Saturday, 8 April 2017


Ubhubhubhu; Helinus integrifolius

Ubhubhubhu is the Xhosa name for a South African herb also known as Helinus integrifolius, though the common name is unknown. Little information can be found on either name, though a study into Xhosa plants and their western names by the South-African Rhodes University suggests the herb may be closely related to the Ilex mitis, a tall evergreen tree indigenous to South Africa.

The Xhosa would use Ubhubhubhu in an ‘Ubulawu’ mix. An infusion was taken orally at the initiation of diviners to strengthen memory and give the initiate keen powers of observation.

Helinus integrifolius is one of the so called ‘Ubulawu’ dream herbs. This is the name associated with a series of plants from Southern Africa that are used for visions and vivid dreams. It is believed one can communicate with the ancestral spirits and gain special insights and answers through use of the Ubulawu herbs.


Helinis integrifolius has oneirogenic or dream inducing properties. Several sources attribute this to a high saponin count. Saponins are a chemical substance found in certain plants and are believed to be beneficial to the body. One of the characteristics of Saponins is that it produces foam when in contact with water. The name is derived from the latin word sapo, meaning soap.

The main effects according to the Xhosa: mental clarity, lucid dreams and improved dream recall.


Ubhubhubhu was used in a cold water infusion, using a stick to churn the mix to produce foam. The Xhosa initiate would drink the infusion (on an empty stomach) until the stomach feels full. Vomiting is then induced, which was seen as a way to ‘remove impurity’, a kind of spiritual soap one might say. Prior to the vomiting the psychoactive compounds would have already entered the body, leading to the vivid dreams.

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