted, or insufflated into the stomach, chewed, eaten as a paste, smoked in pipes or cigars, used in enemas, or licked. Mapacho is also known as an important ingredient of Rapé — a nasal snuff that is blown or inhaled in the nose — which is a mix of Mapacho tobacco and many other medicinal herbs.


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