Plants that have at any time throughout history been used by humans are known as ethnobotanicals. Some common examples of ethnobotanicals include the plants that are used for food, shelter and clothing as well as those used as medicine, for example in dietary supplements and herbal remedies.
The ethnobotanicals of interest to us here contain bioactive chemicals that may provide beneficial effects to human health and vitality, enhancing things like brain and body function, connection, creativity, dreaming, dream recall, empathy, energy, euphoria, healing, immunity, meditation, memory, mood, pain relief, relaxation, sexuality, social-ability, spirituality and stamina.
In other words herbal remedies may enhance the human experience. As such these plants are held in high regard around the planet where they are highly sought after and traded to be utilized as beneficial herbal remedies.
In New Zealand herbal remedies are regulated under the medicines act. Herbal remedies are specifically exempt from the PSA (Psychoactive substances act). The legal definition of a herbal remedy in New Zealand, as stated in section 2 of the medicines act, is any medicine (not being or containing a prescription medicine, or a restricted medicine, or a pharmacy-only medicine) consisting of—(a)any substance produced by subjecting a plant to drying, crushing, or any other similar process; or(b)a mixture comprising 2 or more such substances only; or(c)a mixture comprising 1 or more such substances with water or ethyl alcohol or any inert substance.
This means all dried plant materials, extracts and tinctures are legal to buy, sell and consume in New Zealand as herbal remedies, as long as they are not restricted by a more dominant act of law, for example as prescription medicines under the medicines act or controlled drugs under the misuse of drugs act.
Restricted and Prohibited Ethnobotanicals
When a plant is considered to be of high risk to the public good it may be regulated by more dominant acts.
Plants controlled by more dominant laws include:
- Cannabis, Coca, Khat, Magic Mushrooms and Peyote all of which are caught by the Misuse of drugs act, therefore their cultivation, possession and consumption are prohibited in New Zealand without a lisence.
- Hemp - Low THC (Cannabis sativa) is excluded for licensed growers and for the industrial use of the stems. The seed and seed oil are excluded and legal to buy and sell as foods, supplements on in bodycare products.
- Opium poppies are legal to grow but are caught by MODA if one was to actually attempt to extract the opium (ie: the remedy) from them. Poppy seeds contain none or only trace amounts of the active alkaloids and hence are exempt for both ornamental cultivation as well as for use as food.
- Barley contains trace amounts of Valium, a class c controlled drug. One would naturally assume barley is still legal to cultivate, possess and use as a food, or herbal remedy so long as no attempt to concentrate or isolate the Valium is attempted. Certainly no-one has ever been charged for growing or consuming barley.
- Other plants containing controlled drugs such as DMT are less clear. While DMT is everywhere in nature and most plant species containing DMT are perfectly legal to buy, sell and grow, it would certainly be illegal to attempt to extract the DMT. Use as a non-psychoactive herbal remedy, for example in the case of Acacia tea would seem to fall into a legal grey area, as with barley above. There has been one case of someone charged for importing wholesale quarantines (multiple kilos) of Mimosa hostilis root bark, a DMT containing plant, with the intent to sell for extraction purposes. However others still import it for use as a dye, presumably in smaller quantities without any issues. Our advise is not to risk it.
- Ephedra, Kratom, Tart Cherries, Yohimbe and most of the major Tropane bearing plants like Datura, Deadly Nightshade, Henbane and Mandrake are caught by the medicines act as they contain prescription medicines. While the plants remain legal to grow and even to harvest and use in non-medicinal applications, for example in prayer or as incense they are prohibited from being sold as herbal remedies for internal use. A blind eye however seems to be turned to the Tart cherry extract which contains high levels of Melatonin, a prescription medicine in New Zealand. We assume this is likely for the sake of common sense verses enforcing ill conceived, excessively restrictive and unpractical laws.
- There is also a clause in the medicines act that allows all herbalists to supply any herbs containing restricted medicines only if the client asks the herbalist to provide what they believe is the best medicine for their ailment. But these herbs may not be advertised or promoted to the general public. It is believed this clause was put in place to stop big pharma lobbying against and wiping out Rongoa (traditional Maori medicine). Because MODA overrides the medicines act, this clause unfortunately does not apply to controlled yet highly beneficial substances such as Cannabis, Magic Mushrooms and Peyote.
