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Acacia berlandieri (Guajillo acacia, Senegalia berlandieri, Britton & Rose Guajillo, Guajillo, Thornless Catclaw, Mimosa Catclaw, Round-flowered Catclaw, Huajillla, Matoral)

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description

Acacia is a genus of about 160 species of trees and shrubs in the pea family (Fabaceae). Acacias are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the world, particularly Australia (where they are called wattles) and Africa, where they are well-known landmarks on the veld and savanna. 

Acacia berlandieri Benth. however, is a shrub native to the Southwestern United States and northeast Mexico that belongs to the subfamily Mimosoideae (wattles) of Fabaceae (legumes).  The berlandieri epithet comes from the name of Jean-Louis Berlandier, a French naturalist who studied wildlife native to Texas and Mexico.


In the rather simplistic way in which drug takers view plants, Acacia Berlandieri obtained a reputation in the USA that it was a source of ‘hallucinogenic substances’.  Many acacias do contain hallucinogens of some sort, albeit in minute quantities, and the type of hallucinogen varies.  Some contain DMT, some contain harmala alkaloids. 

Acacia Berlandieri leaf samples collected in the spring and autumn subjected to rigorous chemical analysis found four previously detected amines, and 29 other alkaloids and amines including nicotine, nornicotine, mescaline, mimosine, and four amphetamines. A significant increase in the number and relative quantities of these compounds was observed in late season foliage. 
Amphetamines and nicotine are not classed as hallucinogens.  In fact, amphetamines eventually cause brain damage.

S. berlandieri has been known to cause toxic reactions in domestic animals such as goats.  There is every reason therefore to believe that the plant produces substances that are toxic in its leaves in order that attack by predators such as goats, do not leave it without leaves.  Consumption of Acacia berlandieri Benth. by domestic livestock during periods of drought may result in a locomotor ataxia, as well as having negative effects on intake and male fertility.  Thankfully goats appear to have the common sense to know that it is not a good idea to eat the leaves:

The nutritive value of, and their preference for, guajillo leaves was determined in two trials using male Angora goats … In a metabolism trial, air-dried guajillo leaves and alfalfa hay were chopped and mixed to prepare four diets containing 0, 25, 50 and 75% of guajillo leaves, which were fed in a 4x4 Latin Square design. Animals were retained in metabolism crates for a 10 day adaptation period followed by a 7 day collection period. …..

Water intake and urine output decreased (P<0.05) with increasing guajillo in the diets, but water retention increased (P<0.05) with increasing guajillo. The digestibility of all the nutrients decreased (P<0.05) with increasing level of guajillo, with ADF digestibility reduced to zero in the 75% guajillo diet. Energy balance and nitrogen balance expressed as percent intake decreased (P<0.05) with increasing level of guajillo. ….

Glucuronic acid output in goats fed 75% guajillo was significantly (P<0.05) higher than the other diets, and suggests an increased requirement for liver glucose metabolism in goats consuming large amounts of guajillo.

Despite an apparently desirable gross energy content of all the diets, those containing guajillo did not meet digestible energy requirements for maintenance and mohair production at moderate levels of activity and production, and although none of the diets appeared to be acutely toxic, the goats preferred the diets lower in guajillo.  PMID:  11295396


Senegalia berlandieri is a shrub that grows 1 to 5 metres (3.3 to 16.4 ft) tall, with blossoms that are spherical and white, occurring from February through April.

Normally a multi-trunked large shrub, it can be pruned to a small specimen tree. With its fern-like, lacy foliage, its open, airy, rounded form, and its creamy white spring flowers, guajillo is a 'desirable ornamental', useful as a hedge or fragrant speciman plant around pools or patios. It is native to dry limestone hillsides in SouthCentral and Near-West Texas, but is adaptable to many soil types as long as they are well drained.

It prefers full sun, is drought tolerant once established, and is hardy to around 20 degrees F. Although guajillo does have thorns, they are small and not rigid and do not pose the menace of the thorns of other acacias.

Fruit Characteristics: 4- to 5 inch-long pods.

Medicinal uses

This shrub produces exceptionally nice honey.  The honeybees use the flowers to make a honey that is ‘as clear as water’.

As such this is a very important honey-plant, or tree, in Texas, for the dry arid portions where there is little or no irrigation, and where nothing, in fact, grows except mesquite, sage-brush, and other desert plants.

The fact that it does not depend on irrigation, and needs only a scanty amount of rain early in the season, makes it most valuable to the bees in those regions where it grows and yields large quantities of beautiful 'water clear' honey.

"Indeed, it is the finest produced in Texas, and is so nearly water white as to be almost as clear as pure water." It is at its very best in the region of Uvalde, Texas.

And it is this honey that has been found to be medicinal.  More details in the observations.

References and further reading

  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Plant profile for Senegalia berlandieri Britton & Rose guajillo
  • Small Rumin Res. 2001 May;40(2):139-148.  Nutritive value and palatability of guajillo (Acacia berlandieri) as a component of goat diets.
    Nantoumé H1, Forbes TD, Hensarling CM, Sieckenius SS.1 Centre Régional de Recherche Agronomique de Samé, BP 281, Kayes, Mali
  • Phytochemistry Volume 46, Issue 2, September 1997, Pages 249-254  Toxic amines and alkaloids from Acacia berlandieri  - Beverly A.Clement, Christina M.Goff, T. David A.Forbes  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9422(97)00240-9



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