Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

Forensic Science, M.S.


Chemistry Department


M. Scott Goodman, Ph.D.

First Reader

M. Scott Goodman, Ph.D.

Second Reader

Kimberly Bagley, Ph.D.

Third Reader

Joonyeong Kim, Ph.D.


Psychedelic plant use by humans can be traced back centuries to the times when early cultures used these plants in activities ranging from healing rituals to religious ceremonies. In recent years, several of these plants have reemerged on the drug scene and are currently being marketed as “legal highs” (since the plant seeds are legal to purchase through a variety of online vendors). With the growing number of internet forums where recreational drug users can write about their experiences and share them with others, it has become relatively simple for almost anyone to obtain the materials necessary to experience a legal high.

One active compound touted by recreational drug users is lysergic acid amide (LSA). LSA is known to exist naturally in the seeds of the Rivea corymbosa, Ipomoea violacea (Morning Glory), and Argyreia nervosa (Hawaiian Baby Woodrose) species. Sharing a common chemical structure with the well-known psychedelic drug, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), LSA has also been known to produce hallucinogenic effects in its users. However, unlike LSD, which is one of the most potent psychedelic drugs ever discovered, LSA provides its users with a much weaker psychedelic experience. Frequent LSA users have also reported side effects such as nausea and fatigue. Currently, LSA is classified as a Schedule III drug in the United States, but seeds containing LSA remain legal for purchasing.6

The first aim of this project was to confirm the presence of LSA in seed samples of Hawaiian Baby Woodrosepurchased over the internet. In order to do this, seed samples were first subjected to two extraction protocols: one mimicking a common street method and a second mimicking a procedure from a published research study. After obtaining the crude extracts from both extraction methods, extract samples were subjected to analysis via liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Through this technique, liquid chromatography was employed to separate the various compounds present in each extract and mass spectrometry subsequently was employed to identify each compound by computing its protonated ion mass.

The second aim of this project was to evaluate the amount of LSA present in each extract. Ideally, a quantitative analysis would have been carried out using a pure LSA standard obtained from a reputable chemical vendor. However, due to the lack of availability of such a standard, a pseudo-quantitative approach was followed using an analytical grade standard of LSD, a drug very close in structure to that of LSA.