DMT is a drug which expands consciousness. In the Dune books, there's a drug which is called Spice which also expands consciousness. The funny thing is that the street name of DMT is Spice, so I was wondering if the two are related?

  • 3
    Richard's answer makes me think it was probably the other way around: that the street name for DMT was named after Dune's drug.
    – Mr Lister
    Nov 27, 2014 at 13:43
  • ... and on rereading the question, I see that the OP doesn't ask "is Dune's spice named after DMT". Oh well.
    – Mr Lister
    Nov 27, 2014 at 14:01

2 Answers 2


It seems unlikely.

  • During the early 1960s (when Dune was researched and written), N,N-Dimethyltryptamine had only recently been discovered in South America. Although some scientific research had occurred in the late 1950s, it is unlikely that Frank Herbert, then living in Florida would have had access to this relatively new drug.

  • The effects of Melange in the book Dune are dramatically different to the effects of N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. Notably, DMT's effects are short-lived and characterised by hallucinations of other-worldly presences rather than the "time trip" experienced by Melange users.

Finally, it's been described by Herbert's friend Paul Stamets (in his semi-biography Mycellum Running) that the key influence for Melange was in fact his passion for experimenting with hallucinatory mushrooms:

"Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune — the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Freman (the cerulean blue of Psilocybe mushrooms), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico) — came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through his experiences with the use of magic mushrooms."

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    I've always thought there was something fungal about Herbert's description of the spice and sandworm life cycle. Good find. Nov 27, 2014 at 10:58
  • As mentioned by @Trevor-forbes for a different answer, the fremen themselves seems to have been modelled on an ethnic group which had blue-stained eyes for an unrelated reason: behttp://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/47116/13961 Not that authors are barred from giving more than one justification or source of inspiration for something in their novels.
    – Abulafia
    Nov 27, 2014 at 11:30
  • @JamesSheridan, "Spice Planet" a story in the book "The road to dune" by F. and B. Herbert (and Mr. Anderson that is) that could be considered a draft version of "Dune" (and is not to be confused with the short story "Road to Dune" as published in the book "Eye" by Frank himself) takes the "fungi" idea of the Spice and the worm even further than does "Dune".
    – Ghanima
    Nov 27, 2014 at 20:53
  • It should be noted that psilocybin and DMT have nearly identical chemical structures, so contradicting DMT as an influence while accepting hallucinogenic mushrooms is disingenuous at best.
    – Lighthart
    Dec 24, 2014 at 1:11
  • @Lighthart having near-identical chemical structure is irrelevant. Many substances do, yet have vastly different effects on biology.
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 30, 2017 at 21:58

the drugs themselves have no real relation to one another Spice or Melange is highly addictive, extend lifespan significantly and gives one precognitive abilities DMT may be addictive but the other effects are not present.

The term spice is a common one for fantastic drugs especially in a sci fi setting. Etymologically speaking its hard to say where the first usage came from but its probable someone heard it somewhere and decided to start calling their drug spice cause they thought it sounded cool.

  • DMT, like most hallucinogens, is not considered addictive by the DEA.
    – Lexible
    Nov 27, 2014 at 17:50
  • ...and yet it is a Schedule I controlled substance making it absolutely illegal, with no recognized valid legal medical or other use. Just to be clear. Would you want to be driving a vehicle on the same road with somebody who was under the influence of DMT? I doubt it. :-) Dec 7, 2014 at 21:10

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