Rig Veda, an ancient sacred text of Indo-Aryans described a godly plant known as Soma. The juice of this plant imparted huge improvements in physical, intellectual and emotional abilities to ancient Indo-Aryans who consumed it. Some modern studies have identified certain intoxicating plants as possibly being Soma but these do not come close to original description. Soma was neither intoxicating nor hallucinatory. Rather, its effect was precisely opposite. It increased focus, alertness and memory. An earlier study by this author suggested that sugarcane grasses appear to be similar in description to this plant. However, sugarcane juice as available now, although healthy, does not have the unusual enhancing properties of Soma. It appears that it does not contain the active compounds that Soma had as described in texts. However, it seems possible to revive the ancient Soma drink with help of modern science as described in this note.
Sugarcane stalks in green, yellow, tawny, gold, red and brown, colors of Soma
An ancient plant was described as a god among plants in Rig Veda, an ancient sacred text of Indo-Aryans. The proper identification of this plant has been lost to mankind since ancient times. Scholars have made several attempts to identify this plant but none of the proposals come near the original Soma plant. The plant was perhaps harvested to extinction in ancient times, especially because it as not the fruit or flower of this plant that was needed for a drink but its wood and stems. Thereafter, ancient civilizations from South Asia, Iran Turkey etc. have made use of substitutes such as ephedra or mixtures of opium, ephedra and cannabis in an attempt to approach the same effect, even calling the resulting potion by similar names. However, some of these latter choices were narcotics with adverse effects and none came near the magical Soma of lore.
Effects of Soma included ethical behavior, poetic insights, enhanced fertility, alertness, wakefulness, ability to heal, attainment of wealth and great physical strength useful for warriors. The drink of Soma was neither intoxicating nor hallucinatory and this rules out many of suggestions of modern scholars about what it might have been. In fact Soma did precisely the opposite. It increased focus, concentration, attention and memory. It also provided physical strength and accuracy in use of weapons such as a bow and arrow to warriors rather than intoxication or hallucinations. It seems that human aging was retarded while under the effect of Soma and it was therefore regarded as a drink of immortal gods.
Identification of Soma with Sugarcane grasses
An earlier study by this author  identified similarities of Soma with sugarcane grasses. The interested reader is referred to the earlier note  for arguments leading to this suggestion. The process of preparing the drink from this plant includes crushing the stalks to extract a sweet frothy juice as is done with modern sugarcane, filtering, resting in wooden vats and mixing with milk before consumption. The process is described in greater detail in the earlier note. It was also mentioned in the same note that modern varieties do not have all of the active compounds that were present in original Soma. One particular compound 2-Phenyletylamine was suggested as a possible compound that the Soma plant might have had because some of its effects appear to be similar to Soma.
Other names of this compound are phenylethylamine, β-phenylethylamine, phenethylamine, β-phenethylamine, and 2-phenethylamine, PEA. This compound is a natural compound that is a part of the natural biochemistry of humans, plants and animals.
It is important and critical to distinguish this compound from a class of compounds known as phenylethylamines that are chemically modified forms of this compound. Some of these latter find use in some medicines and others in illegal and dangerous drugs, many of them with serious adverse consequences. Most of these latter compounds appear not to be natural like 2-phenylethylamine, the focus of the present note. This last compound does not appear to be illegal in most countries and also appears to be unscheduled in most as per information in Wikipedia. Some athletes and sportspersons use it as a performance enhancing substance. For more on this compound please see 
The present note does not recommend that anyone consume this latter substance without advice from a medical practitioner and also by ascertaining correct dosages and methods of consumption, if at all. It may be mentioned that many isolated chemicals often have adverse side effects even though their origin may be a natural source as opposed to an organic compound consumed as a part of a health giving food that contains a host of other compounds that serve to balance its effects. The latter is a part of plant, human and animal life processes out of which life has evolved. An international study  described how many common chemicals used in the modern food industry may lead to cancers. This was conclusion reached by a massive study involving 174 scientists from 28 countries published in the journal Carcinogenesis. Therefore, the attempt of mankind must be to rediscover, Soma the plant rather than discover its isolated chemicals. If an isolated chemical has been mentioned here, it is for purpose of identification and/or regeneration of the plant.
