Six Weeks of Sananga: The Traditional Eye Drops That Sting Like Fresh Chilli
WHY WOULD ANYONE WILLINGLY PUT FRESH CHILLI IN THEIR EYES?
Ah yes, a great question to contemplate on those lonely winter evenings. And if you’ve tried this Amazonian eye medicine, your natural reaction might be to wince upon merely remembering and hearing this word.
Sananga is the name given to the potent liquid eye drops made from the shredded root of an Amazonian shrub, Uchu Sanango, scientifically known as Tabernaemontana sananho. Bechette is the name given to the eye drops with similar properties, made from the root of a related shrub, known as Tabernaemontana undulata.
Ucho Sanango is a master plant commonly used in plant dietas alongside Ayahuasca, used for a variety of reasons, such as being used as a purgative, diuretic, fever reducer, calmative, memory enhancer, and even to help in the healing and realigning of both the muscular and skeletal system.
As far as using sananga as an eye medicine goes, it’s said to improve eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, red eyes, itchy eyes, eye infections, styes, as well as clearing out the sinus and helping with certain types of headaches. Sananga is known to bring greater texture, detail, and depth to one’s environment; enhancing colours and sharpening visual perception.
It’s said that these eye drops help to reset the bodies energetic field; opening the third eye, balancing the chakras, and clearing out negative or dark energies, known as ‘panema’. The list of potential benefits continues on, with reports that it’s helpful in treating depression, anxiety and addictions; helping to bring clarity in general and putting things into perspective.
It’s certainly a plant medicine with a lot of claims behind it! And we know there’s really only one way to test and know the validity of these claims on a first-hand account... Experience.
While sananga can be used as a stand alone plant ally, it’s often used in conjunction with other sacred earth medicines. As a Kambo practitioner, I frequently use this in conjunction with Kambo ceremonies, and have used it in ceremony many times prior to drinking Ayahuasca, as well as during Huachuma journeys.
I’ve had weak eye drops, which I liken to a very mild stinging and tingling sensation. I’ve also had incredibly strong eye drops, which I might liken to someone pouring a solution made of fresh habanero chillies and apple cider vinegar directly into my eye sockets. Naturally, sananga offers an experience that’s super pleasant, extremely enjoyable, and an activity you’d want to practice often (insert sarcasm).
Despite the pain and discomfort I’d experienced many times over with these liquid eye drops, I was getting the message that it was a plant medicine I needed to explore and connect with further. Hence, a six week practice ensued.
Administering these eye drops on a daily basis, I began to establish a relationship with the spirit of this plant; putting the various claims to test, and trying to stay aware of any noticeable shifts along the way.
CONSCIOUSLY ENGAGING WITH DISCOMFORT.
When it comes to physically dropping the liquid into each eye, it takes a little bit of practice to administer it efficiently. Dropping it straight into the eye can be difficult, as the eyes have an automatic tendency to clamp shut as soon as one droplet is received.
I find it much more effective to close both eyelids and place a drop or two into the corner of my eye; fluttering them both in a rapid blinking motion to ensure the liquid has been properly dispersed. I think it pays to mention that before I apply the drops, I take a brief moment to invite the spirit of this plant into my body; taking a deep breath and welcoming it's healing potential, bringing conscious awareness to this connection we were developing.
The natural inclination for many people who receive sananga is to tense various parts of their body with a pronounced contracting of the facial muscles. The key here is to breathe deeply through the sensations while actively releasing and relaxing places of tension.
If you hadn’t already gotten the picture, it stings a little. Or more accurately, depending on the strength of the medicine, it stings a lot. Such is the catch though with many of these sacred earth medicines. Not always, but often, one must go through an initiation, generally involving some level of pain, discomfort, or uncomfortable event to receive the healing and growth they’re seeking.
Over the six weeks, the sting was ever-present, however I did notice a decrease in intensity. Sometimes the sting would last for a minute, sometime for five minutes, (in the beginning - up to ten minutes, but with a decrease in intensity as it tapered off within a minute or two) with an uncomfortable inability to fully open my eyes. At times, it felt like the spirit of the medicine had hooked onto my eye tendrils; pulling from both ends. Talk about intense!
More often than not, my sinuses would get a great clear out, and I'd often have to blow my nose a minute or two after having the drops applied; a fantastic adjunct to working with rapé, the Amazonian tobacco snuff; cleansing out the nasal passages after taking in the fine powder during meditation.
Dropping deep into the subtleties of the sensations, it felt like the medicine would interact with different parts of my eyes on any given day; sometimes on a superficial level, sometimes deep inside, sometimes more to the left or more to the right.
Although I tried to swirl the liquid around by blinking to get a uniform coverage, I can’t be sure that that happened every time.
Perhaps the varying sensations were because of this, or perhaps the essence of this plant medicine was working on subtle nuances in my eyes, recalibrating and recorrecting where necessary.
Maybe a little bit of both??
Consciously engaging in a practice that induces discomfort, can certainly change one’s relationship to pain and suffering, which has it’s translation into daily life. The ability to find calm and stillness, and relax tension in an unpleasant situation, is certainly applicable to everyday situations.
