Sacred Plant Healing: Shamanic Medicine & the New Science

September 14, 2017

Waking Times  by Bret Lothian (originally published in New Dawn Magazine)

In our modern age, all of us have been touched in one way or another by mental illness, either directly or indirectly. Depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress, and an ever growing list of psychotic disorders and addictions are today rampant in our modern industrialised world. Most likely a direct result of our “keeping up with the Kardashians” lifestyle and ultra competitive, capitalist “greed is good” world.

Whilst we may never be able to go back to more simpler times, what we can do is learn from the societies who still live a simpler life. Especially in the area of mental health, where we enter the mystical realm of the Shaman and shamanic plant medicine.
After the false start of the 1950s–1970s psychedelic research, today cutting edge science has learned from the mistakes of the past and is once more entering the realm of the Shaman, this time (by necessity) in a far more measured and scientific way. The results of which will not only save lives, but show us a way that all of us can live happier, less stressful and healthier lives.
It is repeated time and again in the science of anthropology that indigenous societies with little to no contact with modern civilisation simply do not have the same mental health issues that we do in our modern world.Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, who conducted research in New Guinea, described it as “an unusually good country in which to do epidemiologic research because census records for even most remote villages are remarkably good.” After examining these records, he found, “there was over a twentyfold difference in schizophrenia prevalence among districts; those with a higher prevalence were, in general, those with the most contact with western civilisation.”

In reviewing other research, Torrey concluded: “Almost all observers who looked for psychosis or schizophrenia in technologically undeveloped areas of the world agreed that it was uncommon. The striking feature is the remarkable consensus that insanity (in the early studies) and schizophrenia (in later studies) were comparatively uncommon prior to contact with European-American civilisation.” Interestingly, in traditional cultures the people we would call ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘insane’ often become the Shaman or Medicine men/women that go on to heal and counsel their people.

The reasons for our mental maladies are many (and worthy of an entire article in their own right), but the main reason seems to be the level of coercion (with the threat of violence) in our modern society versus those of the traditional. In other words, from cradle to the grave we are taught to fear, we are controlled by fear, and have fear reinforced on a daily basis by the mainstream media.
To many indigenous peoples, even the supposed majority rule that most westerners call democracy is problematically coercive as it results in the minority feeling resentful. Roland Chrisjohn, member of the Oneida Nation of the Confederacy of the Haudenausaunee (Iroquois) and author of The Circle Game, points out that for his people it is deemed valuable to spend whatever time necessary to achieve consensus so as to prevent such resentment. By the standards of western civilisation, this is highly inefficient. “Achieving consensus could take forever!” exclaimed an attendee of a talk given by Chrisjohn, who responded, “What else is there more important to do?”
Unfortunately, we in the modern world simply cannot wait for such a consensus utopia to happen by itself, and accept that our modern world is exactly how the powers-that-be want it to be. That is the entire point of having power to begin with. Our modern way of life is literally killing so many of us, and the natural world around us, whilst the one percent at the top get to live their lives of luxury, at our and the world’s expense.
What can we do about it? How can we achieve a happy consensus, instead of the coerced consensus imposed upon us, without the use of fear and the resulting resentment that is the root cause of many mental problems? I think it begins at home, not just in our recycling bins, but in our minds and gardens. We simply must break the shackles of fear if we are to be truly happy and mentally healthy. That is where the ancient methods of the Shaman and shamanic plant medicine come in, and now with the backing of cutting edge science, it can no longer be denied.
The modern research into the use of shamanic plant medicine and modern psychedelic drugs such as LSD (which work the same way in the brain) for treating mental illness began in 1953 and was conducted until 1973 and the Richard Nixon led ‘war on drugs’. Psychedelic drugs (often derived from shamanic plants) were tested on alcoholics, people struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depressives, autistic children, schizophrenics, terminal cancer patients, and convicts, as well as on perfectly healthy artists and scientists (to study creativity) and divinity students (to study spirituality). The results reported were almost always positive.
However, many of the studies were, by modern standards, poorly designed and seldom well controlled, if at all. This is not what led to the prohibition of shamanic plant medicine and psychedelic drugs in general. The current legal standpoint came from the fear induced in the powers-that-be of the ‘flower power’ generation and their increasing unwillingness to fight in foreign wars for the benefit of the elite. Nothing could put more fear into the powers-that-be than an entire generation embracing peace, love and understanding through the use of shamanic plant medicine and psychedelics, when the elites made their money (and therefore power) from war, fear and propaganda.

