One of the more unusual questions I have been asked is ‘can orchids get you high?’.
I’ll go into a bit more detail below as to why I think people have started asking this question over the past few years, but orchids do have some undeniably unique qualities.
But is the ability to get you stoned one of them?
We will try and get to the bottom of that over the next few paragraphs.
So let’s dive in…
Can Orchids Get You High?
Some alkaloids found in some orchids MAY have hallucinogenic properties, and orchids have been used for thousands of years in Chinese traditional medicine for a variety of reasons. But there is still little concrete evidence to suggest orchids are a reliable way to get you high.
I think the idea that orchids are a drug began gathering steam from 2002 onwards.
What happened in 2002?
The movie Adaptation came out.
The movie was the true story of writer Charlie Kaufman’s struggles to adapt writer Susan Orlean’s non-fiction book, “The Orchid Thief”, into a film screenplay.
The book itself examines the life of John Laroche, an orchid ‘poacher’ who was arrested in 1994 for taking orchids out of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in Florida with three Seminole Indians.
The film mixed real-life elements from the book with fictitious strands invented for the screenplay.
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Adaptation starred Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep and grossed around $33million worldwide. Chris Cooper won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in his role as John Laroche, and the film received three further Oscar nominations.
So it is fair to say it was quite a big-name film.
It also contained a scene where John Laroche gets high on the ghost orchid.
And I think that is when the questions of whether orchids can get you high all began!
The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might expect, but I will try to answer it as best I can…
They Are Usually Soaked in Pesticides
Remember most commercially grown orchids have been soaked in pesticides.
Pesticides are generally very toxic and can result in symptoms like nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and dizziness if ingested by a human.
Now of course, the level of pesticide will be relatively low on an orchid but it will still be present.
If you are thinking about filling your bong with orchid leaves please remember this!
The Alkaloids in Orchids May Have Hallucinogenic Properties
With around 20,000 species, the orchid family is up there with the sunflower family as the largest plant family in the world.
Within these thousands of species, there are hundreds of different alkaloids, many of which we don’t know the full effect of in terms of human health.
Alkaloids are naturally occurring organic nitrogen-containing bases and their function in plants still isn’t completely understood.
Alkaloids derived from plants do have a long-standing place in medicine. Morphine, strychnine, nicotine and ephedrine are all alkaloids.
What this shows is that alkaloids can have a strong impact on our physical and psychological systems.
We all know how morphine is now an essential painkiller for instance for anyone suffering from severe injury or undergoing surgery.
Some alkaloids are dangerously toxic, and some are used outside of the traditional field of medicine as shamanic aids.
So this does indicate they may have hallucinogenic properties to some extent. In fact, there is proof that some species of Oncidium are used in the preparation of hallucinogenic drugs.
But go back to the very start of this section and remember that for many of these alkaloids we still don’t know the full effect they can have on our health.
You Can Legally Grow Orchids
There are practically no restrictions around growing any kind of orchids anywhere around the globe.
But it is illegal, for instance, to grow poppies from which narcotics can be made under the Poppy Control Act of 1942.
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If orchids were a reliable method of getting you high it is safe to say there would be more restrictions around the growing of them, in the same way there are for poppies
Instead, you are free to grow as many as you want!
Smoking the Flowers of Dendrobium Nobile May Have an Effect
As I always do, I spent a bit of time researching this article before I wrote it.
I actually found it very difficult to come by any data that suggested orchids can get you high.
In fact, I only found one easily accessible ‘case study’ as such.
That was around the effects of smoking the flowers of Dendrobium nobile, an orchid grown mainly for ornamental purposes and commonly available in flower shops and garden centers.
This ‘case study’ was posted on the DMT-Nexus forum by a member called Nicita, and should not be in any way taken as reliable scientific evidence! But I will give a brief overview of it.
Nicita smoked half a dried Dendrobium nobile flower in a pipe and reported:
“The smoke is very harsh, hard to inhale and provokes couching. A high feeling, quite similar to cannabis is perceived within a few minutes.”
Nicita said unlike cannabis ‘short time memory’ is as impaired and thought patterns are altered, but thoughts don’t drift away.
They concluded by saying:
“The effects surpass all other plants I know and have tried that are said to have cannabis-like effects. The intoxication lasts for about one and a half hours.”
As a caveat though they added:
“Nevertheless I would advocate caution when using higher doses or combinations, because the underlying pharmacology is practically unknown and possible side effects can not be excluded!“
The next day they posted on the forum again, reporting they had not slept the previous night and maybe “underestimated the orchid”.
They warned caution to anyone who was going to try and replicate their ‘study’.
The full thread can be found on the DMT-Nexus forum.
Orchids Do Have Medicinal Properties
Orchids have a long-established place in traditional Chinese medicine.
In fact, their use in China dates back to 300 BC when the book ‘South China Flora’ recorded use of Dendrobium orchids for anti-toxic treatment.
To this very day, the Chinese continue to use orchids for medicinal purposes. This is mainly in the form of medicinal tea, but there are some other interesting uses of them:
- Gastrodia alata is used for improving memory and brain tonic purposes.
- Dendrobium catenatum is used in teas and soups as a tonic to protect singers’ voices
- Eria pannea is used as a tonic for lung and digestive system inflammation
- The roots of Vanda roxburghii are used for treatment of rheumatism
- Dried dendrobium is used for a variety of illnesses, including to treat cancer, improve eyesight and strengthen the immune system.
These are just a few examples. In total around 300 orchid species are believed to be used in traditional Chinese medicine.
You Can Get Addicted to Orchids
If you only have one orchid, then you have managed to display admirable self-restraint!
Orchids are highly unique plants in terms of their structure, flower, culture and place in society and it is not unusual for individuals to own hordes of them!
For beginners, the unpredictable nature of orchids can draw you in quite dangerously.
You will get results sometimes, but unlike many other plants, not always. So you work harder and harder to figure out why you got the results and how to get them more often.
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Perhaps the best example of this is Bob Weltz, a former wealthy Wall Street banker, whose life changed when a friend gave him a few orchids he had going spare.
Soon Weltz went from these few orchids in his bathroom to converting the living room of his 12th-floor apartment to a greenhouse for his now 4,500-strong collection of orchids.
He eventually had to move from Manhattan to Santa Barbara to buy some real estate to house his ever-growing assortment of orchids.
When he died in 2010, Bob Weltz had one of the greatest private orchid collections in the world and was even featured in a 60 Minutes documentary as the “consummate orchid grower.”
Are orchids a drug? Can orchids get you high?
Do you know what? I am still not entirely sure and if I am honest, it really isn’t something I have a compulsion to find out myself.
The fact they are so widely used in Chinese medicine suggests they do have unusual effects on the body.
It seems some are used in shamanic medicines too.
But if you really want to get high, I am sure there are easier, safer and more reliable methods than smoking the leaves of an orchid!