Unlock your subconscious with these ancient dream herbs

Unlock your subconscious with these ancient dream herbs

If you’re convinced there's more meaning to your dreams than meets the eye, oneirogens  also known as dream herbs  could be for you. Whether you rarely dream, struggle to recall your dreams, or just want to tap into the full power of dreams, it’s time to get familiar with oneirogens.

Oneirogens, which literally mean ‘dream creators’, are a group of medicinal plants used by shamans, herbalists and indigenous cultures for thousands of years.

The goal?

To connect with the spirit world, receive prophetic messages, communicate with dead ancestors, and seek higher levels of spiritual awareness. 

Many of these dream-enhancing herbs still exist today, and they can produce dream-like states of consciousness that help you unlock new levels of awareness and get answers about the true nature of life and your purpose in the world.

After all, dreams are believed to be messages from your soul  messages to help you work out your karma (effects of past actions) while fulfilling your dharma (life duty).

Intrigued? Then let’s take a closer look at oneirogens and how to identify the best dream herb for you to work with.


Oneirogens - why they matter

In the beginning of Paulo Coelho’s bestselling book, The Alchemist, a clairvoyant tells the protagonist Santiago: “Dreams are the language of God… When he speaks in the language of the soul, it is only you who can understand.” 

This is, perhaps, one of the best explanations of why using oneirogens to connect with your dreams can be incredibly helpful when trying to understand yourself better.

From a psychological perspective, the work of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, helped establish the common belief that your dreams are a powerful way to connect with your subconscious. And exploring your subconscious matters because it influences the majority of your thoughts, emotions and behaviours. 

Discovering what lies in that unaccessed part of your mind often holds the key to pushing past blocks, letting go of limiting beliefs, overcoming self-sabotage and releasing trauma.

But that’s not all. 

From a spiritual perspective, dreams do much more than unlock the subconscious.

They help you communicate with a much deeper part of yourself  your soul  and beyond. 



Herbs for dreaming  what do they do?

When it comes to deeper dream work  the type that helps you connect with your ancestors, your soul and universal consciousness  onierogens can provide a helping hand.

They can push the limits of your brain’s usual function, unlocking a brave new world.

And while everyone’s experience with herbs for dreaming is different, the dream experience that oneirogens can help with can be grouped into four types:

  1. Lucid dreaming
  2. Dream recall
  3. Divination
  4. Ancestor connection

Lucid dreaming

To lucid dream means to have control of what happens in your dreams and to have an awareness that you are dreaming.

And while a small proportion of the general population naturally lucid dreams often (at least once a week), the majority of people need a little help to master this art.

Enter oneirogens.

If you’re wondering why you’d want to lucid dream in the first place, take a look at this article on lucid dreaming and its benefits.

But in short, lucid dreaming is desirable for many people because not only is it a remarkable, perception-shifting experience, it can also help with spiritual growth by providing mystical experiences that confirm the existence of a world beyond the senses.    


The art of divination is one as old as time.

Also known as prophecy or clairvoyance, it simply means to be able to see (or know) what will happen in the future.

But when this form of foretelling future events comes to you in dreams, it’s known as oneiromancy.

Oneiromancy is based on the idea that dreams are messages sent by the spirits of your ancestors or the universe (God, Great Spirit, universal consciousness - the terminology differs but the idea is the same) to warn you about something that hasn’t happened yet.

This may be so you can intervene, warn others or simply prepare yourself for the upcoming event.

Dream-based divination isn’t a new idea. 

Indigenous tribes across the globe have used oneirogens for this purpose for thousands of years.

For example, the Chontal of Oaxaca in Mexico use Mexican dream herb (aka Calea zacatechichi), while the Xhosa of South Africa use African dream root or bean (Silene capensis and Entada rheedii) to get divinatory messages during sleep.

Dream recall

We all know people who claim they never dream, but sleep experts say everyone dreams  if you think you don’t, the real issue isn’t that you don’t have dreams, it’s that you don’t remember them.

There are many reasons why you may struggle to remember your dreams.

For example, a 2013 study, published in Frontiers of Consciousness Research, found that people with better dream recall wake up more often during sleep than those who struggle to remember their dreams. 

And other sleep research has found that people who recall their dreams easily have more activity in a part of the brain, known as the temporoparietal junction.

Researchers believe this increased activity improves the person’s ability to notice external stimuli and embed dreams into their memory.

If you’d like to remember your dream more often or with ease, there are things you can do to help, like:

  • Telling yourself you will remember your dreams whenever you go to sleep
  • Allowing yourself to wake up slowly and naturally, without an alarm
  • Journaling as soon as you wake up

Herbs for dreaming are another option that can speed up results.

