Lion’s Tail (Kuang Ye De Da Jia)
Botanical Name: Leonotis leonurus
Lion’s tail is known for its medicinal and mild psychoactive properties. It has traditionally been used by South Africans, the Chinese, and the Vietnamese for its euphoric effects. Medicinally, it has been used to treat tuberculosis, jaundice, high blood pressure, diabetes, and snake bites. South Africans, where the plant is native, also use the fresh juice of the stem as an infusion to purify the blood. The dried leaves and flowers have a mild calming effect when smoked. It is far less potent than Cannabis and not classified as a hallucinogenic. Do not confuse lion’s tail with motherwort, another plant commonly called lion’s tail.
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Below is an overview of lion’s tail, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of lion’s tail.
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Western Name: Lion’s Tail
Also Known As: Wild Dagga, Lion’s Ear, Phlomis leonurus, Hottentot Tobacco, Wild Hemp
Organs/Systems: Nervous, Respiratory, Skin
Key Actions: Antioxidant, Hypotensive, Stimulant, Relaxant, Cardioprotective, Anti-inflammatory, Hypoglycemic, Antiviral, Emetic, Analgesic, Antihistamine, Antidiabetic, Antidepressant
Medicinal Uses: Tuberculosis, jaundice, muscle cramping, high blood pressure, diabetes, viral hepatitis, dysentery, diarrhea, snakebites, bee and scorpion stings, boils, itching skin, hemorrhoids, fever, influenza, asthma, coughs, epilepsy, partial paralysis, irregular or painful menstruation, depression, anxiety, type-2 diabetes, arthritis, blood purifier.
Pin Yin: Kuang Ye De Da Jia
Also Known As: Wild Dagga
Meridians: Spleen, Liver, Lung
Key Actions: Tonifies Spleen, Clears Wind Heat, Calms Shen, Moves Qi, Stops Itching
Medicinal Uses: Muscle cramping, anxiety, lethargy, hemorrhoids, fevers, cold, neuropathy, epilepsy, arthritis, high blood pressure, snake bites, eczema, diarrhea, scorpion bites.
Basic Habitat / Botany:
Lion’s tail is a semi-evergreen, erect perennial shrub with beautiful orange flowers that are thought to resemble a lion’s tail. It is a member of the mint Lamiaceae family. Some varieties display white or yellow blooms. The plant blooms in late spring and into the fall. The flowers are tubular two-lipped fussy flowers that appear in tiered whorls around the top half of the long straight stems they grow on. The plant’s leaves are dark green and lance-shaped. The plant can grow to be 4 to 6 feet tall.
Lion’s tail is native to the damp grasslands of South Africa, but it now grows in many parts of the world where it is often classified as an invasive weed. It likes mild climates and can grow as an annual in regions with cold winters. It prefers warm and dry climates.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaf, Root, Bark, Flower
Flavors/Temps: Acrid, Pungent, Slightly Bitter, Warming, and Cooling
Caution: Considered safe, it can cause nausea, headaches, or dizziness in some people. Not recommended if you are pregnant.
Key Constituents: Flavonoids, Alkaloids, Marrubiin
The leaves and flowers, when brewed as a tea, can treat respiratory infections, fevers, headaches, high blood pressure, hepatitis, and liver stagnation. Externally the tea can be used to relieve pain and itching and as a compress for acne, eczema, snake bites, and scorpion stings.
Similar to other members of the mint family, it does contain marrubiin, a compound known for its antioxidant and cardioprotective properties. The compound significantly improves myocardial function.
In one study conducted to explore the plant’s anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties, it was found that lion’s tail contains properties that help manage pain, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions, including type-2 diabetes.
Other traditional African remedies using lion’s tail include using the herb to treat asthma, and depending on the dose to stimulate or suppress menstruation. The leaves and roots are used to make an extract or tea used for treating high blood pressure, colds, snake bites, bronchitis, and externally to treat eczema. In South Africa, the fresh stem juice is used as an infusion you drink to help purify the blood.
The dried leaves and flowers have a mild calming effect when smoked or chewed. It is considered far less potent than Cannabis and is not classified as a hallucinogenic. Tribal peoples of South Africa have traditionally used the plant at ceremonial occasions to induce trance-like states along with drumming and dancing. Recreational users have reported that smoking the herb can cause nausea, dizziness, sweating, lightheadedness, mild euphoria, visual changes, and sedation. It has been used as an alternative to tobacco and illegal psychoactive plants such as Cannabis. It provides a short-lasting positive feeling. The resin from the flowers and leaves can also be rubbed off and smoked alone or with other herbs.
The main psychoactive compound found in lion’s tail is said to be leonurine, however, there are reports that this compound has yet to be confirmed for this plant when using chemical analysis. The name wild dagga relates to an indigenous South African tribal name for cannabis dagga, however, no part of lion’s tail is used as a hallucinogen.
It was known in Africa that the Hottentot tribe and the Bushmen smoked the buds and dried leaves, giving rise to one of the plant’s common names, Hottentot Tobacco. Tea can be made from the dried flower petals, but it is not a pleasant-tasting tea, rather it is purely medicinal.
The family Leonurus contains several varieties of plants that while in the same family, have different properties and should not be confused with our plant Leonotis leonurus/Lion’s tail (aka Wild Dagga) which is a perennial plant used as a medicine especially noted for its calming and euphoric properties.
Here are three plants commonly confused with Lion’s Mane:
Leonurus sibiricus: Siberian motherwort (aka Marihuanilla or Little Marijuana) this strain is often sold on “legal high” websites, even though it is low in leonurine compounds. It is commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for treating infections and circulatory issues.
Leonotis nepetifolia: Lion’s Ear (aka Klop Dagga) is a strain of wild dagga, an annual plant that is often confused with lion’s tail. This plant’s leaves are much wider and heart-shaped. This strain is said to contain more of the compound leonurine than any of the other strains of wild dagga, but research has not yet confirmed this.
Leonurus artemisia: (aka Chinese motherwort) This plant is considered to be the true motherwort versus L. sibiricus, which is sometimes commonly called Siberian motherwort and is sometimes used similarly to Leonurus artemisia/Chinese motherwort.
The plant attracts sunbirds, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Sunbirds have evolved curved bills well-suited for feeding from lion’s tail’s tubular flowers.
Lion’s tail is a member of the mint family of plants. It is native to South Africa.
Cup of Tea
Taken as a tea, lion’s tail is used to treat colds and fevers. Used as a wash it helps ease the itching associated with skin rashes such as eczema.
Dried and Smoked
Lion’s tail is known to provide mild feelings of euphoria when either the buds or dried leaves are smoked. Some cultures have used it as a substitute for marijuana, though its effects are notably milder and more short-lived.
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