Species: L. leonurus
Common Names: Lion’s ear, lion’s tail, wild dagga, dacha, daggha (Africa), wild hemp, minaret flower, flor de mundo, mota (Mexico)
Leonotis leonurus or wild dagga, of the Lamiaceae (mint) family, is a perennial shrub native to southern Africa. It favors warm, dry climates and is drought-tolerant though it can be grown in almost any temperate environment including shrubland, grassland, and swampland. Wild dagga is known to grow in California in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and has become naturalized in Australia’s states of Western Australia and New South Wales. While it can grow in the spring and summer months in temperate climes if well protected and in full sun, it does not endure frost well and may not survive winter unless brought indoors. Wild dagga is a favorite of butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Wild dagga propagates via seeds that, in temperate climates, must be sown indoors before the last frost or can be sown outdoors after the last frost. To collect seeds from the plant, allow the seedheads to dry before collection. If properly cleaned, the seeds can be successfully stored. In warmer climates, the shrub can grow in the wild.
The flowers of wild dagga are a red-orange color, grow in spikes, and are a favorite of many gardeners because of their beauty. The spikes become clustered inflorescence of interrupted flowers with five two-lipped petals, all joined. Wild dagga’s leaves are opposite, simple, and petiolate (leafstalk), narrowly oblong and linear, and taper at the base. Mildly fragrant, the leaves are densely hairy and grow to about 100 millimeters long, 20 millimeters wide. The shrub itself can grow up to 5 meters high.
Wild dagga is purported to have hallucinogenic effects when either its buds or leaves are dried and smoked, and some cultures have been known to smoke it with cannabis or as a marijuana substitute; we do not advocate this use of the plant and all information herein is provided for historical and educational purposes.
TRADITIONAL USE: In Africa, the Hottentot tribe and Bushmen are known to smoke the buds and leaves of the wild dagga plant as inebriants, either alone or mixed with tobacco. The leaves and roots can also be used as a remedy for snakebites and stings. Similarly, in Mexico where wild dagga is known as flor de mundo (“flower of the world”) and mota (a colloquial name for marijuana), the plant is used as a cannabis substitute. In Caribbean folk medicine, the leaves and flowers of wild dagga have yielded bound oils, bitter principles, diterpenes, coumarins, and resins. The leaves of the plant can also be dried and brewed as a tea.
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The resin from the flowers and leaves may be rubbed off and smoked alone or with other herbal smoking blends. Likewise, the flowers and leaves themselves may be dried and smoked, or steeped as tea. Wild dagga roots, in addition to the flowers and leaves, can be used to create an extract for medicinal purposes outlined below. Our favorite places to purchase Wild Dagga is Shaman's Garden or IAmShaman. Both have several varieties to choose from (inclusing Klip Dagga/Lion's Ear, Lions Tail, and the related Siberian Motherwort), empowering the customer to make an educated purchase. We've found many unscrupulous websites who claim to have high-potency Dagga that's not anything like the Wild Dagga that was ingested when marijuana was not available.
MEDICINAL USE: The extract of wild dagga has antispasmodic effects, and is an antiacetylcholine and antihistamine. Wild dagga can be used to treat irregular or painful menstruation and to improve circulation. In one experimental study, which was undertaken to investigate the antinociceptive, antiinflammatory, and antidiabetic properties of the leaf extract, it was found that the plant possesses properties that help manage or control painful, arthritic, and other inflammatory conditions, as well as for adult-onset, type-2 diabetes mellitus. This study gives pharmacological credence to South African folkloric uses of the plant. Extracts of wild dagga have also been used topically to treat boils, eczema, and skin diseases, and taken internally as a tea it can help treat headaches, bronchitis, high blood pleasure, influenza, and asthma.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Wild dagga is reported to have hallucinogenic or cannabis-like effects, though is quite mild and is thus usually mixed with other herbal smoking blends, such as potentiates B. caapi or L. sibiricus (Siberian motherwort). Few chemical studies have been done on wild dagga, though caution in using the plant as an inebriant is recommended as it is rumored to be mildly addictive.
Argueta Villamar, Arturo, Leticia M. Cano Asseleih, and Maria Elena Rodarte, eds. 1994. Atlas de las plantas de la medicina tradicional mexicana. 3 vols. Mexico City: INI.
Grubber, Hudson. 1991. Growing the hallucinogens. Berkley, Calif.: 20th Century Alchemist.
Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 2005 May;27(4):257-64. Antinociceptive, antiinflammatory and antidiabetic effects of Leonotis leonurus (L.) R. BR. [Lamiaceae] leaf aqueous extract in mice and rats. Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Plants Profile for Leonotis leonurus. plants.usda.gov. http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=LELE3
Schuldes, Bert Marco. 1995. Psychoaktive Pflanzen. 2nd ed. Der Grune Zweig 164. Lohrbach: Werner Pieper’s MedienXperiment; Solothurn: Nachtschatten Verlag.
Wild Dagga (Leonotis Leonurus) is a shrubby, semi-woody, perennial or a semi-evergreen subshrub that gets up to 6' tall with a spread of 2-3'. Lion's ear has numerous erect, straight stems that bear whorled clusters of orange-red, two-lipped, tubular flowers from summer until early winter. Each flower is about 2" long and the rounded clusters about 4" across. The clusters are arranged on the stems one above another. The flowers are densely hairy on the outside of the tube, and said to resemble the ear of a lion. Like most mints, lion's ear has opposite leaves and the herbaceous (non-woody) new growth has stems that are square in cross section. The leaves are mildly fragrant and linear to lance-shaped, 2-4" long, with scalloped margins. It is common and widespread throughout South Africa and grows amongst rocks in grassland.
Ongoing research at the CBGTEP suggests that these little-known herbs may also be useful as a calming tea. In South Africa, the leaves and roots of the plant are also used as a remedy for snake bite and to alleviate the pain of other bites and stings. The decoction of dried leaf or root is used as an external wash to treat itchy skin and eczema. Internally, the tea of the dried leaves is taken to treat headache, bronchitis, high blood pressure and the common cold. The plant contains volatile oils and marrubiin.
Many traditional uses have been recorded. The leaves or roots are widely used as a remedy for snakebite and also to relieve other bites and stings. Extracts have been applied externally to treat boils, eczema, skin diseases, itching and muscular cramps. Extracts are also used to relieve coughs, cold and influenza, as well as bronchitis, high blood pressure and headaches. Leaf infusions have been sued to treat asthma and viral hepatitis.