By Ina Woolcott
Silene capensis is a tender perennial, native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The local Xhosa tribe consider it a sacred plant. The root of the plant is traditionally used to induce remarkably vivid – and according to the Xhosa, prophetic – lucid dreams. It is classified as a naturally occurring oneirogen – that which produces a dream-like state of consciousness – and is similar, though apparently more effective, than the well-known dream herb Calea zacatechichi.
Silene Capensis is regarded by shamans of the South African region as a type of ‘Ubulawu’, or medicinal root that they call ‘Undela Ziimhlophe’, which directly translates to ‘white paths’ or white ways.’ It has been utilised for many, many years by a culture who believe ancestors are contacted through dreams, so they seek out and cultivate plants that assist in enhancing dreaming.
It is thought that this sacred plant’s dream-inducing ability is most probably due to triterpenoid saponins contained within its roots. Relatively small amounts of root are reported to be active. In waking consciousness, the plant exerts only minimal change, but the effects upon the dream state are extremely profound.
Generally the herb is mixed with water, then drunk early when one rises in the morning on an empty stomach. When hungry one eats. The alkaloids will then have time to travel through the body, and at night the effects will be felt. The alkaloids travel quite slowly through the blood system, so won’t get passed out during the day. While sleeping, dreams will be exceptionally vivid and colourful, and will be remembered down to the smallest detail when one awakens. The herb is traditionally used to access dreamtime and to communicate with one’s ancestors. Before going to sleep, a question is sometimes focused upon to which the ancestors in the dream state will give an answer. Silene Capensis is not just used for vivid dreams, but as a divination tool.
The recommended amount only should be used as the actives are active in these doses. If ingesting larger amounts, this will have a purgative action. However there are no reported fatalities or harmful side effects reported – just a hefty case of vomiting and cleansing of the stomach! Taking in small doses over several days will have an affect on even the most insensitive person, so there is no need to take a large amount.