Calea zacatechichi - Dream HerbFAMILY: Compositae (Sunflower Family)

GENUS: Calea

SPECIES: Zacatechichi

COMMON NAMES: Ahuapatli, Amula, Atanasia amarga, Aztec Dream Grass, Bejuco Chismuyo, Betonica, Bitter Grass, Chapote, Chichicxihuitl, Dream Herb, Falso Simonillo, Hoja Madre, Iztactzapotl, Jaralillo, Matasano, Paiston, Prodigiosa, Sacatechichi, Thle-pelakano, Tzikin, Xikin, Yerba Amarga, Zacachichi, Zacate de Perro

Calea zacatechichi has many slender branches and when left to grow wild, will easily spread into a thick bush. Under the right conditions a Calea zacatechichi plant can grow up to 10 feet (3 meters tall), but in normal conditions most specimens tend to be half that size. Each branch produces many small oval leaves, between 3/4 of an inch to 2.5 inches in length (2 – 7 cm), which have serrated edges and curl under. The younger leaves are brilliant green on top and violet underneath.  In the right lighting this plant is luminescent and will dramatically standout from its surroundings. C. zacatechichi may be grown from germinated seeds.  The dried husks should be removed before planted. The plant likes rich top soil and lots of water (Ratsch 1998, 116-117).

Dream Herb originated in central Mexico, predominantly growing in the mountainous areas above 5000 feet (1500 meters), in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Jalisco, Morelos, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and even in lowland areas on the Yucatan peninsula; it also grows as far south as Costa Rica. This plant tends to grow in areas populated by pine trees and oak trees (Flores 1977).

TRADITIONAL USE: The Chontal Indians of the Oaxaca region in Mexico have used C. zacatechichi, which they call Thle-pelakano (meaning Leaf of God) for centuries as a medicine that clarifies the senses and allows the medicine man to receive divinatory messages while dreaming and to see visions through their dreams (Ratsch 1998, 117). The plant has been tentatively identified as one of the plants adorning Aztec statues of Xochipilli.

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The Chontal Indians prepare dream Grass in several different ways: when used as a topical medicine, fresh leaves are crushed and squeezed and the juices are directly applied to the affected area. When used to divine the future, the Chontal brew a powerful tea with the dried leaves.  They drink the tea, relax, and smoke the dried leaves just before they go to sleep. This method is believed to induce vivid lucid dreams that are memorable and occur several time throughout the night. Generally, a handful of dried herbage (about 60 grams) is considered an effective dosage. Fresh leaves may also be placed under the table to stimulate dreaming (Ratsch 1998, 117).

MEDICINAL USES: This magical herb is used in a great number of Chontal folk remedies as an appetite stimulant, cleansing agent for deep wounds and minor burns, to treat diarrhea, reduce fevers, as a application to heal skin rashes and swollen scalps, and most notably to relieve headache pains. The Aztecs once used the plant to treat “cold stomach”.  The plant is still used in Mexican folk medicine as a laxative and treatment for fever. A tea made from the leaves is particularly good for the stomach and disorders of the digestive system. It is also used for menstrual complaints (Mayagoita et al. 1986).

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Analysis of Dream Grass has shown that the primary psychoactive compounds are germacranolides, which are also the cause of this herb’s sharp bitter taste. Specifically, Calea zacatechichi naturally produces: 1B-acetoxy-zacatechinolide, 1-oxo-zacatechinolide, budleine A, caleicine I, caleicine II, caleine A, caliene B, caleocromene A, caleocromene B, germacrene 7, O-methyl-acacetine, and zexbrevine. Recent research has also revealed a compound of unknown structure that is moderately psychoactive and possesses sedative qualities. These compounds are all soluble in water as well as alcohol (Voogelbreinder 2009, 111).

Dream Herb is an all-natural oneirogenic herb, meaning it is an herb that promotes sleep and induces lucid dream states. Research conducted by Paul Devereux, using 2.5 grams of dried Calea herbage blended in a decoction was consumed, followed by a marijuana joint just before bedtime. The participants reported that after 30 minutes they began to feel intense sensations of relaxation, euphoria, calmness, and drowsiness. They also report clarity of mind, being able to hear the heart beat and to be consciously aware of their body as they transitioned from completely awake through hypnogogic states and the onset of sleep. Some people report that when Calea is smoked it produces a mild marijuana like high, although confirmation of this claim has not been verified (Ratsch 1998, 117-118).

For more information about the pharmacologic aspects and effects of this amazing dream herb, read this Study on Calea zacatechichi.

The informational website Dream Herbs is a great source for information on C. zacatechichi and other dreaming herbs.

A great source for high-quality Calea zacatechichi


Flores, M. “An Ethnobotanical Investigation of Calea Zacatechichi”. Senior Honors Thesis, Harvard University, 1977.

Mayagoitia, L., Conteras, C., Diaz, J..,”Psychopharmacologic Analysis of an Alleged Oneirogenic Plant: Calea zacatechichi”, in  Journal of Ethnopharmacology 18 (1986) 229-243

Ratsch, Christian. 2005. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications. Park Street Press; Rochester, VT.

Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.