HI HELLO. I need to put several warnings before this post, so please bear with me and make sure you read all of them before proceeding!!!!
★ I am in no way shape or form an expert on herbs, psychoactive substances and chemicals, brain chemistry, prescription medication, or mental illness. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, which means I have slightly above average understanding of some of these things lol. Please do not take this seriously! It is just a theory for fun.
★ DO NOT FUCK AROUND WITH PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES, CHEMICALS, OR PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION. Seriously, some of the things I talk about below can cause very serious damage, and even death in some cases.
★ I will be talking about bodily injury briefly, so trigger warning for blood!!!
★ There are Indigenous peoples who use some of the herbs, plants, and fungi I mention below for cultural and spiritual practices. I will not be addressing any of these uses and will focus solely on medical studies/individual reporting of the effects of these substances. Please be respectful of Indigenous knowledges and practices.
★ This is not a spoiler-free post. I talk about many different aspects of routes and characters in the game. If you have not played through most of the game and do not want spoilers, please do not proceed!
THEORY IS BELOW THE CUT. This post is VERY long, so be prepared to spend some time on this if you are invested.
Okay, here we go! I am so sorry if someone has already come up with this theory. I just want to share my ideas. ❤️
So, this all started because our group chat was talking about theories regarding the damage to Yoosung’s eyes (in his route) and V’s eyes. I often see fan art depicting Yoosung’s eye damage as being bloody, which I just do not think is realistic (it is very beautiful and tragic though, so I still love them) and here’s why:
First, as @luxielle pointed out, when Yoosung and Seven are on their way back from Magenta at the end of Yoosung’s route, Yoosung sends MC a winking selfie to hide the fact that his eye has been damaged by Unknown in some way. There are no visible signs of trauma or blood, which would lead me to believe that they either did a spectacular job of cleaning it and it is not so damaged that he cannot close his eye, or the damage is not due to something being stabbed in or scratched across his eye.
Second, the eyes are extremely sensitive organs. If Yoosung was stabbed/scratched in the eye, there would be some pretty intense scarring, which doesn’t seem to be the case. As we see in his after story, his injured eye appears to have a cloudy appearance, but there are no visible marks or scars. He also manages to receive treatment (as we see in his Valentine’s Day story which takes place several years after his route). With substantial physical trauma, even after treatment there would likely still be some scarring. But his eyes are both very clear with no visible scars.
(IMAGE CREDIT: Cheritz Co.)
Similarly, in the casual and deep routes, we learn that V’s eyes are injured and we know that they're treatable, but V refuses treatment. He wears sunglasses and uses a cane to get around, and mentions several times that he has difficulty seeing. By the end of these routes, he can barely see out of his left eye and he is completely blind in the right.
However, just like Yoosung, there is no visible trauma to his eyes. They appear cloudy, grey in some images even (like this one from the Seven’s Secret Endings).
(IMAGE CREDIT: Cheritz Co.)
His sight appears to be better in Another Story (which canonically occurs earlier than the casual and deep routes), which means his sight deteriorates over time. Again, this signals to me that there is likely more of a chemical burn than a physical injury. A physical injury is more likely to cause the majority of its damage immediately. Lingering damage and prolonged injury is more related to chemical damage.
Thus, my headcannon is that both Yoosung and V actually have the elixir (or some form of it) poured into their eyes.
Timeline-wise, I think this makes a lot of sense. At the time that Rika injures V’s eyes, she is in the process of fully developing her cult and its ideology, and has likely started to work on the composition of the elixir. Throwing some version of it in V’s face in the middle of a fight seems like an action Rika would take.
Also, I assume the Unknown has easy access to, or carries the elixir on his person at all times, so pulling out a bottle and pouring it in Yoosung’s eye would be easy. Also, if he knows that is what Rika did to V, he would know that it would cause damage to Yoosung’s eyes leading to eventual blindness.
