What is LSD? Albert Hofmann's Invention, Explained
By | November 15, 2020
LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide, or acid) permeates '60s and '70s pop culture -- it was the catalyst for psychedelic music, art, literature and fashion. Even if you never tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, you know a little about this mind altering drug created by Albert Hofmann and popularized by artists like The Beatles, Timothy Leary, and Steve Jobs. There's more to this drug than just hippies in the park with flowers in their hair. It's been used in government testing, and through its disciples Lysergic acid diethylamide has changed society in ways that we can't comprehend. People who've never experienced psychedelics might know that LSD is dispersed in tabs printed on blotter paper, but they don't know the research and development behind this mind expanding, trippy substance.
From witchcraft to psychedelia
The main thing that everyone knows about LSD is that it gives the user intense hallucinations. This property comes from ergot, a fungus found in tainted rye that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over centuries, while also causing the hallucinations and mania that led to accusations of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693.
When consumed on its own, ergot can cause gangrene and convulsions. In the year 857 in a region of modern-day Germany, consumption of wheat poisoned with ergot caused a plague full of blisters and body parts that just sloughed off before someone died. The Swiss chemical company Sandoz wanted to see if there was anything they could do with something so poisonous and tests showed that small doses of the poison had positive side effects in childbirth by restricting blood flow.
Professor Arthur Still isolated the the compounds in ergot that caused the constrictions, ergotamine and ergobasine, and concluded if used in small enough dosages they could stimulate the respiratory and circulatory systems. He called the chemical manufactured from the active compound in ergot lysergic acid.