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    Calea Zacatechichi (Dream Herb)


    the Oneirogenic (Dream-Inducing) Herb

    Used by the Chontal Indians of Oaxaca as a tea, believed to clarify the senses. Emboden says they roll cigarettes from the leaves, lie down to smoke quietly, drinking the tea as well. The feeling of well-being is said to persist for a day or more with no unpleasant side effects. Leaves show some experimental antiatherogenic and CNS depression activity. The plant contains 0.01% of a crystalline alkaloid, C21H26O8.

    (James Duke, Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, page 86)

    In 1968 a naturalist, Thomas MacDougall, working among the Chontal Indians, reported a "secret" plant that is made into a tea or infusion and consumed in solitude while a cigarette of the same leaves is smoked. This produces a feeling of well-being that continues for one or more days. It is said that Calea promote a repose and one hears one's own heart and pulse beating.

    (Wm. Emboden, Narcotic Plants, revised ed., Collier Books, pgs 33-34)

    MacDougall has recently reported that the Chontal Indians of Oaxaca, who "believe in visions seen in dreams," employ this sacred plant to induce hallucinations. Crushed dried leaves are infused in water, and the resulting tea is imbibed slowly, after which the native lies down in a quiet place and smokes a cigarette of the dried leaves of the same plant. The Indian knows that he has taken a large enough dose when a sense of repose and drowsiness is experienced and when he hears his own heart and pulse beats. The Chontal medicine men, who assert that this plant is capable of "clarifying the senses," call it thlepelakano or "leaf of god."

    (Schultes & Hofmann, Botany & Chemistry of Hallucinogens, page 313)

    Calea zacatechichi is a plant used by the Chontal Indians of Mexico to obtain divinatory messages during dreaming. In human healthy volunteers, low doses of the resins administered in a double-blind design against placebo increased reaction time and time-lapse estimation. A controlled nap sleep study in the same volunteers showed that Calea resins increased the superficial stages of sleep and the number of spontaneous awakenings. The subjective reports of dreams were significantly higher than both placebo and diazepam, indicating an increase in hypnagogic imagery occurring during superficial sleep stages. The use of plant preparations in order to produce or enhance dreams of a divinatory nature constitutes an ethnopharmacological category that can be called "oneiromancy" and which justifies rigorous neuropharmacological research.

    Whenever it is desired to know the cause of an illness of the location of a distant or lost person, dry leaves of the plant are smoked, drunk and put under the pillow before going to sleep. Reportedly, the answer to the question comes in a dream. The human dose for divinatory purposes reported by the Chontal informant is a handful of the dried plant.

    A collection of interviews and written reports concerning the psychotropic effects of these preparations on 12 volunteers has been published. Free reports and direct questioning disclosed a discrete enhancement of all sensorial perceptions, an increase in imagery, mind thought discontinuity, void flux of ideas, and difficulties in retrieval. These effects were followed by somnolence and a short sleep during which lively dreams were reported by the majority of the volunteers.

    These results show that zacatechichi administrations appears to enhance the number and/or recollection of dreams during sleeping periods. The data are in agreement with the oneirogenic reputation of the plant among the Chontal Indians. all this suggests that Calea zacatechichi induces episodes of lively hypnagogic imagery during SWS stage 1 of sleep, a psychophysiological effect that would be the basis of the ethnobotanical use of the plant as an oneirogenic and oneiromantic agent.

    (Jose L. Diaz, et al, Psychopharmacologic Analysis of an Alleged Oneirogenic Plant: Calea zacatechichi, J. Ethnopharmacology, 1986, v.18, pgs 229-243)

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