How Stuff Works: Spice

Spice was slang for various mind-altering drugs. Varieties included ryll and the strongest (and most expensive), glitterstim. The planet Kessel was rich with these spices, which were harvested from dangerous mines, at one point in history by slave labor. Sevarcos II, Rori, Ryloth, and Troiken were other sources of spice. The word could also refer to non-narcotic herbs and minerals used to give foods or drinks flavor.

Spice was mined on Kessel by criminals. Since Kessel lay within the Maw Cluster, if a prisoner were to escape (very unlikely under Imperial rule) they would not likely go far because of the black holes. The spice found on Kessel was glitterstim, one of the most prized spices in the galaxy. This particular spice was created by a species of energy spiders that would spin the spice into webs. Any unlucky miner that came into contact with one of these creatures would have their life energy sucked out of them in seconds.

Spice mining was a very dangerous job. Kessel had no natural atmosphere and factories on the surface create air; however, the air was still too thin to breathe without an oxygen mask. Spice was activated by light, forcing workers to work in complete darkness or under dim, red lights that lacked photons energetic enough to trigger it. Along with the obvious dangers of energy spiders, glitterstim threads were very sharp, and could easily remove digits if the worker was not careful.

The Galactic Empire attempted to keep a tight rein on the circulation of the various forms of spice, making it a frequent item for smuggling. It must be noted, though, that various forms of spice had medicinal uses—not every form of spice was addictive, or even illegal.
Most forms of spice were collected raw, then processed and refined. Some forms of spice were produced completely synthetically, without the use of any kind of natural material. Many organizations, and planets, took on this enterprise, notably the Hutts.

Spice was known to have gained widespread use since the days of the Galactic Republic, even before 4,000 BBY.

Glitterstim was the name of a potent variety of the drug family “spice” that was mined on Kessel. It gave the user a brief, yet pleasurable telepathic boost and heightened mental state. It was a very valuable kind of spice, and tightly controlled by the Galactic Empire.

It was produced from the webs of spice spiders. The spice was photoactive, so it had to be mined in total darkness or else it would be ruined. After it was mined it had to be packaged in an opaque paper to prevent accidental activation. Glitterstim spice was quite addictive—casual use could quickly lead to full-blown addiction. “Cutters” were used to prepare the spice for sale. Glitterstim addicts were sometimes called “glit-biters.”

Sources vary over the true effects of glitterstim. It has been widely lauded to give a temporary telepathic boost, but many, such as Corran Horn, felt that the increased abilities were merely imagined by the spiced users. Others, such as Han Solo, felt their effects first-hand and knew the telepathic powers to be true. Excessive use, however, degenerated the nerves in the brain resulting in loss of sight, twitching, nervousness and paranoia.

Glitterstim played a key role in convincing Bria Tharen to abandon her religious life on Ylesia. She was given a vial of the drug by Han Solo, who suggested she use it to read his surface thoughts and verify he was telling the truth about the fraudulent nature of the Ylesian priesthood. Instead, Bria ingested the spice during the Exultation ceremony; despite being bombarded by the induced pleasures of every worshiper around her, she read the mind of the t’landa Til priest Teroenza and found there no religious belief at all, but the thoughts of a swindler. Teroenza reacted to the telepathic presence, and Bria fled.

Glitterstim users frequently overdosed on the spice, sometimes resulting in death. This led to at least one dubious casualty; HoloNet News and Entertainment current affairs pundit Hirib Bassot was found dead at his home from alleged abuse of a contaminated batch of glitterstim shortly after questioning the accuracy of the Republic’s inflated estimation of Separatist battle droids during an HNE broadcast.

Glitterstim was the basis for other spice variants, such as glitteryll and tempest.
Grand Admiral Miltin Takel and the Bith musician Figrin D’an were glitterstim addicts. Figrin readily accepted contracts where glitterstim was available nearby.

Other notable Types of Spice

Andris was the most common spice variant. Mined on Sevarcos, it was commonly added to food both for its properties of enhancing flavor and preventing spoilage, the latter of which made it especially valuable on extremely slow starships early in the days of Galactic travel.

Raw andris, when mined, was tan and crumbling, and was originally used in this form; however, it was later learned that it could be refined to a white crystalline form that also provided a slight sensory enhancement to its users.

Andris could be further refined into an addictive stimulant form that provided for even stronger sensory enhancement. Deep freezing also greatly enhanced its properties. While raw and refined andris was legal under both the Old Republic and Galactic Empire, the highly-refined variety was not.

Avabush spice was a drug obtained from the Avabush plant that that could cause sleepiness, or, when used properly, truthfulness. It grew on the planet Baros.

Booster Blue
Booster Blue was a type of spice variant. It was made of out of industrial dye used for starship manufacturing. When consumed it enhanced the user’s physical reaction time.

The substance was created from a mixture of Copper Phthalocyanine Blue, a type of copper variant, and 4-Dimethylaminobenzene, a type of chemical. It was usually stored in metal casings, such as shown to the right. It was commonly crafted and sold by smugglers.

As with other spices, it was known to cause unwanted side-effects which appeared when the substance left the user’s body and could cause severe results in the case of an overdose.

Carsunum was a rare and highly illegal spice variant mined on Sevarcos. Use of carsunum granted a boost of both mental and physical abilities as well as a pleasurable sense of well-being; however, once the spice hit ended, side effects could vary from jitters to death.

