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 it’s name.
Sananga is the name given to the potent liquid eye drops made from the shredded root of an Amazonian shrub, Tabernaemontana sananho. Bechette is the name given to similar eye drops with similar properties, made from the root of a related shrub, known as Tabernaemontana undulata.
On a physical level, they’re both said to improve eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, red eyes, itchy eyes, eye infections, as well as headaches and sinus problems. They’re 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, while clearing out negative or dark energies, known as ‘panema’, not to mention being helpful to treat depression, anxiety and addictions; bringing clarity in general and putting things into perspective.
Well, that’s certainly a lot of claims! 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 multiple times prior to drinking Ayahuasca.
I’ve had weak eye drops, which I liken to a very mild stinging and tingling sensation. I’ve also had strong eye drops, much more frequently than weak 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, it wasn’t until recently that I decided it was a plant medicine I wanted 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 they 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 applied 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, 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) 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 my 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, translating 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 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?
I can't help but bring a degree of curious skepticism when it comes to various claims about resetting or rebalancing one's energetic field. I mean, how accurately and objectively can we quantify these claims? How do we know what shift is attributable to the actual modality, and to the power of placebo?? The ultimate answer might be, does it really matter?
If one is experiencing some sort of beneficial change, whether placebo or not, that's the path we're generally wanting to move towards. In the case of discerning what stems from the modality in question, and what stems from placebo, perhaps the best we can do without any tools of measurement, is to purely EXPERIENCE how we FEEL.
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 energy flows more naturally 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 irrational emotions or negative energy onto 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 having more composure - but not in a controlling kind of way.
In terms of vision, I would often (paradoxically) notice a sharpness, yet softening, of my immediate environment. Colours would often seem a bit more vibrant, especially when noticing things outside, such as the shimmering of the sunlight in and amongst leaves and plant foliage.
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 can process increases 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 not as pronounced as they were if I was outside walking in nature, or being away from blue light and electronic screens in general.
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, have 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. Perhaps one of the reasons why Sananga can enhance visuals when used in conjunction with Ayahuasca. In any case, it's not entirely safe to drink. 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/dangerous dose.
Reports and stories from our indigenous brothers and sisters in the Amazon state that anywhere from half a teaspoon, to a teaspoon, to a tablespoon, and a variety of other measurements, is enough to kill someone. Is that actually the case? I don’t know about you, but I’m not game enough to find out. So again, if you're going to experiment with the use of these traditional plant medicines, please do so safely, responsibly, and respectfully. Sananga can deteriorate quite rapidly too, so it's best to keep refrigerated, and to not store bottles for long periods of time.
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.
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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