Origin: Mexico & Central America
Improvement status: Cultivated wild material
Seeds per packet: ~45
Germination tested 2/2024: 92%
Life cycle: Perennial (Zones 8-11) or Annual
We're really excited to be offering this plant for the first time (thanks to these seeds from our friends at Wild Garden Seeds in Oregon, who got their initial seed stock from more friends at Grand Prismatic Seeds in Utah). 'Pericón' is a type of marigold with a long history of use as food, dye, medicine, and instrument of shamanic practice (thanks to its mildly hallucinogenic, dream-enhancing, and mind-focusing qualities). Also called Yautli, in Nahuatl (the Aztec language), which means "dark one," and Hierba de Nube, in Spanish, meaning "herb of clouds." Marigolds like this have a long association with Mexican Day of the Dead ceremonies, when they are laid out in abundance as offerings. For this reason, the flower is perhaps most commonly known as "flores del muerto", or "flowers of the dead."
As a culinary herb, pericón has a tarragon-like flavor and is used in tea, Mexican hot chocolate, soups, or sauces. Medicinally, it is used to treat the common cold, intestinal gas and diarrhea. Flower extracts have been found to have potent antibiotic and antifungal properties, including against some nasty pathogens like Candida albicans yeast and E. coli. A golden-yellow dye is made from the plant, which is also often burned as incense, both for ceremonial purposes and to repel insects.
But the most interesting thing about this plant is its use as an entheogen (defined on Wikipedia as "psychoactive substances that induce alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior for the purposes of engendering spiritual development or otherwise in sacred contexts"). There are many accounts of the entheogenic use of this plant, primarily among indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America. Modern Mayan people are said to use it in shamanic rituals. Huichol people mix it with Nicotiana rustica tobacco and smoke it, with one source noting that this combination is used in "sexual shamanic rituals" due to its "aphrodisiac effects." The Mixe of Oaxaca drink a tea made from the flowers for divination. In places where peyote cactus is used ceremonially, it is also sometimes mixed with pericón to enhance hallucinations.
We haven't tried this plant in any sort of "psychonautic" way, so can't offer any personal recommendations, but we're certainly curious about it. We encourage you to do plenty of research before even considering consuming it in any other way besides in small amounts as a flavoring!