Entheogens and Spiritual Herbs
The word Entheogen means 'To create the divine within'. An Entheogen is a psychoactive substance that is used for religious, spiritual, or shamanic purposes. Traditionally these were all plants or organic compounds, but modern science has created many similar compounds. This term is also often used to differentiate between more formal, spiritual uses as opposed to recreational use of the same substances. For some, the question of whether synthetic versions can produce a true spiritual experience like an Entheogenic plant is under debate, but form personal experience with a classic synthetic I will voice my opinion on the difference: In the Entheogenic plants, there is a spirit, a powerful connection tot he divine that is much like a deity or other kind of spirit in many other beliefs and paths. With the synthetics, the perception is still opened, the paths are still opened, and the state is still there, but there is no spirit but your own. I consider these less teachers and more like tools. A teacher will often drag you along for the ride, showing you what you need to see and learn. But on your own, it is much easier to mislead yourself searching for what you want to see. However, it is possible to have a true spiritual experience with them, as the possibility of a true ego death/ unitary experience is very real and quite common. For the purposes of this article, I will be covering Entheogenic plants only, looking into their spiritual uses, traditional uses, as well as medicinal effects that are attributed to them, as most of these were considered some of the most powerful medicine available.
I would also like to point out before continuing, that some of these substances are psychedelic. This word means much more than merely hallucinating, and the plants and chemicals associated with that term all have a unifying type of energy flow that can be felt and tapped into. The very chemical in your brain that seems to be created during spiritual, near-death, dreaming, and death experiences, DMT, is one of the most powerful psychoactive compounds, and one of the only chemical compounds that I consider organic simply because it's one of the most abundant compounds found in nature. These Entheogens typically come with a sense of peace, visionary states tend to involve vibrations, flowing aspects, and geometrical designs. The frame of mind is often heightened and senses are sharpened, accompanied by a seamlessly flowing train of thought. These are are immensely therapeutic and the more powerful teachers will often catapult you along powerful inner journeys and bring you face to face with the demons within yourself in such a way that you understand them and do not feel less because of them.
All of these will have powerful effects as far as helping to enter into a trance or meditative state. Though they won't trigger a powerful experience by themselves, they can be very easily integrated into just about any sort of practice or ritual, and would help greatly in helping to achieve higher states of being through other altered states like trance or shamanic journeying.
Blue Lotus: This water lily is a relaxing and calming herb, traditionally used by Buddhist monks as tea or smoke to aid meditation, or added to wine in Egypt. If smoked, a mix of blub and petals should be used, and about two pipe-fuls or a cigarette of it should be smoked. It is recommended to smoke and drink the tea at the same time. It's effects are a calm and happy feeling, clear-headed and peaceful. It does seem to naturally induce meditation. It is effective as an anti-anxiety alternative. There are many medicinal uses with its petals, seeds, and leaves, and parts of it can be eaten and contain a variety of nutrients.
Cannabis: Was used traditionally in many parts of the world for a variety of purposes. One of the most all around useful plants, the seeds are a complete source of protein, the fibery stalks can be made into shoes, clothes, and paper, and the flowers burned as incense or smoked, and even added to food. As an Entheogen, it can stimulate the energy in your body and aid in trance work and meditation. I have found her especially useful for healing sessions. Medicinally the flowers can help fight and prevent cancer, ease pain, help sleep, help someone gain appetite lost due to illness, and improve mood. It seems to be the safest substance on the planet as well, and is not humanly possible to take an unsafe amount.
Sinicuichi: A mild psychedelic known as the 'Sun Opener' by the South American peoples that used it. It is characterized by a mood lift, better flow of thoughts, a slight yellow tint to vision, and audio hallucinations. It's primary effect was that it allowed the user to go back into past events as if it happened yesterday, even past life events. It was traditionally sun-brewed as tea for this purpose.
White Sage: I consider this to be an Entheogen simply because it has a very pure and cleansing effect and a very spiritual effect. Aside from smudging, it can also be smoked to cleanse one from the inside out, and instills a sense of peace and relaxes the mind and body. It was made into drinks to reduce coughing and phlegm with cold or flu. It has a variety of more modern medical uses as well.
Tobacco: This is a very mild MAOI, much like ayahuasca vine or passionflower. As such, it potentiates anything else taken with it or smoked with it. It is most traditionally used as an offering to the spirits in many Native American traditions, as the smoke is considered highly pleasing as a gift. It is even added to some ayahuasca brews.
All of these herbs are often drank or smoked before sleep to induce vivid dreams, lucid dreaming, dream recall, and even astral projection. All of these tend to be good for any sort of dream work. African shamanism contains a vast number of dreaming plants but I am not familiar enough with them to list them here. They are worth checking out if you are interested in dream work however.
Calea: Dream Herb was used mostly by the Chontal indians of Mexico, where it was smoked and drank as tea before bed to induce a dream state of communion with the plant and spirit world. It was often used to help discover the cause of illness in a person or help find something that was lost, and the questions would be answered during the dreaming.
