Plant medicines and psychedelic medicines have exploded into the public’s attention over the last decade. Many have made pilgrimages to the Amazon to sit with plant teachers such as ayahuasca, huachuma, and yopo, as well as the shamans and indigenous communities that work with these plant teachers. But what exactly is plant medicine and why has it so enraptured our attention in the West since the 1960s and, more broadly speaking, for thousands of years?

We need to take a moment to differentiate, as there are many forms of plant medicine. You’ve undoubtedly taken some during your lifetime. Common over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin are derived from natural sources. Nature is the most advanced biochemist. Here we are specifically talking about entheogenic – which means “to manifest the divine within” – or psychedelic – soul manifesting – plant medicines. When under the guidance of an entheogenic or psychedelic plant medicine, there are often potent visionary and bodily effects: one may witness past traumas, explore dreamlike worlds, taste colors and feel sound, and find a totally alien and broader perspective, one that encompasses far more than we generally can experience. This broader perspective naturally invokes greater compassion for oneself and others, viewing one’s insoluble problems as totally reconcilable, and a feeling of unfettered connection to everything in existence.

Aldous Huxley likened the human mind to a reducing valve on consciousness. Plant medicines open the reducing valve, allowing a fuller pressure of experience to be felt, cleansing the doors of perception. Plant medicine journeys often help people to let go of painful predicaments they’ve been caught in, reorient their relationships to self and other, and view the world and their place in it with open eyes. In short, plant medicines completely dissolve and recapitulate our conception and relationship to experience, exposing us to deeper truth.

Is it any wonder that our ancestors, and more recently Western culture, have been fascinated with these eye opening, soul healing, God revealing plants?

Plant medicine is not limited to the Amazon. The only cultures without plant medicine traditions are those for whom the environment is too unforgiving, such as the Inuit. Indigenous plant medicine use in Europe and the territories they colonized was largely prohibited and dismantled by Christian institutions for many centuries. Thankfully for us, Albert Hofmann reignited the psychedelic flame in the West by synthesizing lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD-25, in his research for Sandoz. After accidentally ingesting ~250 micrograms through his skin, he had a blissful, terrifying, transcendent experience. Not knowing what to make of it or how to utilize it, Sandoz began offering substantial quantities interested researchers in the early 1950s.

LSD-25 would find its first home in the field of psychiatry. Initially interested in its use as a psychotomimetic, something that could help clinicians better understand the experience of patients experiencing psychosis, they quickly realized its healing potential across populations and diagnoses. Beginning in the late 1950s, psychedelic psychiatry flourished under the work of such physicians as Drs. Stanislav and Christina Grof. The transformative power of psychedelic medicines taken in a therapeutic container was not lost on individuals like Timothy Leary, who recognized that this power could be used to alter society as well. Leary’s message to “tune in and drop out” got him and his good friend Richard Alpert, later to be known as Ram Dass, fired from Harvard. The wide distribution of LSD in the 1960s led to a cultural revolution and its subsequent prohibition in 1966, with many more plant medicines following in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This legislation effectively halted all empirical research on the therapeutic benefit of psychedelics, many of which were classified as Schedule I – high addiction potential and no medicinal benefit.

This did little, however, to halt the movement. The healing power of plant medicines and the government’s instinctual fear of them was too apparent. Underground work continued while people like Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), dedicated their lives to bringing plant medicine back above ground. 40 years later, the city of Oakland and State of Oregon have decriminalized plant medicine such as psilocybe mushrooms, ayahuasca, and others. Nearly 20 states have legalized the sale and use of cannabis, and MAPS is one significant study away from making MDMA-assisted psychotherapy approved under the FDA with many more studies following on psilocybin – the active component in magic mushrooms – ayahuasca, N,N- and 5-MEO dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and ketamine.

To date, millions of people have had incredible life transforming experiences with plant medicine under the care and guidance of compassionate and skilled practitioners. Plant medicines have helped to clear the webs of illusion and take people to the truly authentic, eternal, and compassionate place within themselves from where lasting change can take root. Plant medicines have grown alongside us so that we can remember who we are as the world so often makes us forget.

Many of these substances are still listed under Schedule 1 & 2 classification and deemed illegal, and we do not recommend anyone to work with them. However at Within, we bring the ancient traditions and ceremonial rituals and merge them with westen medicine, specifically with Ketamine therapy along with ancient gut health, microbiome and diet. Ketamine is a prescription medication that doctors can prescribe off-label to treat anxiety, depression, chronic pain, PTSD, OCD, substance abuse, and other mental health-related conditions. It has been safely and responsibly used as an FDA-approved anesthetic since the early 1970’s.

Ketamine can move you beyond the superficial layers of your day-to-day mind, heal unhealthy neural pathways, soften the neural plasticity in the brain, to help you achieve a deeper sense of safety, belonging and connection to who you are, allowing you to release and let go of things that no longer serve you.

If you’re looking to take the journey to your truly authentic, deep, and love filled center, Within would be honored to guide you through each step of the process, from preparation to integration.

Contact us today