Why Soma?

Why Soma?

Soma (Sanskrit सोम sóma), or Haoma (Avestan), from Proto-Indo-Iranian 'sauma', was a ritual drink of importance among the early Indo-Iranians, and the subsequent Vedic and greater Persian cultures. 

The world’s oldest spiritual text and the scriptural foundation of Hinduism, the Rig Veda, mentions the sacramental substance ‘soma’ frequently, describing it both as a god and as an intoxicating liquor made from juice obtained from the crushing of a plant. To the Brahmin priests who drank it, it was said to have given strength, magnitude and brilliance; indeed it is suggested in the Vedas that by ingesting soma you became Soma (the god) and thus gained immortality. Timothy Leary suggested that the first book of the Vedas “defined soma as the basic tool for philosophical enquiry”.

Although much is written about its use, the identity of the plant from which soma was made appears to have been lost around 1000 B.C.E. This was around the time that the Aryans (who recorded the Rig Veda) migrated from the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, now known as the Hindu Kush, to the fertile flatlands of modern day north-west India. It is thought by many that the identity of the plant was either suppressed to prevent its use by the lower classes and subsequently forgotten, or that the plant only grew in the mountainous regions and not on the plains below.

Soma is also the imaginary "ideal pleasure drug" in Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World (1932). Its chemistry and pharmacology are undefined. As described, the drug resembles a hangoverless tranquilliser or an opiate.

Soma was also the acronym of the Society of Mental Awareness, a drug research project. Francis Crick who identified the double helix of DNA, Professor Norman Zinberg, and R.D. Laing were amongst the directors.

Soma is also the most common brand name of the muscle-relaxant carisoprodol, otherwise known as N-isopropyl-2-methyl-2-propyl-1,3-propanediol dicarbamate. Soma / carisoprodol is broken down in the body into the active metabolite meprobamate. Meprobamate is a sedative-hypnotic, an anticonvulsant and anxiolytic muscle relaxant. It was first marketed in the USA from 1955 under the brand name Miltown as an anti-anxiety agent. The "miracle drug" of its era, Miltown was immortalised by the Rolling Stones as "Mother's Little Helper".