This was one of the gifts of Sananga early on, when I was using it sporadically. At the time, I didn't notice any significant shifts on a physical health level that I could attribute to the eye drops alone, as it was always used in conjunction with other earth medicines.
However, when used daily as a stand alone treatment method, more of the subtleties became more clear.
WHAT BENEFITS DID I NOTICE?
One of the benefits that Sananga has bestowed upon me, (after the burning sensations have stopped radiating throughout my skull, and my eyes don't feel the need to clamp shut anymore) is the feeling of being super present and grounded in my body. On a subtle level, it feels like the energy flow can move more freely and unobstructed throughout my body; as if blockages have been somewhat cleared or opened. I tend to embody a relaxed focus and calm awareness; a stillness of the mind.
If other people try to project their negative energy toward me, or if I find myself in a situation where I might normally be triggered to some extent, it doesn't seem to land as hard as it otherwise might have. It's a feeling of being more centered and more emotionally composed.
In terms of vision, I would often notice a sharpness, yet softening, of my immediate environment. Colours would seem slightly more vibrant and natural phenomena would captivate my attention to a much greater degree, such as the shimmering of the sunlight within the overhead tree foliage, or the flittering of tiny insects rising from the grass to dance amongst the soft currents of wind.
Another key thing I've noticed over time is the ease in which I'm able to take in more information from my visual field of perception. With this relaxed awareness, especially immediately after the initial sting subsides, I tend to have a heightened capacity to notice the tiniest of bugs springing out from the grass, or a bird bouncing on a branch right out to my peripheries.
It's as if the amount of visual information I could process increased directly after sananga. This ranged from 15 to 30 minutes after, to sometimes being highly sensitive to visual stimuli for a couple of hours afterwards, depending on what I was doing and the environment I was in. If I was to sit down shortly after and focus on writing at my laptop, the effects were certainly not as pronounced as they were if I was immersed in nature.
I suspect the reasoning behind the heightened awareness and visual perception may come from either:
A physical cleansing, recorrecting, or recalibrating effect on both my eyes, or something in relation to the visual cortex component of the brain.
Consciously developing a daily connection with this plant and how it affects me, which in turn, makes me more aware of what's happening in my visual field. Hence, my capacity to notice more, with more ease.
Perhaps, a little from both categories? All in all, I definitely experienced the shifts in visual acuity and energetic recalibrations that are said to come with sananga, and since the six week practice, almost two years later, I’ve continued to work with sananga as a powerful ally.
KEEN TO EXPERIMENT WITH SANANGA YOURSELF?
I'm certain there are going to be others that have an affinity for embracing discomfort; for enduring adversity; for experiencing the uncomfortable - for healing, growth, or pure exploratory curiosity. If there is, just like any other sacred earth medicine, using these substances safely and responsibly is of utmost importance. Do your own research, check for contraindications, cautions & considerations, clarify your intentions, and be mindful of set and setting.
According to many accounts, 1-2 drops per eye, once a day, is a safe amount of sananga (or bechette) to administer. If you're going to take up a daily practice, pay attention to any irritation over prolonged use, and after a six week period, it's probably best to take a break for a couple of weeks to rest your eyes. It pays to mention that if you're interested in experimenting with these eye drops to treat specific eye conditions, and you wear contact lenses, take them out prior to dropping the liquid in. Common sense applies here.
Another point to mention here, is that the Tabernaemontana plants are said to contain various iboga-alkaloids, which is perhaps one of the reasons why sananga can enhance visuals when used in conjunction with Ayahuasca.
When it comes to ingestion, caution is required and it’s recommended to only work with the medicine in this way with someone highly experienced. One or two drops in a glass of water is reported to be fine, but depending on the medicine, it's hard to determine what exactly constitutes a safe dose.
Topical applications have been reported to clear a variety of skin conditions, but again, this is something you’d need to look into further. Sananga can deteriorate quite rapidly, so it's best to keep refrigerated, and to not store bottles in sunlight or heated areas.
Overall, having developed a beautiful connection with sananga, it's certainly another plant medicine that I consider a powerful ally, and one that I will continue to cultivate a deeper relationship with in the years to come.
I know people on both sides of the camp. Some find Sananga incredibly beneficial. Other's report nothing more than an uncomfortable experience. After serving this medicine to almost 400 people, I’ve had one person complain that they thought sananga had given them prolonged eye irritation. It pays to mention that there are never any guarantees when it comes to working with any medicine, whether Eastern, Western, shamanic, herbal, alternative or otherwise, and it’s up to each and every individual who makes the conscious decision to walk this path, to take self-responsibility for their own choices and the outcomes that occur.
What has your experience with Sananga been like???
Leave a comment below and share with community.
If you're feeling the call to sit in sacred ceremony and work with Sananga, Rapé, and Kambo - the Amazonian frog medicine, you can get in touch via the form below, or, you can keep up to date with future ceremonies (currently only in Australia) by requesting to join the private FB group: "Kambo Path: Frog Medicine"
In health and gratitude,
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