Calea Zacatechichi, also known as “bitter grass” or “dream herb” is a shrub belonging to the Asteraceac family and is related to the sunflower. Calea belongs to the subfamily known as Helianteae. Just like the sunflower, most plants in this family have distinct flowers. However, Calea is an exception to this rule. It is a shrub of average height with yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. The plant can grow about one and a half meter tall and it spreads through seeds and cuttings.
Calea is native to Central America, and mainly grows on the highlands of Mexico and Costa Rica. Calea doesn't induce a strong change in consciousness, but its use does result in intense and clear dreams. Although the stem contains the same substances as the leaves, the leaves are most commonly consumed. In this article, you can read all about the use, history and medical uses of this dream herb.
Calea dream herb is one out of many plants that shamans and dreamwalkers of the Chontal tribe have been using for ages to enhance their dreams. Using psychoactive plants in order to induce lively, visionary dreams is called oneiromancy. Shamans use their dreams to gain new insights and receive guidance from spirits. This allows them to gather information from their subconsciousness to help people in their day-to-day life.
Calea was first researched in 1882 at the ‘Institute Medical Nacional of Mexico.’ At the time, some slight psychoactive effects were reported. After that, it would take over 80 years before any more research on Calea was done. In the 1980's, researcher Thomas MacDoughall received information from a Chontal informant. They told him that the Native Americans smoked Calea, and simultaneously drank tea made of its leaves, in order to induce visions. When the Native Americans wanted to find the cause of someone's illness, a specific location or a missing person, they used the plant to find the answers in their dreams. MacDoughall became intrigued and joined a ceremony with the Contal tribe in 1978. MacDoughall reported his experience.
From 1975 to 1979, twelve volunteers took calea, after which they reported the following effects: sharpened perception, enhanced imagination, a mild sense of discontinuity, rapid emergence of new ideas and reduced memory. These effects were followed by sleepiness and vivid dreams while asleep. These first observations made calea interesting for further research. If a plant appears to have an effect on one's consciousness, it is likely that it contains substances that cross the blood-brain barrier and attach to receptors in the brain, making it an interesting subject for pharmacological research.
In 1986 a double-blind-placebo study was conducted, in which one group got administered calea, another group took a placebo and yet another group got diazepam. It turned out that a significant number of those who took calea reported more vivid dreams. This study proved that calea actually has an effect on the intensity of one's dreams. It also appeared that at a low dose, the volunteers' reaction capacity improved, and that they were more aware of the passage of time. Therefore, it was found that calea has a psychoactive effect, even though it works differently from most other psychoactive substances. 
Growing your own Calea
It's quite easy to grow Calea. However, it is very difficult to germinate the seeds. Therefore, we'd advise working with cuttings. The cuttings can be placed in any rooting medium. It is advisable to twist transparent plastic into a tent-like shape and place the plant in there. Make sure there are a few holes for fresh air. This way, the tent serves as a little greenhouse. When the cutting has grown enough roots, it can be transplanted into any type of soil available in the garden centre. Calea doesn't need a lot of light, so it does perfectly fine in your window sill.
Unfortunately, little research has been done on the reason why consuming calea results in clear and vivid dreams. However, it is already known that calea contains a high amount of flavones and sesquiterpene lactones. Probably two of the sesquiterpene lactones, called kaleicin and kalechromene are responsible for the mind-altering effect.
Besides inducing visionary in dreams, Native Americans also used calea to treat a number of different ailments. It is said to be effective against diarrhoea, asthma, fever and stomach aches. Research on mice has indeed shown that the use of this plant can relieve bowel discomfort. It also appears that calea has a diabetes reducing quality, albeit very mild. Certain components of calea also turned out to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Other substances present in calea are effective against certain bacteria. A study on mice showed that the plant also has an analgesic effect.
Calea can be consumed by smoking. Simply roll some calea into a joint. However, the smoke is quite harsh and does not taste very nice. You can also make calea tea. However, this tea is extremely bitter. After all, there's a reason why calea is also referred to as 'bitter grass'. By adding some sugar or honey to the tea, you can try to mask the bitter taste, but don't expect it to suddenly become super tasty. Therefore, most people prefer to put the calea in a capsule and swallow it.
Despite the fact that calea hardly has any psychoactive effects when one is awake, this herb is banned in some states in America. In Louisiana, for example, it is forbidden to have more than forty calea plants for consumption. However, they may be kept for decorative purposes. This plant is also illegal in Poland and Australia.
Azarius sells both shredded calea herb and calea extracts. One dose equals three to twenty-five grams of dried herb. The calea extract we offer it is ten times stronger than the shredded herb, meaning that 1 gram of extract is equal in potency to 10 grams of whole herb. Especially if you decide to capsulate your calea, it's more convenient to choose the extract.
Calea has a completely different effect from the other psychoactive herbs Azarius offers. When you consume it, you will hardly notice any direct effects. Your perception may become a little sharper and colours might become more intense, but only a sensitive psychonaut would notice these very slight effects.
This changes significantly if you go to sleep after taking calea. You will experience vivid and clear dreams. On top of that, a dream that in reality lasts between sixty and ninety minutes can, in your perception, go on for hours or even days on end. At the same time, dreams are much more intense and you may have fantastic experiences. For example, some users report that in their dream state, they visited extraterrestrial places or future societies.
Especially for those who are interested in lucid dreaming, calea has a lot to offer. During a lucid dream, you are aware that you're dreaming. As soon as you find out that you're have a lucid dream, you can direct its course. However, it is quite hard to learn to distinguish between reality and the dream state. It sometimes seems as if the human mind contains a mechanism that prevents you from becoming aware that you're dreaming. For example, you won't be the first to realize you're dreaming, then you wake up, at least you think so, but in fact the dream still continues.
If you want to master the technique of lucid dreaming, you should keep a dream diary for a longer period of time. This way, you learn to recognize certain characteristics of a dream. You will also have to do exercises during the day. For example, you can ask yourself several times a day: "Am I dreaming?" If you do this regularly, you will train yourself to do the same thing in your dreams.
Experiencing lucid dreaming can be something magical. After all, you can experience all kinds of things in a world where very different laws apply than in reality. A lucid dream can be very intense and exciting.
Calea was mentioned in medical literature once, being possibly related to the development of thrombosis, together with a large number of other herbs.  The person who used calea in this case also took all kinds of other herbs, including coltsfoot. It is assumed that coltsfoot, in particular, caused the person in question to develop thrombosis.
Calea has no other known dangerous side effects. However, you do need to realise that when you use calea and possibly focus on lucid dreaming, you will probably experience intense things in your sleep. As a result, you may be less well rested when you wake up.
Because little is known about calea, we don't know what possible contraindications there are. However, use your common sense and never take a psychoactive drug if you suffer from psychological problems. If you suffer from your heart or high blood pressure, do not use calea. Also, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use this herb.
Calea offers the psychonaut a whole new experience in the form of intense dreams, without any great risk of side effects or overdose. It is therefore definitely worth a try.
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