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I am researching the "lucky" qualities of several species of psychedelic, intoxicant, aphrodisiac, medicinal, and lethally toxic legumes, many of which are bright red. These beans, variously known as huayruru, crab's eye, frijol colorado, ormosia, wishing bean, sea heart, and deer's eye, are carried as good luck charms around the world. In addition, i am accumulating information on edible beans that are eaten in special ceremonies to bring luck. This page contains an alphabetical listing of the following Lucky Legumes, with links to the pages where you can find pictures or information about their use in amulets.

Lucky W Amulet Archive pages on these legumes are marked with a bullet; links to other people's web pages are not.

Abrus precatorius rosary bean
Adenanthera pavonina jumbie
Dipteryx odorata tonka bean
Entada gigas sea heart
Entada phaseoloides sea heart
Mucuna pruriens ojo de venado
Ormosia coccinea huayruru
Ormosia macrocalyx huayruru
Ormosia nobilis huayruru hembra
Phaseolus spp. green bean, red bean
Vicia faba mojo bean, fava bean
Vigna spp. black-eyed pea
Unknown spp. "medium-sized red legume" (frijol colorado)

Credits for Research Help

Most recent update: December 4th, 2005.


Abrus precatorius

(1/8" long; bead-shaped; red with small black spot at base of seed, surrounding hilum; the raw seeds contain abrin, a ribosome inactivating protein that is one of the deadliest plant toxins known; despite their toxicity, the boiled seeds are ingested as a contraceptive and an aphrodisiac (as are the chewed roots); they are also made into a decoction for use as a diuretic, for sore throat, and for rheumatism; the powdered seeds are taken as a snuff for headache; a poultice of the leaves is said to remove freckles; a decoction of the leaves and roots is used for cough, colds, and colic)
common names:
abrus a chapelet (France, Quebec)
colorine (Mexico)
crab's eye (Southeastern U.S.)
gunga, gunteh (India -- its native bio-region)
jequerite (Colombia)
jequirity bean (Canada)
lady bug bean, lady bug seed (California)
ojo de cangrejo (Panama)
peronilla (Colombia)
prayer bean (Great Britain)
precatory pea, precatory bean (Great Britain, Canada)
rosary bean, rosary pea (U.S.)

Order Abrus precatorius Seeds from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co. Occult Shop

Adenanthera pavonina

(1/8" long; bead-shaped; red; the related species A. colubrina and A. peregrina (known as yopo, angico, cebil, cohoba, vilca in various indigenous languages) have been used as psychedelics for centuries throuhout South America and the West Indies)
common names:
Circassian seed (U.S. and Britain)
jumbie (Caribbean Islands)

Dipteryx odorata, Dipteryx panamensis

(1 1/2" long; black, reticulated-wrinkled "peanut" shaped pod; the roasted seeds are eaten; their pleasant aroma is due to coumarin, which has antispasmodic, cardiac, and diaphoretic uses in folk-medicine; indigenous Cuna people prohibit the felling of this tree because they ascribe mystical properties to it)
common name:
almendro (Panama)
choiba (Colombia)
igua (Cuna)
love-wishing bean (African-American)
tonga (Colombia)
tonka bean (U.S.)
tonquin (U.S.)
sarrapia (Colombia)
yapo (Colombia)

Entada gigas

(2" or more in diameter, brown, heart-shaped seed found along the sea coast of Eastern South America)
common name:
sea heart (U.S.)

Entada phaseoloides

(2" or more in diameter, brown, heart-shaped seed found along the sea coast of Eastern South America)
common name:
matchbox beans (Australia)

Related to Entada gigas is Entada phaseoloides of the Pacific. No "lucky" customs have been reported in association with it, but it has medical properties. Here is what Owen Foley wrote from Australia about the species:

I spent several years beachcombing in tropical Australia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Similar seeds to the "sea hearts" are very common in the beach drift. They are Entada phaseoloides. The pod can be 3 ft. long and is segmented with a long frame and panels that pop out when the pod falls. In Northern Australia they are called matchbox beans. They are toxic too but Australian aborigines ate them after careful preparation. Contraceptive and abortive uses have also been recorded.

