What is LSA?
LSA—also known as ergine—is a psychedelic compound found in the seeds of several common plants, including morning glory (Ipomoea violacea), Hawaiian baby woodrose (Argyreia nervosa), and sleepy grass (Achnatherum robustum). It can also be found in certain fungi.
The psychoactive properties of LSA stem from its alkaloid makeup; examples of other plant-based alkaloids include caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, and morphine. Because LSA tends to exert a sedative effect on the user, you’ll find that some sources classify it as a depressant, in addition to a psychedelic.
What Does LSA Stand For?
If D-lysergic acid amide (LSA) sounds similar to D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), that’s because it is. These chemical cousins are said to produce similar effects—which makes sense since LSA is also an ergoline alkaloid, which appears in different types of plants and fungi, including the ergot fungus from which LSD derives.
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LSA is found most commonly in the seeds of morning glory, a climbing vine with bright blue or purple trumpet-shaped flowers, as well as in the seeds of the Hawaiian baby woodrose, or elephant creeper, a similar vine that’s native to India. A certain variety of highly psychoactive morning glory seeds are known to indigenous people in Mexico as ololiuhqui, and reportedly, Hawaiian baby woodrose has long associations with Ayurvedic medicine and can be used to treat rheumatism and neurological disorders.
Morning glory seeds and Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds can both be purchased inexpensively online or from a garden store. Be aware, however, that many commercial seeds are treated with pesticides and fungicides—some of which can be harmful if ingested.
LSA Effects—Or, What It’s Like to Trip with LSA
Most people report that LSA yields a less intense trip than LSD, and microgram for microgram, that’s true. However, psychonauts who’ve taken large quantities of LSA have had extremely powerful psychedelic experiences. Of the two common sources for LSA, Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds are the more potent.
Because LSA is naturally-occurring and most people don’t have the equipment or experience to determine precise doses, an LSA trip can be somewhat unpredictable. That said, LSA’s most prominent effect, for most people, is that of sedation, relaxation, and a dream-like state of mind. However, some trippers report that this effect is situation-dependent; in an active setting like a festival or concert, the LSA experience can be exhilarating, or energizing, for some people. LSA’s other effects include a powerful body high, tingly sensations, heavy-feeling limbs, euphoria, fatigue, enhanced color and pattern perception, time distortion, auditory or visual hallucinations, light trails, shift in perspective, personal insights, and heightened sense of interconnection and oneness.
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Tyler, a 22-year-old from Philadelphia, says he felt a profound sense of interconnectedness the first time he took LSA. “I remember staring up at the sky and just feeling this energy that I can only explain as ‘good vibes’ course through my body,” he tells DoubleBlind.
However, according to Tyler, the LSA experience isn’t always an easy one. Many report that LSA has a relatively harsh “body load,” particularly at high doses—meaning that it can feel extremely physically uncomfortable during the come-up period. And like a lot of psychedelics, LSA can offer its share of mental challenges or reveal aspects of your “shadow” that are hard to cope with. “[You can have] either a good experience, or you can have a somewhat depressing one—which I also find with LSD,” says Tyler.
Possible Side Effects of LSA
The most common side effect trippers report from LSA is nausea. Some people will also experience vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and cramping after eating the seeds. It’s possible that using an extraction method instead of ingesting seeds directly will reduce the negative GI effects, but reports from users vary on this point.
Other common side effects of LSA include elevated heart rate, changes in blood pressure (increased blood pressure is more common, but decreased blood pressure is also possible), anxiety, paranoia, confusion, vasoconstriction, dilated pupils, loss of motor control (similar to a drunken state, reported at very high doses), sweating, dizziness, and muscle contractions.
Potential Medicinal Uses of LSA
A 2017 observational study found that people with cluster headaches who self-administered LSA—sometimes in microdoses—experienced a reduction in the severity and frequency of their cluster headache episodes.
How Long Before I Feel the Effects of LSA?
How Long Does an LSA Trip Last?
Most people report their trips last between five and eight hours, but the sleepiness and sense of relaxation can last for up to 12 hours. Like with other psychedelics, it’s possible that you’ll feel some of the after-effects of an LSA trip a few days later.
