Calea Zacatechichi

Reviewed on 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Ahuapatli, Amula, Aschenbornia heteropoda, Atanasia Amarga, Aztec Dream Grass, Bejuco Chismuyo, Betonica, Bitter Gum, Bitter Grass, Bitter Plant, Bitter Plant of the Mountains, Calea nelsonii, Calea rugosa, Calea ternifolia, Calea zacatechichi Schlechtendal, Calydermos rugosus, Chapote, Chichicxihuitl (Nahuatl) , Cochitzapotl, Dog Grass, Dove's Plant, Dream Herb, Falso Simonillo, Hierba Amarga, Hoja Madre, Iztactzapotl, Jaral, Jaralillo, Juralillo, Leaf of God, Leaf of the Mother, Mala Hierba, Matasano, Mexican Calea, Oaxaquena, Paiston, Poop Taam Ujts, Prodigiosa, Pux Lat'em, Raccoon's Trachea, Sacachcichic, Sacachichic, Sacatechichi, Simonillo, Tam Huni, Techichic, Tepetlachichixihuitl, The One From Oaxaca, Thle-Pelacano, Thle-Pela-Kano (Chontal), Tsuleek'ethem, Tzicinil, Tzikin, XikinKe, Xtsikinil, X-Tzicinil, White Bitter Herb, Yerba Amarga, Yerbaamarga, Zacachichi, Zacachichic, Zacate Amargo, Zacatechi, Zacatechichi, Zacate de Perro.


Calea zacatechichi is a medium sized shrub that is known to be a hallucinogen and to increase dreams. Because of this, it is often referred to as the "dream herb". It also is called "bitter grass" because the plant material of Calea zacatechichi has an intense bitter taste.

Calea zacatechichi has been used in folk remedies for thousands of years as an appetite stimulant, cleansing agent, calming agent, laxative, and for treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, fever, skin rashes, swollen scalps, "cold stomach", and headache.

Some people use Calea zacatechichi to induce psychic dreams, help remember dreams, and to increase dreaming. In addition, Calea zacatechichi has also been studied for mental enhancement and sleep.

Calea zacatechichi dried leaves and stems have been smoked, applied topically, placed under the pillow, made into a tea, and ingested as capsules.

How does it work?

It is unclear how Calea zacatechichi works in the body. Calea zacatechichi may reduce inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory chemicals made by the body.

Calea zacatechichi seems to have an effect on sleep that may cause lengthening of shallow sleep patterns, increased dream remembrance, and increased sleep awakenings throughout the night.


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Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Mental enhancement. Taking Calea zacatechichi might improve reaction and lapse time.
  • Sleep. Early research suggests that Calea zacatechichi may increase the number of awakenings throughout the night, lengthen shallow rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and help people to remember dreams.
  • Anxiety.
  • Appetite stimulant.
  • Arthritis.
  • Asthma.
  • Diabetes.
  • Cleansing.
  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Dysentery.
  • Fever.
  • Digestion disorders.
  • Headache.
  • Inflammation.
  • Joint problems.
  • Malaria.
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Pain with breathing.
  • Stimulant.
  • Swelling.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of Calea zacatechichi for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Calea zacatechichi is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth or inhaled. The safety of Calea zacatechichi has not been evaluated in clinical trials; however, there have been reports of hallucinations as well as additional adverse effects of nausea and vomiting.


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Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of Calea zacatechichi during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Alcohol/sedative use: Calea zacatechichi may slow down the central nervous system. Use caution in patients taking sedatives or CNS depressants (including alcohol).

Allergies to ragweed or related plants: Calea zacatechichi may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family of plants. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many other herbs.

Breathing disorders: Calea zacatechichi may affect your rate of breathing. If you have a breathing disorders, such as asthma and COPD, you should use cautiously or avoid Calea zacatechichi.

Diabetes: Calea zacatechichi may lower blood sugar levels. People with diabetes should use with caution, and watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Cardiovascular disorders: Calea zacatechichi may decrease blood pressure. People with heart conditions or using blood pressure medications should use caution.

Psychiatric disorders: Avoid use if you have psychiatric disorders or you are taking psychiatric medications. Calea zacatechichi may cause vivid imagery, disorienting effects, and hallucinations.

Stomach disorders: When smoked or consumed in a tea, Calea zacatechichi may cause nausea, vomiting, and retching.


Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Calea zacatechichi might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking Calea zacatechichi along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Calea zacatechichi might decrease heart rate and blood pressure. It might cause blood pressure to go too low if use along with medications used for high blood pressure.

Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

Sedative medications (CNS depressants)Interaction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Calea zacatechichi can cause drowsiness. Taking it with medications that cause sleepiness or drowsiness might result in too much sleepiness.

Some sedative medications include pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), thiopental (Pentothal), fentanyl (Duragesic, Sublimaze), morphine, propofol (Diprivan), and others.


The appropriate dose of Calea zacatechichi depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for Calea zacatechichi. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Venegas-Flores, H., Segura-Cobos, D., Vazquez-Cruz, B. Antiinflammatory activity of the aqueous extract of Calea zacatechichi. Proc.West Pharmacol.Soc. 2002;45:110-111. View abstract.

Wu, H., Fronczek, F. R., Burandt, C. L., Jr., Zjawiony, J. K. Antileishmanial Germacranolides from Calea zacatechichi. Planta Med. 2011;77:749-53. View abstract.

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