What is bufo Alvarius?

The psychoactive effects of the secretions of different varieties of toads have been known for centuries. Bufo alvarius is a semi-aquatic amphibian that lives in the Sonoran desert of Mexico. Their cutaneous glands contain more than a dozen tryptamine compounds, including bufotenin and 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine), but do not contain DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine), the active principle present in ayahuasca. Bufotenin and 5-MeO-DMT are two powerful psychedelic substances.

The Bufo alvarius toad, whose correct name is Incilius alvarius, is native to the American continent. It can be found in the southern part of the Arizona desert in the USA and throughout most of the Sonoran desert in Mexico, even reaching Guamúchil, Sinaloa. It’s also known as the Colorado River toad, because it inhabits the areas surrounding this river in lower California, New Mexico, Mexico and southern Arizona.

It is found mostly in the lower parts of the Sonoran desert, at altitudes ranging from sea level to 1600 m. In addition to the desert, B. alvarius inhabits pastures and oak forests, where it hides in rodent burrows.

As a nocturnal toad, during most of the months from September to April it stays underground in a state of hibernation. During the breeding season, which coincides with the rainy season, it becomes very active, especially at night, and hundreds of toads roam the desert.

Bufo alvarius have large parotid glands that secrete a viscous, milky-colored substance. It is this venom that contains psychoactive alkaloids.

Toads have always played an important role in the myths, legends, religions, medical practices and healing arts of different peoples throughout the history of mankind.

We find representations of toads that go back thousands of years. Some authors have suggested that Neanderthals used toad venom for hunting, divination and as an intoxicant.