Collafa spice
Collafa spice was a kind of spice. Master Chef Tavvar Va’ran of the Manarai restaurant on Coruscant once introduced a small bit of collafa spice, among other ingredients, into the meal of Imperial Advisor Fendrilon Koozar, which later caused Koozar to fall into a fit of hallucination, leading to his death.

Death sticks
Death sticks were a mild hallucinogen primarily sold on Outer Rim worlds, but could be found in abundance on Coruscant. Originally developed in the illegal pharmaceutical labs of CoCo Town, they were relatively cheap and were smuggled into the clubs of cities by slythmongers. The cilona extract offered euphoria in exchange for a horrific outcome, producing a twisted version of reality enhanced by bright colors. With each dose, the user’s life was shortened, and the successive dosages took away larger chunks from a lifespan. With each successive dose, the desire for a harder reaction increased. It was thus very difficult for a youth to shake it off without medical assistance.

The drug weakened a person’s connection to the Force.

Gannarian narco-spice
Gannarian narco-spice was a valuable spice variety—in 3 ABY two kilos of the substance were enough to make someone wealthy for life. It went by the street name “sniff”.

Lando Calrissian improvised being a drug smuggler on Hockaleg and gave a stormtrooper searching the Millennium Falcon a bag of “sniff” (actually slime yeast from the Falcon’s galley) to keep the ship from being searched while Princess Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 infiltrated the Tarkin superweapon orbiting overhead.

Glitteryll, a synthesis of glitterstim and ryll, was a drug produced on Ryloth that decreased the user’s memories. It was created by feeding ryll to the spice spiders that produced glitterstim. Another effect of the drug was to cause the spice spiders to grow to massive sizes.
Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos and his Twi’lek Padawan Aayla Secura were both given glitteryll in a conspiracy led by Pol Secura and Asanté Vos. This was carried out under the instruction of Senator Chom Frey Kaa, who was responsible for the production of the drug.

Lumni-spice was the rarest form of spice in the galaxy. It was found on several worlds, usually protected by Dragon Slugs, who consumed it. Planets that boasted the rare fungal growth included Hoth and Corulag. It was apparently extracted from Lumni lichen.

Shortly before the Alliance to Restore the Republic constructed Echo Base on Hoth, the pirate Raskar, lured by Han Solo, discovered and attempted to seize a cache of lumni-spice from a deep fissure near the planet’s equator, reaching hundreds of meters towards the planet’s core. He was chased away by a Dragon Slug.

Muon Gold
Muon Gold was a lubricant based spice that provided the user with intensified mental clarity and focus for a short time. However due to its eventual degrading effect on neural pathways it was banned by the Galactic Empire. It was therefore smuggled heavily and taken as a cheap drug.

Neutron Pixie
Neutron Pixie was an extremely potent, hallucinogenic spice with an unknown origin. Effects included ecstasy, increased reaction time, perceived feelings of strength and endurance, and resistance to pain. Withdrawal symptoms included perspiration, nausea, weakness in the muscles, aching bones or joints, and extreme physical and mental torpor. It was often ingested with a light fruit flavoring.

Nyriaan spice
Nyriaan spice was created by processing the mire nettle, a type of weed that grew on the planet Nyriaan. It was a powerful narcotic stimulant and provided users with a euphoric experience. Nyriaan spice was marketed by Black Sun and the Hutt kajidics in the Inner and Outer Rim Territories, where it gained a foothold in the galactic narcotic trade.

Red Rage
Red Rage was a type of spice used by the Sith in the Great Hyperspace War

Ryll was a relatively weak form of spice used to create a number of medicines used throughout the galaxy. It could be combined with glitterstim to create glitteryll. Ryll kor was another type of ryll, used primarily for medical purposes.

Ryll was discovered around 4,800 BBY and mined on the planet Ryloth, although it was presumably found on other planets such as Naos III. It was also smuggled into the Corporate Sector for illegal sale to the workers. As with many recreational substances, ryll had the potential to be very addictive and dangerous. In addition to the mining operations on Ryloth, just before the Battle of Yavin the Hutts used slaves from a false religion to produce the spice on the planet Ylesia until the Rebel Alliance involved themselves with the operations and ultimately forced the shut down of the planet’s spice ring.

Yarrock was an addictive spice and a strong hallucinogen. Originally synthesized by Iridonian shamans as a preparatory aid given to warriors before battle, yarrock was said to instill a person with a clear vision of “the meaning of life”, to either kill or be killed, thereby boosting their confidence temporarily. Constant use of the spice lead to the side effect of psychosis.

For transport away from Iridonia, yarrock was preserved in tiny black plastene packets to maintain its potency and to prevent moldering due to its sensitivity to moisture.
Drub McKumb was a user of yarrock.

The concept of spice in the Star Wars Universe appeared for the first time in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and is only mentioned briefly. Since then spice has appeared in countless Expanded Universe works, and is even mentioned briefly in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

In addition to its connotation of narcotics, the word “spice” could apparently also have its usual out-of-universe meaning, as well.

Prior to the New Game Enhancements introduced to Star Wars Galaxies, spice was a consumable within the game that players who chose the smuggler profession could craft. Once ingested, it would improve a certain number of stats at the cost of decreasing others. After the effect wore off, you would experience spice withdrawal for several minutes, prompting your character to appear to vomit and lowering all of your stats.