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.

Top 5 African Herbal Medicines

Thokoza !!

I came across another good article today on the power of African Herbs. You can read the original article here:

I have copied some of the article below: Please note that African Ginger – “indungulo, isiphephetho”,  is threatened and protected, as it is being over harvested. I had to replace the image, as the image they used in the original article is not African Ginger.

5 Top Performing African Medicinal Herbs



Tonnes of Medicinal Plant Derivatives Exported Each Year

It’s not only locals who are sold on the efficacy of Africa’s medicinal plants and herbs; literally thousands of tonnes of plant derivatives are exported across the globe each year. Despite commercialisation of a handful of botanicals such as buchu, rooibos, devil’s claw & pelargonium sidoides, the vast majority of species are informally harvested from wild stocks to meet demand.

Medicinal Herb Hit List

Five of the top performing medicinal plants are:



The buchu herb (Agathosma Betulina) is commercially cultivated in the Western Cape for its essential oils. It is a world renowned natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic used to treat high blood pressure, UTI infections, arthritis, gout and countless other ailments. A range of buchu health care products are available in South Africa under the BuchuLife label and include Sparkling Herbal Water, UTI Relief Capsules, Joint Health Capsules and First Aid Gel.

Devil’s Claw

Devil's Claw

Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum) is endemic to the dry areas of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Its medicinal properties are confined to the large tuberous roots that are harvested and dried to form powders, tinctures and extracts. It is commonly used to treat pain, enhance mobility and provide relief from a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, diabetes, neuralgia, headaches and menstrual problems.

African Potato

African Potato

African potato (Hypoxis) is indigenous to the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo. It is well known for its immune boosting properties and is reputed to be effective in the battle against cancer, TB, asthma, HIV Aids and a host of other chronic conditions. The corm of the plant is dried and crushed into a powder and sold in the form of capsules and creams online and at wellness outlets countrywide.

South African Geranium

South African Geranium

South African Geranium or Umckaloabo (Pelargonium sidoides) is similar to a geranium and is packed with natural healing properties. The medicinal part of the plant is the fleshy blood red rhizomes which are dried and formulated into powders, tinctures and infusions. Its potent antibacterial and antiviral properties are ideal in the treatment of chronic respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis, sore throat, sinusitis, colds and flu. It is manufactured under licence of Schwabe Germany and is available at health stores and pharmacies nationwide.

African Ginger

african ginger        download (3)

African ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus) is localised to Mpumalanga and the Northern Province. It is one of the most frequently used medicinal herbs in South Africa’s informal sector and is fast becoming endangered. The rhizomes and roots are dried and crushed into powder or tablet form and used to treat myriad health issues, from coughs, colds, asthma and flu to candida and menstrual cramps. Online stores such as retail the product worldwide.

Muthi (Energetic Plant Medicine)

Thokoza all. Greetings !

When I started this blog I promised to post a bit more about imiti / umuthi / muthi / energetic plant medicine. To use muthi properly you need to get instructions from a traditional healer who knows the plants well and how to use it properly. You also need to understand that the plant is not only chemical compounds, but also has energy and spirit. They physical and energetic properties work on different levels.

Many people experiment with muthi and either have no results or negative results. They get muthi from websites or people who sell it without knowing its proper preparation or applications. For some muthi’s, there are  cleansing rituals one must perform before using the muthi. Muthi must be harvested and prepared correctly and also blessed and prescribed correctly. The same plant that occurs in different regions may also not be used for the same purpose everywhere as it depends on the sub species and climate it may grow in. In one part the bark may be used and in another part the roots.

Traditional African medicine also has both “magical” and “scientific” properties. That means that medicinal herbs are not only chosen for their “active ingredients” to be ingested but also for their vibratory resonances. In other words: African traditional medicine is also “vibrational medicine”.

In Southern Africa all traditional medicine is called Muti.  Muti can be anything from a charm worn against evil spirits to a herbal concoction against stomach bloating. A spell cast by magical ritual would also be called “Muti”.

Medicines are not necessarily ingested but can be worn around the neck in pouches, strewn around the house, burnt as an offering or applied in many other ways. It is clear that the African tradition does not only subscribed to the materialist Western notion of the “Active Ingredient” which means a pharmacologically active substance that could be isolated from the traditional medicine.

African Muti also influences the etheric and spiritual forces. It is based on Millennia of shamanic experience, handed down to the disciple in a long and involved initiation and learning process called Twasa-ing.

Any person to become a Sangoma must get the calling from the spirit world first which can manifest in dreams or even unexplainable sickness or other traditionally recognised signs. All proper sangomas are intuitives of the highest degree.