In today’s world of the ‘war on terror’ (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) we must remember that little has changed at the top. Luckily for us, the new breed of scientist has learned that instead of promulgating the ‘turn on, tune in and drop out’ slogan of Timothy Leary and the ‘acid gurus’, what we need is undeniable facts, hard science and proven repeatable results.

Which brings us to the new dawn of psychedelic research and the return of shamanic plant medicine. Unfortunately, the new science must deal with the fear and propaganda of the past, which makes scientific research incredibly difficult. The simple fact is, most reputable scientific institutes simply do not want to go anywhere near ‘psychedelic research’ because of the stigma attached to it. The main problem is there just isn’t the money for this kind of research because the big pharmaceutical companies have no interest in developing drugs that people can grow at home. People are never going to pay their hard earned money for a ‘drug’ when they can get the plant it was derived from for free. You can’t patent all of nature and the vast majority of research is funded by and designed to benefit Big Pharma, not the patient. We must remember that businesses are in the business of making money, otherwise they would be called charities.
Another problem with receiving funding for this kind of research is that shamanic plant medicine consistently proves effective at limited doses that are non-habit forming. Meaning there is little to no scope for consistent reliance (or addiction) upon a ‘drug’, and therefore no money for Big Pharma which has no interest in cures, only ‘treatments’ that have to be continued for a long period of time to be profitable. Take a look at modern pharmaceutical ‘treatments’ for depression that usually have to be taken for years at a time and say right on the box “Maycause suicidal thoughts!” Once again, the powers-that-be have put their own profits over the people.
Thankfully this has not stopped serious scientific researchers from making major breakthroughs in the field of psychedelic research. After almost thirty years since the last serious psychedelic research, Dr. Rick Strassman began to investigate the effects of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) between 1990 and 1995 in the General Clinical Research Center of the University of New Mexico Hospital. DMT is a powerful psychedelic found in hundreds of plants from all around the world and in every mammal (including ourselves) that have been studied. Literally everywhere in nature, DMT is the active ingredient in the Amazonian shamanic plant medicine ayahuasca, which is gaining popularity around the world for its therapeutic benefits, and is currently being reviewed by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration for religious use.
Strassman refers to DMT as the “spirit molecule” because its effects include many features of religious experience, such as visions, voices, disembodied consciousness, powerful emotions, novel insights, and feelings of overwhelming significance. During the project’s five years, Strassman administered approximately 400 doses of DMT to nearly five dozen human volunteers, with more than half of the volunteers reporting profound encounters with non-human intelligences whilst under the influence of DMT. His team published a companion article characterising the psychological effects and preliminary results of a new rating scale, the Hallucinogen Rating Scale, or HRS. The HRS has seen wide acceptance throughout the international research community as a sensitive and specific instrument for measuring the psychological effects of a wide variety of psychoactive substances, with over fifty articles documenting its use as of 2016.
The next major step was taken by Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences and his team at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 2006 they conducted a double blind study evaluating the acute and longer term psychological effects of a high dose of psilocybin (the active ingredient in the shamanic plant medicine commonly known as ‘magic mushrooms’) relative to a comparison compound administered under comfortable, supportive conditions. The researchers found that psilocybin produced a range of acute perceptual changes, subjective experiences, easily changeable moods and increased measures of mystical experience. Seventy percent of the volunteers went on to say they had one of the five most meaningful experiences of their lives. The volunteers rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance and attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in mental outlook, life satisfaction, attitude and behaviour consistent with changes rated by their community observers (the researchers relied on both self-assessments and the assessments of co-workers, friends, and family). Griffiths believes the personality changes found in this study are likely permanent since they were sustained for over a year by many. The fact that Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (which is widely regarded as the premier medical centre in America) was now conducting psychedelic research literally opened the floodgates to new and exciting research into shamanic plant medicine and the new psychedelics such as LSD and MDMA (the active ingredient in the street drug ‘Ecstacy’).
This was followed by Dr. Charles Grob at UCLA, who for a Phase I pilot study assessed the safety, dosing, and efficacy of psilocybin in the treatment of anxiety and existential stress in terminal cancer patients. The Phase II trials, concluded at both Johns Hopkins and NYU, involved higher doses and larger groups. In both phases of the study researchers found after receiving just a single dose of psilocybin the subjects involved experienced immediate and dramatic reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements that were sustained for at least six months, with no clinically adverse effects being noted. The subjects involved were reported as saying things like ‘I understand love is the most powerful force on the planet’, or ‘I had an encounter with my cancer, this black cloud of smoke’. People who had been palpably scared of death lost their fear of it and were able to be at peace during such a difficult time. The fact that a substance given once can have such an effect for so long is unprecedented; there has literally never been a substance so effective in the field of psychiatry, but of course it’s long been the staple of the Shaman.
A Norwegian study in 2013 titled ‘Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study’ by Teri S. Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen, showed that the use of shamanic plant medicine and psychedelics had no negative effects on mental health. In lifetime users of shamanic plant medicine and psychedelics, there was a decrease in mental health issues.
Rick Doblin and his team at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in 2013 published a follow up to their 2011 study into the safety and effectiveness of MDMA (Ecstacy) in treatment resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients. Their study revealed that it can be used safely and effectively against this debilitating disorder and the positive effects are long term, without risk of addiction or the need for continued use of the substance.
In 2014 the University of Zurich reported in a fascinating study that psilocybin inhibits the processing of negative emotions in the brain and positively effected mood. In 2015, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health showed that the use of classic psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin and mescaline (the active ingredient in peyote and San Pedro cacti) had a protective effect on mental health and in suicide prevention. Again, in 2015, another Johns Hopkins study showed that shamanic plant medicine and psychedelic use had a protective effect against mental illness and suicide. Another University of Alabama at Birmingham study this year showed psychedelic use had an inhibitory effect on domestic violence and was useful in the treatment of problem behaviours. Many similar studies are currently ongoing and will be published in the years to come. Please note: the findings mentioned above were achieved under strict clinical conditions and controls.
In most countries around the world the use of shamanic plant medicine such as magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote, San Pedro and iboga, and even the mere possession of psychedelics like LSD and MDMA, are unfortunately illegal, thanks to the ridiculous and socially damaging ‘war on drugs’, despite their proven therapeutic benefits. In the countries where the traditional use of shamanic plant medicine is still undertaken, their legal status is usually protected and has created an ever growing ‘psychedelic tourism’ market of spiritual seekers and people looking for alternative medicines that actually work. People from all over the world are flooding into countries like Peru and Bolivia looking to heal their post-traumatic stress, anxiety and conquer depression and drug addictions.
Unfortunately, not all of us can drop everything and run off to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca, but what we can do is garden (gardening itself has proven to be an anti-depressant), and freely purchase and grow the vast majority of these shamanic plant medicines, legally. We just aren’t allowed by law to ingest them or prepare them for ingestion. We are left in the unenviable position of medical marijuana patients, having to break the law to save lives.


