Calea zacatechichi

Calea zacatechichi
Calea zacatechichi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Calea
Species: C. ternifolia
Binomial name
Calea ternifolia Kunth

Calea zacatechichi, also known as Dream Herb, Leaf of God, and Bitter Grass, is a plant used by the indigenous Chontal of the Mexican state of Oaxaca for oneiromancy (a form of divination based on dreams.) The plant naturally occurs from southern Mexico to northern Costa Rica. It has been scientifically demonstrated that extracts of this plant increase reaction times and the frequency and/or recollection of dreams[1] versus placebo and diazepam. It is also employed by the Chontal people as a medicinal herb against gastrointestinal disorders, and is used as an appetizer, cathartic anti-dysentery remedy, and as a fever-reducing agent.

The correct Latin name is Calea ternifolia Kunth, with Calea zacatechichi Schltdl. being a synonym (Wussow et al. 1985). The name zacatechichi retains usage as a local or common name.



The Chontal medicine men, who assert that this plant is capable of "clarifying the senses" causing euphoria, call it thle-pela-kano, meaning "leaf of God". Whenever they desire to know the cause of an illness or the location of a distant or lost person, the common ritual is to smoke a cigarette, whilst drinking a tea, both made of Calea Zacatechichi, right before going to sleep.[2]

Chemical composition

Several compounds have been isolated from the plant, including the sesquiterpenes calaxin, ciliarin,[3] the germacranolides 1-beta-acetoxy zacatechinolide and 1-oxo zacatechinolide,[4] caleochromene A and B, calein A and B,[5] caleicine I and II,[6] as well as acacetin, O-methyl acacetin, zexbrevin and an analogue, and several analogues of budlein A and neurolenin B, including calein A.[7][8]

Preparation and dosage

Crushed dried leaves are steeped in hot water, and the resulting tea is drunk slowly, after which the user lies down in a quiet place and smokes a cigarette of the dried leaves of the same plant. The human dose for divinatory purposes reported by the Chontal people is a handful of dried plant, but effects can be felt with as little as two to three grams of dried leaf matter. The user knows that he or she has taken a large enough dose when a sense of tranquility and drowsiness is experienced and when he or she hears the beats of his or her own heart and pulse. Calea is an extremely bitter herb and is known to induce strong nausea when drunk. Many users prefer to smoke it rather than drinking the tea. Alternatively alcoholic tinctures and placing the leaf matter in algae capsules can be as effective as tea while being much less bitter and much more palatable. There are no reports of hangover or other undesirable side effects. Many report an extremely mild cannabis like state of relaxation from smoking calea leaf or taking calea tincture.


A C. zacatechichi cutting developing new roots in a humidity tent

Generally Calea is a southern plant. Growing Calea from fresh seed is not easy; cloning this plant is much simpler. The most common way to grow it is propagation from cuttings or layers, the latter of which is very easy in late summer. The Calea plant likes full sun, well drained soils, and medium irrigation. Anecdotal evidence suggests the flowering or post flowering plant harvested in the dry or cold season yields the best herbal product.

A good soil mix for calea cultivation is: 1/3 of a rich substrate, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 of humus, or a light garden soil.

Propagation from seeds can be tried with the following method: Sow the seeds in a pot with the soil mix indicated as above. Don't cover the seeds, moisten the seeds with water and cover with a plastic bag. This little greenhouse needs from 4 to 6 hours of light to germinate. If the seeds dry out during this period, the plants will not germinate.


Calea zacatechichi is an unscheduled substance in the United States, meaning that it is completely legal to grow and sell. However, Louisiana State Act 159 makes the substance illegal to grow, cultivate, harvest or sell in Louisiana if intended for ingestion. The act applies to more than 40 types of plants.[9]

Tennessee proposed a bill that would have made many "hallucinogenic" plants, including Calea zacatechichi, illegal when "intended for human consumption," but the law was changed to ban only Salvia divinorum and Damiana (Turnera diffusa).[10]

Calea zacatechichi was banned in Poland in March 2009.[11]


  1. ^ Psychopharmacologic Analysis of an Alleged Oneirogenic Plant Calea zacatechichi L Mayagoitia, JL Diaz, CM Contreras, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 18 (1986) 229-243 Eleavier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd
  2. ^ Ethnopharmacology and taxonomy of Mexican psychodysleptic plants. Diaz JL. J Psychedelic Drugs. 1979 Jan-Jun;11(1-2):71-101.
  3. ^ Ortega et al.[vague]
  4. ^ Bohlmann and Zdero[vague]
  5. ^ Quijano et al.[vague]
  6. ^ Ramos, 1979[vague]
  7. ^ Herz and Kumar[vague]
  8. ^ Mayagoitia, L; Diaz, J; Contreras, C (1986). "Psychopharmacologic analysis of an alleged oneirogenic plant: Calea zacatechichi". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 18 (3): 229–43. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(86)90002-4. PMID 3821139. 
  9. ^ Erowid. "Calea zacatechichi Legal Status Jun 20 2006.
  10. ^ Erowid E. "Comments on New State Laws Controlling the Consumption of Hallucinogenic Plants." Jun 20 2006.
  11. ^ Dz.U. 2009 nr 63 poz. 520, Internetowy System Aktów Prawnych. (Polish)

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