Rapé (pronounced "ha-pay") is a snuff that's originally used by indigenous tribes from Brazil. There are many different types of Rapé, all with different herbs in it. The main component, however, is always tobacco of a variety called Nicotiana Rustica, which contains a high level of nicotine. Due to the stimulating effects of nicotine, Rapé has an uplifting effect.
The tobacco plant is sacred to the indigenous Brazilian tribes, who usually sniff this plant in powdered form. Sometimes, the tobacco gets soaked in water, after which they sniff the infusion. Smoking tobacco is unusual to them. Herbs that can occur in Rapé include cinnamon, camphor, mint, tonka beans, banana peel, passion flower and clover. Sometimes, Rapé contains psychoactive plants as well. Azarius offers several different blends, put together with some of our favourite herbs.
Lately, Rapé has been getting increasingly popular in the Netherlands. It's often sold through online retailers. Due to its stimulating effects, people sometimes use it as a recreational substance. The number of Rapé ceremonies offered in the Netherlands is growing vastly. In this article, we will take a look at this substance in more detail. We'll discuss the history, dosage and usage, as well as risks, We will also discuss the Rapé blends that are sold by Azarius.
Rapé has been used since tobacco was discovered, which is about 5000 years ago. The indigenous people from the American continent were the first ones to inhale, chew and drink the plant.
About 500 years ago, when Columbus returned to Europe from his expedition to Amerika, the Europeans first encountered tobacco, and therefore Rapé. The Franciscan monk Friar Ramón Pané, who returned with Columbus in 1493, was the one who brought Rapé to Europe. The oldest European report on the use of this product dates from 1723. At the time, the way Inca's used Rapé to treat various kinds of respiratory diseases and to 'purify' the head was described on paper. It also described how the Inca's used the substance for many different ceremonies. Rapé was used to make inner journeys and evoke visions. It was considered a medicine that could take bad energy away. However, it was also used in a social and recreative context, just like we take coffee nowadays.
Rapé has only recently been introduced into Dutch nightlife. A couple years ago, a new scene developed, of people who want to live in a more pure, healthy and conscious way - whilst still enjoying life. To them, things like raw cocoa, coca leaf powder and Rapé are healthy alternatives to hard drugs, which increases the popularity of Rapé in this 'health community'.
How is Rapé made?
The strong tobacco, called Nicotiana Rustica is chopped into very fine pieces before it's hung above a fire to dry. After that, it gets pulverized with a pestle made of rosewood, which gives the Rapé a nice, sweet flavour. The commercial snuffs that are currently on the market are not always made with such a pestle and might miss this authentic flavour. After grinding, it is sieved and ground again. This process is repeated until a very fine powder is left.
Rapé contains nicotine. Rapé is not suitable for smoking, and (unlike cigarettes) doesn't contain any chemical additives. Therefore, it damages the body way less than cigarettes do. It's also less addictive since many chemical additives in cigarettes are addictive and unhealthy.
During a rapé ritual - in which nothing but Rapé is used - the ceremonial leader first determines who needs which blend. After all, everyone has their own needs. The ceremonial leader tunes in and gets through who needs which kind of rapé. Afterwards, everyone expresses their intention: 'For what purpose do you follow the ceremony? What do you want to get an answer to?' After that, the ceremonial leader blows the personalized rapé-blend into the nose of each participant.
The use of Rapé results in a strong stimulation of the mucous membranes, which can be experienced as a hard, internal slap. This intense blow causes the mind to open up, allowing the set intentions to do their work. Rapé helps the user to let go of emotional, physical and mental illnesses. It releases negative energies and confusion. Shamans use Rapé to reconnect with their higher self, which is said to connect them to the Holy Spirit.
Tobacco contains two other alkaloids: harman and norharman. These alkaloids are closely related to harmine and harmaline, which occur in Ayahuasca. Tobacco, therefore, enhances the effect of Ayahuasca. Both substances are therefore inextricably linked during such Ayahuasca rituals. Rapé is also often combined with other shamanic ceremonies, such as a Kambo- or sweat lodge rituals.
There are many different types of Rapé. Azarius offers the following blends:
Caapi Rapé provides a dreamy, trance-like effect. Caapi is a key ingredient of the Ayahuasca mixture. As explained earlier, both plants enhance each other's effects, because of the similarity in the alkaloids. Caapi Rapé is a very strong blend.
Matico Rapé contains Cecropia and Matico ashes. Due to its antibacterial properties, matico is used in the Amazon region to help wounds heal faster. This blend helps to relieve respiratory problems. It is also used as a stimulant and aphrodisiac.
Rapé Guayusa is a natural energizer. It gives you a long-lasting, energetic feeling. For that reason, this blend is ideal for dancing or working. It is also said to induce lucid dreaming.
Rapé Wildmint has a strong refreshing aroma due to the mint. This blend provides a deep sense of silence.
Rapé Guarumo has a calming effect. It also helps you to relax and have better sleep.
Rapé Macambo Passion Flower is a powerful, invigorating formula. It contains finely ground macambo bean, which is closely related to the cocoa bean and smells delicious. It also boosts your serotonin level. Macambo gives you energy and lifts your mood.
Rapé Kanna has a relaxing and socially stimulating effect. Right after ingestion, it has a stimulating effect. After about an hour, the effects are more relaxing. Some also experience an increased sensitivity to touch and an increase in libido.
The main ingredient of Rapé is Nicotiana Rustica, which contains a high nicotine content of up to 5 %. When it's ingested nasally, the nicotine enters the brain directly via the mucous membranes. There, it attaches to the nicotine receptors, which results in a higher dopamine production. This will make you feel relaxed. In addition, the acetylcholine and epinephrine content also increase, making you feel more alert. 
