Del Potter, PhD is the chief science officer and founding member of ZBN Research. He received his Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from UC Berkeley in 1980, specializing in Ethno-psychopharmacology, the phytochemistry, and extraction of psychoactive indigenous botanical pharmacopeia and their cultural significance, and psychiatric anthropology.
Del is what I call a triple threat. His points of view are diverse and are derived from science, philosophy, and first-hand experience.
You can learn more about Del’s perspectives on psychedelics at MeetDelic.com
Jackee: Hi, friends. Thanks for listening. I’m your host Jackee Stang. Come visit me because I’m sad and lonely on
Instagram. I am Jackee Stang. That’s two Es. J-A-C-K-E-E. I am Jackee Stang. Thank you, guys for your love and support. I love visiting with you. I hope you like spending time with me and if you don’t I’ll make you. Just kidding. Not a psycho.
Speaking of non-psychos, on today’s show we have a very interesting guy, Dr. Del Porter. Not an MD/PHD. Del was passed onto me by my husband Matt as a potential knockout Delic Radio Podcast guest and he was right. This guy’s a sleeper.
Okay. You know when there’s people who are really impressive who you’ve heard of in industries because they’re self-promoting or there’s people that deserve the accolades that just fell through the cracks of attention and then there’s people that have been doing the work and have killer fucking resumes to back it up.
Del is one of those people. Cannabis, psychedelics, super glad to have people like Del working behind the scenes and hope you enjoy the show, Delic Radio. Thanks for listening. Bye.
Del Potter, PhD: We just had a request to make tons of hand sanitizer, Dr. Bronner’s actually.
Jackee: Oh, excellent. We love Dr. Bronner.
Del Potter, PhD: We do too. It just seems like that’s one thing that there’s a tremendous need for. We’re also looking at we have a large facility here with a large capacity for production, kind of looking at what it would take for us to make the chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and the Azithromycin Z-Paks. I’m just getting now a Laminar flow hood, should be here any second, so I can start culturing Azithromycin and then we put it in a small bioreactor and start trying to make some, if it becomes necessary.
Jackee: Right. I haven’t seen anything that talks about Z-Pak being useful. Have you?
DP: Yeah. I have actually. I’ve got a colleague at NIH who has been keeping me informed. He was concerned because I’m over 65 and sent me some treatment protocols. That’s one of the things that they’re looking at. One of the other surprising things is cobra venom, which apparently stimulates your immune system and acts in a prophylactic manner as a nasal spray.
Jackee: Wow. That’s psychedelic in a way.
DP: I’m not sure how you do it but he’s going to tell me.
Jackee: Wow. Keep us posted on that.
DP: I will.
Jackee: That’s right up my alley. All right. Let’s jump in here. You have such an interesting academic background, at least to me, as a non-academic or a citizen scientist, if you will. I love the idea of medical anthropology and in my world, my stepfather and my mom worked in the medical field. My stepfather was a physician for many years and some of our best friends are MDs, and then in the world of psychedelics, because of the research and the clinical treatments that are being done right now using certain psychedelics it’s like in my world a lot, right? This conversation of medical/academic and how that relates to pharmacology, how that relates to the culture, though.
I’m mostly interested in the anthropology of it because I just am. Okay, you have a PHD in medical anthropology from Berkeley, UC Berkeley, and then specializing in ethnopsychopharmacology, the chemistry and extraction of psychoactive Indigenous plants and the cultural significance. Can you break that down?
DP: Sure. I started out really concerned with mental health issues and was pursuing a career track in clinical psychology. As time went on, I became less and less excited about the approach in clinical psychology. It seemed narrow and too much oriented specifically to the individual. I see people as existing in a cultural milieu and in a cultural environment and I believe that that was a significant component in how to address mental health issues.
I started out trying to enlarge the framework to look at psychiatric issues and was led to medical anthropology and a specialization really in psychiatric issues. My original line of research was looking at how the shamanic personality develops, how people become shaman, cross-culturally, not just in one
culture but how does it express itself in a number of different cultures.