Some samples of general muthi that is used are shown below: the healer will prescribe a muthi and a method of administrating after reading the bones and divining what the issues is that needs to be addressed. Sometimes muthi can also be enhanced by spells, symbols or stones.

Warning: this site does not prescribe any muthi or advocate use of muthi without supervision or administration by a qualified traditional healer.

orgonite muti ntabazimi

Ntabazimi – fights negative energy raises positive energy


orgonite muti makhanyakude

Makhanyakude – shine from far


orgonite muti sbagga

Sbagga – dispels negaitivity


orgonite muti nhlanhla emhlope

Nhlanhla emhlope – opening closed paths


orgonite muti mwelela

Mwelela (means “valley” in Zulu) – continuous perseverance

orgonite muti godide

Godide – renewal of all things (Body, Mind, Spirit)

Orgonite Muti ground Salt

Salt: fights negativity beyond the borders of normal Muti

orgonite muti chili

Chili – dispels tokoloshe (nasty little entities that torment people)

Mini mini: the law of attraction

Mini Mini – attracts everyone to the person wearing it


Dreaming and Dreaming Medicines: (African Herbal Medicine).

  Dreaming and Dreaming medicines: (African Herbal Medicine) 

This post is prompted by a strange dream I had last night. I had a restless night and battled to fall asleep, so at about 2 am I took some Valerian Root tablets and it seemed to do the trick, but this plant also has the reputation to bring you “interesting” dreams. Dreaming is seen as a very important part of ones training as  a Sangoma, as often the ancestor spirits will visit you in your dreams bringing you messages and information or teachings on how to do things. They can also bring you warnings and help.

In the dream I had last night, I was wearing a traditional robe and was visited by a black man – who spoke to me in my native language – which is unusual.  He asked me a very interesting question – the answer to which I will ponder in the next few days. I felt as if this may have been a spirit from one of the lineages I was initiated into.

Dream interpretation is important for guiding one’s spiritual journey. As an initiate you would report your dreams daily to your trainer and talk about the messages therein for you. Of course for us to dream – we need to sleep – and quality sleep brings quality dreams. Below I mention some medicines that can aid sleep & dreaming.

In Africa we have an interesting dream plant called “African Dream Root” (Silene Capensis). It is added to a mixture of foaming herbs we call “uBulawu” that is given to initiates to dream about their ancestors and be able to talk to them. The powdered root is said to be the ingredient that brings the dreams and visions. The African Dream Root is also said to aid “Lucid or awake” dreaming. The root is also used as a “lucky” medicine (muthi). The root can also be taken as a tea.

silene_capensis_flower_0 African-Dream-Root

Before one uses this muthi, one must be cleansed for it to have maximum effect, so that your channels are open and not blocked by negative energies that can keep your dreams stuck. When I look at “shamanic” websites or ethno medicine websites selling this root online – without proper instructions – it worries me as the cleansing beforehand is very important. The medicine is not just in ingesting the plant material, but also in respecting the spirit of the plant medicine. In the sangoma traditions cleansing will traditionally be done by steaming a person with special herbs that cleanses, protects and uplifts them and opens them up to spiritual energies. A muthi like “ubulawu” will never be used if you are not “clean”.

Other African herbs that have a sedative and calming effect and can be used to aid rest, sleep and dreaming are: Sceletium Tortuosum (Kanna) (contains the mesembrine alkaloid), Psoralea Pinnata (umhlonitshwa) it works as a homeopathic type medicine and works on the emotional level rather than the physical level.

sceletium pinnata

Another plant is African Griffonia. (West Africa) It contains 5-HTP that helps to elevate mood. I also mentioned Imphepho in my previous blog for its sedative properties. (Helichrysum odoratissmum).

Sometimes uVuma Umhlope (Synaptolepsis Kirki) is also used in the uBulawu mix. The African Sea bean (Entada Rheedii) is said to have magical uses in lucid dreaming and is often worn as a charm.

synaptolepsis kirkiuvumaseabean

Important note: This Blog does not contain medical advice. Please take care when using these medicines and always seek expert advice. You may have unexpected reactions to the ingredients and some of these medicines can be toxic to the liver and kidneys in large doses or with prolonged use. They are also contra-indicated in pregnancy and should not be combined with SSRI, MAOI, or other psychiatric medications, cardiac medications, alcohol and cannabis.

