L. Peganum harmala, Ar hârmel, Fr. harmale, pégane harmale,rue sauvage, Eng. harmal, Syrian rue. It grows around the Mediterranean from Syria to northern Africa and from Greece to Spain. This is a shrub, one to two hands high. The white flowers begin to appear in April in Andalusia and a little later at the basin of the Ebro River and on riverbanks in central Spain and continue to bloom throughout the summer. The angular seeds are extracted from the capsule in late summer. It has been known from ancient times. Arabs especially ate the seeds to become happily inebriated. Arabs planted it in Granada to treat dysentery. They have been employed for lethargic encephalitis (sleeping sickness, brain inflammations caused by a virus), tapeworms and parasitic worms, in general, as it is an anthelmintic medication. The seed contains psychoactive beta-Carboline alkaloids, the most important are harmaline, a white crystalline alkaloid, and harmine, another alkaloid. These are extracted for narcotic use. Until recently, a special wine was made in Castile by macerating harmal seeds in ordinary wine. It was used to fight off depression.
It is said that there are few bald Moroccans as harmine is an ingredient in a shampoo preventing this. Moroccans also boiled the seed, mixed with lemon juice and water and then sun dried the mixture, which resulted in a paste that is smoked with tobacco to excite sexual desire and to become extremely sensitive. Witches used it along with humans to ward off evil spirits and people used it to protect themselves from those who speak badly about others. This plant , today, is not recommended for use. [ES: “Alharma.” Feb 7, 05; ES: “Diccionario licencioso.” Aug 6, 04; and Fericgla. Nov 10, 02]