Natural Connectors: Be at One

Sceletium: South African Gem
According to Dr. Nigel Gericke of African Natural Health in South Africa:

Sceletium is one of the most ancient of mind-altering substances, and it is likely to have had a profound influence on the evolution of human consciousness. People interested in consciousness will find that sceletium is a key, but it needs to be used widely. It is not a quick fix, and after ten years of use, I'm still learning about it.

Dr. Gericke is currently spearheading research into sceletium in cooperation with psychiatrists, including his wife, Dr. Olga Gericke, and psychologists in South Africa.

An unfamiliar herb to most of us, this native South African creeper, also called kougoed, has been used by hunter-gatherer tribes since prehistoric times. Sceletium is new to the American market and is only just starting to be manufactured here, so it may not be easy to find. It lessens anxiety, stress, and tension; raises spirits; and enhances the sense of connection. If you take a very large dose, you may even feel euphoric, then taken over by a sense of drowsiness. It does not cause hallucinations. Moreover, nearly 400 years of documented use have not revealed many serious adverse effects.

Traditionally, sceletium is chewed, brewed as a tea, or used as snuff. If enough is chewed, it has a mild anesthetic effect in the mouth, much like kava, and is used by the San people of South Africa for tooth extractions or is given in minute doses to children with colic. A tea made from sceletium is used to help the recovering alcoholic avoid withdrawal symptoms.

People have reported that sceletium-induced relaxation has helped them to focus on inner thoughts and feelings or to have a heightened experience of the beauty of nature. Some have reported increased skin sensitivity as well as sexual arousal, while others have said that it leaves them feeling free of fear and stress. In his 1934 book Phantastica, Dr. Louis Lewin reports that mesembrine – one of the active chemicals in the plant – induces a meditative state of mind.

While no clinical trials have been published yet, a number of doctors and psychiatrists have reported a wide range of positive uses for sceletium – from treating anxiety and depression to alleviating alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine addiction. Moreover, by promoting a sense of empathy and connection, it has also been reported to help couples in therapy.

How does it work? The active constituents of the plant are alkaloids, including mesembrine, mesembrone, mesembrenol, and tortuosamine. According to laboratory studies sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health near Washington, D.C., its major alkaloid, mesembrine, acts as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Like Prozac, it helps to keep more serotonin in circulation. It also appears to have a harmonizing and balancing effect on the other feel-good neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, as well as on adrenaline.

An effective dose is 50 mg a day, although some doctors prescribe 100-200 mg a day for those with chronic depression or anxiety.

Twenty-eight-year-old Alex is a new advocate of sceletium. Here's what he has to say:

I used to drink on Friday nights to unwind after my stressful week. Now I prefer sceletium. I combine 100 mg of sceletium with 75 mg of kava and 500 mg of TMG. This not only chills me out but it makes me feel very connected and "present" and able to really enjoy my friends' company. It's a bit like the buzz you get sitting on the beach watching the waves rolling in. What's more, there's no hangover.

How it works: Appears to enhance activity of serotonin, the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter; helps to balance dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. (There is still much that is unknown about its effects on the brain.)

Positive effects: Relieves depression, tension, and anxiety; promotes a sense of connection; associated with insights, heightened sensory perception, and improved meditation; also reduces addictive cravings.

Cautions: In very large doses it can have euphoric effects, followed by sedation. Sceletium has not been researched sufficiently to recommend its use during pregnancy or nursing. No reported toxicity. However, we recommend not taking it with antidepressants or with large amounts of tryptophan or 5-HTP, to avoid the possibility of serotonin syndrome-headache, an increase in body temperature, and heavy sweating (although this has never been reported). Stop taking it and seek medical advice if this occurs.

Dosage: As a mood enhancer, 50-100 mg daily; as a connector, 100-200 mg daily.

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From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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