Calea spp.



Mexican Dream Herb.

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Calea spp.

Botanical information

A perenniel plant, it grows to a height of 3 m with a spread of 2.5m. The stems are woody and straight with many branches; the leaves are small, oval and serrate occurring opposite along the branches; the flowers are small white to yellow.

A native of Mexico, it is adaptable but prefers rich soils and plenty of water in an open and sunny position and is drought and frost resistant.

Propagation is by seed or cuttings. Sow the tiny seeds in punnets by sprinkling onto the surface. Supply water by misting regularly or by watering from the bottom. Surface must not dry out at any time until the seeds have germinated, but must also never be wet as this will encourage fungal rot. High humidity is advantageous for initial germination, but will encourage fungal problems soon after. Seedlings may be transplanted when 3cm tall. Germination should be expected within a few weeks. Sunny position and medium water for best growth. Germinating seeds is extremely difficult and is probably best avoided if a plant or cutting can be obtained instead. Calea grows readily from cuttings and potted plants ship well within Australia. We do not recommend shipping potted plants of this species overseas, as it is likely to rot in an enclosed space.

Traditional uses

The Chontal indians of Oaxaca revere Calea zacatechichi as one of the holy plants. They boil the fresh leaves into a strong and very bitter hot water extract, which they consume, followed by a smoke of dried leaves of this plant, to induce visionary and dreamlike states. Their visions focus on healing and prediction of future events and interestingly for locating stolen or lost objects. Medicinally the Dream Herb is still used as a poultice for skin problems, or internally for some gastric conditions. The herb and any preparation made from it is extremely bitter, fresh leaves being virtually inedible, but alcoholic extracts bearable.

I was introduced to this herb in the early 90s in the form of an alcoholic extract. My favourite method of ingesting was to get myself prepared for bed in the evening, and then put 15 drops under my tongue. Sitting mellow and comfortable a slight wave of tiredness would come over me about 10 minutes later, lasting only a couple of minutes. If this wave was ignored, there would be no further effect, but if I went to bed straight away, I would drift off to sleep within a few minutes, hypnotised by my slow but very amplified heartbeat. I would have many dreams of a profound and insightly nature (at least thats how it felt at the time), which I would remember in every detail in the morning. There was a slight euphoric feeling that went with the realisation of these dreams, or maybe it was just a really good nights sleep, but the mornings always had an upbeat note to them (in spite of the fact that I generally dislike mornings). If I was woken within the first hour of going to sleep, I would be surprised by the number and profoundness of my dreams in such a short timespan, but would not have anymore of these type of dreams after falling asleep again. Sadly, the extract from the same supplier no longer has that effect on me, and no other supplier ever produced an extract that could elicit these effects. This is why I started making my own from my homegrown herb. It is not done by Soxthlet extraction, which I believe destroys many active components, including that of Calea zacatechichi, and my method involves no heat applied to the material at any point in the manufacture, yet it is concentrated to reduce the amount of alcohol and the volume of bitterness. (Torsten/SAB)


Pharmacology

Calea zacatechichi herb contains a repulsive tasting complex of bitters (consisiting of sesquiterpenelactones), flavones and an unidentified, mildly psychoactive alkaloid. The alkaloid appears to be water and alcohol soluble. It is believed that there are different chemotypes of this species, some of which appear to be psychoactive, while others are not.

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