I started looking at the psycho-history of shaman and their personality and I always had in the back of my mind, “How can I use this as a frame for a new way of looking at mental illness in Western society?” As time went on, I began to understand that there was an enormous benefit to looking more specifically at what’s called ethnobotany or the kinds of plants that shaman were using in constructing their formulas.
I also began to realize the tremendous level of specificity that they would use when they would approach an individual patient. It wasn’t just like, “Throw this or that into the pot.” These were time honored recipes, pharmacological recipes that went back thousands of years and were perfected over that length of time. I became more interested in actually the ethnobotany and the pharmacology of what they were doing.
I had a specialization in analytical chemistry and I began to analyze what was in these formulas and I found that they were approaching each aspect of mental illness in a very specific way. It wasn’t just, “Let’s have a session and get this person to a certain place and then see how it works.”
The other component that I found that was really interesting for Western society was the integrated focus not only on an individual and what was going on inside of you but also how you existed in your community so when a person got better, lost the depression or was able to resume a normal life, there
was a whole component that had to do with reintegrating them into the community so the community would participate in the psychedelic rituals and that whole community component I felt was an essential thing that was kind of missing from our approach in psychiatry.
Over time, I began to see this enormous specificity in all the substances that they were using and began to realize that it wasn’t simply collecting mushrooms or even collecting certain species of mushrooms but it was certain varietal species of mushrooms that were in specific geographic locations, that were consecrated as far as they were concerned.
Those unique geographic varietals had unique properties. For example, a common source of Psilocybin in the United States is the species Psilocybe quebecensis. It’s pretty widely distributed largely because when the Spanish came to the new world they brought cattle with them and it’s a coprophilic
mushroom. It grows on cattle poop. It became integrated into their pharmacopia but the way they did it was they would only use specific varietals from very specific regions.
When I began to analyze those, I came to find out that they had entirely different constituents. For example, the variety, which comes from around the region, really kind of close to where the ruins are, had the same MAO inhibitors that which is the main component in ayahuasca, they were developing those substances on their own perhaps as a way of addressing a larger number of predators.
Through that, I was able to determine that there was Harmaline, tetra Harmine and Harmaline-like substances in these mushrooms. That I thought was extremely unique. As I began to look at other varietals, I began to understand that their whole approach was to really leverage these unique varieties.
Jackee: Wow. That’s a lot. Okay. Can you describe or illustrate what Harmaline is and why that’s significant?
DP: Harmaline operates as what’s called an MAO inhibitor. The easy answer is it blocks certain things that allow a fuller expression of the psychedelic experience. Perhaps the mushrooms were doing it as a way of screening out predators but the shamans saw it as an opportunity to have a more specific and more intense type of approach, particularly, for what might resemble depression in our society.
Jackee: Right. The way I describe it, please correct me if I’m wrong, the way I describe it to people when they ask is that Psilocybin or mushrooms, for example, act as the MAO inhibitor so that something like serotonin can receive more of it, is the way I describe it and then MDMA or an analog of that type of substance actually releases as much as you have at any given time all at once.
DP: You know, that more or less describes exactly how it works. You know, what we have in our brain are a number of different receptors. The receptors that are most active for the psychedelic experience are the 5-HT receptors, particularly, the 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors. Also, for certain compounds the 5-HT1A receptor. What happens is these MAO inhibitors allow Psilocybin and DMT to work more effectively as what we call agonists or things that promote transduction.
Jackee: Copy. Let’s talk about shamans and Western practitioners. I have a lot of conversations about… It’s no secret that Western medicine needs a lot of help and we’re talking, you and I right now during the coronavirus epidemic and if anything is showing the stress, the wonderful things about Western medicine but also the broken parts of our system, it’s a mass epidemic.
I think in psychedelic culture we don’t yet marry the two concepts of the shaman with Western medical practitioners. Shamans, it depends on what community you’re in but I think to the mainstream they’re sort of like these woo woo witch doctors that are not necessarily American or Westernized and Western medicine or Western doctors are something entirely different but I think they are very similar and I think we could learn a lot from the shamanic traditions so what do you have to say about that?
DP: Yeah. Again, the thing that I think they bring to the table is this legacy about their unique collection of recipes or pharmacology and the way they would use it not only to address a specific individual’s problems but actually the range of problems.
For depression, they would design a formula specifically for depression and then within that they would design it for the particular individual. I think it’s important and I’m kind of engaged in a project right now, a proposal that I have out there, to, one, create a conservatory where we collect these psychedelic botanicals that I feel are super unique and also to use the information that I’ve collected ethnographically about shamanic formulas, work with an associated analytical lab in order to show exactly how specific they are and how they’re used in non-Western societies.
The other component that I think is really important, as I kind of touched on before, is the community component. These rituals are not solitary rituals, the way we conduct them. Usually in a psychiatric setting, a person lays down, they might have a blind put on so that they can focus on an inward experience. It’s very much an experience for an individual.
In non-Western cultures, we find more generally that there’s this larger community component that the shaman is a bridge to the supernatural. There’s usually a drummer and someone keeping a cadence or a beat. They allow the person to kind of get started on the road that they’re going to go for a healing journey.
I think the journey model is a good one because what happens is we restore that individual and then we bring them home again and the way we bring them home is by having everyone recognize the transformation that’s taken place. Without that component, I think we don’t have as much of a beneficial outcome as we could.
Jackee: Yeah. I agree. I agree personally and then just philosophically and, again, we’re all most of us on quarantine currently. I’m having a lot of conversations around the importance of community, the importance of human connectivity and it’s, again, in our nature as human beings to want to connect with one another and yet it’s taking something like this epidemic that’s forcing us away momentarily to recognize, at least I feel in America where I live, that we had a problem with connectivity and community beforehand and this is highlighting that.
Also, in the psychedelic space it depends on what bucket you’re talking about, right? You mentioned there’s the therapeutic setting where people like MAPS are doing studies and there’s an individual with two psychotherapists, one on each side and they, like you said, have a mask and are going in individually and then if you get a ketamine treatment sometimes it’s as a collective but I think for the most part it’s like doctors in Western medicine are focusing on individual, individual.
But there’s another part of the psychedelic community that’s more on the recreational side or even on the ayahuasca church or certain churches who have community ceremonies and it’s an entirely different experience than the individual one. Of course, it depends on what substance you’re consuming or not but I’m always astounded at the difference between my own experiences when I’m consuming in a ceremonial way with a group versus individual. It’s night and day. It’s something we talk about a lot here at Delic.
You know, I think those community experiences are an attempt to kind of resurrect or maybe create new ceremonial contexts for the psychotherapeutic use of psychedelics. You know, we have a large legacy that we can draw on that already exists and it’s just right there to take a look at.
DP: I’m not a great believer in people taking ayahuasca a couple of times, buying a drum, and putting on a and saying, “I’m a shaman.” You know, in non-Western cultures, shaman are groomed over years. Usually, they have a genetic proclivity for the ability to both work with the supernatural and to be able to discern what an individual’s problems are.
You know, someone will start out and the community notices that a given child has difficulties, that they dissociate, they have maybe even hallucinations or dreams that make it difficult for them. They’ll go through an adolescence where they have an extremely painful experience trying to integrate these
What the community does is they’ll move them in the direction of a practitioner and allow them to apprentice and that apprenticeship is a process of taking that person’s genetic abilities and putting them in a cultural context that’s beneficial not just for that person but for the whole community. In other
words, it plays on their strengths.
In that context, the ceremonies that go back thousands of years are extremely structured and they can be done improperly. You know, to just allow someone to come in and kind of wing it, I don’t know if that’s the best approach but I will say this, we’re in the process now of developing new ceremonial contexts. We’re not non-Western people. We are Western people.
We are in the process of constructing our own community contexts for the use of these substances. I believe that we need to pay attention to what happened before and construct our new community context with attention to what happened before but do it in a very precise and psychotherapeutic way.
Jackee: When you say before, I’m assuming you’re referring to the ’60s and early ’70s, the Summer of Love, the Timothy Leary days?
DP: I’m thinking more like I see a lot of younger people who have an experience with ayahuasca and they very rapidly believe that they have something of value that they want to share with people and the way they do that is by describing themselves as a shaman and conducting-.
