Science of Natural Medicine

Science of Natural Medicine

Natural medicine is a term that refers to a wide range of medical practices that are based on the use of natural substances, such as organic food, plants, minerals, and other organic materials.

These practices are often seen as an alternative to traditional Western medicine, and may include fasting, natural psychedelic medicine, meditation, exercise, herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, and naturopathy, among others. Natural medicine is based on the idea that the body has an innate ability to heal itself, and that natural substances can be used to support and enhance this natural healing process. Many people turn to natural medicine because they believe that it is a more holistic and natural approach to healthcare.

Science of Psychedelic Plant Medicine

The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is at the root of all true science. - Albert Einstein

Mental health is important because it affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. In the United States, 87 million or roughly 1 in 4 Americans report experiencing mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. We are living through a mental health epidemic. The epidemic is global, 970 million people worldwide had a mental or substance use disorder in 2017. In 2018, 1.7 million veterans reported a mental health issue ranging from depression, to debilitating anxiety, and PTSD. Mental health is so neglected that suicide has become a serious public health problem. Suicide rates increased 30% between 2000–2018. On average there are 130 suicides per day, 44 of which are veterans. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people 10 to 24 years old. 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide in 2020. The mental health crisis is greatly affecting our children. In the fall of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics along with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. 40% of teens reported to the CDC that they feel “persistently sad or hopeless,” and 1 in 5 saying they have contemplated suicide, according to the results of a survey published in March. These problems are way too common and are affecting more people than ever before. The issue has become so serious, the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense are making public commitments to tackle this monumental challenge:

“Mental health affects all of us, which is why I named tackling the mental health crisis a core pillar of my Unity Agenda. As I outlined in my State of the Union address last March, we can and must do more to transform how we address mental health in America,“ Joe Biden, President of the United States9.

The good news there is hope: natural medicines like magic mushrooms can treat depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicidal ideation. Other esteemed research institutions like Yale, UC Berkeley, The Ohio State University, and Imperial College London have published clinical research demonstrating the transformational healing power of psychedelic medicine. Clinically published research conducted by John Hopkins University showed in a national survey of over 190,000 U.S. adults, lifetime use of certain psychedelic drugs was associated with a 19 percent reduced likelihood of psychological distress within the past month, a 14 percent reduced likelihood of suicidal thinking within the past year, a 29 percent reduced likelihood of suicide planning within the past year and a 36 percent reduced likelihood of attempting suicide within the past year. These results were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

The Psychedelic Renaissance is sweeping across the western world as researchers, investors, activists, and politicians work to provide legal access to psychedelic medicine, which will lead to healing the mental health epidemic in the west.

The idea that psychedelic medicine could be a panacea to the world's mental health epidemic is buoyed by the FDA's fast-tracking clinical research trials for psychedelics such as Psilocybin and MDMA. Designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA, a breakthrough therapy is for a drug that treats a serious or life-threatening condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement on a clinically significant endpoint(s) over available therapies. Psychedelics show potential for treating a myriad of illnesses: depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, migraines, and more.

“These could be breakthrough medical treatments that we’ve been ignoring for the past 30 years,” says Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins and one of the world’s most published scientists on the human effects of psychedelics.

“Johns Hopkins is deeply committed to exploring innovative treatments for our patients. Our scientists have shown that psychedelics have real potential as medicine” - Paul B. Rothman, M.D., Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Psychedelic Medicine Research Findings

Imagine taking medicine that alters your mind and facilitates the generation of new thoughts and new ways of looking at the world. Imagine taking a medicine that facilitates solving the problems of life, by they personal or professional. Imagine taking a medicine for the purpose of spiritual connection and the cleansing of spirit that has been clogged up by life.

