Heimia myrtifolia is an erect, much-branched, deciduous shrub that can grow up to 1.50 metres tall.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a drink and a medicine. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
S. America - northeastern Argentina, Uruguay, Paragual, southern Brazil
Along the sides of streams[
Heimia myrtifolia is native to warm temperate and subtropical regions in eastern S. America. It is not a very cold-tolerant plant, but has been shown to tolerate short periods with temperatures falling to around -10[
]. If it is cut back by severe weather the plant will often resprout from the base the following spring[
Easily grown in any well-drained soil in full sun[
]. Especially in colder areas, this plant is best grown against a sunny wall and given a good mulch of bracken in the winter[
Flowers are produced on the current seasons growth[
This species is closely related to Heimia salicifolia, differing mainly in having smaller flowers[
Any pruning is best carried out in early spring by removing excess growth at the base of the plant[
An intoxicating and euphoric drink is made by crushing the wilted leaves in water and leaving the liquid in a sunny position for three days to ferment[
]. In larger quantities this can induce hallucinations and produces a vision that is typically overcast in yellow[
The plant contains various alkaloids, including vertine and lythrine, which are considered to be responsible for any hallucinogenic activity[
There have been very few human-based trials on the alleged hallucinogenic properties of Heimia species. Considering an earlier human study using the aerial plant parts in 1896, and the results of a trial in 1998 with the extracted alkaloids vertine and lythrine, it is the opinion of the present authors that the alleged psychodysleptic effect of this plant must be due to the ethanol content of the native brews and/or their fortification with another plant, perhaps the seeds of Rhynchosia praecatoria[
The leaves are antispasmodic, hallucinogenic and sedative[
]. An infusion serves to stabilize the blood pressure and relieve anxiety[
Heimia myrtifolia is very similar to Heimia salicifolia and expert knowledge is required to differentiate these species from each other. It is logical, therefore, to assume that both species may have been used interchangeably in folk medicine[
]. Their alkaloidal composition has been studied using semiquantitative TLC methods and, while the differences appear to be more quantitative than qualitative, the two species are chemically distinct[
]. See Heimia salicifolia for more information on the medicinal uses.
Seed - we have no information for this species but suggest sowing the seed in spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle. Grow the young plants on for at least their first winter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer. Mulch the roots well in the autumn to protect them from the cold.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, mid summer in a frame[