The bright orange petals of wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) have had spiritual and medicinal properties amongst South African tribes for centuries. It is considered a general tonic and has reputed anti-bacterial, sedative, sedating, euphoric and analgesic qualities. It has also been used to treat stomach complaints, respiratory disorders and as a protective charm. It shows strong hepatoprotective activity, meaning it protects the liver against damage. It also has an anti-spasmodic effect and is a purifying blood tonic.
The sedative effects of wild dagga are attributed to the water-soluble alkaloid, leonurine. This substance resembles THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis and can cause similar effects to those of cannabis, but is less potent. Smoked alone, it produces feelings of serenity and euphoria. It is also smoked in conjunction with other herbs as part of an herbal blend to enhance the overall high.
Users report mood enhancement, slight giddiness and an increased colour perception. It can also produce mild visual hallucinations if a large enough quantity is smoked. It is a good substitute for cannabis, particularly in settings and situations where smoking would be inappropriate or forbidden.
It is used as a calming herb to reduce stress and anxiety, and it is also helpful in cases of insomnia. It is also a good aid to relaxation, and it can be smoked to relieve headaches and migraines. A tincture of the root bark is used as a treatment for snakebite. The Hottentot, Tswana and Zulu tribes use a brew of the roots, flowers and leaves as an enema for human and animal dysentery.