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Braz J Psychiatry. 2006 Dec;28(4):277-82.

Plants with possible psychoactive effects used by the Krahô Indians, Brazil.

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Department of Psychobiology, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, SP, Brazil.



In spite of the richness of the Brazilian biodiversity, no phytomedicines have been developed from this flora with the purpose of being used in psychiatric treatments. The objective of the present study was to document the use of plants with possible psychoactive effects in rituals performed by the Krahô Indians, who live in the cerrado savannahs biome in the central region of Brazil. Also, the present data were compared with the data obtained during a review of the literature on the use of psychoactive plants by 25 Brazilian indigenous groups.


The study was carried out during two years of fieldwork during which anthropological and botanical methods were employed.


Seven local shamans were interviewed and they indicated 98 formulas, consisting of 45 plant species that appear to have psychoactive properties and were used in 25 different treatments. Some of the psychoactive properties were "prevention of madness", "stimulant effect", "tranquilizing effect", "prevention of tremors", "longer sleeping period", "open mind" and "induction of sleep". This article also describes the review of literature, which recorded 58 plants that may have psychoactive effects used by 25 Brazilian Indian cultures.


The treatment of psychological/psychiatric disorders based on the plants used by the Krahô Indians is very rich. It is also observed among other Brazilian indigenous groups. Future phytochemical and pharmacological studies on these plants may develop new medicines to treat psychiatric disorders.

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