Getting to know Calea zacatechichi aka the Dream Herb

One of my first experiences with Calea zacatechichi involved taking bong hit after bong hit from my couch at home, a spectacle that evidently warranted harassment from any onlookers. “What – do you think you’re going to get high or something?” The question was posed along with an incredulous look, like I was some kid who got bored sniffing glue and wanted to try something new.

A jade Chontal Figure from Guerrero, Mexico. 500-100 B.C. Today’s Chontal consider themselves the descendants of the Olmec.

The truth is, I do like to try new things. Like the time shortly thereafter that I took over the kitchen for half a day grinding out Calea leaves and put them into little gel caps in an attempt to make my own capsules – an entirely inefficient process I do not recommend. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just what the heck is this strange sounding thing called Calea zacatechichi?

Oh, and by the way – no, it doesn’t get you high.

What is Calea zacatechichi?

Calea zacatechichi is a plant native to Mexico known for its effects on dreams. Traditionally it’s used by the indigenous Chontal as a means of dream divination. A Chontal shaman would smoke a cigarette and drink a tea made from its leaves before going to sleep.

The dream would then give them the answers they were looking for – such as the reason why a person was sick.

Also called “the dream herb” or just “Dream Herb,” Calea zacatechichi has become well known outside of its traditional usage by the Chontal.

Much of the excitement surrounding this plant revolves around its reported ability for inducing lucid dreams.

Effects on Dreams

A 1986 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed several interesting results in regards to dreams and Calea zacatechichi. Of particular interest is that the “results show that zacatechichi administration appears to enhance the number and/or recollection of dreams during sleeping periods.”

Additionally, the authors state the data collected “suggests that Calea zacatechichi induces episodes of lively hypnagogic imagery.” In summary, the study suggested that Calea zacatechichi causes an increase in the following:

  • number of overall dreams experienced
  • ability to remember those dreams
  • intensity of hypnagogic imagery experienced while falling asleep

Experiential reports suggest that its effects also include:

  • spontaneous lucid dream experiences
  • increased dream clarity and realism

By “experiential reports,” I mean the experiences of everyday people who try working with Calea zacatechichi and then report on those experiences online.

Working with Calea Zacatechichi

Calea zacatechichi is most commonly sold dried and bagged by the gram. This makes it perfect for its two most common preparations – either making it into a tea or smoking raw leaf in a tobacco pipe or as a cigarette.

Making Calea zacatechichi Tea. For those trying this for the first time, I recommend making a tea by pouring boiling water over 1-2 grams of Calea zacatechichi. Let steep for 10 minutes and then drink about an hour before going to bed. As you fall asleep, confidently hold the intention in your mind that you will have a lucid dream.

The first time I made the tea I used about 5 grams. I did not have a lucid dream but I had two very vivid dreams. There were other times I made the tea but I cannot find my notes on it.

Making the Tea Taste Better. Some people seem slightly offended at the suggestion of improving the taste of this rather bitter tea. Nevertheless, any discussion on Dream Herb tends to get into the taste, which then gets into what people have done to make it less bitter.

Years ago I wrote a blog post called How to Make Calea Z Tea Taste Bitter…I Mean Better! which has since collected some great tips from others. Some of these suggestions include adding honey, soy milk, mint leaves, lemon balm herb, or agave nectar to the tea. One person even suggests kool-aid.

Other tips include chewing gum or sucking on hard candy while sipping on the tea.

It’s a bitter brew, so add some kool aid!

Smoking It. Of course, you can always smoke it instead of making a tea, too. Personally I’ve never had a problem with the smoke, but some describe it as harsh and try blending it with other herbs or using a water pipe may be useful.

In my experiments, the first couple nights I saw little to no effect on my dreams. Or worse yet, it seemed I had lower dream recall than normal. But there’s a curious little note about these first few sessions that flags the research between dream herb and hypnagogic imagery.

I saw a noticeable increase in the intensity and fluidness of visuals using my Sirius Mind Machine before going to bed. This makes sense, given the almost dream-like state I would be in using my mind machine to help me fall asleep and the ability of Calea Z to ramp up the hypnogagic imagery.

