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Peru Herb: Wild Daga

The herb known as Wild Daga, Leonotis leonurus, is in the genus of Leonotis and the family of Lamiaceae or mint family. It is also known as Lion's Tail and can be confused with Klip dagga or Leonotis nepetifolia because the flower heads are similar. The noticeable difference is in the leaves. The leaves of leonurus are leathery lanceolate (long, wider in the middle and shaped like a lance) with serrated edges and the leaves of nepetfoia are cordate (heart shaped, stem attached to notch) with serrated edges as in catnip leaves. It is native to South India and Africa but has been naturalized in sub-tropic and tropical areas throughout the world. It is found growing by the roadside and in abandoned fields and is very prolific in and around Pisac, Peru.

Traditionally, infusions made from flowers and seeds, leaves or stems were widely used to treat tuberculosis, jaundice, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, diabetes, viral hepatitis, dysentery, and diarrhea. The leaves, roots and bark were used as an emetic for snakebites, bee and scorpion stings. The fresh stem juice was traditionally used as a 'blood impurity' in some places of South Africa. An infusion of the leaves was used as a digestive aid and nerve tonic. Other traditional uses include fever, cough, womb prolapse and malaria. Twigs added to the bath water give relief to muscular aches and pains, itchy skin and eczema. A strong brew can be dabbed onto sores, bites, bee and wasp stings. It is said to also help scorpion and snake bites. Decoctions of dried wild dagga leaf or root have been applied externally to treat boils, skin eruptions and hemorrhoids.

Leonurine is an active component of Wild dagga. It is mildly psychoactive and may become addictive. Presently, the plant is legal in the United States but is banned in Poland. High doses have been shown in animal studies to have a toxic effect on organ and red blood cells and can even be fatal in higher doses.

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