 Safe sources for obtaining medicines: If you want to try out the medicines for the first time and are not experienced with them, I suggest you try medicines that have already been processed and can be bought in health stores or from reputable suppliers. Do not buy the raw ingredients and try to make it yourself if you do not have experience in this. Below are some good sources of safe supplements. Please read the instructions for use and contra indications on the sites – if there aren’t any then I would be weary of ordering from them. Any site selling you medicine should also be willing to give you information on where they source their plants from, have a permit to harvest if they wild harvest and be willing to share their manufacturing info in terms of health & safety regulations. They should also be registered to some regulating body.

Big Tree Nutraceuticals –

Herbal Africa –

Medico Herbs –

Phyto Green –

Imphepho – Africa’s Sacred Herb. (Helicrysum Species (African Sage))

Imphepho – Africa’s Sacred Herb. (Helicrysum Species/Everlasting/sewejaartjies/kooigoed)

One of the first Muthi’s or herbal medicines I learned to use as a Twasa (initiate) was this sacred smudge and medicinal herb. It is said that Imphepho was the first medicine that was shown to the healers. When they started to use this medicine, it guided them to find and how to use other medicines and so they started to learn about herbs. It is a very powerful plant and its medicinal uses are the subject of scientific study. It is the most widely used medicinal plant in South Africa. The word Helicrysum is derived from the Greek “Helios” meaning Sun and “chrysos” meaning gold. Most of the flowers of this plant are a golden yellow colour.

flowers imphepu wild imphepu

When medicine plants are harvested it is very important that it is done in a respectful and sustainable way. When entering the area where one intends to harvest muthi – you must always ask permission of the guardian or grandfather – which may be a very big or old tree growing nearby. Before a plant is cut or dug out – it must be asked if it agrees to be muthi (medicine), and one must explain to the plant what and for whom it is needed. Making muthi starts with how and which plant you take. Two of the same plants may grow next to each other but only one of them may be right for muthi. Traditionally some imphepho, snuff, tobacco or a red or white bead is given as an offering or exchange to the plant spirits when harvesting medicines.

bundles  petiolare

Imphepho has many uses. The smoke of the herb is used as a sacred incense or smudge used to call the ancestors in and invoke trance states, cleanse energy and as an offering when praying. The smoke is also sedative. Traditionally Imphepho is burned on a potsherd when offered to the ancestors. Medicinal uses of the plant include antiseptics, insecticides, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving (analgesic). The parts of the plant used are mainly the leaves, stems and flowers and sometimes the roots.

New born babies are washed in Imphepho to cleanse and protect them. The herb is stuffed in bedding for both humans and animals to repel insects. Wounds are washed with infusions of Imphepho to clean and sterilise them and a dressing of leaves are placed on the wounds. The smoke is inhaled for headache. Tea is made from the leaves for fever, coughs, colds and flu and also to cleanse the liver and kidneys. In woman’s health it is used for menstrual pains.

An aromatherapy / medicinal oil extract is now becoming available. Medical research has shown that this plant has huge potential for medicinal uses as a possible cure for Tuberculosis and herpes. For HIV patients Imphepho tea is a must. We have already mentioned its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties in treating as well as preventing disease. It also has a positive influence on the liver, bladder, heart and kidneys. It can also be used to clear the skin. A wash can be made for wounds, rashes, spots, skin ailments and fungal infections. It is also regenerative when used on scars. It is sometimes added to the steam bathes used by sangomas to cleanse away negative energies and to protect.

The plants are usually wild harvested and platted in garlands or tied in bundles before drying. You can buy it on almost every street corner and at any medicine market. Some varieties have been domesticated and can be found at nurseries for planting in your garden.

There are about 245 species in Southern Africa. (600 worldwide) The most popular ones for muthi (medicines) are ones growing near rivers, water or on mountains. The most common ones harvested for medicine (all referred to as imphepho) are nudifolium (mostly used for medicinal purposes), petiolare, cymosum and odoratissimum (mostly used as incense).

Important note: This Blog does not contain medical advice. Please take care when using these medicines and always seek expert advice. You may have unexpected reactions to the ingredients and some of these medicines can be toxic to the liver and kidneys in large doses or with prolonged use. They are also contra-indicated in pregnancy and should not be combined with SSRI, MAOI, or other psychiatric medications, cardiac medications, alcohol and cannabis.


Medicinal Plants of South Africa: Ben-Erik van Wyk.

People’s Plants: Ben-Erik van Wyk.

Medical Articles: Articles published in J Ethno pharmacology: Department of Botany: University of Pretoria. South Africa.

Imphepho Essential Oil –

Muthi and Myths from the African Bush – Heather Dugmore.

%d bloggers like this: