Scientists Studied What Psychedelics Do To The Brain And It’s Not What You’ve Been Told


It turns out that psychedelics aren’t just good for turning into an elf and jousting a car. Psychiatrists, psychologists and specialists in addiction and recovery from traumatic experiences have been investigating the use of hallucinogens in treatment programs, and the results indicate that psychedelics actually have practical therapeutic uses. And one drug has proven particularly useful. Repeated studies have found the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, can help people move past major life issues — like beating alcoholism and becoming more empathetic.

The research: One study concluded that controlled exposure to psilocybin could have long-lasting medical and spiritual benefits. In 2011, Johns Hopkins researchers found that by giving volunteer test subjects just the right dose (not enough to give them a terrifying bad trip), they were able to reliably induce transcendental experiences in volunteers. This provoked long-lasting psychological growth and helped the volunteers to find peace in their lives, all without side effects. Nearly all of the 18 test subjects, average age 46, were college graduates. Seventy-eight percent were religious and all were interested in finding a scientific experience.

Fourteen months later, 94% said their trip on magic mushrooms was one of the five most important moments of their lives. Thirty-nine percent said it was the most important thing that had ever happened to them. Their colleagues, friends, and family members said the participants were kinder and happier; the volunteers had positive experiences ranging from more empathy and improved marriages to less drinking.

Lead author Roland Griffiths told TIME’s Healthland that “The important point here is that we found the sweet spot where we can optimize the positive persistent effects and avoid some of the fear and anxiety that can occur and can be quite disruptive.”

What’s more, the researchers say that those changes in personality are highly atypical, because personalities tend to be pretty set in stone after the age of 25-30. According to postdoctoral researcher Katherine MacLean, who contributed to the study, “This is one of the first studies to show that you actually can change adult personality.”

“Many years later, people are saying it was one of the most profound experiences of their life,” she continued. “If you think about it in that context, it’s not that surprising that it might be permanent.”

This is strictly do-not-try-this-at-home. Maclean says that “in an unsupervised setting, if that sort of fear or anxiety set in, the classic bad trip, it could be pretty dangerous.” But “On the most speculative side, this suggests that there might be an application of psilocybin for creativity or more intellectual outcomes that we really haven’t explored at all.”

More research: Within the past few decades, interest in hallucinogens has expanded from the counter-culture to dedicated, methodological research. For example, another study published in 2010 conducted research into whether psilocybin can lend some comfort to terminal cancer patients — finding evidence that it reduced death anxiety and experienced significantly less depression. According to study researcher Dr. Charles Grob, “Individuals did speak up and tell us that they felt it was of great value.” NYU’s Dr. Stephen Ross, who conducted a similar study, told SCPR that “To me it’s been some of the most remarkable clinical findings I’ve ever seen as a psychiatrist.”

Psychologist Clark Martin, Ph.D., who participated in the study as a volunteer, describes his experience below:

As well as participant Janeen Delaney:

As a result of the studies, a joint UCLA, NYU and Johns Hopkins team is conducting large-scale phase three trial next year.

Cluster headache patients say (with the backing of some doctors) that psilocybin and LSD provide them with significant relief, which researchers argue need further study.

A 2012 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found evidence that psilocybin “enhances autobiographical recollection,” suggesting psychiatric uses in “the recall of salient memories or to reverse negative cognitive biases.” A review of the pyschiatric research performed on psilocybin concluded that the risks of therapy were acceptable and that “most subjects described the experience as pleasurable, enriching and non-threatening.” And this year, Zürich researchers released a study in which they administered psilocybin to 25 volunteers. The treatment was found to be associated with an “increase of positive mood in healthy volunteers.”

So basically, there’s at least some hard evidence that this:

… Has the potential to be helpful, leading to introspection, self-reflection, and relief from psychiatric conditions.

Other drugs: Other illegal drugs have been linked to positive psychological outcomes. Trials with MDMA have had positive results in patients suffering from PTSD. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies founder Rick Doblin, who works with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, discusses why MDMA might be the first psychedelic to “open the door into traditional psychiatry and psychology”:

So why isn’t there more evidence? The federal government is only now beginning to loosen its restrictions on medical uses of mind-altering substances, and it’s doing so very cautiously. In 2013, a group of psychiatrists released a review saying government restrictions made even researching psychoactive drugs “difficult and in many cases almost impossible.”

About The Author

Tom McKay is a Live News columnist for Mic, where he writes about politics, media, and technology.

This article was originally published on


Ayahuasca: An Ethnopharmacologic History

aya vine

*The following is excerpted from The Ayahuasca Experience, edited by Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., recently released in a new edition by Park Street Press.**

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Ayahuasca History

Of the numerous plant hallucinogens utilized by indigenous populations of the Amazon Basin, perhaps none is as interesting or complex, botanically, chemically, or ethnographically, as the hallucinogenic beverage known variously as ayahuasca, caapi, or yagé. The beverage is most widely known as ayahuasca, a Quechua term meaning “vine of the souls,” which is applied both to the beverage itself and to one of the source plants used in its preparation, the Malpighiaceous jungle liana, Banisteriopsis caapi (Schultes 1957). In Brazil, transliteration of this Quechua word into Portuguese results in the name hoasca. Ayahuasca, or hoasca, occupies a central position in mestizo ethnomedicine, and the chemical nature of its active constituents and the manner of its use make its study relevant to contemporary issues in neuropharmacology, neurophysiology, and psychiatry.

What is Ayahuasca?

In a traditional context, ayahuasca is a beverage prepared by boiling or soaking the bark and stems of Banisteriopsis caapi together with various admixture plants. The admixture employed most commonly is the Rubiaceous genus Psychotria, particularly P. viridis. The leaves of P. viridis contain alkaloids that are necessary for the psychoactive effect. Ayahuasca is unique in that its pharmacological activity is dependent on a synergistic interaction between the active alkaloids in the plants. One of the components, the bark of Banisteriopsis caapi, contains ß-carboline alkaloids, which are potent MAO inhibitors; the other components, the leaves ofPsychotria viridis or related species, contain the potent short-acting psychoactive agent N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). DMT is not orally active when ingested by itself but can be rendered orally active in the presence of a peripheral MAO inhibitor, and this interaction is the basis of the psychotropic action of ayahuasca (McKenna, Towers, and Abbott 1984).

There are also reports (Schultes 1972) that other Psychotriaspecies are similarly utilized in other parts of the Amazon. In the northwest Amazon, particularly in the Colombian Putumayo and Ecuador, the leaves of Diplopterys cabrerana, a jungle liana in the same family as Banisteriopsis, are added to the brew in lieu of the leaves of Psychotria. The alkaloid present in Diplopterys, however, is identical to that in the Psychotria admixtures, and pharmacologically, the effect is similar. In Peru, various admixtures in addition to Psychotria or Diplopterys are frequently added, depending on the magical, medical, or religious purposes for which the drug is being consumed. Although a virtual pharmacopoeia of admixtures are occasionally added, the most commonly employed admixtures (other thanPsychotria, which is a constant component of the preparation) are various Solanaceous genera, including tobacco (Nicotiana sp.), Brugmansia sp., and Brunfelsia sp. (Schultes 1972; McKenna et al. 1995). These Solanaceous genera are known to contain alkaloids, such as nicotine, scopalamine, and atropine, which affect both central and peripheral adrenergic and cholinergic neurotransmission. The interactions of such agents with serotonergic agonists and MAO inhibitors are essentially unknown in modern medicine.

Focus of the Present Historical Perspective

The present chapter presents a brief overview of the history of ethnopharmacological investigations of ayahuasca, which has been a topic of fascination to ethnographers, botanists, chemists, and pharmacologists ever since it first became known to science in the mid-nineteenth century. For expository purposes, the history of ayahuasca ethnopharmacology can be divided into several segments, starting with the prehistoric origins of the beverage and leading up to the present, where ayahuasca is still an active area of research. The modern history of ayahuasca can be dated from the mid-nineteenth century. The focus of the present chapter is on the ethnopharmacologic history of ayahuasca, though it should be noted that this unique beverage has historically impacted religion, politics, and society, as well as science, (e.g., in the Brazilian goverment’s acceptance of the legitimacy of the sacramental use of ayahuasca beverages by the UDV and other Brazilian syncretic sects) and the implications and consequences of its continued and spreading use is likely to be felt on a number of levels now and in the future.

Prehistoric Roots of Ayahuasca

The origins of the use of ayahuasca in the Amazon Basin are lost in the mists of prehistory. No one can say for certain where the practice may have originated, and about all that can be stated with certainty is that it was already spread among numerous indigenous tribes throughout the Amazon Basin by the time ayahuasca came to the attention of Western ethnographers in the mid-nineteenth century. This fact alone argues for its antiquity; beyond that, little is known. Plutarco Naranjo, the Equatorian ethnograper, has summarized what little information is available on the prehistory of ayahuasca (Naranjo 1979, 1986). There is abundant archeological evidence, in the form of pottery vessels, anthropomorphic figurines, snuffing trays and tubes, etc., that plant hallucinogen use was well established in the Ecuadorian Amazon by 1500–2000 B.C. Unfortunately, most of the specific evidence, in the form of vegetable powders, snuff trays, and pipes, is related to the use of psychoactive plants other than ayahuasca, such as coca, tobacco, and the hallucinogenic snuff derived from Anadenanthera species and known as vilka and various other names. There is nothing in the form of iconographic materials or preserved botanical remains that would unequivocally establish the prehistoric use of ayahuasca, although it is probable that these pre-Colombian cultures, sophisticated as they were in the use of a variety of psychotropic plants, were also familiar with ayahuasca and its preparation.

The lack of data is frustrating, however, particularly in respect to a question that has fascinated ethnopharmacologists since the late 1960s when its importance was first brought to light through the work ofRichard Schultes and his students. As mentioned above, ayahuasca is unique among plant hallucinogens in that it is prepared from a combination of two plants: the bark or stems of Banisteriopsis species, together with the leaves of Psychotria species or other DMT-containing admixtures. The beverage depends on this unique combination for its activity. There seems small likelihood of accidentally combining the two plants to obtain an active preparation when neither is particularly active alone, yet we know that at some point in prehistory, this fortuitous combination was discovered. At that point, ayahuasca was “invented.”

Just how this discovery was made, and who was responsible, we may never know, though there are several charming myths that address the topic. Mestizo ayahuasqueros in Peru will, to this day, tell you that this knowledge comes directly from the “plant teachers” (Luna 1984), while the mestres of the Brazilian syncretic cult, the UDV, will tell you with equal conviction that the knowledge came from “the first scientist,” King Solomon, who imparted the technology to the Inca king during a little publicized visit to the New World in antiquity. In the absence of data, these explanations are all that we have. All that we can say with confidence is that the knowledge of the techniques for preparing ayahuasca, including knowledge of the appropriate admixture plants, had diffused throughout the Amazon by the time the use of ayahuasca came to the attention of any modern researcher.

Scientific Discovery of Ayahuasca – The 19th Century

The archeological prehistory of ayahuasca is likely to remain inextricably bound up with its mythical origins for the rest of time, unless some artifact should be uncovered that would unequivocally establish the antiquity of its usage.

By contrast, what might be called the modern or the scientific history of ayahuasca is traceable to 1851, when the great English botanist Richard Spruce encountered the use of an intoxicating beverage among the Tukano of the Rio Uapes in Brazil (Schultes 1982). Spruce collected flowering specimens from the large jungle liana used as the source of the beverage, and this collection was the basis for his classification of the plant as Banisteria caapi; it was reclassified as Banisteriopsis caapi by the taxonomist Morton in 1931 as part of his revision of the generic concepts within the family Malpighiaceae.

Seven years later, Spruce again encountered the same liana in use among the Guahibo on the upper Orinoco of Colombia and Venezuela, and, later the same year, found the Záparo of Andean Peru taking a narcotic beverage, prepared from the same plant, which they called ayahuasca. Although Spruce’s discovery predates any other published accounts, he did not publish his findings until 1873, when it was mentioned in a popular account of his Amazon explorations (Spruce 1873). A fuller exposition was not to appear until Spruce published his account in A. R. Wallace’s anthology in 1908, Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and Andes (Spruce 1908). Credit for the earliest published reports of ayahuasca usage belongs to the Ecuadorian geographer Manuel Villavicencio, who, in 1858, wrote of the use of ayahuasca in sorcery and divination on the upper Rio Napo (Villavicencio 1858). Although Villavicencio supplied no botanical details about the plant used as the source of the beverage, his account of his own self-intoxication left no doubt in Spruce’s mind that they were writing about the same thing.

Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, various ethnographers and explorers continued to report on their encounters of the use of an intoxicating beverage prepared by various indigenous Amazonian tribes, and purportedly prepared from the “roots” (Crévaux 1883), of various “shrubs” (Koch-Grünberg 1909) or “lianas” (Rivet 1905) of uncertain botanical provenance. Unlike Spruce, who had the presence of mind, not only to collect botanical voucher specimens, but also materials designated for eventual chemical analysis, these later investigators did not collect specimens of the plants they observed, and hence their accounts are now of little more than historical importance. One notable exception was Simson’s (1886) publication of the use of ayahuasca among Ecuadorians, noting that they “drank ayahuasca mixed with yage, sameruja leaves, and guanto wood, an indulgence which usually results in a broil between at least the partakers of the beverage.” None of the ingredients were identified, nor were voucher specimens collected, but this report is the earliest indication that other admixture species were employed in the preparation of ayahuasca.

While Richard Spruce and other adventurous Amazonian explorers were collecting the first field reports of ayahuasca from 1851 onward, the groundwork was already being laid for important work on the chemistry of ayahuasca that would take place in the second decade of the twentieth century. The nineteenth century witnessed the birth of natural products chemistry, starting with the isolation of morphine from opium poppies by the German pharmacist Sertüner in 1803. A disproportionate number of natural products isolated for the first time during this period were alkaloids, probably because these bases are relatively easy to isolate in a pure form, and partly because the plants that contain them were and are important drug plants with obvious and often dramatic pharmacological properties.

It was during this period of feverish alkaloid discovery that German chemist H. Göbel isolated harmaline from the seeds of the Syrian rue, Peganum harmala. Six years later, his colleague J. Fritsch isolated harmine from the seeds in 1847. More than fifty years later, a third alkaloid, harmalol, was also isolated from Syrian rue seeds by Fisher in 1901. Harmine, like the other ß-carbolines named after the species epithet of Peganum harmala, would later turn out to be identical to the major ß-carboline found in Banisteriopsis caapi; the definitive establishment of the equivalence of the ayahuasca ß-carboline to harmine from Syrian rue, however, would not take place until the 1920s, after harmine had been independently isolated by several investigators and given a variety of names. The final nineteenth-century event of significance in the scientific history of ayahuasca took place in 1895, with the first investigations of the effects of harmine on the central nervous system in lab animals by Tappeiner; his preliminary results were followed up more systematically by Gunn in 1909, who reported that the major effects were motor stimulation of the central nervous system with tremors and convulsions, followed or accompanied by paresis and slowed pulse (Gunn 1935).

Ayahuasca in the Early 20th Century (1900–1950)

The early decades of the twentieth century witnessed the publication of Spruce’s detailed accounts of his Amazonian explorations and his observations of the use of the narcotic beverage among several tribes that he contacted. Although brief reports had been published earlier by Spruce and others, it was Spruce’s account of his travels in a volume edited by the famed naturalist and co-discoverer of evolution A. R. Wallace in 1908 that may have rescued the knowledge of ayahuasca from the depths of academic obscurity and brought it to the attention of educated lay people.

During this early twentieth-century period, progress in the understanding of ayahuasca took place mainly on two fronts: taxonomic, and chemical. With some notable exceptions, pharmacological investigations of the properties of ayahuasca were relatively quiescent during this period.

The botanical history of ayahuasca during this period is an amusing combination of excellent taxonomic detective work by some, and egregious errors compounded upon errors by others. Safford, in 1917, asserted his belief that ayahuasca and the beverage known as caapi were identical and derived from the same plant. The French anthropologist Reinberg (1921) compounded the confusion by his assertion that ayahuasca was referable to Banisteriopsis caapi, but that yagé was prepared from an Apocyanaceous genus, Haemadictyon amazonicum, now correctly classified as Prestonia amazonica. This error, which apparently originated from an uncritical reading of Spruce’s original field notes, was to persist and propagate through the literature on ayahuasca for the next forty years. It was finally put to rest when Schultes and Raffauf published a paper specifically refuting this misidentification (Schultes and Raffauf 1960), however, it still crops up occasionally in technical literature.

Among the investigators who helped to clarify, rather than cloud, the taxonomic understanding of ayahuasca botany must be mentioned the works of Rusby and White in Bolivia in 1922 (White 1922) and the publication by Morton in 1930 of the field notes made by the botanist Klug in the Colombian Putumayo. From Klug’s collections, Morton described a new species of Banisteriopsis, B. inebriens, used as a hallucinogen, but he also asserted that at least three species, B. caapi, B. inebriens,and B. quitensis, were used similarly and that two other species, Banisteria longialata and Banisteriopsis rusbyana, may have been used as admixtures to the preparation. Curiously, it was two chemists, Chen and Chen (1939), who did the most to clarify the early taxonomic confusion about the identity of the ayahuasca source plants. These investigators, working on the isolation of the active principles of yagé and ayahuasca, supported their investigations with authentic botanical voucher specimens (a rare practice at that time) and, after a review of the literature, concluded that caapi, yagé, and ayahuasca were all different names for the same beverage, and that their source plant was identical: Banisteriopsis caapi. Subsequent work by Schultes and others in the 1950s would establish that, in fact, Malpighiaceous species other than B. caapi were implicated in the preparation of the beverage, but considering the reigning confusion of the time, Chen and Chen’s contribution was a rare light in the forest of prevailing darkness. From subsequent fieldwork, it is now quite clear that the two main botanical sources of the beverage variously known as caapi, ayahuasca, yagé, natéma, and pinde are the barks of B. caapi and B. inebriens.

The first half of the twentieth century was also the period in which the first serious chemical investigations of the active principles of ayahuasca were carried out. Like much of the initial taxonomic work taking place during this same period, scientific progress on this front was marked at first by confusion arising from the simultaneous investigations of several independent groups of investigators. Gradually, as these investigations found their way into the scientific literature, clarity began to emerge from a fairly murky picture.

Harmine, which consensus would eventually establish as the major ß-carboline alkaloid of Banisteriopsis species, had been isolated from the seeds of Peganumharmala in 1847 by the German chemist Fritsch. Its unequivocal identification was still several decades in the future when an alkaloid named “telepathine” was obtained from unvouchered botanical material called “yajé” by Zerda and Bayón in 1905 (quoted in Perrot and Hamet 1927). In 1923, an alkaloid was again isolated from unvouchered botanical materials by the Colombian chemist Fisher Cardenas (1923) and was also named telepathine; at the same time, another Colombian team, chemists Barriga-Villalba and Albarracin (1925) isolated an alkaloid, yageine. This may also have been harmine in an impure form, but the formula assigned at the time and the melting point were inconsistent for a ß-carboline structure. To compound the confusion, the vine with which Barriga-Villalba worked had been “identified” as Prestonia amazonica, but he later revised this identification to Banisteriopsis caapi. In all of these instances, the lack of botanical reference specimens rendered the work of dubious value.

Things began to get slightly better from 1926 into the 1950s. Michaels and Clinquart (1926) isolated an alkaloid that they called yageine from unvouchered materials. Shortly afterward, Perrot and Hamet (1927) isolated a substance that they called telepathine and suggested that it was identical to yageine. Lewin, in 1928, isolated an alkaloid that he named banisterine; this was shown to be identical with harmine, previously known from the Syrian rue, by chemists from E. Merck and Co. (Elger 1928; Wolfes and Rumpf 1928). Elger worked from vouchered botanical materials that had been identified at Kew Gardens as Banisteriopsis caapi. At Lewin’s urging, based on his own animal studies, the pharmacologist Kurt Beringer (1928) used samples of “banisterine” donated by Lewin in a clinical study of fifteen post-encephalitic Parkinson’s patients and reported dramatic positive effects (Beringer 1928). This was the first time that a reversible MAO inhibitor had been evaluated for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, though harmine’s activity as a reversible MAOI was not discovered until nearly thirty years later. It also represents one of the few instances where a hallucinogenic drug has been clinically evaluated for the treatment of any disease (Sanchez-Ramos 1991).

Working from vouchered botanical materials supplied by Llewellyn Williams of the Chicago Field Museum, Chen and Chen (1939) succeeded in confirming the work of Elger and Wolfes and Rumpf; these workers isolated harmine from the stems, leaves, and roots of B. caapi and confirmed its identity with banisterine, previously isolated by Lewin. In 1957 Hochstein and Paradies analyzed vouchered material of ayahuasca collected in Peru and isolated harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine. The investigations of the constituents of other Banisteriopsis species was not undertaken until 1953, when O’Connell and Lynn (1953) confirmed the presence of harmine in the stems and leaves of vouchered specimens of B. inebriens supplied by Schultes. Subsequently Poisson (1965) confirmed these results by isolating harmine and a small amount of harmaline from “natema” from Peru, identified by Cuatrecasas as B. inebriens.

Mid-Twentieth Century (1950–1980)

The first half of the twentieth century witnessed the initial scientific studies of ayahuasca and began to shed some light on the botanical sources of this curious hallucinogen and the nature of its active constituents. During the three decades from 1950 to 1980, botanical and chemical studies continued apace, and new discoveries laid the groundwork for an eventual explanation of the unique pharmacological actions of ayahuasca.

On the chemical front, the work of Hochstein and Paradies (1957) confirmed and extended the previous work of Chen and Chen (1939) and others. The active alkaloids of Banisteriopsis caapi and related species were now firmly established as harmine, tetrahydroharmine, and harmaline. In the late 1960s however, the first detailed reports of the use of admixtures as a regular, if not invariant, component of the ayahuasca brew began to emerge (Pinkley 1969), and it soon became apparent that at least two of these admixtures, Banisteriopsis rusbyana (later reclassified by Bronwen Gates as Diplopterys cabrerana) and Psychotria species, particularly Pviridis, (Schultes 1967) were added to the brew to “strengthen and extend” the visions. A further surprise came when the alkaloid fractions obtained from these species proved to be the potent short-acting (but orally inactive) hallucinogen N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) (Der Marderosian et al. 1968). This compound had been known as a synthetic for some decades following Manske’s initial synthesis; but its occurrence in nature and its hallucinogenic properties had only come to light a few years earlier, when Fish, Johnson, and Horning (1955) had isolated it as the putative active principle in Piptadenia peregrina (later reclassified as Anadenantheraperegrina), the source of a hallucinogenic snuff used by Indians of the Carribean, as well as the Orinoco basin of South America.

The pharmacological rationale for the discovery by Schultes, Pinkley, and others in the late 1960s that ayahuasca depended for its activity on a synergistic interaction between the MAO-inhibiting ß-carbolines in Banisteriopsis with the psychoactive but peripherally inactivated tryptamine DMT had already been provided in 1958 by Udenfriend and coworkers (Udenfriend et al. 1958). These researchers in the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology at NIH were the first to demonstrate that ß-carbolines were potent, reversible inhibitors of MAO. During this same period, clinical work and self-experimentation by the Hungarian psychiatrist and pharmacologist Stephen Szara (1957) with the newly synthesized DMT lead to the publication of the first reports of its profound, though short-lasting, hallucinogenic actions in humans. Szara’s experiments also lead to the first recognition that the compound is not orally active, though the mechanisms of its inactivation on oral administration were not fully understood. Ironically, several decades later, the DMT pioneer Szara would be appointed as the head of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

In 1967, during the height of the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury, a unique symposium was held in San Francisco under the sponsorship of what was at the time the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. EntitledEthnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs (the proceedings were later published under that title as U.S. Public Health Service Publication No. 1645, issued by the U.S. Government Printing Office) (Efron et al. 1967) this conference brought together the leading lights of the day in the emerging field of psychedelic ethnopharmacology. Participants included toxicologist Bo Holmstedt of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, chemist Alexander Shulgin, newly credentialed M.D. and marijuana researcher Andrew Weil, and others. It was the first time that a conference on the botany, chemistry, and pharmacology of psychedelics had been held, and as it happened, it was certainly the last time that such a conference would be held under government sponsorship. This landmark conference, and the publication issuing from it, which was to become a classic of psychedelic literature, was the first forum where the state of the art at the time regarding ayahuasca in its multidisciplinary aspects was revealed to the world. The symposium volume included chapters on the chemistry of ayahuasca (Deulofeu 1967), the ethnography of its use and preparation (Taylor 1967), and the human psychopharmacology of the ß-carbolines of ayahuasca (Naranjo 1967). It is an ironic commentary on the paucity of knowledge of ayahuasca at the time that the uses of tryptamine-containing admixtures, and their activation via MAO-inhibition, did not even surface for discussion at the symposium; the prevailing assumption was that the psychoactivity of ayahuasca was due primarily if not entirely to the ß-carbolines.

In the five years following this conference, progress was made in understanding ayahausca pharmacology and chemistry. Schultes and his students Pinkley and der Marderosian published their initial findings on the DMT-containing admixture plants (Der Marderosian et al. 1968; Pinkley 1969), fueling speculation that DMT, orally activated by ß-carbolines, was responsible for much of the activity of the brew. This notion, although plausible, would not be scientifically confirmed for another decade.

In 1972, Rivier and Lindgren (1972) published one of the first interdisciplinary papers on ayahuasca, reporting on the alkaloid profiles of ayahuasca brews and source plants collected among the Shuar people of the upper Rio Purús in Peru. At the time, their paper was one of the most thorough chemical investigations of the composition of ayahuasca brews and source plants that referenced vouchered botanical collections. It also discussed numerous admixture plants other than the Psychotriaspecies and Diplopterys cabrerana, and for the first time provided evidence indicating that ayahuasca admixture technology was complex, and that many species were on occasion used as admixtures.

In the later 1970s a team of Japanese phytochemists became interested in the chemistry of Banisteriopsis and reported the isolation of a number of new ß-carbolines and the pyrrolidine alkaloids shihunine and dihydroshihunine (Hashimoto and Kawanishi 1975, 1976; Kawanishi et al. 1982). Most of the newly reported ß-carbolines were isolated in extreme trace amounts, however, and the possibility was later raised that they might be artifacts resulting from the isolation procedures (McKenna et al. 1984).

Late Twentieth Centrury (1980–2000)

Following publication of Rivier and Lindgren’s paper, there was little further progress on the scientific front for the remainder of the 1970s. There was no comparable follow-up to Rivier and Lindgren’s work until Terence McKenna et al. (1984) published the results of their chemical, ethnobotanical, and pharmacological investigations of ayahuasca and its admixtures, based on vouchered botanical specimens and samples of brews used by mestizo ayahuasqueros in Peru. This paper was significant because it represented the first time that the theory proposed to explain the oral activity of the beverage was experimentally confirmed. The active principal was shown to be DMT, rendered orally active by ß-carboline-mediated blockade of peripheral MAO. Assays of ayahuasca fractions in rat-liver MAO systems showed that the brews were extremely potent MAO inhibitors even when diluted many orders of magnitude.

A further important discovery was the finding that the levels of alkaloids typically found in the mestizo ayahuasca brews exceeded the levels found in the upper Rio Purús ayahuasca by Rivier and Lindgren, sometimes by an order of a magnitude or more. Based on the known human pharmacology of DMT and ß-carbolines, Terence McKenna and coworkers showed that a typical dose (100 ml) of the mestizo ayahuasca samples contained enough DMT to constitute an active dose. The investigators suggested that the lower levels of alkaloids found in the Shuar samples of Rivier and Lindgren (1972) may have resulted from the different methods used in preparation. The Shuar typically soak the Banisteriopsis and admixture plants in cold water; they do not boil the plants, nor do they reduce the volume of the final extract, as is typically done in mestizo practice. These factors explained the discrepancies in alkaloid concentration found in the two different studies or at least provided a plausible rationale to explain the differences.

The decade of the 1980s also witnessed the early contributions of the anthropologist, Luis Eduardo Luna. Working among mestizo ayahuasqueros near the cities of Iquitos and Pucallpa in Peru, Luna’s work was the first to articulate the importance of the strict diet followed by apprentice shamans, as well as the specific uses of some of the more unusual admixture plants (Luna 1984a; 1984b; 1986). He was also the first to report on the concept of “plant teachers” (plantas que enseñan), which is how many of the admixture plants are viewed by the mestizo ayahuasqueros. In 1986, McKenna, Luna, and Towers published the first comprehensive tabulation of the species used as admixtures and the biodynamic constituents contained in them, pointing out that these relatively uninvestigated species comprise an extensive folk pharmacopoeia worthy of closer scrutiny as potential sources of new therapeutic agents (McKenna et al. 1995).

While conducting fieldwork together in the Peruvian Amazon in 1985, McKenna and Luna first began discussing the possibility of conducting a biomedical investigation of ayahuasca. The superior health of the ayahuasqueros, even at advanced ages, seemed remarkable and something that could be amenable to scientific study. The logistical challenges of carrying out such work in Peru, however, seemed daunting, since access to storage facilities for plasma samples was limited and local concepts of witchcraft made it unlikely that ayahuasqueros would submit to medical procedures such as collection of blood and urine samples. The workers wrote a preliminary proposal for the project following their return from the field but did not pursue funding.

In 1991, however, a fresh opportunity to initiate such a study presented itself in Brazil. McKenna and Luna were among several foreigners invited to participate in a conference in São Paulo by the Medical Studies section of the União do Vegetal (UDV), a Brazilian syncretic religion that used ayahuasca in their ceremonies. The group’s use of ayahuasca in a ritual context (under the names hoascavegetal, or simply cha, “tea”), while permitted by the Brazilian regulatory authorities, was subject to provisional review. Many members of the UDV were themselves physicians, psychiatrists, or had other kinds of medical expertise and so were most receptive to the notion of conducting a biomedical study of ayahuasca when it was proposed to them by Luna and McKenna. It turns out that this had been a part of their own unspoken agenda all along and was part of the reason for inviting the foreign investigators to the first Medical Studies Conference on Hoasca. Besides the opportunity to satisfy scientific curiousity about the human pharmacology of hoasca, the UDV had a political motive for carrying out such a study; they wanted to be able to demonstrate to the Brazilian health authorities that the long-term use of hoasca tea was safe, and did not cause addiction or other adverse reactions. The UDV physicians were hoping to enlist foreign scientists to collaborate in the study. The question of how the study was to be funded had yet to be answered.

Following the 1991 conference, McKenna returned to the United States and drafted a proposal describing the objectives of the study that was to become known as the Hoasca Project. Initially, the objective was to submit the proposal to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, but as the proposal took shape it became clear that funding for the study would be unlikely to originate from any government agency. Not only were there legal, logistical, and political problems with securing NIH funds for a study to be carried out in Brazil, it was also clear that given the nature of government drug policy, the NIH would not look favorably on a proposal that was not aimed at demonstrating serious harmful consequences resulting from the use of a psychedelic drug. Fortunately, McKenna had affiliations with Botanical Dimensions, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the investigation of ethnomedically important plants, and through this venue he was able to solicit generous grants from several private individuals.

With sufficient funding assured for at least a modest pilot study, McKenna enlisted the collaborative talents of various colleagues in the medical and academic communities. Eventually, a truly international, interdisciplinary study team was formed, consisting of scientists from UCLA, the University of Miami, the University of Kuopio in Finland, the University of Rio de Janeiro, University of Campinas near São Paulo, and the Hospital Amazonico in Manaus.

The team returned to Manaus in the summer of 1993 to begin the field phase of the research, which was conducted using volunteers who were members of the Nucleo Caupari in Manaus, one of the oldest and largest UDV congregations in Brazil. The team spent five weeks in Brazil administering test doses of hoasca tea to the volunteers, collecting plasma and urine samples for later analysis, and carrying out a variety of physiological and psychological measurements.

The result was one of the most comprehensive multifaceted investigations of the chemistry, psychological effects, and psychopharmacology of a psychedelic drug to be carried out in the twentieth century. Both the acute and the long-term effects of regular ingestion of hoasca tea were measured and characterized; extensive psychological evaluations, and in-depth structured psychiatric interviews were conducted with all volunteers; the nature of the serotonergic response to ayahuasca was measured and characterized; and the pharmacokinetics of the major hoasca alkaloids were measured for the first time in human plasma. Since completion of the field phase of the study, the results have been published in a number of peer-reviewed papers (Grob et al. 1996; Callaway et al. 1994, 1996, 1998) and are summarized in a comprehensive review (McKenna et al. 1998). Among the key findings were that long-time members of the UDV commonly underwent experiences that changed their lives and behavior in positive and profound ways; and that there was a persistent elevation in serotonin uptake receptors in platelets, possibly indicative of similar long-term serotonergic modulation occurring in the central nervous system that may reflect long-term adaptive changes in brain functions. The study did establish that the regular use of hoasca, at least within the ritual context and supportive social environment that exists within the UDV, is safe and without adverse long-term toxicity, and, moreover, apparently has lasting, positive influences on physical and mental health.

The Future of Ayahuasca Research

The field and laboratory phases of the Hoasca Project have been completed for sometime, and now that the last and final major paper resulting from the work has been published. Always conceived as a pilot study, the objectives of the hoasca study were modest and intended to indicate directions for future research. In this regard, the study was a remarkable success; like all good science, the study raised more questions than it answered and suggested several promising directions for future research. Now that ayahuasca has been clearly shown to be safe, nontoxic, and therapeutically useful as medicine, it is to be hoped that future researchers will devote sufficient interest, as well as funds, to the exploration of its healing potential.

Some Speculative Issues

With the completion of the Hoasca Project, there now exists a solid foundation of basic data to serve as the underpinning of future scientific investigations as their focus moves from the field to the laboratory and the clinic. But outside the perimeter of the cold light of reason cast by scientific scrutiny, there remain a number of issues surrounding ayahuasca that are unlikely be resolved by science alone, at least not by scientific methods as they are now understood. Ayahuasca is a symbiotic ally of the human species; its association with our species can be traced at least as far back as New World prehistory. The lessons we have acquired from it, in the course of millennia of coevolution, may have profound implications for what it is to be human, and to be an intelligent, questioning species within the biospheric community of species.

Although we have no certain answers, the question of the nature and meaning of the relationship between humanity and this visionary vine, and by extension with the entire universe of plant teachers, persistently troubles us. Why should plants contain alkaloids that are close analogs of our own neurotransmitters, and that enable them to “talk” to us? What “message” are they trying to convey, if any? Was it purely happenstance, purely accident, that led some early, experiment-minded shaman to combine the ayahuasca vine and the chacruna leaf, to make the tea that raised the curtain on the “invisible landscape” for the first time? It seems unlikely, since neither of the key ingredients are particulary inviting as food, and yet what else could it have been? The ayahuasqueros themselves will simply tell you that “the vine calls.” Others, trying to be more sophisticated and rational, but proffering no more satisfying explanation, will talk about plant alkaloids as interspecies pheromonal messengers and as carriers of sensoritropic cues that enabled early humans to select and utilize the biodynamic plants in their environment.

Still others, such as my brother Terence McKenna and I in our early work, and a more recent reformulation of a similar theory by anthropologist Jeremy Narby (McKenna and McKenna 1975; Narby 1998), argue that by some as yet obscure mechanism, the visionary experiences afforded by plants such as ayahuasca give us an insight—an intuitive understanding—of the molecular bedrock of biological being, and that this intuitive knowledge, only now being revealed to the scientific worldview by the crude methods of molecular biology, has always been available as direct experience to shamans and seers with the courage to forge symbiotic bonds with our mute but infinitely older and wiser plant allies.

Such notions are surely speculative and are certainly not science; but to an observer of the contemporary world, who has been involved both scientifically and personally with ayahuasca for many years now, I find it very interesting that such “wild” speculations keep reasserting themselves, no matter how much we try to desacralize the tea and render it down to a matter of chemistry and botany, receptor sites and pharmacology. All of those things are important, certainly; but none of them will ever explain the undeniable and profound mystery that is ayahuasca.

the aya exp


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Can DMT Connect The Human Brain To A Parallel Universe?


Dr. Rick Strassman in his book DMT: the Spirit Molecule, claims that DMT, which is one of the most powerful psychedelic drugs, can provide a reliable and regular access to the other planes of existence.  He claims that DMT may actually be a gateway to parallel universes.


In fact, these universes are always there and constantly transmit information. But we cannot perceive them because we are simply not designed for this: our ‘program’ keeps us tuned to the standard, mentally ‘normal’ channel.  We don’t have the sensory tools available to tune into to this information. Dr. Strassman beliefs that DMT allows us to tune into to other dimensions of existence that are already present right now.

What if DMT can lead us to parallel worlds? Theoretical physicists assume that the existence of parallel worlds is based on the phenomenon of interference, writes Strassman. One of the demonstrations of this phenomenon is what happens to the light beam when passing through a narrow hole in cardboard. Various rings and colorful edges that appear on the screen on which the light falls are not just the outlines of the cardboard. As a result of more complex experiments, the researchers concluded on the existence of “invisible” light particles that collide with those that we can see, refracting light in unexpected ways.

Parallel worlds interact with each other when the interference occurs. According to the theoretical hypothesis, there is an unimaginably huge number of parallel universes, or multiverses, each of which is similar to our own and is subject to the same laws of physics. This is the reason to the fact that it is not necessary that there is anything particularly strange or exotic about different multiverses. At the same time, they are parallel due to the particles that form them and that are located in different positions in each universe.

Strassman refers to the British scientist David Deutsch, a leading theorist in this area and author of The Fabric of Reality. He has corresponded with Deutsch discussing the likelihood that DMT can alter brain function so as to grant access or knowledge about parallel worlds and the physicist doubted this possibility because it would require quantum computingThis phenomenon, according to Deutsch, “could distribute components of a complex task among vast numbers of parallel universes, and then share the results. One of the conditions required for quantum computing is a temperature close to absolute zero.” That is why the physicist finds prolonged contact between universes in a biological system unlikely.

However, Strassman notes that since DMT is the key substance that changes the brain’s physical properties so that quantum computing may take place at body temperature, establishing contact with parallel universes could be possible.  In other words, DMT changes the physiology of the brain to such a degree that quantum computing is possible, thus giving us access to these parallel worlds.

This possibility confirms many of the stories reported by those who have used DMT.  They report that it is more than a mere hallucination or a “trip”, and often report going to other worlds and interacting with beings that inhabit these worlds.  With a theoretical hypothesis in place, we can now begin to give credence to the idea that users of DMT are in fact tapping into other parallel worlds.

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300+ Mind Expanding Documentaries

mind expanding docs

I watch a lot of documentaries. I think they are incredible tools for learning and increasing our awareness of important issues. The power of an interesting documentary is that it can open our minds to new possibilities and deepen our understanding of the world. On this list of mind expanding documentaries you will find different viewpoints, controversial opinions and even contradictory ideas. Critical thinking is recommended. I’m not a big fan of conspiracy documentaries but I do like films that challenge consensus reality and provoke us to question the everyday ideas, opinions and practices we usually take for granted.

Watching documentaries is one of my favorite methods of self-education. If I find a documentary inspiring, I usually spend more time researching the different ideas and interesting people interviewed in the film.

I hope you find these documentaries as enlightening as I did!

If you notice that a link is broken, please let me know in the comments and I’ll update it.

Thanks to Kyle Pearce & DIY Genius for this awesome list!

[1] Life In The Biosphere

Explore the wonder and interconnectedness of the biosphere through the magic of technology.

1. Home
2. How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth
3. The Magical Forest
4. Ants: Nature’s Secret Power
5. Mt. Everest: How It Was Made
6. Mariana’s Trench: The Deepest Spot On Earth
7. Natural World: The Andes
8. Shining Mountains: The Rockies
9. Grand Canyon: How It Was Made
10. The Intelligence of Plants

[2] Creativity and Design:

Learn about all the amazing things that people create with their imaginations.

1. Everything Is A Remix
2. The Creative Brain: How Insight Works
3. Blow Your Mind
4. Design: The New Business
5. PressPausePlay: Art and Creativity in the Digital Age
6. Infamy: A Graffiti Documentary
7. Influencers: How Trends and Creativity Become Contagious
8. RIP: A Remix Manifesto
9. Design: e² – Sustainable Architecture
10. The Genius Of Design

[3] The Education Industrial Complex:

The modern school where young minds are moulded into standardized citizens by the state.

1. The College Conspiracy
2. Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk
3. The Forbidden Education
4. Default: The Student Loan Documentary
5. College Inc.
6. Education For A Sustainable Future
7. Networked Society: The Future of Learning
8. The Ultimate History Lesson With John Taylor Gatto
9. The Education System in Communist China
10. The War On Kids

[4] The Digital Revolution:

The Internet is now the driving force behind change and innovation in the world.

1. Download: The True Story of the Internet
2. The Age of Big Data
3. Resonance: Beings of Frequency
5. Life In A Day
6. Networked Society: On The Brink
7. Us Now: Social Media and Mass Collaboration
8. WikiRebels: The WikiLeaks Story
9. The Virtual Revolution: The Cost of Free
10. How Hackers Changed the World

[5] A New Civilization:

We are at the dawn of a new golden age of human inventiveness.

1. THRIVE: What On Earth Will It Take?
2. Zeitgeist III: Moving Forward
3. Paradise or Oblivion
4. 2012: Time For Change
5. The Crisis of Civilization
6. The Collective Evolution II
7. The Quickening: Awakening As One
8. 2012 Crossing Over: A New Beginning
9. Collapse
10. The Awakening

[6] Politics:

Explore the politics of power and control and how it affects your life.

1. Owned and Operated
2. UnGrip
3. The Power Principle
4. The True Story of Che Guevara
5. Earth Days
6. Capitalism Is The Crisis
7. WikiLeaks: The Secret Life of a Superpower
8. The Putin System
9. The War On Democracy
10. Rise Like Lions: Occupy Wall Street and the Seeds of Revolution

[7] Biographies of Genius:

The biographies of modern geniuses who pushed humanity forward.

1. Isaac Newton: The Last Magician
2. Nikola Tesla: The Greatest Mind of All Time
3. The Unlimited Energy of Nicola Tesla
4. The Missing Secrets Of Nikola Tesla
5. Richard Feynman: No Ordinary Genius
6. How Albert Einstein’s Brain Worked
7. The Extraordinary Genius of Albert Einstein
8. The Biography of Albert Einstein
9. Da Vinci: Unlocking The Genius
10. Leonardo Da Vinci: The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything

[8] War:

War is history’s oldest racket for stealing from the powerless and redistributing resources to the powerful.

1. Psywar: The Real Battlefield Is Your Mind
2. The History of World War II
3. The Secret History of 9/11
4. Robot Armies in the Future
5. The Never Ending War in Afghanistan
6. Shadow Company: Mercenaries In The Modern World
7. World War II From Space
8. Why We Fight
9. The Fog Of War
10. The Oil Factor: Behind The War On Terror

[9] Economics:

Learn about the financial system works and how people and societies are enslaved through debt.

1. The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
2. Overdose: The Next Financial Crisis
3. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of The World
4. The One Percent
5. Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street
6. The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers
7. The Four Horsemen
8. Inside Job: The Biggest Robbery In Human History
9. Capitalism A Love Story
10. Money and Life

[10] Digital Entrepreneurship:

Profiles of the entrepreneurs who used technology to change the world.

1. The Life Of A Young Entrepreneur
2. Profile: Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin
3. Profile: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg
4. Starting-Up in America
5. The Biography of Bill Gates
6. Inside Google: The Billion Dollar Machine
7. Steve Jobs: One Last Thing
8 . Steve Jobs: The Billion Dollar Hippy
9. Elon Musk: Risk Takers
10. The Story of Twitter

[11] Sports:

Watch the inspiring stories of amazing athletes.

1. Fearless: The Jeb Corliss Story
2. Carts of Darkness
3. The Two Escobars
4. Usain Bolt: The World’s Fastest Man
5. Wayne Gretzky: The Life and Times
6. When We Were Kings
7. Mike Tyson: Beyond the Glory
8. Birdmen
9. The Legacy Of Michael Jordan
10. We Ride: The Story of Snowboarding

[12] Technology:

Find out more about the impact of exponential growth and the approaching Singularity.

1. Ray Kurzweil: The Transcendent Man
2. How Robots Will Change the World
3. Human 2.0
4. Tomorrow’s World: Life In The Future
5. Trance-Formation: The Future of Humanity
6. The Venus Project: Future By Design
7. Bionics, Transhumanism And The End Of Evolution
8. The Singularity Is Near
9. Car Technology Of The Future
10. Powering The Future: The Energy Revolution

[13] Origins of Religion:

Explore the original religious experience of mankind at the dawn of civilization.

1. Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within
2. Manifesting the Mind: Footprints of the Shaman
3. Ancient Egypt and The Alternative Story of Mankind’s Origins
4. The Hidden Knowledge of the Supernatural
5. Re-Awaken: Open Your Heart, Expand Your Mind
6. Shamans of the Amazon
7. The Root of All Evil: The God Delusion
8. Ancient Knowledge
9. The Naked Truth
10. Before Babel: In Search of the First Language

[14] Western Religion:

The fascinating history of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

1. Secret Quest: The Path of the Christian Gnostics
2. The Secret Gate of Eden
3. Forbidden Knowledge: Lost Secrets of the Bible
4. Banned From The Bible: Secrets Of The Apostles
5.  The Life of Prophet Muhammad
6. The Road To Armageddon
7. The Most Hated Family In America
8. Muhammad: The Legacy of a Prophet
9. A Complete History of God
10. Gnosis: The Untold History of the Bible

[15] Eastern Religion:

Expand your mind by also studying the entirely different religious worldviews of the East.

1. Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds
2. The Life Of The Buddha
3. The Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World
4. Mysteries of the Cosmic OM: Ancient Vedic Science
5. Where Science and Buddhism Meet
6. The Yogis of Tibet
7. Taj Mahal: Secrets To Blow Your Mind
8. Light at the Edge of the World: Tibetan Science of the Mind
9. Myths of Mankind: The Mahabharata
10. Ayurveda: The Art of Being

[16] Consciousness:

Learn about the basic unity of existence and the miracle of consciousness.

1. Athene’s Theory of Everything
2. Theory of Everything: GOD, Devils, Dimensions, Dragons & The Illusion of Reality
3. The God Within: Physics, Cosmology and Consciousness
4. 5 Gateways: The Five Key Expansions of Consciousness
5. Return to the Source: Philosophy and The Matrix
6. The Holographic Universe
7. DMT: The Spirit Molecule
8. What Is Consciousness?
9. Kymatica
10. Neuroplasticity: The Brain That Changes Itself

[17] Mysteries:

Indiana Jones-style explorations into the unsolved mysteries of the past.

1. Alchemy: Sacred Secrets Revealed
2. The Day Before Disclosure
3. The Pyramid Code
4. The Secret Design of the Egyptian Pyramids
5. Decoding the Past: Secrets of the Dollar Bill
6. The Lost Gods of Easter Island
7. Origins of the Da Vinci Code
8. Forbidden Knowledge: Ancient Medical Secrets
9. Secret Mysteries of America’s Beginnings: The New Atlantis
10. Secrets in Plain Sight

[18] Mass Culture:

Learn about how our thoughts and opinions are influenced by mass culture.