- Some species such as the Fly Agaric mushroom are classified as poisons in New Zealand. While this does not restrict someone from for example collecting fly agarics from the woods for use in fly traps or to prepare a herbarium specimen for research, their inclusion in foods or dietary supplements is prohibited. Their use in herbal remedies seems to fall into a legal grey area. Homeopathic formulas are available from herbalists.
Ethnobotanical Master List
Below we list some of the most beneficial and sought after ethnobotanicals, as well as their traditional and common uses and reported benefits. Restricted herbs are included for informational purposes only, we do not advise consumption. Always do lots of research as well as check with your doctor before consuming any herbal remedy.
Aztec Tobacco - Shamans tobacco, used by the Aztecs as a ceremonial tobacco. Much higher nicotine content than regular tobacco so be very careful if smoking. As with all tobacco, its is highly poisoness when consumed internally. Tobacco is harmful and addictive so not recommended. A popular ethnobotanical collectable never the less.
Aswhaganda - An adaptogen, it increases energy while reducing stress, balancing, aphrodisiac, energizer and nootropic.
Ayahuasca (Caapi) - Incense, Entheogen, MAO Inhibitor, Purgative, Anti-depressant, used in Shamanic healing ceremonies such as disease diagnosis.
Bitter Orange - Energizer, diet and weight loss aid, ephedra alternative. Contains synephrine, a stimulant that is similar to ephedrine but without the strain on the heart that ephedrine is known for. Use as a tea, extract or supplement. Mixes well with herbs like Guarana Green Tea and Kola nut.
Betel Nut - Traditional use in Asia as a herbal remedy, energizer, social tonic and in spiritual practice. Chewed in Betel or Kawa Kawa leaf with slacked lime and various spices or other additives. This is called a Betel quid. Sold in New Zealand strictly for use in incense, prayer and ethnobotanical collection and research. Not for internal consumption unless prescribed by your doctor.
Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) - A mystical herb used as an entheogen or spirit herb in ancient Egypt. Relaxing and mildly euphoric. Mixes nice with most other etnbobotanicals. Also an aphrodisiac.
Brahmi - A nootropic and adaptogen, energizing, calming, supports focus, learning and memory enhancing.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) - Sedative. Use as tea, tincture or vape. Can also be smoked for a mild cannabis like effect.
Cannabis (Cannabis indica and sativa) - The world's original herbal remedy and still the most useful herb found on planet earth. Sadly still prohibited in New Zealand as of 2020 as a class c controlled substance by our out of date drug laws.
Catnip - Causes an LSD like effect in cats. Works more as a relaxer and creativity enhancer in humans. Good for colds. Make a tea or vape. Can also be smoked.
Catuaba - Aphrodisiac and sexual stimulant from South America. Use as tea or extract into liquor.
Cola Nut - Organic speed, a strong energizer. Also used as a sexual stimulant. Mix 1-2 tsp into a drink.
Calamus - Used as a herbal remedy by First Nation American tribes in small doses to fight pain and fatigue, as well as for oral hygiene. In large doses it may have been used as a visionary aid. The Cree claim to take Sweet flag enables them to travel great distances without touching the ground. Energizing and mildly euphoric in small doses. Make tea, liquor or smoke. Also used in Absinthe and as incense. Excessive dose may act as a purgative. Long term excessive use may be hard on the liver.
Coca - Euphoric stimulant and anesthetic leaf that contains the infamous tropane alkaloid Cocaine. Popular in South America where it is sold as a safe and mildly energizing tea. Class C controlled substance in New Zealand however an exemption is made for Coca leaf that has had the cocaine removed. We assume this means it is legal to purchase the dregs from a cocaine manufacturing cartel and import them here for use as tea.
Coffee - The World favorite stimulant, contains the powerful psychoactive drug caffeine. Addictive as well as creating physical dependence. Available almost worldwide without restriction. Fair trade coffee is best.
Coltsfoot - Traditional tobacco substitute. An expectorant it clears out and is tonic to the lungs. Used in herbal smoking mixes, usually with other herbs such as Marshmallow, Mullein or Red Raspberry Leaf. Use as tea or vape in a herbal aromatherapy vaporizer. Smoking long term may be carcinogenic similar to tobacco. Recommended only for short term use.
Damiana - Traditional use as an aphrodisiac. Also a mild antidepressant producing a mild euphoria. Tonic to the sex organs, especially when used several nights in a row. Use as tea 1 hour before lovemaking or extract into liquor or consume in a herbal aromatherapy vaporizer. Also smoked for a mild cannabis like effect.
