Mapacho - Thuoc Lao Σπόροι καπνού (Nicotiana rustica)
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Nicotiana rustica, known in South America as Mapacho and in Vietnam as Thuoc Lao (thuốc lào), is a plant in the Solanaceae family. It is a very potent variety of tobacco. The high concentration of nicotine in its leaves makes it useful for creating organic pesticides.
Rustica is also used for entheogenic purposes by South American shamans. Growing in the rainforest it contains up to nine times more nicotine than common North American varieties such as N. tabacum. Other reasons for its shamanic use are the comparatively high levels of MAOI beta-carbolines, including the harmala alkaloids, harman and norharman. Most commonly, it is allowed to soak in water, and the water is then insufflated; it is also smoked in cigars and used as an enema and as an anthelmintic effective against tapeworm infections. In the southeast part of Turkey, people use this herb and ashes of some tree bodies to make a snuff called "Maraş Otu". They use this putting under either of the lips like Swedish snus. It is also a common admixture of Ayahuasca in some parts of the rainforest.
In Russia, N.rustica is called "makhorka" (махорка). It was smoked casually by the lower classes before normal tobacco became widely available (after WWII), and is still sometimes smoked by peasants and farmers.
Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%.
In Vietnam, it is most commonly smoked after a meal on a full stomach to "aid in digestion", or along with green tea or local beer (most commonly the cheap "bia hoi"). A "hit" of thuoc lao is followed by a flood of nicotine to the bloodstream inducing strong dizziness that lasts several seconds. It should be said however that even heavy smokers have had trouble with the intense volume of smoke and that side effects include nausea and vomiting.
The main difference between smoking thuoc lao and the use of other tobaccos is in the method of consumption, in that they are consumed with water pipe. The smoker is presented with either a bamboo pipe called a điếu cày (literal translation: farmer's pipe) or a ceramic hookah called a Điếu bát. The pipe is filled with an appropriate amount of water and a small amount of thuoc lao is pressed into the bowl.
Flowering Nicotiana rustica
One then ignites the tobacco and inhales to create a body of smoke inside the pipe, before exhaling the smoke, reversing the process of air in the pipe by blowing into it to pop out the tobacco. The smoker then sharply inhales, usually tilting the pipe upwards to an almost horizontal position (but not completely as the water would drain out the mouth).
Typically, on the streets of Vietnam's capital of Hanoi a small bag containing enough tobacco for 5 to 8 "hits" retails at 2500 Vietnamese đồng, which is equivalent to about 15 US cents. Larger packs cost up to 20000 đồng and would be about $1.25 US Dollars. The use of thuoc lao is always out of the bamboo pipe, which can range from 10000 đồng to upwards of 50000 đồng for items with extravagant carving and other designs.