Jackee: You mean more recently?
DP: Yeah. I mean more recently. You know, the ’60s was really an unstructured time. That was a time I’m mostly familiar with when these substances first came into the culture. It was completely unstructured but that allowed sort of a blank slate that developed perhaps in a very constructed way, new rituals and new ceremonies.
Jackee: Yeah. I like the reframing of that. I think we get in the habit of demonizing certain people, demonizing the ’60s and what came before but I like the idea that it laid the groundwork or created at least a pathway for us as a community, as a culture to develop new constructs within our own community.
Yeah. My next question was about the current popularity of ayahuasca, shamanism, and I think ayahuasca very specifically. Psilocybin is coming up right behind and seems to be growing in popularity within the States but it’s been what? Like six, seven years now, maybe a little bit more that going down
to Peru or taking an ayahuasca journey somewhere in an Indigenous place has grown in popularity and also Westerners coming down and becoming shamans has grown in popularity and also vice versa, acting as shamans here in the States and other parts of Western culture.
What has been your experience of that, anthropologically, and can that be done successfully since it’s being done already?
DP: I’m not sure that… The thing that kind of puts me off and I think is not really constructive is the superficiality. You know, it’s a very serious thing. It’s also as an anthropologist, there’s a context for Western societies going into non-Western societies, taking what they have to offer, commodifying it,
taking it back to the States and selling it.
That’s a paradigm that I think we should try to move beyond. You know, as I said before, you have to be raised in a given culture to understand what it really means to be a shaman. It’s not something that a Westerner, having been raised in this society can just jump into. Having said that, I think what we need to do is take a look at those ceremonies and those rituals and find ways to reinterpret them for Western society.
Jackee: Yeah. That makes sense. You mentioned commodify. That’s exactly what we did with cannabis.
DP: It is. It’s not a dissimilar process. You know, we take something, we bring it to the Western marketplace, and we commodify it, we sell it. Where its point of origin is never receives any of that. They don’t receive any benefit from it. It’s as if we have come and harvested what we can from them in terms of…
The same way we extract natural resources and then we commodify it in this country. We sell it and $100 to $200, you can have a shamanic experience and I think we do a disservice, not only to ourselves but to Indigenous people by operating in that way.
Jackee: I hear you. I hear you. I think so too. If I hear the word shaman, I tend to shut off these days and I don’t make many recommendations but to people who ask personally, my answer is always like, “You know what? …” For example, if they say, “Oh, I heard about this shaman and I got invited to see this shaman” and then I ask them to describe the shaman and nine times out of 10, it’s a white male.
DP: Right. We have that overlay of exclusivity also that comes straight from Western society. It’s just like, “I know someone. I was inducted into their process and that gives me an advantage” and there’s a certain exclusivity about it.
That is not what this is intended for. It was developed … You know, shamanism predates religion. It is the earliest form of religion. In the sense, that it was our first opportunity to experience the supernatural, to have out of the body experiences, to find new ways of knowing, to join with animal
spirits, to get in touch with nature and animals in a more direct way than we could before.
Those are the foundation I think of the shamanic practice. You know, it doesn’t serve us well to appropriate that, commodify it, put it up for sale. In many cases, usually, there is a transaction involved in the healing process and for Indigenous people, it recognizes that somebody is getting something of value. It isn’t the same level of exclusivity that we put on it where it becomes an expensive retreat or a process that’s unavailable to a lot of people.
Jackee: Right. It can be extremely expensive. The idea of … I like that you mention there’s an exchange to show value for the healing. That’s an idea I’ve always grappled with because, personally, just the idea of exchanging money for a psychedelic just always sort of stunned me and freaked me out based on my own personal history but-
Okay. We live in America. You work deeply in the cannabis space doing wonderful things to help manufacturing in that way and my family also is from the cannabis space. Even going as far back as the founder of High Times, Tom Forcade, just to retouch on what we said earlier about cannabis coming
over to the States and then we commodified it, I mean, he literally started, he would bring plants over from India and China and stopped over in New York and then eventually, of course, take them over West here and then they’d get distributed in that way.
