The natural world is full of beauty, sustenance, and healing if you only know where to look. For tens of thousands of years, human cultures around the globe had all of their needs met by plants, animals, and natural resources that surrounded them. For medicine, they could find a finely stocked pharmacy in the roots, herbs, fungi, and trees all around them. Some of these early peoples discovered that some plant medicines did not just heal toothaches and other physical ailments but expanded the mind in incredible ways as well. They placed these sacred plants at the heart of their spiritual traditions.
To cultures like these, plant medicine healing was both a reproducible science and a delicate magic. The potent psychedelic plant medicines were seen as capable of healing the mind, the body, and the soul. Today we are in many ways rediscovering this same understanding through the lens of scientific study as we learn that what was once dismissed as superstition is actually grounded in numerous verifiable facts of human neurochemistry, physiology, and psychology.
When people talk about plant medicines in a psychedelic context, they are referring to plants like cannabis, Psilocybin cubensis (magic mushrooms), and B. cappi and chacruna (common constituent plants of the Amazonian brew ayahuasca). When smoked or ingested, these plants have psychedelic properties that take their imbibers on transformational inner journeys of self-reflection and profound consciousness expansion that can change their lives in highly positive ways. While milder psychedelics such as cannabis can be used recreationally, stronger plant-based psychedelics like ayahuasca or ibogaine are anything but recreational, often involving highly unpleasant physical side-effects such as nausea and vomiting (often referred to as “purging”) and intense psychological distress or “ego death” during certain parts of the trip.
While this sounds like anything but a good time, these plants are highly valued because of the therapeutic benefit that comes from these experiences — as well as the blissful and revelatory moments that often follow — is incredibly transformative and often ranks as one of the most important spiritual experiences of a person’s life.
Ancient and indigenous cultures around the world often held their locally-available psychedelic plant medicines at the very core of their society, considering them sacred and essential. Today, we are beginning to understand through science and clinical research just how powerful these medicines can be in the face of some of our most serious and hard to treat psychological conditions. Plant medicines such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, cannabis, and ibogaine have shown huge promise in treating conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), opiate addiction, nicotine addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, and depression. It’s incredible to realize that when utilized correctly, these psychedelic plants often prove to be safer and more effective than the conventional treatments and prescription medications that modern science offers. It makes you consider that perhaps these “primitive” pre-industrial cultures that valued plant medicines so highly were not so primitive after all.
When plant based medicine is used meditatively with focus, it has the ability to clarify our illusions and elevate our minds to a more relaxed state of mind. Smoking weed can allow forces the mind to forego a lot of negative thoughts. It calms down the mind and decreases stress levels. This is probably the reason why people resort to it during stressful moments. It can allow a person to live in the present, and therefore they get to experience profound spiritual awakening.
Marijuana users know smoking the drug can help reach out to their fullest potential. Smoking pot can alter the conscious state of the mind and form a temporary detachment from the physical world. When people smoke pot, they are fully immersed in the present and gain the ability to drop off all emotional resistance and descend into an amazing state of appreciation.
For many years, marijuana has been used as a form of spiritual awakening, leading the way for more constructive purposes. People seeking spiritual healing can use marijuana to expand their consciousness and tap into their innate psychic ability.
As unique and valuable as the psychospiritual aspects of psychedelic plant medicines are, we are beginning to see more and more that there are many physiological healing effects as well. Cannabis is a great example as it’s the most widely studied of all the psychedelics, and an incredible amount of physical healing benefits have been attributed to cannabis through scientific research. The conditions that cannabis has been shown to help treat are too numerous to list, ranging from glaucoma and appetite loss to pediatric epilepsy and cancer. Last year, the US Department of Health stated that cannabis kills cancer cells despite it being listed as a Schedule 1 drug with no health benefits. Cannabis has been used by humans since antiquity, and it’s very encouraging to see that science is vindicating its safety and health benefits, which helps to overcome the strong stigma that was attached to it ever since the Reefer Madness days.
The stronger psychedelic plant medicines also show signs of catalyzing physical and neurological healing. Both ibogaine and psilocybin have been shown to initiate neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells, which is a vitally important function of brain development in children but far less common in adults. While our understanding of the significance of neurogenesis in adult brains is still rudimentary, it seems to point yet again to there being a scientific and physiological basis for the incredible brain rewiring that both ancient cultures and modern advocates attribute to transformative psychedelic experiences.