Coleus: Used by the Mazatec indians when Saliva Divinorum was not available, it none-the-less has it's own noteworthy properties. It was often chewed as quid with 8 to 12 small leaves being picked from a plant, though smoking was not uncommon. It also was used to treat stomach pains and digestive problems. The state it induces is said to be dreamy and peaceful, and if one goes to sleep like this, dreams will be vivid, often lucid, and easily remembered.
Wild Lettuce: 'Opium' Lettuce was smoked by the Hopi to induce divinatory dream states. It is a mild sedative and cough suppressant. It can sometimes help with headaches. It tends to cause physical relaxation, and was smoked prior to sleep to help increase dream recall and facilitate lucid dreaming. It can also be just plain eaten in salad as a vegetable green.
This group is made up of powerful visionary teachers. These should all be approach with much respect for both the plant itself and what it's capable of. Some, such as A. Muscaria mushrooms, need to be worked with carefully a few times to build a good relationship with the spirit otherwise it is very common for a foolish adventurer to plunge in head first only to have the angered spirit punish them soundly and in some of the most vividly horrifying ways imaginable. I highly recommend that anyone wishing to work with these do so under the supervision of a sober sitter or an someone experienced in the use of such things to assist you.
Teonanacatl(Mushrooms): Traditionally, these were consumed by South Americans with Cacao beans or chocolate, which has synergistic properties with it. The spirit of this Entheogen seems to often appear as many intelligences all working and thinking with one mind. This is a powerful classic psychedelic, and the experience can range from a very mystical and beautiful experience understanding the spiritual nature of life and all things connected in it, to a hellish introverted nightmare dredging out the darkest parts of your soul to face down. It has been used clinically in controlled environments to allow terminal illness patients to rekindle their love of life and enjoy their last moments with more peace and joy.
San Pedro: I do not have a lot of information on this one, but it is much like the other two classic psychedelics like mushrooms and LSD. It is traditionally used by the Andean Shamans, who also use a type of alter called a Mesa along with many tools like swords and knives and figurines. Some report a particular feeling of feeling smiled upon by divine forces as if protected and blessed by the act of communing with this spirit.
Peyote: The same active component as San Pedro, plus unknown ingredients, but the plant itself is more powerful and revered. Often known as a grandfatherly and wise figure, it was traditionally used by Native Americans in the more arid areas, though some tribes would travel all the way from their native lands to take part in rituals. It is now more widely used by the Native American Church. Again, due to lack of personal experience, I cannot say too much about this, but it seems to induce powerful visions and can be a powerful purgative experience, removing negative energy from the body in this way.
Ayahuasca: Ayahuasca is the old Healer of the jungle, called the Vine of Souls. It is a powerful and nasty tasting brew made from a combination of B. Caapi (ayahuasca) vine and usually the leaves of Chacruna (psychotria viridis). The vine is known as the Strength, and the other is called the Light. It can make one feel as if they have died and passed to the spiritual world, effecting powerful healing and transformation through a symbolic death and rebirth. It is highly purgative and said to be able to cure any disease or problem. Ayahuasca shamans sing Icaros, or sacred songs, to help guide and assist those they are healing. Phrenologically, there is evidence that it can cause new serotonin receptors to grow and it has been shown to paralyze and kill parasites in the digestive tract.
Amanita Muscaria(Fairytale mushrooms): These are interesting because unlike the other fungus listed here, these are not psychedelic. Traditionally, they were used in many places, most notably Siberia and places such as the Celtic isles and parts of Europe. They induce a heavy body stage, then a dream like state, and finally a visionary state. These are suggested to be what could have implied the more wrathful God in the old testament christian bible.
This spirit is notable for it's tendency to punish people coming to it foolishly or not having taken the time to build up a relationship with it before consuming a visionary amount, sometimes badly scaring someone. The visions are very real and can even include things such as physical pain, which is why they are not for the faint of heart. The Siberians knew that one could consume these, and recycle the active ingredient from the urine, a sit hardly breaks down or gets processed by the body.
Salvia Divinorum: This powerful Entheogen known as 'Diviners Sage' has often appeared to people as a spirit called The Shepherdess. It was traditionally used mostly by the Mazatecs, taken as quid, chewing the leaves in pairs and holding them in the mouth until the visions started. It is also often smoked as well. It seems to have a mental cleansing effect and has shown much potential is treating the symptoms of mental and emotional problems. It has the unique effect to make one feel at peace after the experience is over, and helps one with reducing addiction and withdrawal, especially form opiate abuse. It tends to make you feel like not wanting to get fucked up in any way as well.
Ibogaine: Another very powerful psychedelic Entheogen, this one is unique because it lasts for up to 36 hours, and has a much more intense effect on addiction and withdrawal than Salvia does. Some say that a heroin addict can be cured from taking this plant. It hails from Africa, but it's use is mostly limited to the group known as the Bwiti cult that uses it in spiritual ceremonies.
There are many others of course, but not enough time to cover them. The use of such plants dates back far into human history, and the uses and traditions surrounding them are as varied as the people that work with them. I hope that this helps at least.
Peace and Love,