NOW, on to what is actually in the elixir.
Thank you to @gureishi for this screen shot from the Secret Endings, where the doctor who is treating Saeran describes some of the chemical composition of the elixir from the blood tests they conducted on Saeran.
(IMAGE CREDIT: Cheritz Co.)
Any “scientific explanation '' I am pulling is from Wikipedia unless otherwise stated lol. I am not going deep into scientific validity here as this is just for fun.
★ Peyote cactus
“Peyote is reported to trigger rich visual or auditory effects.
A study published in 2007 found no evidence of long-term cognitive problems related to peyote use in Native American Church ceremonies, but researchers stressed their results may not apply to those who use peyote in other contexts. A four-year large-scale study of Navajo who regularly ingested peyote found only one case where peyote was associated with a psychotic break in an otherwise healthy person; other psychotic episodes were attributed to peyote use in conjunction with pre-existing substance abuse or mental health problems.
Later research found that those with pre-existing mental health issues are more likely to have adverse reactions to peyote.
Peyote use does not appear to be associated with hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (a.k.a. "flashbacks") after religious use. Peyote also does not seem to be associated with physical dependence, but some users may experience psychological dependence.
Peyote is also known to cause potentially serious variations in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and pupillary dilation.” (LINK)
I don’t have much to say about this one. Obviously, it has hallucinogenic properties and based the litany of behaviours Saeran exhibits in his route (Ray’s route), it seems likely the elixir causes hallucinations to some extent (even if it is just a warped understanding/perception of reality).
The one thing I want to make note of is that peyote seems to elicit more adverse reactions in people who have pre-existing mental health issues, which we also know Saeran does, given the years of psychological, emotional, and physical abuse he has experienced from his mother and from Rika.
“Methanol is a non-drinking type of alcohol (also known as wood alcohol and methyl alcohol) which is mostly used to create fuel, solvents and antifreeze. A colorless liquid, it is volatile, flammable, and unlike ethanol, poisonous for human consumption.” (LINK - Chemical Safety Facts.org)
“Methanol toxicity is poisoning from methanol, characteristically via ingestion. Symptoms may include a decreased level of consciousness, poor or no coordination, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a specific smell on the breath. Decreased vision may start as early as twelve hours after exposure. Long-term outcomes may include blindness and kidney failure. Toxicity and death may occur even after drinking a small amount. Toxicity may also rarely occur through extensive skin exposure or breathing in fumes.
The initial symptoms of methanol intoxication include central nervous system depression, headache, dizziness, nausea, lack of coordination, and confusion. Sufficiently large doses cause unconsciousness and death.
Once the initial symptoms have passed, a second set of symptoms arises, from 10 to as many as 30 hours after the initial exposure, that may include blurring or complete loss of vision, acidosis, and putaminal hemorrhages (Bee’s note: the putaman is a round structure located in the forebrain, and its primary function is to regulate movement), an uncommon but serious complication.
These symptoms result from the accumulation of toxic levels of formate in the blood, and may progress to death by respiratory failure. Physical examination may show tachypnea (Bee’s note: this is abnormally rapid breathing), and eye examination may show dilated pupils with hyperemia of the optic disc and retinal edema.” (LINK)
This would explain the damage to both Yoosung and V’s vision, and explain why neither one of them lose their vision immediately. As explained, the Wikipedia article, toxicity can occur (though rarely) through extensive skin exposure. It would make sense that methanol, in combination with the concoction of other substances, when poured into the eyes would likely cause blindness eventually if left untreated.
Now, this is not specified, so I have taken the liberty of including some fungi I think could be used in the elixir.
“Copelandia is a now deprecated (Bee’s Note: meaning no longer encouraged for use) genus of mushrooms consisting of at least 12 species. Many American mycologists previously placed members of Panaeolus which stain blue into Copelandia, whilst European mycologists generally used the name Panaeolus instead. Now all mushrooms previously categorised under Copelandia are universally classified in Panaeolus.