The Past Meets the Future
For every answer we find about plant medicines, more questions seem to pop up. How did ancient cultures have such an advanced understanding of the medicinal properties of plants? What is the real relationship between the mind, the body, and what we call the soul? Why do certain plants reliably give us “religious” experiences, and what does that say about plant and human coevolution? What we can say for certain is that the plant kingdom offers an incredible array of physical and psychological healing through its plant medicines, and it would benefit us all to continue to study, respect, and utilize them with both a scientific eye and a humble nod to the cultures who carried this wisdom of their value for thousands of years before modern science emerged.
What to Expect
The use of plant based medicine is illegal in many parts of the world. Check with local authorities for rules and regulations. Shamans, therapists, and physicians help guide your experience.
Ayahuasca, traditionally administered in special healing ceremonies by highly trained shamans known as ayahuasceros, is sometimes referred to as a hallucinogen. But it is no such thing. For while a hallucinogen produces visual phenomena rooted in the individual psyche, ayahuasca opens up channels to the spirit world, and the drinker/participant bears witness to that landscape. Best to name ayahuasca a sacred plant medicine. For among those with whom the ceremonial healing use of ayahuasca is a way of life, the brew is referred to as “La Medicina,” the medicine.
While ayahuasca ceremonies vary from one shaman to another and from one tribal tradition to the next, certain features remain constant. A true ayahuasca ceremony brings together the ayahuasca brew, the shaman(s), and the plant spirits. This triune force engages in ceremony to effect healing, and to open up the doors of the spirit world to the participant. Typically an ounce or two of the brew is drunk. The ayahuasca brew is intensely bitter, and the taste is unpleasant, even for those who are experienced drinkers.
In some ceremonies, the shaman(s) sit quietly with the participants in the dark for about forty-five minutes or so, as the effects of the ayahuasca start to come on. However, some shamans begin to sing and make ethereal whistling sounds as soon as the brew has been drunk. Some shamans wave chacapas – noisy leaf fans – and others do not. It is typical and common for the shaman to blow smoke of potent Amazonian tobacco (called mapacho) on participants, to cleanse the atmosphere and to establish an aura of protection.
Within about an hour after drinking the brew, visions usually commence. There is a geometry common to the ayahuasca experience, and this geometry is beautifully represented in the textiles and ceramics of the Shipibo native people of Peru. Most people who journey with ayahuasca see that geometry. As the visions increase, the shaman(s) sing healing spirit songs known as icaros. These evocative, haunting tunes bring the yravlere deeper into the ayahuasca mystery.
If you ask the ayahuasca for healing, it will usually provide what you seek. There are many thousands of cases in which people have been healed of physical, mental and emotional disorders, and many curious cases of recovery from grave and even fatal disorders. There is much to investigate about the healing properties of ayahuasca. A large number of people have been cured of addictions through a few ayahuasca ceremonies, and the cases of post-ayahuasca cancer remission are too numerous to ignore
Purging is typical and common in the ayahuasca ceremony. Most participants throw up at some point in ceremony. Some also get diarrhea. The cleansing effects of ayahuasca are well known, and are just part of the ceremony. For most participants, purging is a relief. Typically the purging does not last long, and the ayahuasca experience becomes stronger afterward.
People see and experience all kinds of phenomena while on an ayahuasca journey. You may see deceased relatives, spirits of every kind, vast landscapes of natural or manufactured forms, animals, insects, serpents, birds, and various creatures of nature. And as you engage in ceremonies over time, you start to learn to negotiate the spirit landscape, and to enlist the aid of certain spirits for your own healing and spiritual awakening.
For the person who has never participated in an ayahuasca ceremony, it is easy to assume that the brew causes the drinker to hallucinate, and that this explains the ayahuasca experience. But when you have engaged in ayahuasca ceremonies with highly trained shamans who make the brew correctly, such simplistic and reductionistic explanations fall apart completely. The spirit landscape, in all its mystery, beauty, splendor, terror, majesty and strangeness, is its own world, and the ayahuasca lets you into that world.