Mucuna pruriens a.k.a Mucuna prurita; also M. andreana, M. gigantea)

(1" diameter; oblate disk shape, brown with elongated black hilum; the green pods are cooked as a vegetable; the mature seeds are considered aphrodisiac, carried as good luck charms in Mexico and Central America, made into buttons, and ground into flour; the roots are used to treat cholera; the hairs covering the pods are used to kill intestinal worms; the seeds contain dimethyltryptamine and related alkaloids as well as L-dopa, a precursor of the neural transmitter dopamine; in at least one clinical trial "Parkinson's sufferers treated with crushed seeds regained some mobility with fewer side effects than conventional drugs," according to an herbal seed supplier; a dopaminergic effect might account for the reputed aprhrodisiac qualities; the names pruriens and prurita refer to the itching caused by the velvety hairs on the pods)
common name:
cowhage (English)
cow-itch (English)
horse-eye nut (English)
nipay (Phillipines)
ojo de venado (Mexico and Central America)
pica-pica (Panama)
velvet bean (U.S.)

Ormosia coccinea

(1/2" long; flattened shape, red wth irregular black patch along "seam" edge of seed)
common names:
barakaro (Arawak -- Surinam)
huayruru (Quechua -- Peru and Bolivia)
kokriki (Carib -- Surinam)
panacoco (Guiana)
peonia (Venezuela)
tento (Brazil)
wo-ka (Puinave -- Colombia)

Ormosia macrocalyx

(3/8" long; flattened shape, red with no black marking)
common names:
alcornoque (Panama)
chocho grande (Colombia)
huayruru (Quechua -- Peru and Bolivia)
tento (Brazil)

Ormosia nobilis

(3/8" long; flattened shape, red with variable amount of black marking)
common names:
huayuru hembra (Quechua -- Peru and Bolivia)
ladybug tree (US)
mulungu (Brazil)
tento (Brazil)

Phaseolus spp.

(edible green beans and dried beans commerce)
common names:
kidney bean (US, Canada, UK)
red bean (US, Canada, UK)


Vicia faba

(edible broad beans of commerce)
common names:
fava bean (US, Canada, UK)
mojo bean (African-American)
St. Joseph's Bean (Sicilican-American)

Vigna spp.

(edible cowpeas of commerce)
common names:
black-eyed pea (US, Canada, UK)
cow pea (US, Canada, UK)

Unknown species

(1/2" long; "bean" shaped; dark red all over; may be a species of Phaseolus)
common name:
frijol colorado (Guatemala).

Credits for Research Help

In order to learn more about lucky legumes, i inquired about them in alt.lucky.w, alt.folklore.herbs, and Discussion ensued in these newsgroups and helpful suggestions were received from
Bob Batson
David Deutsch
Owen Foley
Mike Lock, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Monique Reed, Herbarium Botanist, Biology Department of Texas A&M University
Lee Rudolph
Doug Scofield

Following these leads, my friend Barrance C. Lespine took me to the Life Sciences Library and the Herbarium at the University of Texas at Austin and there, with the help of Head Librarian Nancy Elder and Herbarium curators Carol Todzia and Dr. Billie L. Turner, i was able to identify Abrus precatorius as the legume seed in several Mexican amulets and the Peruvian "huayruru" seeds in my collection as members of the genus Ormosia.

Barry made change for the copy machine and waited patiently while i photocopied Velva E. Rudd's definitive study "The American Species of Ormosia" (Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, Volume 32, Part 5, Smithsonian Institution, 1965). I spent the next day reading and absorbing the information therein and creating a cross-index of common names and places of origin for each species -- and i suppose i am now as fully conversant on the subject of Ormosias as the average hobby folklorist and garden writer can be.

I intend to summarize my findings here at a later date -- but suffice it to say for now that several species of Ormosia seeds (of the 50 species native to the Americas) are used for good luck charms in Latin America -- and that these fascinating legumes contain alkaloids with medicinal and narcotic properties, and that indigenous knowledge of these properties may account for the seeds' debased cultural survival as "lucky" emblems. Furthermore, because the distribution of each species was carefully mapped by Velva Rudd, the region of origin for a given amulet can be fairly closely judged by identifying the species of Ormosia used. Stay tuned for LOTS more information on Ormosias!

Thanks to all those who have contributed information to date. Thanks also to The Tico Ethnobotanical Dictionary on the web at Any further help would be greatly appreciated and will be credited here.


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