Dylan Charles, Editor

Waking Times
Depression is now the number one worldwide cause of disease and disability, according to the World Health Organization. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the psychiatric industry’s bible, defines depression as the near daily existence of at least 5 of the following 9 conditions:

1. Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
2. Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day

3. Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite

4. Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia

5. Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation

6. Fatigue or loss of energy

7. Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

8. Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness

9. Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or has suicide plan

(Proposed (not yet adopted) anxiety symptoms that may indicate depression: irrational worry, preoccupation with unpleasant worries, trouble relaxing, feeling tense, fear that something awful might happen.) [Source]

Diagnosis using this array of possibilities is highly subjective and hardly scientific, and the DSM-5 recommends treatment with pharmaceutical antidepressants, supportive psychotherapy, best guesses, trial and error, observation, hope and luck.
Antidepressants aim to correct chemical imbalances in the brain by adding reactive chemicals to the body, an approach based on the theory that depression is the result of deficiencies in certain chemicals. This theory is tested by tinkering with brain chemistry while looking for signs of decrease in the aforementioned symptoms.
This model is not at all unanimously agreed upon, but it dominates our treatment of depression, although it is just a guess, as admitted in the DSM-5 itself:
The undoubtable success of various antidepressants has focused attention on the biogenic amines: given that all antidepressants have effects on either noradrenergic or serotoninergic functioning, it appears reasonable to assume that there is a complementary disturbance in these amines in patients with major depression. Despite enormous research effort, consistent findings implicating these amines have been difficult to obtain. One exception is the finding that, in patients with major depression currently in an SSRI-induced remission, a depletion of tryptophan, the dietary precursor of serotonin, is generally followed by a rapid relapse of depressive symptoms. [Source]
The chemical imbalance theory is weak, but worse than that it’s one-dimensional, focusing on body chemistry alone without consideration of the emotional complexities of the human psyche and of life itself.