Copelandia species are white to gray or tan, usually with long, thin fragile stem and are delicate. They are found in the tropics and neotropics of both hemispheres, growing in grasslands, on dead moss, dead grass, sand dunes, decayed wood, and dung.
Blue staining on the caps and stems can often be observed where the mushroom has been bruised due to psilocin content. The cap is never viscid and often develops a cracked appearance as it dries out.
All species of Copelandia are known to contain the hallucinogens psilocin and psilocybin.” (LINK)
Here’s a potential explanation for the elixir’s blue/mint-colouring, with some additional hallucinogenic effects. However, I am not sure if it maintains its blue colouring when it is completely crushed up. So this is a maybe. Like I said, I am not an expert on psychoactive mushrooms.
B. Amanita muscaria
“Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a basidiomycete of the genus Amanita. It is also a muscimol mushroom. Native throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, Amanita muscaria has been unintentionally introduced to many countries in the Southern Hemisphere, generally as a symbiont with pine and birch plantations, and is now a true cosmopolitan species.
Arguably the most iconic toadstool species, the fly agaric is a large white-gilled, white-spotted, usually red mushroom, and is one of the most recognizable and widely encountered in popular culture. This includes video game design, such as the extensive use of a recognizable Amanita muscaria in the Mario franchise and its Super Mushroom power up.
Although classified as poisonous, reports of human deaths resulting from A. muscaria ingestion are extremely rare. After parboiling twice with water draining—which weakens its toxicity and breaks down the mushroom's psychoactive substances—it is eaten in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.
All Amanita muscaria varieties, but in particular A. muscaria var. muscaria, are noted for their hallucinogenic properties, with the main psychoactive constituents being the neurotoxins ibotenic acid and muscimol.
Fly agarics are known for the unpredictability of their effects. Depending on habitat and the amount ingested per body weight, effects can range from mild nausea and twitching to drowsiness, cholinergic crisis-like effects (low blood pressure, sweating and salivation), auditory and visual distortions, mood changes, euphoria, relaxation, ataxia, and loss of equilibrium (like with tetanus).
In cases of serious poisoning the mushroom causes delirium, somewhat similar in effect to anticholinergic poisoning (such as that caused by Datura stramonium), characterised by bouts of marked agitation with confusion, hallucinations, and irritability followed by periods of central nervous system depression. Seizures and coma may also occur in severe poisonings.
Symptoms typically appear after around 30 to 90 minutes and peak within three hours, but certain effects can last for several days. In the majority of cases recovery is complete within 12 to 24 hours. The effect is highly variable between individuals, with similar doses potentially causing quite different reactions.Some people suffering intoxication have exhibited headaches up to ten hours afterwards. Retrograde amnesia (Bee’s note: loss of memory related to things that occurred in the past) and somnolence (Bee’s note: the strong desire for sleep) can result following recovery.” (LINK)
I included this one for a couple of very specific reasons. Just knowing how deranged Rika is, I think she would personally find it thrilling to include a substance that is known for “unpredictability” of its effects.
I also think it helps explain some of the erratic nature of Saeran’s behaviour after consuming the elixir, especially the delirious behaviour (ex. agitated, confused, irritable). Additionally, this would explain those nasty headaches poor Saeran gets after too!
This would be a powerful tool for Rika in terms of brainwashing as well, as retrograde amnesia (forgetting or inability to access memories of the past) could help her convince Believers of her reality and encourage them to let go of their previous life (especially if they cannot remember parts of it).
BEE’S HEADCANNON INGREDIENTS
★ Salvia Divinorum - “Sage of the Diviners”
“Salvia divinorum (also called ska maría pastora, seer's sage, yerba de la pastora or simply salvia) is a plant species with transient psychoactive properties when its leaves are consumed by chewing, smoking, or as a tea. The leaves contain opioid-like compounds that induce hallucinations. Because the plant has not been well-studied in high-quality clinical research, little is known about its toxicology, adverse effects, or safety over long-term consumption.