1. The Century of the Self
2. All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace
3. The Power Of Nightmares
4. The Trap: What Happened To Our Dreams of Freedom
5. Starsuckers: A Culture Obsessed By Celebrity
6. Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
7. Obey: The Death of the Liberal Class
8. Motivational Guru: The Story of Tony Robbins
9. Bob Marley: Freedom Road
10. Radiant City

[19] Corporate Media:

Discover how the mass media and advertisers channel our irrational impulses.

1. Weapons of Mass Deceptions
2. Secrets of the Superbrands
3. Orwell Rolls in his Grave
4. The Esoteric Agenda
5. Propaganda
6. The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News
7. Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media
8. Symbolism in Logos: Subliminal Messages or Ancient Archetypes
9. Edward Snowden: A Truth Unveiled
10. Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism

[20] Art and Literature:

Explore the lives of famous artists and how art opens people’s minds.

1. Lord Of The Rings: Facts Behind The Fiction
2. Cosm: Alex Gray’s Visionary Art
3. Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop
4. New Art and the Young Artists Behind It
5. Salvador Dali: A Master of the Modern Era
6. How Art Made The World: More Human Than Human
7. The Day Pictures Were Born
8. Guns, Germs and Steel
9. Off-Book: Digital Age Creativity
10. This Is Modern Art

[21] Health:

Explore issues in health, how our bodies work and the incredible power of our brains.

1. The Human Brain
2. The Truth About Vitamins
3. How To Live To 101
4. America’s Obesity Epidemic
5. The War On Health
6. The Beautiful Truth
7. Food Inc.
8. The Truth About Food
9. Addicted To Pleasure: Sugar
10. The Living Matrix

[22] Drugs:

Documentaries on the effect of drugs — legal and illegal — on the body and mind.

1. The Union: The Business Behind Getting High
2. The Drugging Of Our Children
3. How Marijuana Affects Your Health
4. Making a Killing: The Untold Story of Psychotropic Drugging
5. Clearing the Smoke: The Science of Cannabis
6. LSD: The Beyond Within
7. The War on Drugs: The Prison Industrial Complex
8. Are Illegal Drugs More Dangerous Than Legal Drugs?
9. The Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic
10. Run From The Cure: The Rick Simpson Story

[23] Environment:

Thought-provoking documentaries on the environmental movement and the growing threats to our biosphere.

1. Earthlings
2. Blue Gold: World Water Wars
3. Tapped
4. Shift: Beyond the Numbers of the Climate Crisis
5. All Things Are Connected
6. The Fight For Amazonia
7. Flow: For Love Of Water
8. Here Comes the Sun
9. The World According To Monsanto
10. The Story of Stuff

[24] Cosmos:

Expand your mind by exploring our indescribably large and beautiful Cosmos.

1. The Search for Planets Similar to Earth
2. Inside the Milky Way Galaxy
3. Cosmic Journeys : The Largest Black Holes in the Universe
4. Beyond The Big Bang
5. The Mystery of the Milky Way
6. Fractals: The Hidden Dimension
7. Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking: The Story of Everything
8. Pioneer Science: Discovering Deep Space
9. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos
10. The Strangest Things In The Universe

[25] Science:

The history of scientific discovery and how scientific instruments expand our perception.

1. The Complete History of Science
2. The Quantum Revolution
3. Secret Universe: The Hidden Life of the Cell
4. Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time
5. Quantum Mechanics: Fabric of the Cosmos
6. The Light Fantastic
7. DNA: The Secret of Life
8. Parallel Universes, Alternative Timelines & Multiverse
9. What Is The Higgs Boson?
10. Infinity

[26] Evolution:

The story of our evolution and the emergence of self-aware human beings.

1. The Origin of Life
2. Homo Sapiens: The Birth of Humanity
3. Beyond Me
4. The Global Brain
5. Metanoia: A New Vision of Nature
6. Birth Of A New Humanity
7. Samsara
8. Ape Man: Adventures in Human Evolution
9. The Incredible Human Journey
10. The Human Family Tree

[27] Psychology and The Brain:

New research is shining a spotlight on how we can improve our brains.

1. How Smart Can We Get?
2. The Science of Lust
3. The Secret You
4. What Are Dreams?
5. A Virus Called Fear
6. Beyond Thought (Awareness Itself)
7. The Human Brain
8. Superconscious Mind: How To Double Your Brain’s Performance
9. How Does Your Memory Work?
10. Secrets of the Mind

[28] Modern History:

The story of the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the modern world.

1. The Entrepreneurs Who Built America
2. History of the World in Two Hours
3. The Industrial Revolution
4. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
5. The Adventure of the English Language
6. The French Revolution
7. Big Sugar
8. The Spanish Inquisition
9. The American Revolution
10. The Mexican American War

[29] Pre-Modern History:

The story of the Americas and European history in the pre-modern world.

1. America Before Columbus
2. The Dark Ages
3. Socrates, Aristotle and Plato
4. The Medici: The Most Influencial Family In The World
5. Rome: The Rise And Fall Of An Empire
6. History of Britain: The Myth of the Anglo-Saxon Invasion
7.  A History of Celtic Britain
8. The Crusades: Victory and Defeat
9. The Vikings: Voyage To America
10. Copernicus and the Scientific Revolution

[30] Current Events:

Become more informed about current events that are shaping the world.

1. Syria: The Reckoning
2. Empire: Putin’s Russia
3. The New Arms Race
4. The Killing of Yasser Arafat
5. Egypt In Crisis
6. Inside Obama’s Presidency
7. The Untouchables: How Obama Protected Wall Street
8. Behind The Rhetoric: The Real Iran
9. A History of the Middle East since WWII
10. Climate Wars

[31] Ancient Civilizations:

Fascination explorations into the ancient civilizations of our past.

1. When God Was a Girl: When Goddesses Ruled The Heavens and Earth
2. The Persian Empire : Most Mysterious Civilization in the Ancient World
3. What The Ancients Did For Us
4. What the Ancients Knew
5. Egypt: Beyond the Pyramids
6. Secrets of the Ancient Empires
7. Constellations & Ancient Civilizations
8. Graham Hancock’s Quest For The Lost Civilization
9. Atlantis: The Lost Continent
10. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

I hope you enjoy watching some of these mind expanding documentaries! If you have a personal favorite, please share it with everyone in the comments.

Brazilian Scientist: Ayahuasca/DMT Can Effectively Treat Cancer

Eduardo Schenberg, of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, recently published a piece in Sage Journals, detailing his belief that Ayahuasca has cancer-fighting abilities, essentially encouraging the legalization of research in the field.


He says, “There is enough available evidence that Ayahuasca’s active principles, especially DMT and harmine, have positive effects in some cell cultures used to study cancer, and in biochemical processes important in cancer treatment, both in vitro and in vivo,” and “Therefore, the few available reports of people benefiting from Ayahuasca in their cancer treatment experiences should be taken seriously, and the hypothesis presented here, fully testable by rigorous scientific experimentation, helps to understand the available cases and pave the way for new experiments.”

“In summary, it is hypothesized that the combined actions of β-carbolines and DMT present in Ayahuasca may diminish tumor blood supply, activate apoptotic pathways, diminish cell proliferation, and change the energetic metabolic imbalance of cancer cells, which is known as the Warburg effect,” Schenberg wrote. “Therefore, Ayahuasca may act on cancer hallmarks such as angiogenesis, apoptosis, and cell metabolism.”

“If Ayahuasca is scientifically proven to have the healing potentials long recorded by anthropologists, explorers, and ethnobotanists, outlawing Ayahuasca or its medical use and denying people adequate access to its curative effects could be perceived as an infringement on human rights, a serious issue that demands careful and thorough discussion.”

Similar to the way cancer has been successfully treated with cannabis oil, or vitamin B-17 from the apricot pit, it is emerging as a viable possibility that Ayahuasca is another herbal, ancient cure to disease found in abundance in the new world of synthetic consumption.

Ayahuasca, as many viewers of this article likely know, is a psychoactive, ancient, sacred ancient brew, with deep roots in South American shamanic practice. Since at least 500 BC, South American shamans have used Ayahuasca for ceremonial purposes, and as a medicine of many functions.