We’ve been talking about ayahuasca a lot and then mushrooms or certain psychedelic mushrooms coming with the Spanish to this continent. How can America or North America… What can we contribute to the budding psychedelic space that is authentic to our culture, that’s authentic to our
geography and our land and where we came from? In your experience.
DP: You know, one of the things we bring, and this is where I think something that is of most value, is Western science, Western medicine, is able to drill down on the way these substances work in the brain. Being able to understand exactly how they work adds a whole other dimension to what shaman are
doing so that we see when shaman use a particular formula for a particular person for depression, say, what we’re able to do is take a long drilled down look at exactly how those substances are doing their healing. I think that that is an extremely valuable element that we bring to the process.
On the other side, on the cultural side, so much of what we do is so dynamic. We have this engine that sort of constantly needs to be fed with new things. It’s like a vacuum and it’s vacuuming up all these new things.
I would want us to slow down and slow that whole dynamic down. Let’s look at history. Let’s take a long look at it and then let’s see how we can make it work here. And how that actually is going to take place is kind of an open question. I think it’s a newly evolving question but what’s positive about it is I think primarily the motivation of people in this area.
Most people that I meet who are involved in the psychedelic space are very interested in its healing potential, in its medical potential and I think we need to play off that selflessness, off of that virtue I guess, in how we operate. Let’s try to forge new rituals, new ceremonies, that are not exclusive, that use
these drugs in very specific ways to heal and let’s see if we can then take that person and show this transformation to the larger community and allow them to be reintegrated. Show them a path to reintegration and how that gets expressed exactly in Western society. I think it’s still an evolving question.
Jackee: Wow. Yeah. There are certain psychedelic plants that are native to North America like peyote, I believe so it’s rooted here as well. I’m afraid that at least the Caucasian culture has diminished the richness of that as we diminished the Native American culture and all of their traditions.
DP: Sure. That’s absolutely true. I found that what will happen is when a new substance is introduced and it’s something that shaman don’t have as part of their pharmacopeia, they take a long, long time to find out how to integrate it to check out really to see what its benefits might be.
We kind of have this tendency to use resources up until they’re gone and once they’re gone, we didn’t really realize what their true value was. You know, we have a long tradition in this society, both with Native Americans and with Indigenous people that were here, who also use psychedelic compounds.
Datura stramonium, Jimsonweed, all of these were used by Native Americans in the southwest and also kind of built into those cultures is this idea of extreme deprivation where you either go without food, you sequester yourself from society, you stay awake for long periods of time, you can create the same sorts of experiences that way.
Jackee: Yeah. You know what? I can’t help but think as we approach Bicycle Day on April 19th, which is sort of a subculture pseudo-holiday to celebrate the discovery of LSD by Albert Hoffman and when I say the words psychedelics, it’s encompassing all hallucinogenic chemicals, right?
Jackee: I still think there’s a lot of work to be done in educating the public on the differences between something like peyote or ayahuasca and LSD and not valuing them either way. Just acknowledging the differences. I mean, I see LSD as very much Western. It’s concocted in a lab. Ayahuasca is different. Then ketamine too, when you throw ketamine, which is, of course, legally prescribed to treat mental health by certain physicians, that’s something different as well but also more of a chemical substance than plant matter.
Do you have any thoughts on LSD and the lab creation of psychedelic substances versus this Indigenous more closer to the Earth substances?
DP: I’ve always been a big fan of synthetically constructed Western product. I used to go to dinners at Alexander Shulgood’s house and there was a collection of people there, biochemists, chemists, analytical chemists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, lawyers, just a whole salon of people and I was exposed to all the range of stuff that he was working on.
I, myself, became a real fan and became an underground chemist for a long and colorful history. It was coincident with the time that I also was working with Psilocybin mushrooms and there was a time where I wasn’t making much money as a graduate student and so I thought this would be a nice little side hustle to do. It ended up being…
My motivation was really to change society at the time. I’m like a huge fan of what can be constructed synthetically. I believe that there is a microchemistry involved, that we haven’t fully elucidated yet. That is, when you start working with compounds like LSD during the process of constructing that molecule you can make … The tolerances are so small that you can send things in one direction just by the
slightest change in procedure, minute change in procedure.