Ephedra - Energizer and nasal decongestant, was once used in herbal ecstasy. Now days restricted as a prescription medicine due to it being hard on the heart and containing the controlled Methamphetamine precursors ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine. We strongly discourage the use of ephedra as it has resulted in heart attack in otherwise healthy people. Bitter Orange is a good alternative to ephedra.It contains the related stimulant alkaloid synephrine that may offer similar benefits but has not shown to cause the same stress on the heart. The medicines act allows the sale of synephrine in New Zealand as a legal dietary supplement in up to and including a 30mg daily dose. Be aware many dietary supplements on the international market exceed this limit, so make sure you check a products actual synephrine content and recommended daily dosage before ordering from overseas
First Nation Tobacco - (Lobelia inflata) - Smoked by many First Nation American tribes like tobacco. Contains the alkaloid lobeline, which is very similar to nicotine but less addictive. May be a tobacco addiction solution and the MOH have regulated it as such. Legally sold in New Zealand for use as a herbal smoking alternative. Use as tea or supplements is restricted as a prescription medicine.
Frankincense - Sacred incense resin with mood elevating and mystical, spiritual qualities. Use as incense on a hot coal in a heat proof bowl. Can also be chewed and is sometimes consumed in the middle east.
Galangal - Nootropic, energizer and aphrodisiac. Large doses produce a mild entheogenic effect. Add to rice and honey or mnake a strong tea. Also used as incense.
Ginkgo - Nootropic, supports memory and circulation to the extremities including blood flow to the genitals, hence used as a sex stimulant. Use 1tsp daily as tea.
Ginseng - Elixir of Life, adaptogen, energizer and sexual stimulant. Balances energy and stress levels. Ginseng root can be chewed, made into tea or tincture, soaked in wine or used in capsules. Powder can be added to guarana powder or used alone in smoothies hot drinks. Best used in small amounts daily.
Gotu Kola - Elixir of Life, adaptogen, energizer and sexual stimulant. Balances energy and stress levels.
Guarana - Energizer from Brazil. Milder but smoother and longer lasting than caffeine. Also used as an aphrodisiac. Add 1-2 tsp to coffee or drink.
Hawaiian Baby Woodrose - Popular collectable garden plant that may have been used as an entheogen by Hawaiian shaman.
Hemp (Cannabis sativa) Low THC - Medicinal herb that is the source of the legendary cannabinoid CBD. Both Hemp and CBD are prescription medicines in New Zealand, however Hemp seed and seed oil is allowed for use in foods, supplements and herbal remedies.
Hops (Humulus lupulus) - Hops belongs to a genus in the Cannabinaceae family. It is best known as the main ingredient of beer. It has also a long history of usage as a sedative. Use as tea, vape, in smoking mixes or make tincture or bubble hash.
Iboga - Powerful psychedelic root contains Ibogaine which is used as an opioid addiction solution. Very dangerous, should only be used under medical supervision. Considered a prescription medicine in New Zealand, last time we looked there was an Ibogaine clinic operating with MOH approval up north. recreational use strongly discouraged.
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) - Experience the tranquility of the South Pacific with kava. Kava is relaxing with mild euphoric and empathogenic properties. Try blending 30g for a start in 1litre of slightly warm (island room temperature) water, straining and drinking on a fairly empty stomach.
Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) - Anti-Depressant, promotes positive mood, reduces anxiety. Possibly a mild SSRI, so avoid combining with antidepressants. Can be chewed, vaped, used as capsules, tincture or even smoked or snuffed. Start with 1 capsule or 100mg powder up to 3 times daily. Kanna works best with continued use - reverse tolerance.
Khat - Known in Somalia as "qaad" or "jaad", ithe leaves and stem tips are chewed for their stimulating and euphoric effect. Excessive use can lead to problems. The plant is a Class C controlled substance in New Zealand making cultivation, possession and consumption illegal. Still used culturally by some in the New Zealand Somalian community but rare as hens teeth amongst the general population.
Klip Dagga - Relaxer and very mild entheogen. Remedy for many ailments, use as tea or vape. Traditionally smoked as a cannabis alternative in Africa and Sth America where it is known as Mota.
Kra Thum Khok - Used as a kratom alternative in Thailand. Milder but longer lasting effect that is both energizing and calming with good reduction of pain and inflammation. Promotes the desire to work. Simmer 5g in 1litre of boiled water for 25 minutes to make a tea. drink slowly over 1/2 hour. traditionally chewed, often with betelnut.