Research into the use of the psychedelic drugs ecstasy, ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin, and the use of shamanic plant medicines ayahuasca and iboga, takes us even further in dispelling the myth of the chemical imbalance theory. Patients, as well as many ordinary people who have experienced these substances, commonly report dramatic breakthroughs in their mental health, with even low doses.
The commonality in these substances is that they have a distinct psychoactive element, drastically altering ordinary consciousness. Ayahuasca, for example is gaining in renown for its ability to treat depression by inducing a deeply meaningful and personal spiritual experience that offers insight into one’s behavior and past experiences, helping them to develop a more healthy relationship with themselves.
“A 2016 review of observational studies of regular users found reductions in dependence and substance use; a preliminary 2015 study for depression treatment found 82 percent reductions in depression scores; and another 2016 review found that short-term use was associated with “improved planning and inhibitory control,” with potential antidepressive and anti-addiction applications.” [Source]
The African plant medicine iboga works in a very similar manner, and can reprogram self-defeating and self-destructive patterns of thought in a single shamanic ceremony by sending the patient on an intense personal journey of introspection and connection to the higher dimensions of themselves, even allowing them to communicate directly with their own soul.

These substances work by affecting other components of the multi-dimensional human being, and as these concepts fall far outside of the purview of the scientific method, they are easily dismissed by the type of empirically minded scientists involved in projects like creating the DSM-5. Never-the-less, the psychedelic experiences mentioned here can be highly effective, offering compelling evidence that depression is at least for some, a spiritual condition, and as such the chemical imbalance theory is incomplete.
The chemical imbalance theory is critical to the domination of depression treatment by the pharmaceutical industry, but as research proceeds, and as people continue to relay their personal experiences in healing themselves with the aid of these consciousness expanding substances, we have more and more evidence to suggest that the pharmaceutical treatments may not be the best or only option for treating depression.


While the origins of the horseradish plant may be unknown, this plant has quite the history attached to it. It is mentioned in Greek mythology and was considered to be worth its weight in gold by the Delphic Oracle. It is mentioned in ancient medicinal texts, and there is even a mural with the plant in it in Pompeii. It also has some presidential history, as both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson mention horseradish in garden accounts.

For many, horseradish is known as a spicy condiment typically for meats and sandwiches, but it also has a number of medicinal benefits. Nutritionally, it is low in calories, and a serving contains about 17 to 20% of the daily Vitamin C recommendation. It also contains potassium, folate, calcium, and has small amounts of B-complex vitamins.

TWEET #didyouknow One serving of horseradish contains about 17-20% of the RDV of vitamin C! @BaselineHealth

Horseradish as a Natural Antibiotic

Horseradish contains volatile oils that are similar to those found in mustard. These include glucosinolates (mustard oil glycosides), gluconasturtiin, and sinigrin, which yield allyl isothiocyanate when broken down in the stomach. In test tubes, the volatile oils in horseradish have demonstrated antibiotic properties, which may account for its effectiveness in treating throat and upper respiratory tract infections.

At levels attainable in human urine after taking the volatile oil of horseradish, the oil has been shown to kill bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections, as was validated in one early trial. In fact, horseradish is an approved herbal remedy in Germany for use in treating urinary tract infections.

Horseradish as a Potential Cancer Remedy

In addition to providing antibiotic benefits, the glucosinolates in horseradish may have cancer fighting properties as well. There has been some promise shown in helping detoxify cancer-causing chemicals in the liver and possibly slowing the growth of cancerous tumors. In laboratory experiments published in the “European Journal of Nutrition,” the compounds were shown to change cellular activity and stop cancer cells from dividing and causing them to die.

Horseradish as an Immune Booster

Horseradish is also a stimulant that quickens and excites the body. It can energize the body, helping it to marshal its defenses against invading viruses. In addition, horseradish can help carry blood to all parts of the body. And it is a diaphoretic and thus helps raise the temperature of the body, which increases the activity of the body’s immune system.

Other Natural Horseradish Remedies

If that’s not enough, horseradish may also be helpful in treating or relieving symptoms for:

Achy joints and muscles
Gallbladder disorders
Sciatic nerve pain
Intestinal worms
Coughs and asthma
Spots and blemishes on the skin
Indigestion and putrefaction in the digestive tract
How to Use Horseradish

Horseradish should always be used fresh, as it loses its potency and medicinal effects if it is cooked or stands too long after being grated. However, grating it, mixing it with apple cider vinegar, and storing it in an airtight container will preserve its freshness.

Baseline for Health Foundation.

Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial

 Journal of Psychopharmacology  2016, Vol. 30(12) 1165
The Author(s) 2016
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0269881116675512
Enduring clinically significant anxiety and/or depressive symp-
toms are common in patients with cancer, present in 30–40% of
patients in hospital settings (Mitchell et al., 2011). These symp-
toms are associated with a variety of poor outcomes, including
medication non-adherence, increased health care utilization,
adverse medical outcomes, decreased quality of life, decreased
social function, increased disability, hopelessness, increased
pain, increased desire for hastened death, increased rates of sui-
cide, and decreased survival rates (Arrieta et al., 2013; Brown
et al., 2003; Jaiswal et al., 2014).
Although pharmacotherapeutic and psychosocial interven-
tions are commonly used to treat anxiety and depression in
cancer patients, their efficacy is mixed and limited (Grassi
et al., 2014; NCCN, 2014). There are no US Food and Drug
Administration approved pharmacotherapies for cancer-related
psychological distress, the onset of clinical improvement with
anti-depressants is delayed, relapse rates are high, and significant
side effects compromise treatment adherence (Freedman, 2010;
Li et al., 2012).
Rapid and sustained symptom reduction
following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and
depression in patients with life-threatening
cancer: a randomized controlled trial
Clinically significant anxiety and depression are common in patients with cancer, and are associated with poor psychiatrical and recent research suggests a role for psilocybin to treat cancer-related anxiety and depression.
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression were randomly assigned and
received treatment with single-dose psilocybin (0.3 mg/kg) or niacin, both in conjunction with psychotherapy. The primary outcomes were anxiety
and depression assessed between groups prior to the crossover at 7 weeks.
Prior to the crossover, psilocybin produced immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression and led to
decreases in cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness, improved spiritual wellbeing, and increased quality of life. At the 6.5-month follow-
up, psilocybin was associated with enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects (approximately 60–80% of participants continued with clinically
significant reductions in depression or anxiety), sustained benefits in existential distress and quality of life, as well as improved attitudes towards
death. The psilocybin-induced mystical experience mediated the therapeutic effect of psilocybin on anxiety and depression.
In conjunction with psychotherapy, single moderate-dose psilocybin produced rapid, robust and enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant
effects in patients with cancer-related psychological distress.

Continue reading “Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial”

Hawthorne – empowering your heart

It’s the season for staying warm and nourishing the heart!  Te Hawthorne tree has been revered by the Druids and Celts since the times of old.

Hawthorne berries can be a great source of relief for people experiencing intense feelings of loss, grief or angst. If you have just recently lost a loved one or had a bad breakup or you just need a bit of heart happiness support this herb is certainly worth a try!

^^Hawthorne Tree, Leaf, Flower and Berries!^^

Other common names- Mayblossom, Quick, Whitethorn, Haw, Hazels, Gazels, Halves, Hagthorn, Ladies’ Meat and Bread and Cheese Tree.
Haw, Hazels, Gazels, Halves, Hagthorn, Ladies’ Meat and Bread and Cheese Tree.

Latin- Crataegus spp.

Parts used- Leaf, Flowers and Berries

Constituents- Flavanoids, anti-oxidants, crateagolic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid, sugars, glycosides, vitamin c and biogenic amines(Choline and Phenylethylamine)

Properties- Digestive(aids in digestion), Anti-diarrheic(treats diarrhea), Cardio-tonic(tonifys the heart), Emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow)

Uses-As a Tea, Tincture, Syrup or in Capsule form hawthorne can be used to strengthen the walls of blood vessel. Extracts of the leaves, blossoms and berries have a compound in them that can have a tonifying effect on the heart and vascular system. Since the first century the berries have used in traditional medicine for a number of heart related ailments. Hawthorn species have been studied for their use in treating health concerns for the heart and blood vessels, in particular; congestive heart failure, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, low and high blood pressure, angina, atherosclerosis and high cholesterol. Hawthorn berries are one of the most reliable herbs for heart related problems in modern herbalism. The Chinese use hawthorne berries mainly for digestive conditions to control the appetite, stimulate digestion treat diarrhea and assimilation. Great for digestion of heavy foods especially meats and starches.

As a cardio tonic it can either strengthen a weak heart or calm an overactive heart giving balance to emotions and the body. Hawthorne berries can be a great source of relief for people experiencing intense feelings of loss, grief or angst. If you have just recently lost a loved one or had a bad breakup or you just need a bit of heart happiness support this herb is certainly worth a try.

We just made a seasonal limited supply batch of a tasty hawthorne berry elixir, great for staying warm and happy during these cold months!
Click here>