I’ve always been a believer that these substances can be properly constructed and show tremendous benefit, if you do it with the right intention and you do it properly.
Jackee: Yeah. I think that’s something that Western … Yeah. Me too. We share that. I think that’s something that Western society can offer to the budding psychedelic space as well and, man, from what I understand, in the underground chemistry world they’re coming up with new analogs and new ideas all the time.
I was just on whatever website that is where you can search for current studies or up and coming government-backed studies that people are preparing for and I was searching for LSD studies, specifically, and there’s almost none. I mean, Switzerland is pretty much it in terms of who is studying LSD and it’s a shame. I wish that we would open that up.
I know places like MAPS they’re working towards that but right now they’re focused on MDMA and so I really hope we can get back into the chemical compound world.
DP: Yeah. I feel exactly the same way. I’m hoping that the idea of having a conservatory of botanicals will allow me and colleagues to work on analogs of those compounds. I’m not going to say that we’re going to make compounds that are better than nature but we can develop things that I think are more specific or more tailored to the kinds of needs we have in Western society.
You know, just recently we found out that with the discovery of THCP that the in THC kind of governs its bio activity. I believe that we’ll be able to find those chemical structures in psychedelic compounds too and be able to tailor them very specifically.
Right now I’m working on trying to extend the in THC synthetically to make it longer and more bio active and I think we’ll see the same kinds of things happening in psychedelics.
Jackee: What would that do? Sorry to interrupt. Extending it, making it longer, would mean we’d be able to consume less of it and get the same effect?
DP: Well, actually, I’m looking at making a more potent focused compound than THC.
DP: -are in vitro that by in vitro they take some CB2 receptors and there’s a way of measuring bio activity. The longer the-, the more bio activity we see.
Here is an opportunity to construct a very potent analog of THC, modulate its effects with CBD, make it more targeted with fatty acid proteins, and we’ll have a family of pain compounds that may replace opiates. Any way we can cut into the use of opiates or opiate use disorder I think is a really beneficial
Jackee: Absolutely. Well said. I think people… This is an assumption but the perception of chemical psychedelics, like LSD, they often get grouped in with these other chemical compounds that we know of that have hurt people, like opioids, just for the sheer fact that most people aren’t scientists and you see chemical prescription, it presents itself in a certain way, gets made in a lab, and then they’re all the same but that’s sort of a lazy misconception that I’m working to remind people is not true, thanks to the good work that people like you are doing.
I love the idea of getting people out of pain, of course, that’s amazing but something stronger than THC is also very scary because we’ve gotten to a point, at least as we’ve commodified it, and I’ve been a part of that, where what you get in California, for example, the potency of the THC in most flowers, so high, it’s so high that we’ve forgotten that it doesn’t have to be that high.
I think there’s an increase in people actually overdosing on THC and I think overdosing might be the wrong word but you know what I mean? Having really negative side effects from consuming so much.
DP: Sure. You know, there is totally a potential for abuse. What I’m seeing is that there’s a recreational kind of backlash against that. I see a lot of people turning toward one to one type cannabis flower ratios, something that is not as incapacitating. Even people who use a lot of THC will interrupt that THC with a CBD session in order to reverse that effect. It almost allows you to start from zero again without-
It’s something that if you continuously pursue it, it loses its effect, it loses its benefit and the ability to go back and start over again, I think that’s a movement that’s taking place, at least, I am seeing it recreationally.
Jackee: I think so too. That can be said for most any substance, or as I call it, chasing the dragon. If you consume too much, too often, it loses its effect and then you get into a spiral of overuse and that can take you to potentially treacherous psychological space. I know that… I work less with cannabis now. It’s not necessarily the first substance that I run to when I want to learn more about myself. That’s mostly because of its strength and that, for me, a dose is really light. It’s like half a hit. I really miss the Jamaican weed, the outdoor natural grown weed with much less percentage of THC that you can’t really get. It’s hard to find.