Ayahuasca is clearly not for everybody. The experience is typically intense, and can be terrifying. The spirit landscape is beautiful, but can also be overwhelming. Still, ayahuasca helps to put into order the body, mind and spirit with the past, present and future. Because of this extraordinary healing power, ayahuasca is a revered brew, and ayahuasca ceremonies are increasingly sought after by people from all over the world. Some flock to Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador to participate in ceremonies in the Amazon, and others drink in urban and suburban venues, in ceremonies led by shamans who tour. In many ways, through a great many people, ayahuasca, La Medicina, is making itself known. This potent Amazon brew has the power not only to heal, but to transform your understanding and experience of reality.
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes. The main psychoactive part of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids. Cannabis can be used by smoking, vaporizing, within food, or as an extract.
Medical marijuana uses the marijuana plant or chemicals in it to treat diseases or conditions. It’s basically the same product as recreational marijuana, but it’s taken for medical purposes.
The marijuana plant contains more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Each one has a different effect on the body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main chemicals used in medicine. THC also produces the “high” people feel when they smoke marijuana or eat foods containing it
Medical marijuana is used to treat a number of different conditions, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Appetite loss
- Crohn’s disease
- Eating disorders such as anorexia
- Mental health conditions like schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Wasting syndrome (cachexia)
What To Expect
Cannabis has mental and physical effects, such as creating a “high” or “stoned” feeling, a general change in perception, heightened mood, and an increase in appetite. Onset of effects is within minutes when smoked, and about 30 to 60 minutes when cooked and eaten. They last for between two and six hours. Additional effects include:
Most people who use cannabis do so to experience a sense of mild euphoria and relaxation, often referred to as a “high.” Cannabis causes changes in the user’s mood and also affects how they think and perceive the environment, e.g. everyday activities such as watching the television and listening to music can become altered and more intense.
The effects of using cannabis may also include:
- Feeling of well-being;
- Loss of inhibitions;
- Decreased nausea;
- Increased appetite;
- Loss of co-ordination;
- Bloodshot eyes;
- Dryness of the eyes, mouth, and throat;
- Anxiety and paranoia.
Cannabinoids — the active chemicals in medical marijuana — are similar to chemicals the body makes that are involved in appetite, memory, movement, and pain.
Research suggests cannabinoids might:
- Reduce anxiety
- Reduce inflammation and relieve pain
- Control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy
- Kill cancer cells and slow tumor growth
- Relax tight muscles in people with MS
- Stimulate appetite and improve weight gain in people with cancer and AIDS
LSD and Mushrooms
Microdosing is the act of consuming sub-perceptual amounts of psychedelics, like LSD or Psilocybin Mushrooms. Sub-perceptual means the effects are subtle, but can have a noticeable influence on your life. Typically, individuals integrate sub-perceptual doses into their weekly routine. Microdosers often report higher levels of creativity, more energy, increased focus, and improved relational skills.
Many people microdose in order to treat depression or anxiety, with often remarkable results. Some enthusiasts also report microdosing helps to heighten spiritual awareness and enhance all five senses.
All of us, at some point in our lives, have experienced a flow state. The surfer effortlessly riding a big wave, the therapist perfectly in-sync with her client, the salesman working the room in an out of body experience… all are examples of people performing at their best while in flow.
Simply put, flow is truly one of the great experiences of being human.
This no specific, non-anecdotal evidence to suggest that microdoses of psychedelics can induce flow states – but it is recognized that moderate doses can change the function of the brain in a way very similar to that seen in flow states.
Studies show that moderate doses of psychedelics cause brain waves to shift more towards alpha oscillations, which is also seen in the transition to a flow state.
Psychedelics imitate the neurotransmitter serotonin when they enter the brain – and we know that serotonin is found in higher levels in flow states. Similarly, psychedelics increase the levels of dopamine in the brain,  another neurotransmitter which is found in higher levels in flow states.
Perhaps most importantly, psychedelics’ ability to dampen down the DMN can allow our brains to make unique connections between areas that don’t usually communicate. This is crucial for allowing flow states to occur.
Since we know that moderate doses of psychedelics can induce similar effects to a flow state in the brain, it seems likely that a regular microdosing regimen will start to shift our awareness in the direction of flow.
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys Paperback – May 18, 2011 by James Fadiman
Microdosing Psychedelics: A Practical Guide to Upgrade Your Life Paperback – June 27, 2018 by Paul Austin