by Krystle Cole
Plants have been used for thousands of years to induce states of lucid dreaming by shaman throughout the world. These plants are often classified as oneirogens. Oneirogen, from the Greek “oneiros” meaning dream and “gen” meaning to create, describes that which produces a dream-like state of consciousness.
Silene capensis, also known as African Dream Root, is a plant native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where it is regarded by the Xhosa people as a sacred plant. The root is traditionally used to induce vivid lucid dreams during the initiation process of shaman. It is regarded as the most powerful dream inducing plant, more powerful than Calea zacatechichi or Entada rheedii.
It is suspected that this sacred plant’s oneirogenic activity is due to triterpenoid saponins contained within its roots, although the exact pharmacological action is still unknown. Relatively small amounts of root (250 mg mixed with water) is reported to be active. The plant exerts only minimal alterations in waking consciousness, yet the effects upon the dream state are often reported as being profound (Psychoactiveherbs, 2008).
Calea zacatechichi, also known as Dream Herb, is a plant used by the indigenous Chontal of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The plant naturally occurs from southern Mexico to northern Costa Rica. It has been scientifically demonstrated that extracts of this plant increase episodes of lively hypnagogic imagery during SWS stage 1 of sleep and the frequency and/or recollection of dreams versus placebo and diazepam (Mayagoitia et al, 1986).
Its oneirogenic activity lies within its leaves which are usually boiled with water to make a tea and then drank directly before going to sleep. The leaves are also often smoked, sometimes even at the same time as the tea is drank. Bouncing bear botanicals (2008) explained that, “Those who partook of the Dream Herb were able to experience lucid dreaming; the ability to control and remember their dreams with less effort. Auditory hallucinations are also fairly common, which prompted the Chontals, believing they were hearing the voice of God, to refer to Calea zacatechici as Leaf of God.” The exact pharmacological action of this plant is unknown, as with many consciousness altering plants more research studies are desperately needed.
Entada rheedii, also known as African Dream Herb, is a large woody liana or climber. These very large seeds are often washed up onto beaches. Because of this, they also have gained the name Sea Beans.
The seeds, which are usually ground up and smoked, contain the plants oneirogenic activity. It has been reported to cause vivid dreaming and is traditionally used by shaman in South Africa to remember dreams (Sobiecki, 2008). Like the other plants described in this article, the exact pharmacological action of Entada rheedii is unknown.
Bouncing Bear Botanicals. (2008). Calea zacatechichi (Dream Herb, Leaf of God).
Mayagoitia, L., J. Diaz, C.M. Contreras. (1986). Psychopharmacologic Analysis of an Alleged Oneirogenic Plant: Calea zacatechichi. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 18:229-243. Retrieved on Sept 28, 2008 from leda.lycaeum.org/?ID=16295
Psychoactiveherbs (2008). African Dream Root, Silene capensis (Ubulawu).
Sobiecki, J.F. (2008). A Review of Plants Used in Divination in South Afreica. Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, Rand Afrikaans University, South Africa. Retrieved on Sept 28, 2008 from www.wits.ac.za/izangoma/visionsynthesis26.pdf