What Is Rapé
5 min

What Is Rapé And How Do You Use It?

5 min

Rapé is a sacred herb from the Amazonian basin that is used by indigenous tribes for spiritual ceremonies and healing purposes. Learn about rapé and how to use it on your own or with a partner.

Rapé (pronounced ha-pay) has been used by indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin for thousands of years. The preparation of powdered herbs plays an important role in their tribal culture and history. We want to take a closer look at rapé, including how to use it, and its effects and benefits.


Rapé is a complex mix of various plants of the Amazon, with the main ingredient being Nicotiana rustica, a strong tobacco that is 20 times more potent than Nicotiana tabacum.

Rapé can have a stimulating and psychoactive effect, depending on what plants are used to make it. Taken during shamanistic ceremonies, it can bring on profound experiences. The shaman consider rapé to be sacred. They take it for prayer rituals to call upon the forces of nature for healing and curing purposes, and to receive the blessings of the rainforest. It is believed that indigenous tribes in South America have used tobacco for various purposes as far back as the Mayan civilization.

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Ingredients Used To Make Rapé

The main ingredient in rapé is Nicotiana rustica, but the preparation is normally infused with other finely-ground plant materials or alkaline ashes. These may include tonka bean, cinnamon, camphor, banana peel, and other materials. Some rapé preparations contain hallucinogenic plants such as macambo, anadenanthera, chacruna, virola, and others. Shamanic tribes will normally keep the exact ingredients of their rapé a secret.


The first official Western accounts of tobacco use coincide with the Western rediscovery of America in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. He was the first European to see indigenous people on the newly discovered continent using wild tobacco as a snuff. However, the use of tobacco goes back even further. It is believed that indigenous peoples of South America had already used tobacco for 5,000 years.


The Benefits & Effects Of Rapé

Among the tribes of South America, rapé is used for various ceremonial purposes. Some tribes are known to use it regularly after meals. The particular effects of rapé will vary depending on occasion and the full list of ingredients involved in its preparation.

The pulverised rapé powder, which is normally blown up into one’s nostrils by another person with a pipe, causes an intense effect that opens up the mind, releasing physical, emotional, and spiritual illnesses. The high nicotine content in the mix has a stimulating effect and releases hormones such as epinephrine, acetylcholine, and dopamine, leading to increased clarity and heightened awareness.

The healers of the rainforest use rapé to rebalance their energies and to connect with their higher selves and the universe. The rapé ritual is also regarded as a way to cleanse and detoxify the body.


What To Expect From Your Rapé Experience

Your rapé experience will depend on the rapé blend you are taking. Some rapé preparations may only induce a mild experience, such as if you were to drink a strong cup of coffee. Other rapé preparations, depending on the plants used, can make for a powerful, long-lasting, psychedelic experience.

Most of the time, when you take rapé, there will be some side effects that you should be prepared for. Since the mixture is blown up your nose, your nose will start running and mucus from your sinuses will be cleared out. To prevent the mucus from back-dripping into your throat, you should lean forward to allow it to release freely. This will help prevent you from gagging or vomiting as a result. Even then, vomiting from rapé is considered normal and is seen as a tenet of its purification abilities. You don’t need to feel ashamed about it, just know what to expect.

Aside from vomiting and a runny nose, when you consume rapé, it can also cause you to take multiple trips to the bathroom. Similar to drinking a lot of coffee and smoking cigarettes, rapé can trigger bowel movements. So don’t be surprised if you feel like “having to go” rather urgently shortly afterwards.


The Rapé Ritual: How To Use It

The traditional way of taking rapé involves two people. Your rapé ritual partner uses a bamboo or bone pipe (called “Tepi” in Brazil) to blow the mix into both of your nostrils. Another type of pipe, named “Kuripe” is for self-application. The Kuripe has a V-shape and connects your mouth and your nose so you can blow the mix up your nose yourself.

In traditional shamanistic practice, the person blowing the rapé is an experienced tribe member or shaman that, together with the plant mixture, will send his spirit into the receiving person. The rapé-giver is sharing himself and empowering the receiver. This is according to shamanic tradition where the healing energy of the breath (“soplada”) plays a very important role.

Whether it’s easier to use a Tepi pipe or a Kurip is open to debate. For inexperienced users, having the partner administrate makes the second blow into the other nostril easier. Indeed, the first blow can be overwhelming for some. Then again, a Kuripe for self-administering can give you more control over your rapé experience. What’s important is that you blow the powder into both nostrils to ensure a balanced flow of energies.


How To Dose Rapé

The optimal dose for rapé will depend on your tolerance and the particular mix you are using. For a start, we recommended a pea-sized dose for each of your nostrils. After some experimentation, you can increase or decrease the dosage to find what works best for you.

When you self-administer, first make sure you are familiar with how to use the Kuripe pipe. Start out with half a pea-sized amount and put it on the nasal end of the pipe. With the nasal end up in your nose, blow the mix using the mouth end of the pipe. Again, some experimentation will help you discover whether shorter and more intense, or longer and gentler blows work better. Don’t forget to switch to your other nostril after you blow into the first one.

As with most hallucinogens and other types of transformative substances, set and setting can make all the difference when taking rapé.


Taking Rapé: The Importance Of Set And Setting

Indigenous tribes normally have a different attitude than Westerners when it comes to psychedelic substances. Rapé is considered a holy sacrament and prayer. They understand that the plants can teach them and cure them, and therefore, they treat them with respect and honour.

Just like the shaman do in the rainforest, we recommend using this substance in an environment that honours the plants and the practice. With the help of some incense and relaxing music, you can create just the right meditative atmosphere for your rapé ritual.

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Also, know that when the tribes of the Amazonian basin take rapé, there is most often an intention behind it. Focus on your own intentions before you start with your session.

After the experience, you may feel overwhelmed. Hence, you should allow yourself some time to become grounded once again. Sit with your eyes closed, and breathe slowly so you can regain focus.


What Happens Immediately After Using Rapé?

Taking rapé will normally induce a strong bodily response with snot and mucus being expelled from your nose and throat. You may even vomit. But see this purge of fluids as a natural way to expel wastes and negative energies. Just allow these things to happen naturally. To help with releasing mucus, you can hold one nostril closed with your finger and empty the other with a strong blow of air. When you do this a few times after taking rapé, you will notice that breathing will be easier with each time.

At some point, mucus mixed with rapé may back-drip into your throat. When this happens, don’t swallow, but just pull it up into your mouth and spit the mixture out. Just like vomiting, this is part of the natural cleansing process from taking rapé; embrace it and don’t be embarrassed!

Sometimes, it can happen that you may feel a little unwell after taking rapé. If this occurs, it is likely that you are dehydrated from the purging and vomiting. Drink some water or fruit juice and lie down for a few moments to allow your body to rehydrate.

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.
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