'Vikings' Season 4: Just What Is That Herb Ragnar Is Addicted To?

In season 4 of History Channel's Vikings, Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) has become addicted to a new Asian herbal mix given to him by newcomer Yidu (Dianne Doan). But just what is it Ragnar is consuming?

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains information about season 4 of History Channel's Vikings. Please proceed with caution if you wish to avoid spoilers.

Season 4 of Vikings has seen Ragnar Lothbrok developing an addiction to the potent herbs Yidu is giving him. Fans first saw the introduction of the Asian blend of apparently euphoric herbs in episode 4 (entitled "Yol") of Vikings. However, by episode 5, Ragnar was beginning to show the signs of a true addict when he demanded the herbs from Yidu and then took time out from Kattegat to consume them. But what is this herb that Yidu first described as a medicine? Let's see if we can figure it out.


Considering Yidu is of Asian descent, many believe Ragnar is consuming the drug opium, which is obtained from the poppy plant. However, there are a number of reasons why Ragnar is probably not consuming opium in Vikings.

Yidu and Ragnar are consuming Asian herbs in Episode 4 Yol Season 4 of History Channel's Vikings
[Image via A&E Network]
  • Firstly, in episode 4 of Vikings, Yidu hands Ragnar what appears to be a leaf. Opium is obtained from the sap of the opium plant and not the leaves.
  • While opium can create the euphoric state that both Ragnar and Yidu fall into in episode 4 of Vikings, it is usually smoked, not eaten raw, to obtain that effect.
  • In episode 5 of Vikings, Ragnar is seen throwing knives at a shield as his son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and King Harald Finehair (Peter Franzen) approach. When Ragnar turns to speak to them, his mouth and saliva are tinted red. While opium can cause oral problems such as dry mouth, it does not change the color of the saliva or tints the mouth at all.
So, what herb or drug can change the color of a person's mouth or saliva?

Betel Nuts

Ragnar with his red lips in episode 5 Promised Season 4 of History Channel's Vikings
[Image via A&E Network]A Chinese plant that does cause red mouth as well as excess salivating (which can be seen in the image above as the red trails down into Ragnar's beard) is the betel nut. While betel is a nut and not a leaf as was seen in episode 4 of Vikings, it is quite often wrapped up within the leaf of the Piper betle vine, and that leaf looks suspiciously like what Ragnar and Yidu consumed in episode 4 of Vikings.

Piper Betle Plant. Is this what Ragnar and Yidu consume in season 4 of Vikings?
[Image via Wikipedia]Placing betel nuts within Piper Betle vine leaves and dipping them in lime is known as "quid" according to the website Drugs.com. Consuming both forms of betel and betle are known to cause similar effects. Betel nuts have been consumed as far back as 1 AD, so it is very likely Yidu would know about Betel nut uses. Considering the red lips and excess saliva as well is a very good indicator that this is the substance Ragnar is now addicted to in season 4 of Vikings. Healthline also points out that the World Health Organization (WHO) states that with over 600 million users of betel nuts presently, it is one of the the most popular psychoactive substances used today, "fourth only after nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine." So, it is still a relevant issue today as what it would have been in the Orient in the time frame in which Vikings is set.

Another Asian herb to consider is the Paan blend of herbs. This also can make users' mouths red thanks to it also containing betel. This product uses betel leaves mixed, once again, with the betel nut (or sometimes tobacco according to The Lancet). However, this form of betel use is more widely known in the Indian section of Asia and is likely not the substance being used in season 4 of Vikings.

Betel nuts and the plants associated with obtaining its euphoric effects are native to the Asian region, and it is unclear when the cultivation of the plant occurred in the viking world, so can Yidu continue supplying Ragnar in season 4 of Vikings? Only time will tell.

The synopsis for episode 6 (entitled "What Might Have Been") and promo video can be viewed below:

"Ragnar declares another raid on Paris at the Thing in Kattegat; Ecbert also has a journey in mind as he dispatches Aethelwulf and Alfred on a pilgrimage to Rome."

What herb do you think Ragnar is taking in season 4 of Vikings? Let us know your thoughts and theories by commenting below.

Vikings returns to History Channel with episode 6, entitled "What Might Have Been," on Thursday, March 17, at 10 p.m. ET.

[Image via A&E Network]