Ancestor connection

Many indigenous traditions from all over the world believe that dreams are a vehicle your ancestors use to speak to you.

In fact, the Zulu and Xhosa tribes of South Africa call the dream world the realm of deceased ancestors.

Being able to communicate with those who have gone before you provides an opportunity for them to deliver important messages needed for your growth and the growth of your community.

That’s probably why the oneirogen African dream root is commonly used in traditional South African shamanic initiation ceremonies  to get the wisdom needed for that vital rite of passage.

5 best herbs for dreaming

Now we’ve covered the different ways herbs for dreaming can be used, it’s time to look at five herbs renowned for dreamwork.

African Dream Root

What is it: Silene undulata or Silene capensis  the root of a flowering herb that’s native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Best for: Lucid dreaming, communicating with ancestors and divination.

Active compound: Triterpene saponins, alkaloids and diterpenoids.

How to use it: Grind the dried root into a powder and mix it with water. Agitate the mixture to create a foam, then eat the foam until you feel bloated. Do this in the morning and repeat for 3-5 days until you notice its effects on your dreams at night.

Don’t worry about taking it in the day, it doesn’t produce any effects until nighttime.

Side effects: Eating too much of the foam can cause vomiting and irritation of the lining of your stomach and gut. That’s why when African dream root is used traditionally, the initiate is told to eat the foam until they feel bloated and then stop. 


Mexican Dream Herb

What is it: Calea zacatechichia  an intensely bitter shrub that’s native to Mexico.

Best for: Divination, dream recall, lucid dreaming and vivid dreams.

Active compound: Unknown

How to use it: Brew in a tea for 10 minutes then drink by holding the first sip in your mouth as long as possible before swallowing. In Mexico, it is said that the length of time you can hold Mexican dream herb tea in your mouth is equivalent to your readiness to receive the truth.  

Drink it just before bed or when you wake up in the middle of the night (this increases its oneirogenic effects because the dream stage of the sleep cycle [known as REM sleep] is longer in the second half of your sleep, so you have more opportunity to dive deeper into your dreams if you take the dream herb later in sleep).

Mexican dream herb is also traditionally sprinkled under your pillow at nighttime or smoked.

Side effects: Can interact with blood pressure and diabetes medication (because Mexican dream herb reduces blood sugar and blood pressure). It may also cause nausea and vomiting.

Syrian Rue

What is it: Peganum harmala (aka espand or wild rue). A flowering plant that’s native to Iran and is the key ingredient in the ancient Iranian elixir of truth, haoma. Its seeds are oneirogenic and hallucinogenic, but they are also very poisonous in high doses (more than 3-4 g).

Best for: Vivid dreams

Active compounds: Beta-carboline alkaloids

How to use it: Steep no more than 3g of seeds in hot water to make a tea. Drink it before bedtime.

Side effects: It is poisonous in larger doses and can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to rise to dangerous levels. It can also cause liver and kidney damage. Because of this, Syrian rue is illegal in many countries.




What is it: Artemisia vulgaris - a common flowering plant that grows across Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Americas.

Best for: Mugwort is considered a moon herb with magical properties (it's named after the goddess of the moon Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology). That’s it’s often used for moon rituals, but it is also good for lucid dreaming and dream recall  especially on a new or full moon.

Active compounds: Thujone  a ketone that activates GABA receptors  may play a role in mugwort’s dream-enhancing abilities, but there’s currently no research to support this.

How to use it: Steep it in hot water for up to 15 minutes and drink as tea just before bedtime. You can also smoke it or sprinkle it under your pillow.

Side effects: Mugwort can cause uterine contractions, so avoid it if you’re pregnant because of the risk of miscarriage.


What is it: Passiflora incarnata - the flowers from a climbing vine that passion fruit grows on. There are around 500 different species of Passiflora.

Best for: Relaxation, deep sleep, vivid dreams and lucid dreams.

Active compounds: Beta-carboline alkaloids

How to use it: Brew the aerial parts of the plants (flowers, leaves and stems) in hot water and drink before bedtime. It is also commonly made an alcohol-based tincture, which can be taken at bedtime.

Side effects: Excessive drowsiness and breathing problems if taken in very large doses or mixed with sedatives.

While these are among the best known oneirogens, there are also a host of poisonous plants with dream enhancing properties, such as datura and amanita muscaria.

We’ll explore these in an upcoming post.

For now, remember that like any herbal medicine, oneirogens can cause side effects and interact with medication. And because they can affect how your brain works, there is a risk of unexpected side effects if you have a mental health condition. Always check with your doctor before trying a herbal medicine.

This article was about the world of oneirogens, which are otherwise known as herbs for dreaming, lucid dreams, vivid dreaming and dream recall.

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