Many people believe that DMT is created in the pineal gland of human beings when we dream, when we are born, and when we die. Critics of this theory say there is no evidence to back up these claims, but as of 2013, studies from the University of Michigan have shown that indeed dimethyltryptamine is created in the pineal glands of rats, and with the biological similarities us mammals share, it is very likely that DMT is synthesized in our pineal glands as well. According to Dr. Rick Strassman, author of the critically acclaimed book DMT- The Spirit Molecule, the human body metabolizes DMT rapidly, almost eager to consume the substance. Seretonin, the primary source of pleasure for us human beings, created in our brains and bodies daily of course, is 5-hydroxytryptamine, almost chemically identical to dimethyltryptamine. Yet, the US government classifies this molecule that may be part of our very being, as a schedule I, highly illegal drug.

DMT is a very complex substance, with complex experiences had by those who consume it, complex origins, and many, many functions. One must do their own hard research on Ayahuasca and DMT, as explaining a good depth of it would be too much for this article. Many of you who have read this far, probably already know what you need to know about Ayahuasca/DMT, as the popularity of it is skyrocketing.

Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drugs Survey, claims the drug has ‘a larger proportion of new users’ compared to these other powerful drugs.

He says this suggests ‘its popularity may increase’.

It should be noted that Ayahuasca/DMT has characteristics similar to almost no ‘drugs’ except perhaps psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocin (what psilocybin metabolizes into), is also almost identical to chemicals already in our brains, similarly metabolized quickly by the body, more characteristic of a vitamin than an intoxicant.

For the viewers of this piece who do not already know, Ayahuasca is a brew consisting of many different psychoactive plants, including dimethyltryptamine containing foliage, and MAOI inhibiting plants that make the DMT active when ingested orally, namely the root bark of the Caapi vine. Caapi root bark contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors, harmala alkaloids. The DMT in Ayahuasca is primarily found in the leaves of the Psychotria Viridis plant, or the seeds of Syrian Rue, or both. Similar to cannabis’ ancient, rich history as a medicine, Ayahuasca has been a fundamental part of indigenous cultures in South America, namely the Amazonian rainforest and Peru, for thousands of years.

Ayahuasca is not typically looked at as a tool to treat cancer. More often, people decide to drink Ayahuasca or ingest DMT in pursuit of life-changing experiences, epiphanies, to visit unexplored corners of the mind, in hopes of easing a wide range of psychological ailments and problems.

More often than not, people who consume Ayahuasca/DMT report extreme mental clarity after the experience, a difficult-to-explain sense of well-being, as if the substances organized the user’s subconscious and rarely touched areas of the brain.

It seems that simultaneously with all the other ways we are seeing a global paradigm shift, there is a shift taking place in the realm of medicine. After about a century of criminalizing plants and mind-altering products of the earth, people globally seem to be taking great interest in the Earth’s treasure chest of medicine in botany and nature, no longer concealed from us or alleged to be dangerous by proponents of pharmaceutical monopolies. Scientists such as Eduardo Schenberg will surely press on in their work, as the massive surge in popularity for these things grows exponentially. If you skipped the part of this article in which I explained the basics of Ayahuasca/DMT because you are already familiar with it, you are likely part of this very paradigm shift.

As could go without saying, more research and uninhibited analysis of Ayahuasca’s effect on human beings is necessary to understand the effectiveness of it as a treatment for cancer and who knows what else. The World Wide Web increasingly seems to push truths to the surface of the minds of those who pay attention, while false info can quickly debunked with little effort. This is the paradigm of our world in 2014.


Source/credits:  Cassius Methyl, ActivistPost
Image credits: WikiPedia

A Psychotherapeutic View on the Therapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use in the Treatment of Addiction


Loizaga-Velder, A., and Loizaga, A. A psychotherapeutic view on therapeutic effects of ritual ayahuasca use in the treatment of addiction MAPS Bulletin (2013) 23(1):36-40.


Ayahuasca is a traditional plant preparation of the Amazon basin with psychoac- tive properties. In recent decades ayahuasca has gained the attention of researchers in multiple disciplines worldwide due to its acclaimed therapeutic and spiritual qualities. It is an admixture of two plants: the harmaline containing vine Banisteriopsis caapi, and the DMT-containing leafs from the Psychotria viridis bush. It is typically administered by a trained expert in a ritual context.
The use of ayahuasca has spread beyond the Amazon in the last few decades, reaching around the globe in contexts of religious, shamanic, psychotherapeutic, and hybrid ayahuasca rituals (Labate & Jungaberle 2011;Tupper 2008). Many participants report gaining benefits from ayahuasca rituals in ways such as acquiring deeper knowl- edge of oneself, personal and spiritual development, or healing for a variety of psycho- logical and physiological afflictions, including substance dependencies (see Groisman & Dobkin de Rios 2007; Labate et al. 2013; Labate et al. 2010; Mercante 2009; Santos, Carvalho de Moraes & Holanda 2006; Schmid 2008;Thesenga & Thesenga 2012).
Based on observations of the positive therapeutic effects that ayahuasca ceremo- nies can have on people with addiction issues, informal and formal support for recovery from addictions is currently provided in diverse settings.These include rituals offered by indigenous healers, ayahuasca circles, or psychotherapists, and more or less struc- tured ayahuasca-assisted, inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs. Such approaches are rooted either in indigenous Amazonian medicine traditions, the Bra- zilian Ayahuasca Religions, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, or consist in a hybrid combination of these. Some multidisciplinary intercultural pilot projects have shown

Psychedelics Don’t Harm Mental Health; They Improve It


Psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD not only don’t cause mental health problems, they may actually improve mental health, say Norwegian researchers.

The study (here) pulled data from the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health, observing 130,152 randomly-selected respondents from the adult population of the US. 13.4% of that group (21,967 individuals) reported lifetime use of psychedelics. Comparing this data to standardized screening measures for mental health, the researchers found that neither lifetime psychedelic use nor use of LSD in the past year were independent risk factors for mental health problems—and that, in fact, psychedelic users had lower rates of mental health issues.

Teri S. Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen, the Norwegian researchers, additionally noted that “psychedelic plants have been used for celebratory, religious or healing purposes for thousands of years” and that “psychedelics often elicit deeply personally and spiritually meaningful experiences and sustained beneficial effects… LSD and psilocybin are consistently ranked in expert assessments as causing less harm to both individual users and society than alcohol, tobacco, and most other common recreational drugs. Given that millions of doses of psychedelics have been consumed every year for over 40 years, well-documented case reports of long-term mental health problems following use of these substances are rare.”

The study also found absolutely no evidence that “flashbacks” afflict users of psychedelics, slaying another commonly-held superstition around psychedelic use.

The Norwegian study brings good news for the over 30 million Americans who have used psychedelics (compared to 100 million who have used marijuana). And while the media has been buzzing about Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s revelation that he “changed his mind on weed,” it may be time for psychedelics to get a similar PR rehabilitation.

While psychedelics still conjure images of 1960s-era bad trips like Art Linkletter’s daughter jumping out of a window on acid (an overinflated myth, says Snopes), they have undergone significant research and slow progress towards clinical acceptance in the past decades. Researchers still labor under the immensely negative Timothy Leary-era image of psychedelics, but are steadily chipping away at the cultural deadlock created by what many see as reckless abuse of psychedelics during the 1960s and 70s. Standing in stark contrast to the negatives of that time, however, are the immense clinical benefits that psychedelics are consistently being shown to offer.

Another recent study at the University of South Florida, for instance, found that psilocybin mushrooms erase conditioned fear response in mice, suggesting they could potentially be used to cure PTSD—and that psilocybin can even prompt growth of brain cells.

Multiple studies are currently being conducted (at New York University’s medical school and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center) into using psychedelics to alleviate fear in patients with late-stage terminal illness—easing the experience of death and allowing people to end their lives in states of acceptance instead of terror.

LSD and psilocybin even hold promise for treating cluster headaches, a condition so debilitating and painful that it often leads sufferers to consider suicide.

While marijuana enjoys its time in the spotlight, it may be time for its more potent—and potentially even more beneficial—siblings to join the party.

Source: Collective Evolution