The Psychedelic Toad: Spirituality & Psychedelics



Date of original publication

Nov 19, 2021



Talking points


The transformative act of storytelling


What the toad is about?


The clinical route


A trojan horse of transformation


Interacting with pure love


Testaments of revelation


A Copernicus moment

The Bufo Alvarius toad, also known as the Colorado River toad or Sonoran Desert toad, is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, and secretes a substance from its paratoid glands containing 5-MeO-DMT, a potent psychedelic compound that has fascinated researchers, spiritual seekers, and the indigenous cultures of Sonora alike.

The Bufo Alvarius toad spends nine or ten months of the year hibernating under the desert ground, in darkness, which is most likely why it aggregates 5-MeO-DMT in its parotoid glands as part of it’s immune system. 5-MeO is not a poison or protectant in its environment, but like many tryptamines it may be potentiated in darkness. We see this with N,N-DMT in the ayahuasca brews, mainly consumed at night in dark ceremonies, and through history with reports of monks, meditators and holy people going to caves and darkness to enhance their spiritual connection. 5-MeO has been nicknamed “The God Molecule” because it seems to reliably catalyze the classical mystical experience.

The Church of the Toad of Light

The first known interactions with Bufo Alvarius in the Western world occurred during the late 20th century. A Native American Church near Tucson is reported to have used toad, but the history books, and VICE tv, have promoted Albert Most, founder of the Church of the Toad of Light in the 1980s, as one of the first humans to use toad. He published a booklet describing how to collect and vaporize the toad “venom” for its psychoactive effects. This sparked initial interest within the counter-cultural community and “toading” became an underground pursuit around Arizona and elsewhere, staying within small communities that engaged with it for decades.

It wasn’t until around 2010 that the toad came out of Mexico on the back of a few very charismatic, dynamic and potentially dangerous Mexican shamanic practitioners, who worked with the indigenous tribes of Sonora to use the toad medicine to heal, and from there, to take it out to the psychedelic and shamanic communities in the Western world.

They did, however, try to turn on as many people as they could with not as much of an eye towards safety or going slowly. This era was almost like a Biblical Old Testament time where a few figures were kick-starting lineages into existence of facilitators that would come to work with the toad in more therapeutic set and settings. Still, the knowledge of the toad spread very rapidly and there has been a percolation through psychedelic and shamanic culture in the West.

Soon, the Bufo Alvarius toad joined on the Ayahuasca “bandwagon” in the sense of utilizing it in a ceremony or a certain therapeutic setting to be served as a healing medicine, to help awaken. Just as ayahuasca had swept the West over a generation or two, creating shamanic communities that traveled back to the indigenous world to partake and learn, and practice themselves, it also kick started medicine communities in the West. Toad joined the other sacraments like ayahuasca, psilocybin magic mushrooms, and DMT in being a recognized psychedelic medicine.

The Neuroscience of 5-MeO-DMT

5-MeO-DMT is specifically working on the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, where it lowers the sense of “I” or the egoic “I”. When a baby is born it's like a distributed consciousness, it hasn’t focused into one groove. It's physically here, but it hasn't got a developed sense of ego and identity. As the baby grows, it starts to aggregate personality and build from there, so we develop this filter mechanism called the “ego” which is necessary, but it also seems to be what also separates us from the feeling of connection to life and the “unity field” all around.

When you drop the egoic mind to reveal what is underneath, you learn you're “not the drop, you were the ocean in the drop,” as the poet Rumi said.

And yet, we've learned to identify with this cohesion of personality that is separate from everything else, but it's just a mask. It's just an illusion. You can lower the ego through meditation, through breath work, through tantra, through raising your vibration in any way. You can actually learn to take control of your multi-dimensional being and get beyond the cultural constraints of what the ego and what the culture reflects is normal for us. We're built to do this.

5-MeO is believed to be produced in the lungs and the cerebrospinal fluid, but it's kept at bay by monoamine oxidize inhibitors in the gut, so we're not “tripping” all the time.

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The Sonoran Desert Tribes

Historically, the Sonoran desert tribes have no extant documentation of a relationship with the Bufo Alvarius toad. This may also be because any history has been fragmented or erased by the relocation of the tribes, like the Seri, over a hundred years ago from their original land, or that gatekeepers and wisdom holders have died, losing the connection and wisdom. Still, archaeological evidence suggests that the toad was revered as a powerful spiritual entity in Mexico in general, associated with rain and fertility due to its emergence during the monsoon season.

The modern Sonoran tribes may not have known the Bufo Alvarius contained a psychedelic medicine, but they have been introduced to it now and are becoming caretakers of the medicine. Some claim they did know about the toad but kept it secret from outsiders. But what we can day is that a modern resurgence of shamanic usage has proliferated since Octavio Rettig reintroduced it to the village elders to help cure their amphetamine addictions in the Seri villages around 2010.