Another organic compound of interest is Hordenine that has effects similar to PEA. It is occurs naturally in food grains such as barley and sorghum grasses that are closely related to sugarcane grasses. Presence of hordenine in smaller quantities (about ten percent) slows down the breakdown of PEA in the human body and therefore prolongs the effect.
It is interesting to note that users of the stated organic compound have described different effects, some describing beneficial ones and others unpleasant ones. This is in agreement with descriptions of Rig Veda that has suggested that in order to derive benefits from Soma one must be an ethical person,
“To him who keeps the law, both old and young, thou give happiness and energy that he may live.”
An earlier study  has described how C4 grasses of which sugarcane is one, are eminently suited to be engineered with modern genetic engineering to produce a wide range of natural organic compounds including 2-phenylethylamine. Therefore, an attempt to regenerate Soma must focus on genetically modifying sugarcane to yield 2- phenylethylamine as also perhaps hordenine in a smaller quantity (about ten percent) in the expressed juice.
Preparing the Soma Drink
The process of preparing the Soma drink from the juice of the plant is available only in poetic descriptions of Rig Veda. Precise times and quantities are not known. These include,
- How long should the sugarcane juice be rested in wooden vats after filtration and what type of wood may be employed for the vat?
- How much milk is to be mixed in the juice to prepare the drink?
Both the factors as mentioned here might have important influence on quality of the final drink but it is something that should not be difficult to research once the Soma plant has been regenerated.
A Substitute Soma drink
A substitute Soma drink may be conceived in which chemical 2- phenylethylamine is added to fresh sugarcane juice and the process followed through. Although this mixing may mitigate some of the adverse chemical effects as compared to consuming the chemical in isolation, it nevertheless will not be natural. When an organic compound is produced by a plant, a host of associated compounds are also produced that serve to make the product natural. As a starting point one may attempt adding 200 mg of PEA HCL in salt form to a glass of sugarcane juice, resting it for a few hours in a wooden container and then mixing an equal quantity of milk. This may be attempted with or without an addition 20mg of Hordenine HCL salt to see the different effects. Both salts are available as supplements with online stores such as Amazon along with reviews of users.
This substitute drink has not been researched and its full effects are unknown. The public without medical advice must not consume it. It has been mentioned here as a topic for study and research.
The present note suggests a pathway to regenerating the ancient Soma Plant of Rig Veda. Central to the proposal is to locate, breed or genetically engineer sugarcane plants to produce the organic compound 2-phenylethylamine as also hordenine in required quantities along with other compounds sugarcane grasses produce naturally. It may be mentioned that the range of organic compounds as exist in nature are huge and one does not for sure what the original Soma plant contained. However, the suggestions of this note offer a starting point towards a discovery of a plant similar if not identical to Soma of ancient fame. The hope is that if such a discovery bears fruit, it would help mankind derive the immense benefits that Soma provided ancient Indo Aryans of Vedic fame.
This note also appears as a blog post where a reader may comment or discuss at: https://steamcenter.blogspot.com/2018/10/on-regeneration-of-soma-of-rig-veda.html
- Malhotra, A. (2015). On Revival of Soma Plant of Rig Veda, 2015 https://www.scribd.com/doc/290825034/On-Revival-of-Soma-plant-of-Rig-Veda
- Irsfeld, M., Spadafore, M., & Prüß, B. M. (2013). β-phenylethylamine, a small molecule with a large impact. WebmedCentral, 4(9), 4409. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904499/
- Brumbley M. Stevens et al ( 2002), Patent Application, Transgenic plants used as a bioreactor system, https://patents.google.com/patent/US20110252507