Friday, May 22, 2015

In Search of Soma, god amongst plants - Cornus Sericea

NOTE: This blog post is an extract from a more formal note with some informal elaboration, from
Thou by thine insight art most wise, O Soma, strong by thine energies and all possessing, Mighty art thou by all thy powers and greatness, by glories art thou glorious, guide of mortals...,    Rig Veda 
The previous post described the god of plants, Soma that made humans who consumed its juice processed in a certain manner like immortal gods. Please do read that post to appreciate this one fully.  The god of plants was lost to mankind ever since ancient times.  It may be pointed out that even though Soma became extinct in ancient times in the Himalayas especially in areas where it was usually collected from, perhaps because of excess harvesting, it is likely to have continued up to present times in other parts of the world including North America, especially when its full medicinal use was not known to  natives.

Today with help of the internet a quick search is possible for many different plants that grow on the planet. This author searched widely on the net for a plant that might conform to the original descriptions of the Soma plant as described in the Indo-Aryan sacred book of  Rig-Veda. One plant that conformed in several ways was the dogwood plant Cornus Sericea. It grows in cool parts of North America, in the wild it grows in wetlands near lakes and water bodies, grows up to ten feet tall. It is multi-stemmed with many twigs that range from golden yellow to bright red according to season and variety but start from green. All this is in accord with the original descriptions of Soma in the ancient sacred text of Indo-Aryans, the  Rig Veda.. What is even more striking is that glucose, fructose, sucrose, and raffinose are the predominant soluble sugars present in both bark and wood tissues making the juices sweet if processed in the correct manner, with highest concentration of sugars in mid-winter just like with Soma according to the linked study. The bark and wood also have bitter components and it would depend on the process what the final taste of the extract is. What is more, varieties of this plant are sweetly scented just like Soma is described to be. Other related species of Cornus also need to be explored for similar properties. Earlier searches, even in ancient times, had gravitated towards intoxicating plants such as ephedra and magic mushrooms although the early texts had clearly described that Soma was neither hallucinatory nor intoxicating.

Aside from Cornus Sericea the only other plant that appears to fit the description of Soma of Rig Veda are varieties of the sugar cane, especially because of the mention of sweet and freely flowing frothy juice after pressing. However, sugar cane juice, at least of the known varieties is not known to produce the much magical benefits as provided by Soma, unless again the processing that might have included some natural fermentation and mixing with milk as well was in some responsible for the described effects.

Cornus Sericea is also known as Red osier dogwood, it is a deciduous shrub with a rounded, spreading form. Opposite leaves with rounded bases are ovate to lance-shaped and dark green, turning a dull red, purple-red, or orange in autumn, that leave knot like marks just as described for Soma. There are several varieties of Cornus and of the available ones it is the Cornus Sericea that comes closest to descriptions of Soma. However this is not to say that there may have been other varieties in the past that were slightly different such as a hybrid.

A thousand shining red stalks of Cornus Serecia just as the Rig Veda described for Soma

It seems the plant has been used by native tribes as a tonic and is a stimulant but not processed quite in the same way as Soma was for the plant to release its full effect. It would be interesting to find out what the effect would be it was processed similarly. It would involve crushing the bark and stems after wetting them with water, pressing out the juice, filtering through woolen felt, collecting in wooden jars and then adding milk to it. Cooking in the milk is also possible. The Rig Veda has stressed on this process repeatedly and it must be adhered to because the use of another such as alcoholic extracts is not likely to produce the desired effect. It may be mentioned that even cannabis is nothing much unless one uses the prescribed process for its consumption. Do note that not having tried it himself this author does not know if there are any risks or adverse reactions possible in this experiment, therefore please either do it at your own risk or preferably under the guidance and supervision of a qualified medical practitioner or another person experienced in the testing of new herbal formulations.

This is what Jennifer Heinzel, without relating her experience to Soma said at
“During our class on the day we harvested and learned about this plant, we took a small nibble of the fresh bark and overall this is what we felt: mellow, but very alert an clear headed, like taking a glass of wine without the fuzzy-feeling; also a numb, warm feeling at the base of my skull at in my 3rd eye region.”

What Jennifer describes is precisely the sort of effect Soma would have produced although the full effect would emerge only with the right variety and full processing as described. Considering all this plant is indeed a strong candidate for the lost Soma. There are several species of this plant and there may have been other Himalayan ones in the past with one of them being the mythical Soma. This plant definitely needs greater study.

The present note is the first one identifying Cornus Sericea with Soma. The author does not have immediate access to the plant for further study as described in this note but would appreciate anyone who does, would let him know through a comment in this post. It is best that this study be done in the public domain so that the plant remains legal and free for all rather than become the subject of patenting, greed, control and exploitation by big corporations as unfortunately has been done with some of the most useful plants such as cannabis medicinal for mankind in recent decades This author is not against profit motive when it comes to entertainment, luxury etc. but is strongly against it when it comes to human health, spirituality and things as basic as plants. No human has a right to patent anything basic to life in the authors opinion.

For more general information on this plant check out: 

NOTE: Please also read the next post  that describes in detail, the process for preparing this drink of the gods in your kitchen here,

Images of dogwood from, Red, Yellow  

Winter image of Cornus Serecia from ,


Vinod Khurana said...

It's so nice of you to bring this well researched subject in public domain. May God bless your efforts.
with warm regards

Ashok said...

Thank you Vinod. This search was made possible by the amazing amount of information one can access through a Google search on the internet, something that was not possible 20 years ago.

Ashok said...

Yes it does seem that this effort has been blessed by God and the god Soma, perhaps because of my long interest in spirituality and also interest in plants, shrubs and trees. it would not have been possible otherwise. The Universe never fails to reward, in its own time and use simple persons like me as an instrument when they are willing to be, as I am at all times. That is why it is so poor to try for worldly profit instead in comparison as was mentioned in the post.

Vinod Khurana said...

So wonderful and highly touching words,
coming from a truly blessed soul.
Your knowledge and efforts in this endeavor are extraordinary and are likely to bear fruit manifold.
with grateful regards