Mood Plants

Hello Thokoza! I will be discussing some of these plants in the upcoming workshop.

People are generally very interested in plants that change our mood and perceptions – why is this?  Ubulawu means to find a white path or to be enlightened. Some plants used for this by Indigenous healers are Synaptolepsis Kirki, Sylene capensis, Elephantorrhiza Elephantina, Agapanthus, Helinus integrifolius (soap plant),  Rhus paucifloris , Hippobromus Paucifloris,  Maesa Lanceolata,  amongst many. Mixes vary from region to region and Cultural group.

Disclaimer: Information in this article  is given for general interest only, and is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Extreme care must be taken when using plants as they can be very toxic. Always consult a professional when using medicine.

Synaptolepsis Kirki – African dream Root – UVUMA UMHLOPE (Z)

synaptolepsis kirki

Sylene capensis – Xhosa Dream Root – UBULAWU (Z)


Synaptolepsis – Uvuma UmhlopeMagical: used to give Luck, courage & strength.

“White Light”. It is added to the “uBulawu or dream mix” for twasa’s (initiates) or patients with spiritual sickness.  The roots are said to encourage clear visions, trance states and mental clarity in dreams.  The root is also said to allow communication with one’s ancestors in the dream state, leading to visionary and prophetic dreams.  People who have worked with this root, have also noted an increase in wellbeing and happiness the day afterwards. Relatively little research has been done regarding uvuma-omhlope, but we do know that it includes several completely novel alkaloids, including kirkinine, a powerful neurotrophic.  Neurotrophics encourage the survival of nerve tissue and help to repair and regrow nerve cells.

HOW TO PREPARE: Uvuma-omhlope can be purchased either in chunks or powder form.  Either one can be used to make a tea.  The preferred method is to put about 1 Tbsp. (up to 300g) of dried root powder in 1-2 cups of very hot water for five minutes, strain and then  drink about an hour before bed.

Sylene Capensis: This is a popular dream medicine and assist with Divination. African Dream Root, Undlela Ziimhlophe (White Ways/Paths), Ubulawu. USE: For the induction of powerful, visionary dreams. This beautiful plant, and its root, are regarded by the Xhosa people of South Africa as a holy teacher plant.  They call the root undlela ziimhlophe (which translates to ‘white paths’ or ‘white ways’), and they use it to induce vivid and prophetic lucid dreams, especially during the initiation ceremonies of shamans. It’s said to induce lucid dreaming, is that it is specifically linked with communication with the ancestors.  The chemistry of S. capensis is unknown, but it appears to contain saponins (soapy – foams) , which would explain both the unique reaction it has with water, and its dream inducing effects.  The Xhosa say that if one keeps a question in mind before going to bed, one of the ancestors will appear in a dream and provide an answer.

HOW TO PREPARE: Use in the morning, before breakfast, as the alcaloids take a long time to travel through the blood stream. The Xhosa prepare Silene capensis by powdering the root and drinking the powder with water on an empty stomach. 1 Tbsp. (up to 200 mg) of powdered root is sufficient for inducing vivid, divinatory dreams. Mix a half of a teaspoon of dried Silene capensis powder with a half a cup of water.  mix a heaping tablespoon of dried root powder with two cups of water and blend until a froth forms. consume the froth until you feel bloated and may burp.

Boophane Distichia – Bushman Poison Bulb. INCHOTA (Z) 

boophoane disThe name Boophane is derived from the Greek bous, ox, and phone, death, referring to the poisonous properties of the bulb. The specific name disticha means leaves erect in a fan shape.

Magical: It is hallucinogenic and is said to help you see your “enemies” & problems. It is very poisonous and should not be used by novices. The Khoisan people believed this bulb has the power to transport the dead through the doorway of the spirit to the life hereafter. It is often reported that people see “dead ancestors”. Boophane is highly poisonous and the line between a trance dose and a fatal dose is extremely fine; absolute precision is required. The healer medicates the patient with a minute quantity of Boophane and then sits them in front of a blank white screen. Once the medicine has taken effect, the healer asks the patient what s/he sees on the screen (hence ‘bioscope’) in order to analyse their imaginings. From here the healer induces vomiting in the patient to purge the Boophane, hopefully along with their troubles.