Yeah. Let me ask you about CBD because from what I understand, again, everyone is different but the anti-inflammatory effects don’t often come with small doses of CBD. At least, not for me. It requires sometimes like 75 to one ratio. Yeah. What people can buy on the shelves is much weaker than that.
DP: Yeah. What we’re finding with cannabis is there are tremendous individual differences in our genetic makeup that really govern how we metabolize and how we experience these substances. Given that, I’m working with one group that is trying to be able to characterize what you would use based upon your genetic makeup.
For you, for example, we all come from a different genetic background. Maybe yours is such that you require much heavier dose or a sustained dose. I think that is a recognition of the individuality of it, is one of the new movements that’s taking place.
We’re kind of working on a patch administration with a reservoir that allows for a sustained delivery over a long period of time to kind of address people who need more or need a more sustained dose over a long period. I think that may offer some real promise.
Jackee: Yeah or if we could figure out a way to get intravenously I think that could provide some sustained relief but I’ll leave it to you guys.
DP: There is a way-.
Jackee: Is there?
Jackee: Oh, do tell.
DP: With esterification of the CBD molecule where you add an ester ring onto it, it’s metabolized as, what they call, a pro drug. It doesn’t have any effect for about 20 minutes until the ester ring has broken off but once … It can be delivered intravenously and then when it gets into the body it becomes water soluble and the esterification process increases its potency dramatically.
Jackee: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, excellent. Imagine a world now where somebody has an option to receive CBD or THC molecule intravenously in the hospital as opposed to morphine or even ketamine … Well, no. They use ketamine for anesthesiology. Yeah, ketamine and depression and from what I understand from doctors is that every individual is a different dose too in that case.
I just want to say this about cannabis as well, there’s this division right now in this body and psychedelic research space that sort of, in some cases, excludes cannabis, which blows my mind because cannabis is a plant medicine just as ayahuasca is, a really potent one, at that, and in my own personal experience the symbiotic relationship between cannabis and a psychedelic is so beautiful, the way that cannabis can assist in a psychedelic experience in an extremely positive way when used in conjunction is something that I hope we get to talk about more and then study, of course.
DP: Well, you know, here’s another thing that Western society can bring to the table and that is we do have this marketplace of drugs from all over the world and being able to combine them in unique ways to find more beneficial effects, I think that’s all upside as far as I’m concerned.
It seems as if a lot of times they work better in concert or collaboratively than they do individually. They have more benefit when they collaborate with one another. I think that’s certainly true of both cannabinoids and psychedelics.
You know, that’s why the mix that’s used in the preparation for ayahuasca is often times a mix of several different psychotropic botanicals depending upon the practitioner and they can range to different amounts of those. Some have more DMT, some have more Banisteriopsis caapi, some have even other substances involved. I think that’s one thing Western society can bring to the table. We have the opportunity to look at all these different things and use them in constructive ways.
Jackee: Right. I’m going to pull out something you just touched upon that I think is very important for inexperienced users of ayahuasca or people thinking of consuming it, that there’s not just one recipe. Like you just said, what’s in each individual mixture depends on the shaman, depends on the geography, depends on the thousand year history of what the recipe is and that’s super important because you can’t just recreate it with, whatever, three ingredients in your kitchen in Marina del Rey and expect it to be the exact same thing that somebody’s using in a ceremony in Peru.
DP: That’s absolutely correct. This is one of the most interesting things I’ve found in my ethnographic research was how unique each formulation was. As you said, geographically, based on cultural history, based on the individual practitioner who would take what he learned from whoever he was apprenticed to and develop even more specific applications.
One of the aims of the projects that I’m working on is to try to catalog as many of those formulas as possible, use analytical chemistry to find out exactly what’s in them and to kind of look at the differences in how shamans use them differently so that we can inform Western medicine and really get
to a more focused approach to how we use these substances for specific mental and health issues.
Jackee: Right. Well said. Before we end, I want to get to a couple of questions about mass production or manufacturing cannabis, for example, and likely, very likely very soon, Psilocybin because you’ve worked on remedies for pesticides and remediation for an IP for pesticide use in the cannabis space, which is a problem still.
Can you talk a little bit about that and why that’s important and what you think is on the horizon and are we going to see the same issues with potentially mass production of mushrooms in the near future?
