Silene capensis - African Dream RootFAMILY: Caryophyllaceae

GENUS: Silene

SPECIES: Capensis

COMMON NAMES: African Dream Root, Undlela Ziimhlophe (White Ways/Paths), Ubulawu

Silene capensis is a plant native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  It is regarded by the Xhosa people as a sacred plant. It is an easily grown herb that requires a great deal of water and is very tolerant of extreme heat and some cold. The flowers are very fragrant and only open at night. They are said to smell like a blend of cloves, jasmine and bananas. The root, which is the portion of the plant that is used to induce dreams, may be harvested after the second year of growth (Wikipedia n.d.).

TRADITIONAL USES: Silene capensis is used by the Xhosa people of South Africa to induce vivid and prophetic lucid dreams, particularly during the initiation journeys of shamans. The Xhosa believe that their ancestors can be best contacted through dreams, and so they use S. capensis to receive assistance and advice from those ancestors (Voogelbreinder 2009, 365).

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The Xhosa prepare S. capensis by powdering the roots, which they call undlela ziimhlophe (which translates to ‘white paths’ or ‘white ways’) and drinking the powder with water on an empty stomach. The appropriate Silene capensis dosage is about 200 to 250mg of powdered root for inducing vivid dreams and a divinatory state. Higher doses may be taken to induce vomiting (Vooglebreinder 2009, 365).

There are several methods for preparing S. capensis for consumption. The first is to simply mix a half of a teaspoon of dried root powder with a half a cup of water. This is to be consumed early in the morning, before breakfast.  Once you feel hungry, you may eat as normal. The second method is to mix a heaping tablespoon with two cups of water and blend until a froth forms. Keep consuming this froth until you feel bloated, then go to bed (DreamHerbs 2011).

MEDICINAL USE: In high doses, the Xhosa use powdered S. capensis root as an emetic.  Those using the root for dreaming purposes must be careful to only use recommended amounts for divination.  There are no reported fatalities or harmful side effects from large amounts of S. capensis but it will result in a lot of purging.

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: The effects of S. capensis usually manifest during sleep as prophetic lucid dream states that are rich with significance.  Individuals do not usually perceive any effects in the waking state, although one individual did report perceiving wavy lines of light in the air about twenty minutes after consuming the root.  The dream state is often compared to going under water by the Xhosa. Interestingly enough, it is said that the plant has no effects on individuals who are not meant to be diviners. The chemistry of S. capensis is unknown, but it appears to contain saponins, which would explain its oneirongenic effects (Voogelbreinder 2009, 365).

Even if you consume S. capensis in the morning, you will most likely not feel the effects until night time.  The alkaloids travel through the blood very slowly, so you will experience strong dreaming effects no matter when you consume the root. It is said that if one keeps a question in mind before gong to bed, one of the ancestors will appear in a dream and provide an answer.  As with many plant medicines, S. capensis may take a few days to build up in your system, so it may be more effective after several days of consumption (DreamHerbs 2011).


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“Silene Capensis.” DreamHerbs, 2011.

“Silene Capensis.” Wikipedia, n.d.

Voogelbreinder, Snu. The Garden of Eden. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.