How to Take LSA
To help reduce the nausea associated with LSA, avoid eating a heavy meal before tripping. Many people simply grind the seeds to a fine powder and then add them to a beverage or pour them into a gel cap. But in an effort to avoid some of the nausea and other digestive upset associated with swallowing the seeds, you can chew the seeds to a paste, swirl the mixture in your mouth for 15 to 30 minutes without swallowing, and then spit out the paste. You can also try a DIY extraction method, such as soaking the seeds in distilled water, then adding garlic and fruit juice, or making an LSA tincture.
Morning Glory Seeds Trip
A threshold dose of morning glory seeds is about 20 to 50 seeds, while a strong dose is 250 to 400 seeds. Anything in between is considered a light or common dose.
Hawaiian Baby Woodrose Seeds Trip
HBWR seeds are both larger and more potent than morning glory, thus the difference in dosage. A threshold dose is between one and three seeds, while a strong dose is between seven and 12 seeds. Tyler, who’s used LSA about 20 times, usually takes five to seven HBWR seeds because he finds the dose easier on the stomach, while still potent enough to produce a psychoactive effect.
Historical and Entheogenic Uses of LSA
LSA-containing seeds were used ritually by Mesoamerican cultures like the Maya, Aztec, Mixtec, and Zapotec peoples as entheogens, or psychedelic spiritual aids. These pre-Columbian indigenous peoples found that LSA, along with other psychedelics, facilitated shamanic practices including communicating with the dead, predicting future events, and coming to terms with traumas and losses.
As with many other indigenous customs, Spanish conquistadors discouraged the use of ritual psychedelics; however, the practice was not entirely lost among Mesoamerican indigenous peoples, and was described in detail by Richard Schultes, the “father of modern ethnobotany,” in 1941.
Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist who was the first to synthesize LSD in 1938 and trip on it in 1943, also made LSA in his lab after receiving samples of Mexican morning glory seeds. He reported that LSA and LSD had remarkably similar structures, while also noting that LSA caused him to feel much more sedated than LSD.
Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin—the “godfather of ecstasy” who helped popularize MDMA—wrote that LSA led him to experience “a tired, dreamy state” that subsided after about five hours, an experience on which he elaborates in TiHKAL: The Continuation (an acronym that stands for “tryptamines I have known and loved”).
Legal Status of LSA
It’s legal to possess morning glory, HBWR, and other LSA-containing plants and seeds—in fact, you can easily find them in garden stores and online. However, it is illegal in the U.S. to extract, buy, sell, or consume LSA as a drug—and it’s listed as Schedule III in the Controlled Substances Act.
LSA vs. LSD
The small, but important, chemical differences between LSA and LSD mean that, at the same doses, LSA is less potent than LSD. LSA generally produces a more sedative effect in comparison to LSD and features a stronger body high with fewer visuals and less mental stimulation.
Harm Reduction Strategies for Safer LSA Tripping
Like most other psychedelics, LSA isn’t considered addictive and has no known toxic dose. But because LSA hasn’t been studied in a systematic way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. Taking high doses of psychedelics can increase the risk of accidents and self-harm and it’s therefore advised to exercise a good deal of caution when using LSA.
Additionally, if you have schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder—or if you’re taking psychotropic medications, particularly lithium—it can be dangerous to add psychedelics.
To trip more safely, you can do the following:
· Be mindful of your set (emotional and mental state) and setting (where you are and who you’re with)
· Take a low dose the first few times you try LSA to get a feel for how your body responds
· Seek a trustworthy source that guarantees the seeds are free of fungicides and pesticides
· Ask a trusted friend to trip sit
· Refrain from combining LSA with other substances; read here about the effects reported from combining LSA with cannabis, alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other substances
While LSA might not be a perfect LSD substitute, or even a very well-known one, its appeal lies in its accessibility and relative legality—and a number of online retailers are picking up on that trend. And as more people are tripping with LSA and reporting their experiences, the psychedelic community’s fluency with LSA continues to grow. Now, research is needed to learn more about the possible uses and limitations of this natural psychedelic.
Danielle Simone Brand writes about cannabis and parenting—and their occasional overlaps. Her book, Weed Mom: The Canna-Curious Woman’s Guide to Healthier Relaxation, Happier Parenting, and Chilling TF Out, is slated for publication in December 2020.