Kra thum Naa - More energizing then Kratom, Kra Thum Khok and Sakae Naa with less of the painkilling, relaxing properties. Promotes the desire to work. Simmer 5g in 1litre of boiled water for 25 minutes to make a tea. drink slowly over 1/2 hour.
Krachai Dum - Thai Black Galangal. Energizer and aphrodisiac. It is commonly used in medicine in Thailand, Japan and China. Within the famous martial art of Thailand, Muay Thai, it is used to increase muscular strength and for better endurance. It is also an ingredient in many aphrodisiacs and love potions found throughout Thailand and surrounding regions.
Kratom - Both an energizer and relaxer with small doses being more stimulating and large doses being more sedating. Mood lifting and promotes desire to work. Eases pain and inflammation in the body. Beneficial to those trying to get off opiates and also methamphetamine. Prolongs sex. Prescription medicine in New Zealand thanks to a kiwi women who was working for the Aussie health board when they banned it there. She decided it would be a good idea to bugger New Zealand at the same time. From all of us here in New Zealand who would benefit from Kratom but have no source, thanks very much lady. You rock. Ask your doctor for a prescription to import a 3mth supply or get prescribed overseas and bring back a 1 month supply.
Lemon Balm - A relaxer, great for anxiety in the day as its not too sleepy. Mixes nicely with most herbs.Tastes great as a tea, vape or even smoked. Full of terpenes.
Marihuanilla - Relaxer and psychic herb. Supports heart health and many ailments. Use as tea or vape. Smoked in Mexico for as a cannabis substitute.
Morning Glory - Traditional use of seeds as an entheogen by the Aztecs, medicine and popular collectable garden plant. Restricted medicine in New Zealand if intended for human consumption. Very popular garden collectable with beautiful psychedelic coloured flowers. available at most garden centers and grows wild in places.
Mugwort - Used to promote lucid dreaming and astral travel. Use in dream pillow, 1tsp nightly as tea or vape. Can also be smoked. Best used 1/2 to 1hr before sleep. Also used as incense.
Muira Puama - Sex stimulant and aphrodisiac. Creates pleasant tingles in body, especially at base of spine. Soak in Liquor for best effect.
Mulungu - Relaxer, alcohol alternative, supports liver, great for anxiety and hangover.
Myrrh - Sacred incense resin. Elevates mood and spirit. Traditionally added to wine as a narcotic before the discovery of opium. Recent studies confirm myrrh targets the opiate receptors in the brain and hence may be of benefit to opiate users trying to quit. Use as incense. Can also be snuffed or added to wine.
Nutmeg - Spice and aphrodisiac. In large doses it acts as a deliriant, although an unpleasant one, it involves nausea, dry horrors, lethargy and has an extremely long duration. Toxic to the liver in large doses. Use as a spice or rub the oil into thighs and soles of feet. Large psychoactive doses strongly discouraged. Also used as incense and to add flavour to snuff.
Palo Santo - Sacred incense wood. Used by some First nation tribes to purify the enviroment before Ayahuasca ceremony. Use as incense.
Passionflower - MAO Inhibitor, a relaxer and mild entheogen. Use as tea or vape. Can also be smoked for a mild cannabis like effect.
Red Raspberry Leaf - Supports lung health. Smoked as a tobacco alternative and/or mixer. Popular in Amsterdam where the coffeeshops use it as a tobacco alternative in joints. A good base for herbal smoking blends. can also be vaped or used as a relaxing tea.
Rhodiola - Adaptogen, supports energy, libido and positive mood by regulating dopamine levels. Use as a tea or make a tincture. Mixes well with guarana for energy and kanna for mood.
Sakae Naa - The leaf is used as a kratom substitute in Thailand. Energizing and calming with anti-inflammatory and pain killing properties. Use as tea or toss and wash, start with 5g. Fresh leaf traditionally chewed and also smoked.
Salvia Divinorum - Medicinal herb and powerful entheogen. Used for addiction, pain relief, PST and many other conditions. Legal to grow in New Zealand and use as a herbal remedy. Sale of extracts for recreational use may or may not breach the PSA, this has not been tested as far as we are aware.
