Further, the Chapter XXX of Sussruta Samhitaa, has focused on 18 more plants with their brief morphological descriptions, their availability and allied therapeutic action like Soma.All these plants, have a lot of morphological and ecological variations with a common feature of possessing a latex containing bulb. However, the multifarious brief descriptions of all these 24+18 = 42 plants could not ascertain, so far, to pinpoint on the Soma plant. The nonavailability of the detailed phytography of these plants, is due to the general practice in the ancient days to learn the identification of the plants from the Guru and mostly, the phytographic know-how of identifying characters were limited only to the expert (i.e. the Guru concerned). The same practice of non-revealing the drugs is still continuing with the quacks and tribal physicians with the claim (a falsehood) that the therapeutic potency of the plant be lost if revealed out. On the contrary, the non-declaration of the drug bears a positive implication of long-term sustainability of it ecologically; while it suffered negatively, by dwindling / deterioration / extinction of the knowledge.
As per the habitat perspectives of the plants, Vedic description has mentioned that it used to grow in mountains, which indicates the plant as xerophytic. On the contrary, Sussruta Samhitaa has mentioned that some varieties of Soma used to grow in the hillocks and mountains of ancient India, like Himalayas, Arbuda, Sahya, Mahendra, Malya, Sree Parvata, Devagiri, Devasaha, Paariyaatra and Vindhya, while few other varieties are reported to grow in aquatic habitats restricted to Devasunda lake, Sindhu river and the little Maanas lake in Kashmir. All these above narrations create impediments to concentrate on the ecological niche of the plant either as xerophytic or hydrophytic.
Present day research has focused on 20 different plants as Soma, alphabetically mentioned as:
Amanita muscaria, Asclepias acida, Basella cordifolia, Cannabis sativa, Ceropegia decaisneana, Ceropegia elegans, Eleusine coracana, Ephedra sp., Ichinocarpus frutescens, Periploca aphylla, Ruta graveolens, Saccharum sp., Sarcostemma acidum, Sarcostemma brevistigma, Sacrostemma brunonianum, Sarcostemma intermedium, Sarcostemma viminale, Sorghum sp., Vitis vinifera (Afgan grape/vine) and Humulus lupulus (Hops).
The above list is the outcome of the perception from different schools of thoughts based on the interpretation of Vedic view, from their own angle and still fails to pin point on a plant as Soma. Sarcostemma – a succulent angiosperm, supported much by the old school of thought (Fig. 1); while Ephedra – a gymnosperm, enriched with the active drug principle ephedrin, is not a natural habitat of India, where the Soma culture existed. The mushroom Amanita muscaria, the latest identified plant as Soma, has gained much consensus for its intoxicating and hallucinogenic properties. But, it suffers from objections as the prime vedic age human ethical compendium Manusmruti claims that, mushrooms are prohibited food for human beings; then how can they be offered to Gods?; and be a divine plant of Vedic age;
This legendary plant which occupied a significant place in Aryan cult for thousands of years; yet remains without any established identification of its integrated original characteristics; ecological niche and still continued to be a botanical enigma.