I continued smoking Calea zacatechichi the nights following this experience, and I’m happy to say I had a lucid dream. The realization that I was dreaming came on spontaneously and for a few minutes I roamed around in my dream being obnoxious before this awareness left me as quickly as it had come, and the dream returned to “normal.”

It’s also worth noting that the dream sequences that played out before lucidity were very long and full of strange details. By the way, I wasn’t taking exact measurements but I was smoking about a gram on each of these nights. I wanted to smoke more but it takes a lot of work on the lungs to do so.

Other Preparations. You can also find Dream Herb sold as a tincture, resin, or in a capsule. In these forms it is typically enhanced to be either 10x or 20x as strong as it would otherwise be for the same amount.

One time I took 10 grams of raw leaf and crushed it into pieces small enough to fit into 24 capsules. I took 12 capsules or about 5 grams that night and again the next night.

While I was still awake yet nearly asleep, I saw “some breed of throbbing visuals on my eyelids.”

However, my dreams were nothing special on either night – it was as if there was no effect at all.

Conclusions From My Own Experiences

Calea Z is also known as Bitter Grass, Cheech, and Leaf of God

Based on my own experiences, dream herb seems to work best when smoked. Higher doses taken via other methods didn’t translate to an increase in the effects I had when smoking at lower doses. This is based on only a few experiments though and I wouldn’t draw any linear conclusions here.

But the question everyone really seems to have is this: Does Calea zacatechichi cause lucid dreams?

It’s a safe bet that experimenting with it over a number of nights you are going to see a variety of results, which will almost certainly include an increase in vivid dreams and probably will include having a lucid dream. And then there will be nights with nothing at all.

I honestly don’t know what to make of that, which is one reason why I’ve remained so intrigued with this plant after all these years.

About the Author

Ben Jacobs runs a site devoted to dreams, consciousness, and holistic health called His most popular articles cover lucid dreaming and dream herbs.


  1. Meouch says

    Nice Article Ben,

    My initial observation here is regarding the blood brain barrier. Taking it in raw form or capsules would not produce any substantial results regardless of the amount you take due to the synthesis of the plant not binding to your bodies natural delivery system. Tea would work better but is diluted with the water and can suffer reduced effects if burnt in the steeping process.

    Baking it into something, oh lets say like a brownie? 😉 would be the route to go. Have you tried the Calea Butter approach in your studies?

    Not sure what that would taste like but if successful in processing the raw form into a butter or oil (vegetable) that, has bound the active parts to the fat molecule should produce a much more intense delivery system. (hope not to intense!)

    Other shortcuts with a highly powdered form (dust) in capsule could be the use of highly fatty cheese or peanut butter as some people do with the use of high amounts of B6 right before bed. Kinda of a piggyback concept.

    Either way the goal with any orally taking product is to cross the BBB, which is why smoking works. It is a direct delivery system.

    Onward Psychonaut!

    • says

      Hi Meouch! While I understand the concept of the brain blood barrier, I will admit I know very little of the actual mechanics involved when it comes to different substances, and why some can cross it with a tea and others with a pill, etc etc. I have never thought about this in relation to CZ so your comments really intrigue me! Do you think that following a recipe for making cannibus butter but substituting calea zacatechichi would do the trick?

      • Erica says

        If calea has efficacy as a tea, that implies the active constituents are water soluble, so making a butter doesn’t really follow – I do wonder if the heat in smoking activates the active compounds and that results in the different level of experience in tea vs. smoke?
        (just my 2 cents – I’m certainly no expert)

  2. Harold Heim says

    Ryan, ground up some Calea Z a month or so back, on your recommendation, put it into capsules and tried it. Don’t recall any effects. Right now, I give a fair amount of energy to autosuggestion – for the purpose of having lucid dreaming – during meditation and while floating in my Samadhi tank. No success yet, but it takes time. When I’m in the right mood, I have great success with the supplements suggested by Yuschak.

    Meouch, thanks for the tip re powdered Calea Z in peanut butter. I’ll try that.


