After consuming the heart-shaped herb, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) visits the ancestral plane

What Is the Heart-shaped Herb and How Does It Work? Answered and Explained

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered on November 11, 2022, and was an emotional and heartrending continuation of the story of Wakanda and its people. The film marked the long-awaited sequel to Black Panther, which premiered in 2018. Black Panther is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) most critically acclaimed film, partially because of Chadwick Boseman’s masterful portrayal of King T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther). A sequel was confirmed shortly after Black Panther‘s release, but the project’s vision changed drastically when Boseman passed away on August 28, 2020, after a quiet battle with colon cancer.

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Eventually, Black Panther‘s director, Ryan Coogler, decided to adjust the sequel in a way that honored Boseman’s legacy. The sequel was reworked and formed into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Marvel decided early on not to recast King T’Challa out of respect for Boseman. As a result, T’Challa has passed away in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. In the wake of his death, Wakanda faces a significant threat from an underwater civilization, the Talokan, and their leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta). The threat is so great that it truly calls for another Black Panther.

However, the question remains if there even can be a new Black Panther. The identity of the Black Panther has been dictated by the heart-shaped herb for centuries. This plant works in mysterious ways to ensure that only those of royal blood or intricate worth are given the prestigious mantle. When Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) seemingly destroyed all of the heart-shaped herbs, it became even more confusing what these plants were and how anyone would be the Black Panther after their destruction. Here is what the heart-shaped herb is and how it works.

What is the heart-shaped herb in Black Panther?

The heart-shaped herb in Black Panther

The heart-shaped herb is a plant that grows exclusively in Wakanda. Its unique properties resulted in the Wakandans believing the heart-shaped herb was a gift from the Panther god, Bast. While Bast does exist in the Marvel universe, the heart-shaped herb wasn’t a work of the gods. Instead, like most aspects of Wakanda, it was the result of the vibranium meteorite that struck the nation in the past and made it one of the few locations in the world where the metal could be found.

The vibranium seeped into the soil and caused the native Wakandan plant to mutate. These mutations granted it the ability to enhance its consumers with supernatural powers and transport them to the ancestral plane.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

How does the heart-shaped herb work?

The exact manner in which the heart-shaped herb works is a mystery. However, for whatever reason, in the comics, the heart-shaped herb only works for those who are of royal blood or those who are deemed worthy. If anyone else dares to take the herb, they will die rather than be granted superhuman abilities. In addition to this, anyone who takes the heart-shaped herb must undergo a test.

Upon consuming the herb, the consumer is transported to the ancestral realm. There, they meet an ancestor who will shape and guide them as the Black Panther. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever revealed that it isn’t always a lost loved one who appears to the heart-shaped herb consumer on the ancestral plane. While T’Challa and Killmonger were met by their fathers, Shuri was shocked to be met by her villainous cousin, Killmonger. This revealed that the heart-shaped herb looks inward toward the consumer’s heart. In Shuri’s case, it saw her desire for vengeance and decided Killmonger was best suited to meet her on the ancestral plane.

Does the heart-shaped herb return?

The heart-shaped herb was destroyed in Black Panther. However, it does end up making its way to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Initially, Shuri tried but failed, to replicate the plant when her brother was dying. Later, she learns that the Talokans utilized a similar vibranium-mutated underwater plant that gave them water-breathing abilities. Using this knowledge, she successfully replicated the heart-shaped herb and used to become the next Black Panther.

(featured image: Disney)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.