Uses and cultural aspects:  Boophane disticha has many medicinal uses, for example the Bushman once used the poison for their arrows, and traditional healers use it to treat pain and wounds. The outer covering of the bulb is applied to boils and abscesses. Fresh leaves are used to stop bleeding of wounds. The plants are known to be poisonous to cattle and sheep.While Boophane is widely used in the treatment of psychological troubles, it also has powerful physical healing attributes and is used by traditional healers to treat circumcision wounds. The scales of the bulb are wrapped around the circumcised penis to reduce the pain as well as to sterilise the wound It is well known in medical circles that the alkaloids in Boophane are extremely effective painkillers. Boophane might also be taken orally as a painkiller in the form of a weak infusion, but the dose could prove lethal if administered by anyone but a highly trained healer.

Preparation: Warm scales are applied to sores. About a  slice of bulb is boiled in 5 L of water and small amounts given as tea. A few of the dry bulb scales can also be added to hot water to make a tea. NB – IT IS VERY TOXIC.

Cannabis Sativa / cannabis Indica: Dagga: Nsangu (z) “Santa Maria” 

canab-indicaCannabis Indica (originating from India), Cannabis Sativa (Originating in Africa) Cannabis Ruderalis or Hemp (originating in China).

Magical Uses: It is a scared plant teacher to the Hindu and Rastafarian people. It is used to communicate with God. The plant is not a hallucinogenic, bit it is pshyco active i.e. having an effect on the mind mood & psyche. In rituals connects people in community and harmony and opens the heart. It allows us to hear spirit and brings creative visions. This plant can be easily abused and is not recommended recreationally for young users (under 20) as it has a permanent effect on socialisation and emotional maturity.  People suffering from anxiety and psychosis should use this plant with great care. The THC molecule is responsible for the plants “side effect” of making you “high” or stoned.

Medicinal Uses: This plant has more uses than can be described and there is almost not a medical or mental conditions that it is not useful for in some way. Its and age old folk and traditional remedy and was used amongst woman for pre-menstrual and menopausal symptoms, amongst men for sexual enhancement and strength in general etc. Cannabis oil is becoming well known for treating cancers.

The plant has over 90 chemical compounds, besides THC – which binds with THC receptor in our brains and produces the effects. The question is – for what purpose does this plant grow in nature and produce THC? Who is this for? Besides bees and maybe birds, animals don’t utilise it due to its bitter/sour taste. The seed may be eaten by birds (it is very nutritious and high in amino acids). Thisplant seems to have been created for Humans. The pant itself has no use for THC and it is not utilised by any animal (Unlike the Jaguars in the Amazon who have been seen to eat the Ayahusca vine).

Plant part used: The flower buds are used where crystals and resin (hashish) of THC can be found.Leaves are also used and is useful to steam with for acne, skin conditions and tonics. The seeds are eaten. Indica has a more profound effect on the mind and body and is used more for sedation and pain. Sativa has a more uplifting effect on the minds and is used for depression. Hemp is used to make textiles, rope, building material and numerous other items. This plant has low toxicity and does not   pose a threat for overdose by itself – the user with merely fall asleep. The plant is still illegal to cultivate in SA but many efforts to legalise it is underway.  Van Wyk. Medicinal Plants of SA. P 66-67. The Benefits of Marijuana. Joan Bello.

Datura Stramonium – Thorn Apple / devil’s Weed. Datura Brugmansia –  Moon flower (Floripondio) Umhlambavuta (X)

datura str** Please note that this is a very dangerous plant and should not be played with. The Afrikaans name is “Malpitte” – “crazy seeds” and it can bring about permanent states of mental disturbance and psychosis.  It contains atropine which is used in some heart medications and motion sickness patches – but it can bring about heart attacs if not used with care.

Magical: The seed, leaves or flowers are sometimes mixed with other medicines to bring about visions – but the visions are very disturbing and upsetting and dark. Floripondio is sometimes added by sorcerers to Ayahuasca brews.

Medicinal: The best way to use it is as tinctures of leaves & flowers in very small amounts. It can also be extracted in oil. Datura leaves contain alkaloids that are the source of all its therapeutic and healing properties. Dried parts of datura are largely used as a sedative or an anti-spasmodic. history of causing severe discomfort, delirium, stress, and even death, and is therefore not used very extensively. Datura is ideal for the treatment of asthma. The leaves are burnt and the fumes are inhaled to take in the antispasmodic properties of datura. Traditionally, datura leaves were rolled and smoked to improve the symptoms of asthma. Datura fruit can be used to treat specific types of malarial fever.