Sinicuichi - Mayan sun-opener. Used to produce a sun tea. 5g fresh leaves are allowed to wilt in the sun for a little before being added to a jar of warm water, covered and left in the sun to ferment for a couple of days. The resulting tea is used as a herbal remedy for many ailments and also used as a healing salve. Tea is very relaxing and has a mildly entheogenic effect. Best consumed amonst nature.
Skullcap - Relaxer, calms the mind without clouding focus. Good for exam anxiety. Use as tea or vape. Also smoked for a mild cannabis like effect.
Saw Palmetto - Berries are aphrodisiac and may support prostrate health, used in many love potions. Best in small amounts daily as a tea or otherwise consumed orally.
Spirulina - An algae that is often promoted as a super-food containing a high number of essential vitamins, amino acids and other essential micro-nutrients. Good for hangovers and a general boost to health, energy and vitality. Powder can be added to drinks such as smoothies or packed into capsules.
St. John’s Wort - Natures anti-depressant, supports positive mood, may help with depression as well as anxiety and insomnia. Use as tea, 1tsp 3X daily. Can also be vaped.
Syrian Rue - MAO Inhibitor, anti-depressant, used as incense, entheogen and to make a dye used on Persian rugs.
Tea - The worlds most popular psychoactive drug, tea is a herbal speedball containing the powerful stimulant caffeine as well as the downer L-Theanine. Multiple different strains with differing psychoactivity and flavours are grown and sold almost everywhere. Use as tea or vape in a herbal aromatherapy vaporizer.
Tobacco - Various strains smoked throughout south America by shamans in ritual. Contains Nicotine, a stimulant. Smoking is harmful and addictive, we recomend using a vape or a vaporizer as a healthier alternative.
Wild Dagga - Used as a cannabis mixer and substitute in South Africa, as well as a herbal remedy for snake bites, various stings and many other medicinal applications. Vape, smoke or make a tea or hash type extract.
Wild Opium Lettuce - Used as an opium substitute and adulterant in Victorian times. Effective painkiller and relaxer. Latex was collected and smoked by the Hopi and smoked to produce colourful dreams. Related to the common garden lettuce.
Wormwood - Used to make the infamous liquor Absinthe. Dream enhancer and mild entheogen. Used in herbal medicine. Make a tea, extract into liquor to make Absinthe, dream pillow, vape, smoke or incense.
Yohimbe - Aphrodisiac, contains Yohimbine, a sex stimulant proven scientifically to work, therefore a prescription medicine in New Zealand. Unprocessed herb can be purchased for use in incense, in prayer, ethnobotanical research etc but is not available in New Zealand as a herbal remedy. Ask your doctor for a script for Yohimbine.
Valerian - Nature's Valium, the root is a potent tranquilizer and relaxer. Great for anxiety or insomnia. Simmer 10g root in 1 litre of water in a covered pot (so aromatic components do not escape) for 25 minutes to create a tea. Preloading with Vitamin C increases the effect.
White Sage - Sacred incense and aromatic. Used to make smudge sticks to purify the environment. Used in American first nation sweat lodge ceremonies and before Ayahuasca by some tribes.
Buy Ethnobotanicals in New Zealand
You can order the most popular legal ethnobotanicals from right here in New Zealand @ MindFuel online smartshop. For herbs classified as restricted or prescription medicines you would need to ask your doctor for a script to import a 3month supply or get the herb prescribed overseas and return with a 1 month supply. We strongly discourage the use of any herbs or remedies that are prohibited under the misuse of drugs act unless travelling through a country where it is legal to do so. Whenever in doubt always consult your doctor and/or lawyer first.
References: A herbal medicine making workbook by Gilian Painter, Chinese medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner, Culpeper's complete herbal (Wordsworth reference), Drugs-Forum, Encyclopedia of Aphrodisiacs by Christian Ratsch, Encyclopedia of Psychoactive plants by Christian Ratsch, Marijuana Medicine by Christian Ratsch, Materia Medica of Western herbs for the Southern Hemisphere by Carole Fisher and Gilian Painter, Phantastica by Louis Lewin, MD, Plant intoxicants by Baron Ernst Von Bibra, Plants of the Gods by Albert Hofmann, Richard Evans Schultes and Christian Ratsch, the Seven sisters of sleep by Mordecai Cooke, the Vaults of Erowid.
This article is provided as a general guide only. We are not doctors nor lawyers. Always carry out your own research and consult your doctor before consuming any herbal remedies or dietary supplements.You can read similar articles to this one in our Knowledge Base.