Lucid dreaming can be one of life’s greatest and most astonishing joys, as well as having many practical applications. It can be used for fantasy fulfillment, for learning new skills, for healing, for creativity enhancement, for spiritual growth, as well as for having extraordinary adventures, and engaging in profound and unparalleled self-discovery. 

There are dozens of effective techniques for increasing the probability of having a lucid dream, but one of the less discussed methods is often overlooked— utilizing nutritional supplements, herbs, and drugs to enhance the dreaming process.

In addition to the necessary psychological preparation, there appears to be a biological factor involved in lucid dreaming. It seems necessary to have just the right amount of mental arousal during sleep, which is not always easy to attain, and often one just has to wait for those magically balanced nights to capriciously arrive. However, besides the psychological techniques, there are also some valuable neurochemical tools that one can utilize to help with lucid dreaming.

Numerous drugs, herbs, cognitive enhancers, and nutritional supplements can influence dreaming, and some even have the potential to help cultivate that special state of consciousness that promotes lucid dreaming. In this article, I’ll be reviewing some of the different drugs and dietary supplements that are reputed to help with lucid dreaming, such as calea zacatechichi, silene capensis, mucuna pruriens, mugwort, and galantamine. 
Calea zacatechichi is a medium-sized shrub that has been used by the Chontal Indians in Mexico for many generations to enhance the vividness and mystical aspects of dreams. Calea is traditionally used as both a tea, and a smokable herb, often together, prior to drifting off to sleep. It is said to promote powerful, mythic, and larger-than-life epic dreams. Scientific studies with calea show that it improves sleep, dream recall, and that it increases hypnogogic imagery during the period that one is falling asleep.

In my experience, using the calea tincture before retiring to bed definitely enhanced the vividness and detailed memories of my dreams, and it shifted the emotional quality of the dreams in a hard to define way. However, it didn’t seem to increase my ability to have lucid dreams.

Silene capensis and Silene undulata are two closely related plants native to South Africa that are regarded by the Xhosa people as sacred. They are commonly known as the “African dream herb.” The root is traditionally used by the Xhosa people, during shamanic initiatory processes, to induce vivid, prophetic, and lucid dreaming. A lot of people report that the effects from silene are similar to those of calea.

When I tried a silene tincture I had a massive flood of strange and powerful dreams. My nighttime adventures began with enhanced hypnogogic imagery, and then I had these long, bizarre and complicated dreams about interactions with animal-human hybrid beings, although I didn’t ever achieve lucidity. I found the silene to be somewhat similar to calea, as others have reported, but also thought that it was more potent. 

Mucuna pruriens, or Velvet Bean, is a tropical legume that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, mostly as a remedy for various poisonous snakebites. The plant contains the amino acid L-DOPA, which is the direct precursor to the stimulating neurotransmitter dopamine— and this is what makes it useful as a tool for dream enrichment. Many people report that elevated dopamine levels enhance the vividness of dreams, although for some people this can be unpleasant, increasing the frequency of nightmares.

I personally got profound effects from Velvet Bean. I found that when I took it in the evening my dreams were always much more vivid, colorful, action-packed, and plentiful. It also helped me to become lucid, and maintain states of easily entering lucidity for several hours.

Mugwort is a name used for several related species of plants in the genus known as “Artemisia,” although for dreaming purposes we are referring to the species Artemisia vulgaris. Mugwort is often referred to as one of the quintessential dream-enhancing, “astral projection,” and psychic phenomena-enhancing herbs. Some people use it to make a tea, and other people stuff their pillows with it.

I found that mugwort tea, along with a small pouch stuffed with the herb by my pillow, sometimes enhanced my dreams, although not as much as the Calea and Silene did. But it does so in its own hard-to-describe signature way, and sometimes for two nights. I also had one of the most powerful lucid dreams of my life after drinking mugwort tea.

Galantamine is a cognitive enhancer, used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders. It works by increasing the concentration and action of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in certain areas of the brain. Acetylcholine is used for memory consolidation, and galantamine is sometimes used as a “smart drug” to help improve people’s mental performance. Galantamine is also used by many people to achieve lucidity in dreams. Although personally I wasn’t able to even sleep after taking it, as I found its effects too stimulating, for some people galantamine is the Holy Grail of dream lucidity enhancers, and it works for them every time. 

Many people report profound life transformations and healings from these experiences, as well as spontaneous lucid dreams for several days afterwards. I personally found this to be the case, and in fact it was a series of these experiences, and the lucid dreams that resulted from them, that inspired me to write my book on lucid dreaming, Dreaming Wide Awake.

To learn more about the relationship between nutritional supplements, herbs, drugs, and dreaming, see my book Dreaming Wide Awake: Lucid Dreaming, Shamanic Healing, and Psychedelics (Inner Traditions, 2016). 

Alternatively, take some much needed time for yourself and dive into lucid dreaming and lucid living in the beautiful mountain valleys of Boulder, where you will actively experience for yourself the best strategies from experts in the field, to increase your awareness and develop your mindset to grow and advance towards becoming the best version of yourself! DREAMING WIDE AWAKE: A 3-day/ 2-night lucid dreaming retreat for beginners to advanced hosted by David Jay Brown & Lana Sackwild. 

April 10-12, 2020 in Boulder, Colorado. Apply today:

David Jay Brown is the author of 16 books about the future evolution of consciousness, including Dreaming Wide Awake: Lucid Dreaming, Shamanic Healing and Psychedelics, and The New Science of Psychedelics: At the Nexus of Culture, Consciousness, and Spirituality. He is also the coauthor of six bestselling volumes of interviews with leading-edge thinkers: Mavericks of the Mind, Voices from the Edge, Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse, Mavericks of Medicine, Frontiers of Psychedelic Consciousness, and of Women of Visionary Art. To find out more about his work see:

This article was released in issue from

December 2019

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