  3. says

    Thanks Ryan and Ben.

    I have a fair amount of experience with Calea concentrates. I have found that most people seem to be interested in inducing lucidity with Calea so I will focus my thoughts there.

    Calea, in and of itself does not normally get me lucid. It most certainly increases the length, color, and creates less jumpy – more epic types of dreams.

    I find that lucidity is obtained by using a lucid trigger along with it. Nicotine would be a great example per Yuschak’s usage. Brainwave entrainment methods can often be coupled with Calea for some great lucids.

    Since rises in AcH seem to work well with it, I would also suggest a wake back to bed session. Taking a concentrate upon waking, can work with the natural rise in AcH during the wake period to help induce lucids.

      • says

        Don’t know if Ryan has a policy about mentioning vendors. He can always delete.

        I’ve always bought from Mazatec Garden. They have a 10X concentrate. It’s not cheap. About the same price a Galantamine, give or take (and of course G is more effective).

        I agree witht he author BTW, that results can be unpredictable. Sometimes you have wonderful results, sometimes not much of anything. I’ve heard a lot of people say this.

        • Ryan Hurd says

          no problem with vendors. In fact, sharing personal experience about specific products is helpful for many, so thanks James.

          I’ve personally used Iamshaman as a source. They sell the dried leaves, as well as a “Dreamer’s Blend” which includes Calea as well as African dream root (Silene capensis).

          Ethnographic sources for Calea suggest that some leaves have the “magic” and some don’t. This could be due to natural variations in the concentration of active ingredients. So there truly could be a difference from one batch to another.

  4. Magda says

    This sounds great. I myself haven’t tried it yet, but I’m a user of the Dreamscape/lucid dreamer products and I get great results from them. Always game to try new things though, must invest in this one

  5. says

    Thanks for this helpful article. I have a packet of Calea leaf sitting on the counter and I’ve been reluctant to delve into it because the tea really tastes so awful, like drinking liquid soap (and I have delicate lungs so no smoking for me, though I did try a vaporizer). How can something that smells so pleasant taste so unbelievably bitter? In the past, I’ve given it a maximum of three nights before giving up. So it’s great to know that you saw the effects after several days of experimentation. I’ll try some of your suggestions, and I wonder what Calea brownies would be like, as Meouch suggests. I’ll report in my blog.

    • says

      From perusing you’re site I see you are no newbie when it comes to lucid dreaming. Looking forward to that blog post on Calea brownies! And I’d love to link to it or even publish your “experience report” on if you are interested.

  6. Thomas says

    I had read about the effects of Calea Zacatechichi, so I purchased some in the pill form. I took the recommended individual dosage 5 consecutive nights and found no noticeable change in my dreams.

  7. Ezra says

    Just wanted to say thanks to everyone else that has posted a comment. Thank you for all being cordial and helpful! This is a rare thing in comments. Most of the time it’s “F*** YOU B****! STOOPID A*****” and so on and so forth. Thank you.
    Ahem. Where was I?
    Ah! I want to try this herb, and look forward to it. Wish me luck. I’ll report back.

  8. says

    Thanks for all the great input guys. I have used Calea several times before (as well as last night)

    I have tried ingesting it and smoking it with little success. Drinking it with some minor success. Vaporising Calea allows you to have gain all the great effects with minimal material usage.

    It’s by far the most effective and efficient way of absorbing the active ingrediants and does not taste bad at all. I suggest people who would like to experiment with Calea to try vaporisation and see how you go :)

    With vaporisation, a little bit goes a long way.

  9. erichsa says

    i have ordered calea dried leaves and looking forward trying it. i don’t understand how to do vaporizing can someone help?

  10. says

    Just want to let you know I have gone about 10 years without remembering one dream. I bought this plant from bouncing bear botanicals I have used only about 5 full grown leaves at a time ground in a mortal and pestal then put in a tea infuser. The first time I tried the tea very strong bitter taste I mixed with chamomile on the next time and to my surprise very palatable. But to the point I have been remembering my dreams ever since and they have been very vivid. Each time I have the tea I have dreams for about 4 days then back to none at all.