Medicinal Properties of Sananga

Medicinal Properties of Sananga

Sananga by Alan MS

The word 'sananga' refers to a series of traditional eye drops used in some Amazonian cultures. Medicinal eye drops are used by Amazonian peoples such as the Matsés, Huni Kuin, Yawanawá and Ticuna for their broad-spectrum healing properties and as a source of spiritual exploration.

Reported benefits of sananga include treating eye diseases and improving eyesight for hunting. It is used as a universal remedy in some cases to treat many different types of pain and ailments.

There are two main types of sananga:

One uses the root bark of the Tabernaemontana sananho shrub.
And the other uses the root bark of Tabernaemontana undulata.
Both plants have beautiful windmill-like flowers. The two types of sananga are generally distinguished, sananga made from T. undulata is called 'mana heins' by the Huni Kuin and 'bechette' by the Matsés.

The spiritual uses of Sananga
Taking sananga can be very painful – but this intense burning in the eyes is related to its spiritual benefits. The pain indicates that the plant spirit is entering your body, distributing itself through your veins. Sananga spirit can help remove negative or melancholy energies from your body (called panema). [1]

The spiritual and physical purification that sananga offers can be used in the preparation of other herbal medicines and is a gentler purification than substances such as kambo. Its effects on vision can also be used to enhance visual experiences with psychoactive plant medicines.

Some people have reported that it is an excellent companion for ayahuasca, purifying the spirit before the powerful ayahuasca purge and enhancing the visionary experience of an hour-long ayahuasca ceremony.

Improving eyesight with Sananga
Traditionally, sananga is often used before a hunt, to improve hunters' eyesight. Eye drops are not only thought to help them locate prey in the forest, but also allow them to hear more sensitively and strike harder. It is said that the enhanced power given to hunters after taking sananga can last for several days. [1]

Westerners also report that sananga can temporarily improve vision – describing vision as being sharper, experiencing deeper color perception, and having a greater tolerance for bright light.

While there is no research on the effects of sananga on visual acuity, its traditional use for this purpose is well established and Westerners consistently note its effectiveness.

Medicinal Properties of Sananga
Sananga is traditionally used as a cure-all. It has been used to treat wounds, illnesses and ailments of all kinds. [1] Likewise, plants of the Apocynaceae family are used for various medicinal applications in different types of preparations throughout the Amazon, in addition to sananga eye drops.

Sananga is believed to contain a large number of alkaloids, although there have not been complete studies to determine the chemical composition of T. undulata or T. sananho.

Sananga for eye diseases
Sananga has been used traditionally for centuries to treat eye conditions or pain associated with the eyes such as headaches. While there is not much science on the T. undulata or T. sananho plants, there has been some research on other plants in the Tabernaemontana subfamily.

Several studies have shown that different Tabernaemontana plants can attack some species of bacteria and fungi, suggesting that sananga can potentially help treat eye infections. [2-6] We are still not sure what concentration of these plants would have a significant effect on eye infection.

Some eye diseases, such as cataracts, are caused in part by inflammation. There is moderate evidence that sananga can reduce inflammation: several Tabernaemontana plants (including T. sananho) have been shown to reduce inflammation in mouse models of paw injury and in molecular tests, can decrease levels of inflammatory compounds and have antioxidant effects. [6 -11]

There is no evidence that sananga can be used to treat more serious conditions like glaucoma or traumatic eye injuries. It can be dangerous to use sananga for these purposes.

How to use Sananga
It is best to store sananga in the refrigerator to conserve its potency. When you are ready to take sananga, it should be used with care and respect.

Prepare yourself and your space and set a clear intention. Make sure you are in a comfortable, familiar place with no distractions. Prepare a large bowl of water to wash your eyes in case the burning becomes too intense.

Lie on the floor and close your eyes. Place a drop of sananga in the inner corner of the nose, where it meets the eyes, on either side. This will allow you to open both eyes at the same time and get the same amount of sananga in each eye. Alternatively, ask a friend to help you distribute a drop to both eyes simultaneously.

Blink your eyes a few times to spread the sananga evenly. Breathe through the pain and try to stay present in your body, knowing that the experience will pass. Remember that pain is crucial in allowing sananga to heal and remove negative energies from the body. The immediate sting can last 10 to 15 minutes – wash your eyes in the bowl of water if it's too much.

Do not wear sananga while wearing contact lenses, and do not wear contact lenses for at least one day after using sananga. If you are taking any type of eye medication, or have any type of serious eye injury or open cuts around your eyes, check with your doctor before taking sananga.

While some people find benefits with taking sananga on a regular schedule, we don't know what the long-term effects of this might be. Stop taking sananga if you notice any changes in your vision or lasting pain/redness in your eyes.

Shepard, Glenn (1999). Pharmacognosy and the Senses in Two Amazonian Societies. PhD Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, Medical Anthropology Program. p102.
Sathishkumar et al (2012). In vitro antibacterial and antifungal activities of Tabernaemontana heyneana Wall leaves. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science 2(8), p107-111
Marathe et al (2013). In vitro antibacterial activity of Tabernaemontana alternifolia (Roxb) stem bark aqueous extracts against clinical isolates of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials 12(26), p1-8
Van Beek et al (1984). Antimicrobially active alkaloids from Tabernaemontana pachysiphon. Phytochemistry 23(8), p1771–1778
Suffredini et al (2002). Antibacterial activity of Apocynaceae extracts and MIC of Tabernaemontana angulata stem organic extract. Braz J Pharm Sci 38(1), p89–94
Shrikanth et al (2014). Antimicrobial and antioxidant activity of methanolic root extract of tabernaemontana alternifolia. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 7(1), p66-69
Thambi et al (2006). Antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities of the flowers of Tabernaemontana coronaria. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 68(3), p352-355
Taesotikul et al (2003). Anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and antinociceptive activities of Tabernaemontana pandacaqui Poir. J Ethnopharmacol 84, p31–35
De las Heras et al (1998). Antiinflammatory and antioxidant activity of plants used in traditional medicine in Ecuador. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 61, p161-166
Nicola et al (2013). Chemical Constituents Antioxidant and Anticholinesterasic Activity of Tabernaemontana catharinensis. The Scientific World Journal, DOI:10.1155/2013/519858
Rumzhum et al (2012). Antioxidant and cytotoxic potential of methanol extract of Tabernaemontana divaricata leaves. International Current Pharmaceutical Journal 1(2), p27-31

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