Top 10 Drugs Used in Ancient Cultures

How did it feel to be on drugs in the ancient times? Pretty much the same, I guess. Usage of drugs isn’t a modern phenomenon. Back then drugs meant hallucinating plants and seeds that were, for the most part pure and uncorrupted by chemicals or enhancers. From coco leaves to betel nuts, ancient people used a number of organic substance to go into trance. The Indians used nutmeg as aphrodisiac, while the Mayans used grounded coca leaves to go into that utopian world where the happy minds are easily lost. To prove the existence of this history of intoxication, here are 10 drugs used in ancient civilizations:

10. Blue Lotus

Used by Egyptians

Drugs Used in Ancient Cultures

Used by Egyptians, usage of Blue Lotus lead people into a comfortable ease and even caused them to become aroused. One can consider the Lotus as a weaker variant of MDMA. In fact a different form of the plant is still being used by some indigenous people and they inform that the drugs brings comfortable and peaceful sleep. The most popular method of using Blue Lotus is to prepare it with alcohol or tea for a duration of three weeks. While the Lotus can be used without tea or alcohol, but using them will help enhance the effect of the drug.

There’s mention of the drugs in literature too. Homer had described in ‘The Odyssey’ that the Lotus had taken away our hero’s willpower as if he had become a slave of an unreal dream – “Once tasted, no desire felt he come with tidings back or seek his country more.”

9. Pythia Gases

Used in Ancient Greek Oracles.

Pythia Gases

The priestess Pythia was the Oracle of Delphi who resided in the Temple of Apollo in Ancient Greece. She had access to this peculiar gas which whenever she inhaled, the gases granted her power to go into trance and then interpret prophesies. Priestess Pythia existed up until 393 A.D. Over the years researchers have tried to figure out what gases did the priestess inhaled but nothing has been agreed upon unanimously. There are of course innumerous theories and some of the probably gases include methane, ethylene and benzene. Other theories propagate how the priestess was either a myth or some fake person.

8. Opium

Used by Sumerians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Indians, Greeks, and Romans.

Drugs Used in Ancient Cultures

Opium seems to have been around as long as mankind itself. But, you’d be surprised to know that Opium wasn’t always used as drugs. For centuries, Opium was used for its medicinal purposes like for relieving pain, inducing sleep and curing diarrhea. Believe it or not, at one point, in China in the 16th century, Opium was used for improving people’s sex lives. Opium has its origin in the latex found in the husk of a poppy flower. The latex contains up to 12% of morphine which gives Opium the power to perform the above tasks.

Speaking of the history of the drug, Opium is believed to have been first cultivated in 3400 BC by the Sumerians. They called it the ‘joy plant’. Although today, the flower that bears opium is often used as tea, at one time in history, the drug was related to the Greek gods of sleep, night, and death.

7. Psilocybin

Used by Ancient Peoples around the Saharan desert, Central and South American Cultures.

Drugs Used in Ancient Cultures

Record has it that Psilocybin was first cultivated in Algeria between 9000 and 7000 BC and it was called ‘magic mushrooms’. Then between 1000 and 500 BC, the drug was used in South America, using which folks often went into trance. Many believe that going into trance enabled men to see what they couldn’t ordinarily see. Therefore the drug had something of a holy status in some ancient cultures. Studies on drugs has proved that some great spiritual evolution started due to hallucination by such drugs. A certain hallucinogenics scholar Terence McKenna once wrote, “I am convinced that if there were no shamanic pipeline, there would be no higher life, as we know it, on this planet.”

6. Black Henbane

Used by Eurasian Cultures.

Drugs Used in Ancient Cultures

Black henbane is a name that goes largely unheard. That’s because the drugs is very difficult to find and is almost on the verge of extinction. Regarded as one of the greatest drugs used in ancient cultures, Black Henbane has a couple of other names that may sound familiar, like – ‘stinking nightshade’, ‘apollinarix’. Normally the drugs was used for medicinal purposes but once the seeds were fermented, the drugs would become intoxicated and turn into something like beer. Too much consumption of the drugs may cause the user to go into deep sleep or damage his eyesight. Overdoes of the drug can be poisonous too. In fact Shakespeare had once mention it in his play for being an easy murder weapon.

5. Coca Leaf

Used by Mayans.

Drugs Used in Ancient Cultures

The Mayans were known for using coco leaves for not just brewing strong teas but for fermenting it and turning it into a powerful stimulating drugs. Coco leafs are among the strongest drugs in the world. A dosage of 100 grams contains vitamins, iron, calcium and phosphorus – element that are required daily for a grown up man. But a little overdose can be really harmful for your health.

4. Tobacco

Used by Native Americans.

Drugs Used in Ancient Cultures

Most of us believe that tobacco is pretty much a modern drug. Or is it? Tobacco has been in usage since the days of the Red Indians. It was actually discovered long before the rest of the world came to know of its existence. It was around the 16th century that the European settlers discovered the drugs in North America. The Indians believed that Tobacco was a holy plant, a gift from god that enabled them to attain heaven for a couple of hours. When the Europeans saw the drug they too were impressed until they gained knowledge on tobacco’s health consequences.

3. Betel Nut

Used by Central and East Asian Cultures.

Betel Nut

Betel nut, also known as areca nut has been around for thousands of years. Evidences prove that the drugs existed as far as 13, 000 years ago in the island of Timor in northern Australian. Chewing the nut, spread a warm feeling across the user’s body and instead of sending him into a trance, the nut intensified a kind of wakefulness, that one feels after gulping down a few cups of very strong coffee. Of course, something that causes such massive reactions has got some health consequences. The saliva of a regular betel nut chewer over time becomes red so that their spit starts looking like blood.

2. Cannabis

Used by Central and South Asian Cultures.


Researcher believe that people have been using cannabis for centuries but it was first reportedly used a psychoactive is a 2700-year-old grave site in China. A pack of 789 grams of cannabis was discovered there which goes to prove that the man was a big time stoner. Today the plant is famously used as hallucinogen in bhang, a kind of beverage used by Sikhs in honor of Lord Shiva. Cannabis has got medicinal usages and are great painkillers.

1. Peyote

Used by Native Americans.


Peyote is a desert plant, known for provoking strong hallucinations. From 8000 to 2000 BC, the drugs was used in North America and was quite popular among the indigenous folks. Packs of Peyote has been found at grave sites dating back to 3000 BC. During the Civil War, soldier in Texas often drank peyote tea and went to battle. One of the most amazing fact about this particular drugs is that it’s pretty easy to prepare. The leaves once boiled secrete juices that can be consumed like tea but results in strong hallucinations.