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Ethnobotany & Anthropology Research Page

Agara (Galbulimima bark)


I first learnt about ‘AGARA’ after reading the popular book Narcotic Plants by William A. Emboden, Junior. ‘AGARA’ is a local name for the rainforest tree Galbulimima belgraveana (F. Muell.) Sprague in Papua New Guinea. There are several reports from Papua New Guinea that Galbulimima bark has been used for its psychoactive properties. Twenty-eight alkaloids have been isolated from ‘AGARA’ bark. There is no direct pharmacological evidence that any of these alkaloids are psychoactive. Two different pharmacological explanations for the reported psychoactive properties of ‘AGARA’ bark are offered. A human bioassay with ‘AGARA’ bark from Papua New Guinea was conducted. The effects of eating ‘AGARA’ bark observed in this self-experiment included drowsiness and a hypnagogic state followed by euphoria. It is possible that larger doses of ‘AGARA’ bark possess hallucinogenic properties as a result of muscarinic (M1) receptor antagonist activity of the alkaloid himbacine or the psychotropic activity of alkaloid G.B. 18. The problem of explaining the reported psychoactive effects of ‘AGARA’ bark is a complex one and there are no quick and easy answers. More research on the reported psychoactive properties of ‘AGARA’ bark is required in the future to solve this problem.


‘AGARA’, Galbulimima belgraveana, Papua New Guinea, pharmacology, phytochemistry