In Turkey, dried capsules from this plant are strung and hung in homes or vehicles to protect against "the evil eye".. It is widely used for protection against Djinn in Morocco (see Légey "Essai de Folklore marocain", 1926).
In Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, dried capsules mixed with other ingredients are placed onto red hot charcoal, where they explode with little popping noises, releasing a fragrant smoke that is wafted around the head of those afflicted by or exposed to the gaze of strangers. As this is done, an ancient prayer is recited. This prayer is said by Jews (more specifically, Bukharian Jews and originally coming from ancient Iran and no specific religion) and Muslims as well as by Zoroastrians. This Persian practice dates to pre-Islamic, Zoroastrian times. In Iran, this ritual is sometimes performed in traditional restaurants, where customers are exposed to the eyes of strangers. It is also used in India in the region of Kashmir, where the seeds are ignited in charcoal fire pots to ward off evil on occasions like marriages.
Harmal may have been used as an entheogen in the Middle East in ancient times, and is used as an entheogen in modern Western cultures. It is occasionally used as an analogue of Banisteriopsis caapi to create an ad hoc of a South American religious sacrament known as Ayahuasca, when traditional methods are unavailable. However harmal has distinct aspects fromcaapi and a unique entheogenic signature. Some scholars identify harmal with the entheogenic haoma of pre-Zoroastrian Persian religions.
A red dye, "Turkey red", from the seeds (but usually obtained from madder) is often used in western Asia to dye carpets. It is also used to dye wool. When the seeds are extracted with water, a yellow fluorescent dye is obtained. If they are extracted with alcohol, a red dye is obtained. The stems, roots and seeds can be used to make inks, stains and tattoos.
In Yemen, it was used to treat depression, and it has been established in the laboratory that harmaline, an active ingredient in P. harmala, is a central nervous system stimulant and a "reversible inhibitor of MAO-A (RIMA)," a category ofantidepressant.
One of the compounds found in P. harmala, vasicine (peganine), has been found to be safe and effective against Leishmania donovani, a protozoan parasite that can cause potentially fatal visceral leishmaniasis. "Peganine hydrochloride dihydrate, besides being safe, was found to induceapoptosis in both the stages of L. donovani via loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential."
Another alkaloid, harmine, found in P. harmala, has appreciable efficacy in destroying intracellular parasites in the vesicular forms. As it is not hepatotoxic or nephrotoxic in nature, it may be considered for clinical application in humans.
"The beta-carboline alkaloids present in medicinal plants, such as Peganum harmala and Eurycoma longifolia, have recently drawn attention due to their antitumor activities. Further mechanistic studies indicate that beta-carboline derivatives inhibit DNAtopoisomerases and interfere with DNA synthesis."
Peganum harmala has antioxidant and antimutagenic properties. Both the plant and the extract harmine exhibit cytotoxicity with regards to HL60 and K562 leukemia cell lines. Ground seeds have been used occasionally to treat skin cancer and subcutaneous cancers traditionally in Morocco. Seed extracts also show effectiveness against various tumor cell lines, both in vitro and in vivo.