See below for both the discussion of the origins of “dagga” and current applications.
[See other slang terms for cannabis here.]
Dagga: Usage and Meaning
- “Fire up that good dagga, my friend!”
- “Generoy always knows where the truly kind dagga is; no clue how they find it, mine is never quite as good.”
- “Would you like to share a pipe of this dagga? Or do you prefer to vape?”
Origins of “Dagga”
The word “dagga” comes from an old Khoi word, “dacha.” The Khoi is a group of traditionally nomadic indigenous hunter-gatherer peoples of Namibia and South Africa, including the ancestors of the Griquas and the Nama people. Dacha was originally their name for Leonotis leonurus, which is today sometimes called wild dagga, Klipdagga, or Rooi dagga.
The Khoi smoked wild dagga like tobacco, and in the early botanical literature Leonotis leonurus and cannabis are sometimes confused. This may be because “dacha” included any form of narcotics for some groups.
Since the 17th century, many different spellings of dagga have been recorded, including: dacha, dacka, daga, daggha, dagha, dachka, and tagga. In the 1940s in South Africa, the ruling party modified “dacha” to “dagga,” a phonetic symbol in the Afrikaans language of disgust for indigenous practices. Over time, “dagga” and its use was stigmatized in the region.
These days the word dagga has achieved international fame, and is used as basic slang in many cannabis circles around the world. However, in South Africa and the region “dagga” is still a stigmatized, sensitive word in some circles and is assumed to have negative meaning. This is seen as especially tragic for African peoples, whose only indigenous word for the plant has been demeaned. Some people in the country are working to reform the stigma and reclaim the emotional relationship with the word that exists in the region.
What is Wild Dagga?
Leonotis leonurus, also called wild dagga and lion’s tail, is a plant species native to the Lamiaceae or mint family. Native to southern Africa, the large, broadleaf evergreen shrub is commonly found in South Africa.
Wild dagga, like its confusing linguistic cousin, cannabis, is known for its medicinal benefits. However, Leonotis leonurus does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis, and no part of the plant is used as a hallucinogen. Instead, although chemical analysis has yet to reveal leonurine in the plant, most users claim it is the active component of Leonotis leonurus. Wild dagga also contains marrubiin, a medicinal herb, like other plants in the mint family.
It is possible that as a medicinal herb that can be consumed, Leonotis leonurus was referred to as “dacha” by some indigenous South African tribes. However, no part of the wild dagga is psychoactive.