Oneirogens (óneiros meaning "dream” and gen "to create") are a class of ethnomedicines which are dream inducing. Oneirogens are rarely discussed or studied for, as Jonathan Ott observes, “phytochemical investigation of such oneirogenic plants is hampered by the fact that dreams occur naturally, spontaneously, and unpredictably, rendering difficult the development of suitable psychonautic bioassays to guide fractionation.” With that said, working with onerigenic plants can lead us to deepen our understanding of the purpose, function, and meaning of dreams in our lives. Dreams are not directly intelligible, the way in which ordinary language usually is. Dreams speak to us in a peculiar language, comprised of images and symbols. Carl Jung wrote that "dreams are a spontaneous product of the unconscious soul. They are pure nature and therefore an unadulterated natural truth. They represent a communication or a message of the unconscious of the all one soul of humankind." Is there a symbiotic intersection of the language of dreams and the language of plants? How and in what ways can oneirogenic plants affect the process of symbol formation that characterizes the activity of dreaming?
One of my favourite onierigens is Albizia julibrissin (Mimosa, He Huan Pi, collective happiness flower, sensitive plant). Albizia is an extraordinary remedy for unshakeable depression, melancholia, severe loss, broken heartedness, anxiety, and chronic grief. Taken before bed, albizia can help us to process difficult emotions that we are resistant or otherwise unable to work through. It can make us aware of the underlying contours of our psychical and emotional landscape and gently show us a way through. It can be used to help calm individuals who fall too quickly and easily into bouts of anger, frustration, and rage as well as those who tend towards excessive worry and fear. Albizia contains Acetylcholine, a vitally important and multifaceted neurotransmitter that is also found in the human nervous system (“every human, like every plant and animal, is one of the infinitely many neurons in the nervous system of Gaia”). While albizia is not as widely utilized as some of the well known mood-elevating and antidepressant herbs (such as St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava), I believe that it is the most effective and widely applicable botanical remedy that is available to us for working into this complex of psycho-emotional issues. In the Chinese Materia Medica albizia is understood as a superior Shen tonic, a calming spirit herb. Both the bark and the flowers are used; the bark is said to ‘anchor’ the spirit, the flowers to ‘lighten’ it. Ron Teeguarden says that a medicine made from the flowers serves to “lift the spirit, calm the emotions, stabilize mood and point our psyche in a positive direction.” The bark has a strong affinity for the heart and liver meridians and can be helpful in some cases of muscular discomfort and swelling. The leaves of the mimosa tree fold and unfold under the influence of the Sun, and are also sensitive to being touched. As Julia Graves elaborates from this: “We will not be surprised to find they are healing plants for nerves and sensitivity, and to know that these leaf movements occur from electrical impulses running through the plant tissue in quasi-nerve-like fashion. The Cherokee call the sensitive plant /bashful/; it is used in formulas for people who are too shy.”