“Warrior poet” Aubrey Marcus offers three solid tips for having a fulfilling psychedelic experience.
Over the last few years as research and public opinion championing the benefits of plant medicines has proliferated, an equally disturbing trend has been developing. Not only in the news, but quietly within the community in stories that never reach the public. This disturbing trend is increasing as the supply of good practitioners is being overwhelmed by sheer demand. As thrilled as I am hearing the reports of positive transformation from the sacred plants, I am far more devastated when harm occurs that easily could have been prevented.
Below are true accounts of adherence and violation of three standards that should act as living, breathing mandates to be molded by the continued expansion of consciousness. With good practice, plant medicines can play a key role in the healing of collective suffering on the planet. With malpractice, fuel will be added to the Draconian fire that keeps them from serving their purpose to humanity.
Pillar 1: Abide By the Principle of Minimum Effective Dose
Both a good shaman and a good doctor understand one concept above all others: Minimum effective dose. Plainly stated, the goal of administration of any medicine is to give the least amount possible to effect the desired result. If you have an ear-ache, a 2 month course of intravenous antibiotics will fix it, but it is overkill (literally). If you have a headache, hydromorphone will dull it, but so would some ibuprofen. The challenge with applying this principle to psychedelic medicine is that often the desired result is not very well defined by the patient.
The first step is to know what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to cure a heroin addiction, or find a different perspective to help you make good decisions? Are you trying to battle a lifelong depression or open up your heart and mind to a higher consciousness? The answer to those questions should determine not only the type of plant medicine you seek, but also the dosage used.
One overcast morning I make my way to Topanga Canyon to receive the Frog medicine known as kambo. I am met by a 100% well intentioned couple, with a religious reverence for the medicine. The process of Kambo intake involves burning the skin with a hot stick in a series of dots known as ‘points’. Then the Kambo resin is applied in dots on the open burns. As a testament to the fervor for the practice, the ‘shamans’ have point scars covering much of their legs and arms. Like a badge of honor, they proclaim that they are running out of virgin flesh to burn. As we make our way down to the location, the head administrator, who came across the medicine as a tourist one stormy night in Colombia, asks me how many points I want. How the hell do I know? He says he feels like 11 is going to be a good number. It had some bullshit new age cosmic significance. With no point of reference (no pun intended), I shrug my shoulders and submit to confidence.
Once administered my body goes into anaphylactic shock. My face swells, I vomit for 60 minutes straight, but what is worse, my throat is nearly swollen shut. I am breathing out of an esophagus shrunken down to a cocktail straw . A few more points and I’m relying on a South African wildlife wrangler to perform an emergency field tracheotomy or I’m dead. For the next 3 weeks I feel like I have been poisoned. Trying to find some answers I reach out to some traditional practitioners who carry the lineage of the medicine. I tell them I received 11 points. They are stunned. Under no circumstances do they administer more than 5 points in an initial session. I crossed the line where medicine became poison. Eventually the dark cloud lifts and I am able to resume a healthy life.
It is not enough to carry the medicine simply because you have a good heart. You better have a healthy respect not only for what good the medicine can do, but what harm it can do as well. Everything on the planet has an LD-50, or a lethal dose for 50% of the population. Nothing is of Holy origin, and there are no Panaceas. Not only did the frog shaman fail to give me a dose suitable for my intentions, he crossed the line where medicine became poison. The old aphorism speaks loudly; “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”