The leaves of a Datura plant can be used for relieving the various heart problems. They can be used for treating palpitations, hypertension, distress, and various aortic disorders.The juice extracted from the leaves of the Datura plant can be used to treat earaches. Putting a few drops of the oil in your ear can help suppress ear infections. Traditionally, Datura effects have been useful for the treatment of impotency or as an aphrodisiac. The seeds from ripe Datura fruits are removed and dried. These are then added to cow’s milk and boiled to obtain the extract of the Datura seeds. Datura seeds can also be used to make a preparation for the treatment of baldness. The oil extracted from the Datura seeds can be applied on the bald patches to stimulate growth of hair. However, this juice is highly poisonous and should not be consumed in any way.

Parts of the Datura plant can be used to intoxicate and sedate a person in pain, helping them relax. This is a very effective pain reliever and is used for patients battling chronic disease or severe physical injuries. Precautions/ Side Effects/ Warnings:  As mentioned earlier, some parts of the Datura pant are extremely poisonous and may cause eventual fatality. Hence, caution must always be practiced when using this plant for treatment purposes.

Helycrysum Odorata / helicrysum Petiolare: Everlasting – IMPHEPU (Z) 

wild imphepuThe African Helichrysum species is perhaps the most widely used medicinal plant in Southern Africa. There are over 600 species of Helichrysum occurring worldwide, with 245 found in southern Africa. The word Helichrysum is derived from the Greek “helios” meaning sun and “chrysos” meaning gold, referring to the colour of many of the flowers of species in this genus.

Magical: communicating with the ancestor spirits. Dreams, protection.: It is said that this was the first medicine shown to the African people. Once they began to use it, it taught them about other medicines. It is used as a “smudge” to cleanse a person and call in their ancestors. It is used in prayer and ceremony as an offering to the ancestors and spirits. The smoke can be sedative as well as euphoric when inhaled.

Medicinal: The true medicinal value of the African Helichrysum is only now being unveiled by science. New discoveries of its extracts point to a powerful herbal medicine with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, a possible cure for tuberculosis and herpes amongst other medicinal uses. Also used for diabetes & depression.

Helichrysum is said to be more anti-inflammatory than German Chamomile, have more tissue regenerating than Lavender and more cicatrisant (helping the formation of scar tissue) than Frankincense. The oil of Helichrysum has been found to generate tissue, reduce tissue pain, help improve skin conditions, circulatory function, prevent phlebitis, help regulate cholesterol, stimulate liver cell function, reduce scarring and discoloration. It is anticoagulant, anti-catarrhal, mucolytic, expectorant, and antispasmodic. It has been known to help in improving certain types of hearing loss.

Medicinally, the roots, leaves, stem and flowers are used for a variety of complaints and ailments. Depending on the species and distribution area, the uses include: angina pectoris, backache, bladder conditions, coronary thrombosis, coughs and colds, circumcision wounds, eye complaints, fever, festering sores, heart trouble, “heart weakness”, hyperpiesia, influenza, insect repellent, kidney diseases, painful menstruation, prevention of infection, rheumatism, urinary tract infections, virility and wound-healing. Infusions may be applied externally as an antiseptic wash and whole leaf as a wound dressing. Infusions may be applied externally as an antiseptic wash.

For HIV/aids patients, imphepo tea is a must. Because of its beneficial activity on the liver and its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antibiotic and anti-fungal properties, it improves well-being, clears the skin of marks and to a degree and protects the patient. It may also be applied externally on skin for rashes, marks, spots and fungal ailments.

Pharmacological effects: Pain relieving, anti-infective and anti-inflammatory activity has been reported for several African Helichrysum species. Proven anti-microbial activity provides scientific evidence for the traditional use in wound dressing. Strong anti-viral activity has been shown in in-vitro research.

Leonorus Leonotus (Lion Tail) Leonorus Nepetifolium (Lions ear) – Wild dagga – uTswala Benyoni (Z)

Leonotisleonurus2Leonotis leonorus also known as Lion’s Tail or Wild Dagga is a member of the mint family of plants. has narrow leaves, tends to be more perennial and has smaller balls of flowers. The flowers are bright orange. Wild dagga is not a small plant. Plants can grow as high as ten feet and one of the main features is the bright orange flower that appears in summer. “Klipdagga” is a lion plant with heart shaped leaves.

Magical: Traditionally it is explained as a great ally for courage and deals with the many itchy diseases created by fear. It is also used for epilepsy, and the fear it brings with it.