DP: You know, I believe that we need to develop what I would call good manufacturing practices regarding how we both cultivate and extract these compounds from botanicals and then also standardizing synthetics as well. I’m a great believer in having processes … We kind of saw this in the legal cannabis industry, nobody knew how many pesticides there were in the background environment and we never would have known if we didn’t test down to the parts per billion.
Once we started doing that, we began to see that we are absolutely drenched in pesticides and drenched in heavy metals. You know, I developed an IP that we have here based upon the fact that we were seeing bio mass that a farmer might be a completely organic farmer doing the best possible job
but a mile away there’s a vineyard that’s using Boscalid or using some chemical pesticide and the slightest amount of drift makes it over to his field and suddenly his whole crop is no good.
From a manufacturing standpoint, being able to take out that small amount, it became super important to what’s available because there was a point where it looked like everything was contaminated and it was going to take a while to actually get to bio mass that’s clean.
Well, that was a big lesson for me in the manufacturing process. I’ve become a great believer in standardizing these practices, standardizing extracts, and making sure that they’re absolutely clean and they’re what they say they are.
Now, psychedelics seems to be following the same medicalization path that cannabis did. People were starting to look at it first for medical benefits. I don’t know that these substances, that psychedelic compounds, lend themselves to the same kind of recreational use that cannabis does.
Again, this dovetails right into the whole idea of what kind of community structures, what kind of ceremonial structures we put in place to make sure that the experience is safe, that it has a good outcome, and what’s beneficial all the way around. I don’t think that psychedelic compounds necessarily
can be used casually. I think Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters kind of pioneered that method.
I think when you start making these compounds available to larger and larger number of people, you have to be very careful about producing them in the right way and everyone agreeing upon what a standardized extract is.
That is one of the aspects of the project that I’m focused on, developing this conservatory for psychedelic botanicals with an associated analytical lab to make sure that we have standardized cultivation practices for those compounds and that when we start manufacturing and making extracts, that we do it in a way that one preserves the botanical identity of the compound but also sort of guarantees that if we say that this is exactly this, that that’s what it is.
I don’t think that these compounds will be manufactured in the same way or volumes that cannabis is used. We’ll need to develop community structures I believe, let’s say that we have session centers or places people can go and there are guides there who help both to integrate and interpret the
experience. I don’t know if it’s something, although, I’ve done it, that you want to take and then get behind the wheel of a car, going forward for the masses of people. I believe the next phase is developing these good manufacturing processes for these compounds. That’s one thing I’m really focused on.
Jackee: Amazing. Is there a name for the conservatory yet?
DP: There isn’t. I’m open to suggestions.
Jackee: Okay. Cool. Well, however, we can help facilitate that, it’s such important work. I know people behind the scenes and probably you included in the cannabis space, worked to conserve different strains of cannabis plants and to catalog the different processes that we’ve seen throughout the last decade and plus but I don’t know that there was a collective, like a large collective, collegiate level effort to do that. It’s going to be so important for psychedelic plants and medicine and chemicals/drugs, whatever you want to call them. I’m so glad that you’re doing it.
DP: I have to say that these drugs are really part of the rainforest heritage and as we lose more and more of that rainforest, these botanicals are at risk. As I said in the very beginning, they have a tremendous geographic specificity. We have an opportunity to collect them, put them somewhere where we can begin to work with them, and preserve that rainforest heritage before it’s gone.
Jackee: Well said. Del, I want to thank you so much. Where do you want to send people to find out more about your work or if they want to get in touch with you to help you?
DP: I’m at Leef Labs and ZBN Research, the pharma wing of Leef Labs. Leef Labs is L-E-E-F Labs and ZBN Research. My email is Del, D-E-L, at L-E-E-F CA dot com. I’m happy to both answer questions and talk to people about what we’re trying to do here and see if we can find a way to preserve and develop new compounds.
Jackee: Yeah. Amazing. I’ll put your email and that information in the show notes, Del. Thank you so much. I feel like there’s several more conversations to be had. I hope that you’ll come back soon.
DP: I absolutely will. It’s been a pleasure.
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