Its native habitat is cloud forest in the isolated Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico, where it grows in shady, moist locations. The plant grows to over a meter high, has hollow square stems like others in the mint family Lamiaceae, large leaves, and occasional white flowers with violet calyxes. Botanists have not determined whether Salvia divinorum is a cultigen or a hybrid because native plants reproduce vegetatively and rarely produce viable seed.
Its chief active psychoactive constituent is a structurally unique diterpenoid called salvinorin A, a potent κ-opioid agonist. Although not thoroughly assessed, preliminary research indicates Salvia divinorum may have low toxicity. Its effects are rapid but short-lived.
Aside from individual reported experiences, there has been a limited amount of published work summarising salvia divinorum effects. A survey of salvia users found that 38% described the effects as unique in comparison to other methods of altering consciousness. 23% said the effects were like yoga, meditation or trance.
Dale Pendell expresses some concerns about the use of highly concentrated forms of salvia. In its natural form, salvia is more balanced and benevolent - and quite strong enough, he argues. High strength extracts on the other hand can show "a more precipitous, and more terrifying, face" and many who try it this way may never wish to repeat the experience.” (LINK)
In terms of non-canonical ingredients, I think this makes sooOooOOOOo much sense to be included. First, just the name alone seems so fitting. Also, it is literally a species of mint (HELLO “MINT EYE” ANYONE?!?!)
Since it has not been thoroughly studied, it could also explain why the doctor may not have mentioned it specifically because it is likely not easily identifiable, especially given the number of other potent substances in the elixir.
I think the last part is especially important — “High strength extracts on the other hand can show "a more precipitous, and more terrifying, face" and many who try it this way may never wish to repeat the experience.” Just…..yikes. Our poor Saeran. It certainly explains why Ray is so hesitant to give the elixir to MC.
★ Various Prescribed Medications
I am not going to go too in to depth here because I am obviously not an expert on prescriptions and this is some extra dangerous stuff.
We know that Rika attends therapy for a grand total of three weeks before she decides to stop (revealed in the Secret Endings). I don’t know if this is canonically confirmed or not, but I think it is highly likely that Rika was prescribed medication to help manage and treat her mental illnesses.
I think it is 99.999999% likely that, at least in the first few trials of the elixir, she just crushed up a bunch of her meds and threw em in. Whether this is sustained is questionable because she would eventually run out of medication.
★ Red Cabbage and Baking Soda
I honestly don’t think Rika is going to be using chemical dyes in the elixir. I don’t know why I feel this way, but I just do. She has a well-developed interest in plants and herbs, so I think she would try to make a natural dye.
After some searching, I found that boiling chopped red cabbage will give you a beautiful purple dye. However if you add baking soda to it, the alkaline reaction makes a teal colour (LINK - An Edible Mosaic).
(IMAGE CREDIT: An Edible Mosaic (see above link))
Alternatively, I could see her using butterfly pea flowers, but the colour is not quite the same as the elixir. I think the red cabbage and baking soda method is a better bet.
I somewhat jokingly said “gives new meaning to Mint Eye” in our group chat after I mentioned my headcannon of pouring the elixir in eyes,
but it really does.
If Rika’s cult was named after the horrific damage she caused to V by literally throwing the elixir in his face, that makes it even more twisted.
(Listen, I am not going to hate on Rika here. She has so many awful things happen to her, and in many ways, I feel so awful for her. This does not justify the abuse of many of the other characters, specifically V and Saeran, and other people she lures to Magenta. And in all honesty, I do not like her character, but that is besides the point. Mint Eye, Magenta, all things cult-related, and her abusive behaviour is despicable).
I hope you enjoyed this theory! I would LOVE to chat about it in more detail, so if you have any additional thoughts or things you don’t agree with, please feel free to share!!!!