Medicinal Uses:  They have always been a popular medicine especially for children and are used for a whole range of off colour conditions. Many traditional uses of Leonotis leonorus have been recorded. The foliage is commonly made into a medicinal tea, which is favoured for the hypnotic focus it gives. The leaves or roots are widely used as a remedy for snakebite and also to relieve other bites and stings. Decoctions of Leonotis leonorus leaf or root have been applied externally to treat boils, eczema, skin diseases and itching, and muscular cramps. Leonotis leonorus extracts are also used to relieve coughs, cold and influenza, as well as bronchitis, high blood pressure and headaches. Leaf infusions have been used to treat asthma and viral hepatitis. Tea is also used to treat headaches, bronchitis, high blood pressure and the common cold. Leonotis leonorus can be chewed, taken as an infusion or as a bath for eczema it has given great results.

The Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans and English make a tea of the flowers for a soothing cough and as a cold remedy.  This tea has also been used for the treatment of jaundice, cardiac asthma, haemorrhoids, headaches, chest ailments, bronchitis and epilepsy.  The Zulu and Xhosa make a strong brew of the leaves and use as a poultice for snakebites.  The leaf is also smoked in the treatment of epilepsy and partial paralysis.  It is known that a tea of leaves and flowers used to be drunk daily by the older generations for water retention, obesity and haemorrhoids. The Hottentot tribesmen use Leonotis leonorus for several different medicinal purposes and to promote euphoria and exuberance when smoked. This species is also important in Chinese/Vietnamese medicine as a euphoric, purgative and vermifuge. Twigs added to the bath water give relief to muscular aches and pains, itchy skin and eczema.  A strong brew can be dabbed onto sores, bites, bee and wasp stings. It is said to also help scorpion and snake bites.

Leonotis leonorus is also much respected in the treatment of animals. The Tswana, Zulu and Xhosa make a strong brew of leaves, flowers and stems to use as an enema in sheep, goats and cattle.  This brew is given to animals with respiratory problems and applied as a lotion to sores on stock and dogs, and as a wash for wounds, scratches, bites and stings.  A few chopped leaves are tossed to chickens with diarrhoea and this has proved to be a quick and effective treatment.

Flower essence: For those who lack willpower, who are easily influenced, who seek pleasure to fill the emptiness, who run away from painful situations and who are prone to addictive behaviour patterns or substance abuse. This flower essence assists in bringing meaning, purpose and strength of character. This is a good remedy for emotional pain.

Contraindications:  Not recommended for use by pregnant women. Not recommended for woman wishing to fall pregnant.  Adverse reactions: First time users may experience dizziness, nausea or sweating Precautions: Treatment should be continued for one week. If symptoms persist, additional or alternative therapy should be sought.

Preparation: 1 table spoonful of chipped dried herb (10,0g) added to 3 cupful’s (500 ml) of boiling water, boil for 10 minutes, allow to cool overnight, strain and use clear liquid for both internal and external use. If fresh material is used, 3-4 young twigs (leaf and stem) are boiled with one litre of water.

  • Dosage: Internal use: To be taken two to three times daily.
  • Adults: Half a cupful (.90ml)
  • Elderly patients: Quarter of a cupful (.45ml)
  • Children 6-12 yrs.: Quarter of a cupful (.45ml)
  • Children 2-6 yrs.: Two teaspoonful’s (.8ml)
  • External use: the decoction may be applied to the affected area using a clean cloth.


Dioscorea dregeana Common names: Wild yam isidakwa (Zulu)

DioscoreadregeanaleaftwineThe Zulu name ‘isidikwa ‘ means ‘drunkard’, referring to the reported effects that it may have.

The Zulu use the large tuber as a sedative in the treatment of epilepsy, hysteria, insomnia and acute psychosis.  It is also used topically for scabies. In ancient times, it was used as a general anesthetic to enable fractures of the limb to be manipulated and stabilized by traditional bone-setters.

The plant contains natural hormones – oestrogens etc. – and is used to make creams to treat Menopause as a hormone replacement. Dioscorea dregeana is sometimes combined with Boophane disticha for the purpose of divination. However, human deaths have been reported after the use of the plant as famine food or as medicine.

This species is reported to make a person ‘mad drunk’ and it has been used in poison bait to destroy monkeys by boiling mealie cobs in water with the root.

This Dioscorea, due to its toxicity, is often planted to eradicate moles (intukuzi) in the fields and home gardens. It is often planted together with crops, especially root and tuber plants, such as amabhatata (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato) and amadumbe Colocasia esculenta, coco yam).

The fresh tuber is generally taken orally as a weak decoction, with an adequate dose resulting in sleep within 20–30 minutes. Be very careful as an overdose can lead to paralysis and death!

Do not use this plant without professional help.

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