Sustainability and the Popularity of Toad Medicine

Today many practitioners, including shamans, psychonauts, and spiritual explorers, use 5-MeO-DMT for its potential therapeutic benefits and as a tool for self-exploration. Many use synthetic 5-MeO made in a lab, and others use the Bufo toad secretion, which has on average, only about 30% 5-MeO in its mass. However, the increasing popularity of this psychedelic has raised concerns about sustainability and ethical sourcing. Harvesting the secretion can stress the toads if they are not handled with care, and overcollection can threatens their populations in the wild. Dangers like chytrid fungus, who affect amphibians worldwide, can also be spread if more humans are handling them and pass on the fungus.

The Atom Bomb of Consciousness

The experience of ingesting 5-MeO-DMT can be profoundly intense and life-altering. Descriptions often include feelings of oneness with the universe or the “divine”, a sensation of ego dissolution, and a deeper understanding of personal consciousness. Time may seem to lose meaning, and there can be cathartic release of built up emotions and trauma. After effects may include a renewed sense of purpose, profound insights, and increased psychological well-being. However, experiences can vary significantly based on the individual's mindset, setting, and dosage.

N,N-DMT vs. 5-MeO-DMT

5-MeO-DMT can engender the traditional ego dissolving white light of the mystical, out-of-body experience. It's not a visionary thing it's really about a feeling, a letting go of the ego and merging with the infinite. In in the Eastern Traditions (like Vedanta) they have many terms for this: samadhi (a single point of focus, etc. Essentially, you have a baseline consciousness right here and now and then as you go into the experience more, you go past the visionary realm (which you get to on N,N,-DMT). But as you go further IN, which is sort of UP the vibratory scale, all paths lead to Central Source: the white light originating space that many of these spiritual cultures say exist and have maps for, and that can be reliably discovered and awakened within us.

Risks and Benefits

The potential risks and adverse effects of 5-MeO-DMT should not be overlooked. These include physical effects such as elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and potentially severe nausea or vomiting. In terms of psychological risks, some users may experience overwhelming anxiety, panic, or psychotic reactions. Furthermore, the risk of harm increases significantly when the substance is used without adequate preparation, supervision, or aftercare.

Despite these concerns, there is a growing movement advocating for the therapeutic use of 5-MeO-DMT within the Western medical framework. Preliminary research suggests potential benefits in treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Advocates argue that the unique and profound nature of the 5-MeO-DMT experience may facilitate deep psychological healing in a therapeutic setting.

This shift towards acceptance and exploration of 5-MeO-DMT's therapeutic potential is evident in events like the World Bufo Alvarius Congress ( First held in Mexico City in 2018, this gathering brought together researchers, practitioners, and enthusiasts from around the world to share knowledge and discuss the future of this fascinating toad and its powerful venom.

However, with this increasing interest, comes responsibility. Ensuring the preservation of the Bufo Alvarius and its habitats, respecting indigenous traditions and knowledge, and promoting safe, informed, and ethical use of 5-MeO-DMT are all paramount.

This amphibian now finds itself at the center of a complex, global conversation about psychedelics, consciousness, and healing. The future of 5-MeO-DMT and the Bufo Alvarius will depend on our ability to navigate these issues with wisdom, respect, and care.

For more info:

First-hand accounts exploring the effects, risks, benefits and cosmology of 5-MeO-DMT

Discussions with researchers, facilitators, and psychedelic medicine explorers who are studying the drug and its effects on the brain and consciousness. A wealth of information that goes beyond the medical and scientific models to anchor a spiritual map of what 5-MeO-DMT represents.

Key takeaways

  • The Bufo Alvarius toad, native to the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, secretes a substance containing 5-MeO-DMT, a potent psychedelic. This compound has intrigued researchers, spiritual enthusiasts, and indigenous cultures alike. Historically, it was used in religious contexts and has been dubbed "The God Molecule."
  • Around 2010, Mexican shamanic practitioners brought the toad and its potent effects to broader attention. Since then, it has become a part of mainstream psychedelic culture, alongside substances like ayahuasca and psilocybin.
  • 5-MeO-DMT acts on the frontal and parietal lobes, diminishing the ego and fostering a sense of unity and oneness. It has been studied for its potential therapeutic applications, including treatment for depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
  • The growing popularity of 5-MeO-DMT raises issues of sustainability. Harvesting the toad's secretion can stress the animal and pose threats to its population. Additionally, ethical questions arise concerning the respect for indigenous cultures and traditions as the substance gains wider acceptance.