Taking Rapé for the first time is not always a pleasant experience. People who are used to sniffing other substances might find the effect less scary when they sniff Rapé for the first time. Either way, it definitely hurts your mucous membranes, similar to what inhaling a snuff of pepper would feel like. Your eyes will start to tear immediately. For some people, this first experience might be so unpleasant that they may refrain from further use.
Others will experience this intense excitement as something pleasant because, after the 'slap', a feeling of increased alertness immediately arises. It also makes you more talkative and you may experience an increase in creativity. Many people who continue using Rapé find that the painful experience is absolutely worth it.
If you appreciate the effect, you may even start associating the pain with something pleasant. Most people don't like coffee or beer the first time they try it. Yet you can still learn to appreciate the taste of these drinks. The same goes for smoking a cigarette - hardly anyone likes it straight away.
Because our body 'learns' that the bitter taste of coffee, the somewhat bland taste of beer and the smelly smoke of a cigarette is a sign of an emergent pleasant effect, the body starts to experience it as tasty. However, negative conditioning of a taste can also take place. For example, if you get very ill from a certain product once, you might dislike the taste of it from that moment on.
Taste, but also physical sensation, are only signals that indicate something is pleasant or unpleasant - and thus, taste can be learnt. In the same way, you can learn to appreciate a pain stimulus. As a result, it can happen that the pain given by a medicine as a rapé is eventually experienced as something pleasant - however strange that may sound.
If you take Rapé, you can use an elongated hollow tube of bamboo or bone and have the Rapé blown up your nose by someone else. A straight tube is called a Tepi. It is extremely important not to inhale while getting the Rapé administered. Just sit down, relax and breathe slowly. Don't exhale too hard to prevent getting Rapé in your eyes. When the Rapé is blown into your nose, you can choose not to breathe for a while. If you keep breathing, the herbs may end up in the lungs, which will make you cough like crazy. This is very unpleasant and should be avoided.
By using a V-shaped tube it is also possible to self-administer the Rapé. This self-applicator is called a Kuripe. Stick one end in your nose and put the other end in your mouth, then blow gently. The great thing about self-application is that if you do so, you can't inhale it, so it generally goes well.
Not all rapé mixtures are equally strong. However, it's not pleasant to have your whole nose stuffed with herbs. Therefore, you should never use more than an amount the size of a pea. If you want to, you can take a new dose after one hour.
South Africa's indigenous people use tobacco to help to wounds to heal more quickly, combat ulcers and repel insects. It is used to reduce fatigue, pain, hunger and thirst, and to increase stamina. Rapé can also clean the airways. Many people notice that after sniffing Rapé, they can breathe more freely and have a better sense of smell. There are special Rapé blends that are used against the flu, although this is mainly the work of other herbs that are present in the Rapé. In high dosages, Rapé can cleanse the body by inducing sweating and sometimes even vomiting. The alkaloids in tobacco have an antidepressant and stimulating effect.
Some claim that rapé can repair the pineal gland by decalcifying it. The pineal gland produces melatonin, and thus regulates your sleeping pattern. It is also called the third eye and is located in the centre of your brain. The pineal gland has an important function in the central nervous system and is potentially involved in diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Although there is no medical evidence yet, there is a theory that nicotine from tobacco could help to control these diseases. This currently being researched.
About 90% of schizophrenic people smoke. They might do so as a form of self-medication. Because Rapé is far less harmful than smoking, schizophrenic people could benefit from using the tobacco plant nasally, in the form of Rapé, and thus avoid the harmful use of cigarettes.
The riskiest thing about Rapé is the nicotine that the tobacco plant contains. The risk of getting addicted to this substance is often underestimated. People who have quit smoking for years and start using Rapé may unnoticedly get addicted to nicotine and might find themselves craving for cigarettes again. The experience of sniffing Rapé is in no way similar to the experience of smoking a cigarette. Still, the substance that got you addicted to cigarettes is present in Rapé. People like to sniff Rapé for a good reason, even though it has a painful effect on the mucous membranes. Some daily Rapé users even temporarily switch to smoking cigarettes if Rapé is not available. It's clear that this substance should not be underestimated.
The advantage is that Rapé is not very harmful - unlike smoking cigarettes. Rapé could, in fact, help smokers quit smoking, in the same way as nicotine patches do. Instead of smoking, one can use rapé to satisfy the need for nicotine. The advantage over a nicotine patch is that Rapé, like smoking, makes you aware of your breathing whilst using it, plus that it involves a little 'ritual'. These two things are an important part of cigarette addiction. A nicotine patch doesn't do either one of these things, which might make Rapé an even more effective way to quit smoking. Because rapé does not contain any additional addictive chemicals, quitting Rapé much easier than giving up smoking. So switching from cigarettes to Rapé makes it easier to eventually quit nicotine completely.
In the Netherlands, Rapé is used as a ceremonial or recreational drug. It is hardly ever used for medical purposes. Please, be aware that if you use Rapé as a recreational drug, there is a risk of addiction. You might become increasingly dependent, and eventually, find yourself using it on a daily basis. There are several known cases of people who have become dependent on Rapé.
We should ask ourselves if this is really a problem. There are many indigenous tribes where people use Rapé on a daily basis. They might take it right after breakfast to enhance their workflow, or after dinner, whilst having a conversation with each other. Rapé use is built into their social life. To them, Rapé has the same function as coffee does for us. Coffee is also incredibly addictive, but due to the low health risks and the advantage of getting better concentration, this product is generally accepted. Perhaps the same should apply to Rapé.
- Wolk et al. 2005, Cryer 1976
- Janiger et al. 1973
- Herraiz et al. 2005
- Farzin 2006