Silene capensis, also known as African Dream Root, has been used as a dream-enhancing herbal supplement for possibly thousands of years.
It originates from South Africa, more precisely from the tribal shamans of the Xhosa people.
Locally, the plant is also known as ubulawu (together with the roots and barks of a number of other plants, creepers, and trees) or undela ziimhlophe, which translates to “white path.” This name is almost certainly a reference to its flowers, which only open at night and are apparently superb, oozing an enchanting fragrance.
For the purposes of dream enhancement, only the root of the plant is used, so it is a bit of a stretch to call it a herb in this context at all.
Traditional Use of Silene capensis
Most of the information available about the traditional use of the root comes from a couple of researchers, Jean-Francois Sobiecki and Manton Hirst. They apparently both spent actual time with the Xhosa, studying their traditions and religious rituals in detail.
Dreams occupy a central spot in Xhosa culture. They are viewed as a way for people to communicate with their predecessors. Shamans receive advice and solutions to various problems this way. Thus, dream enhancement is obviously something the Xhosa would need/appreciate.
In fact, their knowledge regarding natural dream enhancers is downright impressive. Silene capensis is just one of more than 300 herbs and plants they use for this purpose. That said, the Dream Root is a sort of centerpiece in their rituals.
With that in mind, it is quite surprising how it has thus far failed to properly permeate Western culture.
The Xhosa use the root for various rituals. One such ritual calls for abstaining from alcohol, sex, and meat for three days straight, while consuming as much dream root extract as possible. The result of such a Silene capensis binge is predictable: piles upon piles of vivid and colorful dreams, that are surprisingly easy to recall.
In addition to consuming the extract orally, during the mentioned ritual, Xhosa tribesmen use it to wash their bodies with the foamy, soapy dregs left behind following consumption.
In some Xhose traditions, the extract is used to trigger vomiting. Such rituals are about the cleansing and purging of one’s spirit.
Shamans have reportedly used Silene capensis for healing various mental disorders and for alleviating memory problems.
What are the Effects of African Dream Root?
Outside of the research sunk into Silene capensis by the two mentioned scientists, there is a somewhat summary study available on it as well. This study draws the conclusion that the root extract is loaded with saponins. These act as acetylcholinestearase inhibitors, thus mimicking the action of better-known dream enhancing compounds such as Huperzine A and galantamine.
As far as actual effects go, you will be pleased to learn that some people have credited the root for the first lucid dreams they ever had.
It is apparently an accepted truth that African Dream Root:
- Enhances the overall quality of dreams. Dream imagery becomes more vivid, clear, and colorful.
- Enhances the ability to remember these dreams.
- Expands the dream world.
- May act as a lucidity enhancer within dreams as well.
That said, the experiences that Western users have reported regarding Silene capensis can be quite erratic and incredible. While these reports lack scientific validation, they still make an interesting starting point for research into the effects of the dream root.
Most users seem to agree that in addition to enhancing dream quality and recall, the compound also generates massive and dynamic dream journeys. The quality of reported dream imagery is exceptionally clear and crisp.
One user reported visions of crystalline lizards and spinning kaleidoscopic backgrounds. Another praised it as perhaps the most effective inducer of lucid dreaming.
Everyone seems to agree that few – if any – other psychoactive substances produce dream colors such as the ones generated by the Dream Root.
And interesting bit of information pointed out by a user is that the intense dreams seem to be the results of withdrawal symptoms, following discontinuation of Silene capensis use.
Some people apparently use the compound as a sleep aid. Whether or not it fills those shoes well is a different question. What they discovered however was that the wild dreams come about with some delay (sometimes as much as a day).
How to Use African Dream Root?
The ideal way to prepare the African Dream Root concoction would be the old-fashioned Xhosa way. Not much is known about these preparation methods however.
Thus, it is mostly up to the creativity of every user to turn Silene capensis into an edible form.
Given that the active substance in Silene capensis extract is probably in the saponins it contains, it makes sense to stir the extract to a foam and then to eat the foam.
It also makes sense to simply chew the roots as they are.
The first method of preparation is cold water infusion. For this method, the root needs to be broken up into smaller pieces. It then has to be soaked in cold water for at least a night. The resulting concoction can be stirred into a foam. Users eat this foam. Tribesmen use it to wash down their bodies in addition to eating it.
It is recommended to eat the foam on an empty stomach.
Another preparation method is to make African Dream Root tea. Simply toss the root bits into boiling water and let the concoction cool.
You may need to drink the tea/eat the foam for several days, before you notice any dream-wise effects.
African Dream Root Dosage
The dosage of the compound is a little bit of a mystery. Those who use it seem to move between extremely loose boundaries.
For chewing, a smaller root piece should probably be enough. As far as cold water infusions are concerned, users have reported putting 14g of root into a water bottle and leaving it there for a day.
When shaken, such an infusion produces plenty of foam one can then drink/eat. Similar dosages have been used for Silene capensis tea.
Prices differ from one vendor to another, but you’ll likely be able to pick up 1g of root for about $1.
Some vendors sell 10g of what looks like dried root pieces, others sell 20g packages. 14g doses seem to be quite popular as well.
You may even run across Silene capensis tinctures. It is important to remember that tinctures should be dosed differently from roots, depending on the concentration of the active substance they contain.