Psychedelic medicine can heal mental illness across the spectrum of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders and suidical ideation. A reality made possible thanks to the pioneering research of Roland Griffiths, Katherine MacLean and Matthew Johnson at John Hopkins, Charles Grob at UCLA, Dave Nichols at Indiana University, Michael Mithofer & Rick Doblin of MAPS, Robin Carhart Harris of Imperial College London, Simon Ruffell of Kings College London, Amanda Fielding of the Beckley Foundation, Rachel Yehuda at the Icahn School of Medicine and many others.

In Dr. Richard Miller’s book Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin and Ayahuasca he shares how Amanda Feilding conducted the first study of psilocybin in the treatment of chronic depression. The small pilot study showed that 67% of participants who reported clinical depression for 18 years on average, experienced significant improvements in one week.

A 2014 pilot study at Johns Hopkins looked at the potential of psilocybin to help people quit smoking, one of the hardest addictions to break. The study was tiny and not randomized—all 15 volunteers received two or three doses of psilocybin and knew it. The pilot study results were eye-popping: Six months after their psychedelic session, 80% of the volunteers were confirmed to have quit smoking. That figure had fallen to 67% at the one-year mark, which is still a better success rate than the best treatment available. A participant noted, “It put smoking in a whole new context. It seemed very unimportant; it seemed kind of stupid, to be honest.”

Matthew Johnson, the psychologist who directed the study at Hopkins, says that these sorts of “duh moments” are common among his volunteers. Smokers know perfectly well that their habit is unhealthy, disgusting, expensive, and unnecessary. Still, under the influence of psilocybin, that knowledge becomes an unshakable conviction—“something they feel in the gut and the heart.” As Dr. Johnson puts it, “These sessions deprive people of the luxury of mindlessness”—our default state and one in which addictions flourish.

The most famous evidence for the therapeutic value of psychedelics arrived in a pair of phase 2 trials (conducted at Johns Hopkins and NYU and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2016) in which a single high dose of psilocybin was administered to cancer patients struggling with depression, anxiety and the fear of death or recurrence. In these rigorous placebo-controlled trials, a total of 80 volunteers embarked on a psychic journey that, in many cases, brought them face to face with their cancer, fear, and death. 80% percent of the Hopkins cancer patients who received psilocybin showed clinically significant reductions in standard measures of anxiety and depression, an effect that endured for at least six months after their session. Results at NYU were similar. The degree to which symptoms decreased in both trials correlated with the intensity of the “spiritual experience” that volunteers reported, a common occurrence during a high-dose psychedelic session. Across the board, volunteers in the Hopkins and NYU experiments report becoming better versions of themselves - more open, compassionate, forgiving, and loving.

“[I was]...bathed in God’s love” - Dinah Bazer

Dinah Bazer, a research participant, could finally appreciate and connect with people on a profound level for the first time in her life. She felt the experience allowed her to fall back in love with her family. She was surprised by the sheer goodness of others: “I don’t think I realized how genuine people were until after this experience!” Dinah didn’t leave her healing session on a narcissistic bent; she had transformed into the socially conscious version of herself who felt a sense of belonging as a sibling of the human family.

To date we do not have any psychiatric interventions for anxiety and depression that have demonstrated dramatic and sustained results. The government will require that trials on psychedelic medicine by expanded to a larger set of participants before considering approval of psychedelic medicine. But when researchers brought their data to the FDA, the regulators reportedly were impressed and asked for a large phase 3 trial of psilocybin for depression—not just in cancer patients but in the general population.

I am often asked how long the effects of psychedelic medicine last. What is the change of remission for mental health disorders? According to a study by the Amanda Fielding, 42% of partipants experience complete remission of chronic depression three months post-treatment. According the scientific journal Nature, clinical trials suggest that psilocybin can provide durable remission from an increasingly common mental health condition. A recent research report published in Feb. 2022 by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report that the substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy, given with supportive psychotherapy, may last at least a year for some patient. The results tend to shock even the most seasoned researchers:

“My initial response was amazement when I saw that a single treatment would produce this sort of long-term change in emotional state,” says Charles Raison, a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who is currently overseeing a phase II clinical trial of psilocybin.

He contrasts this with conventional antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which require daily administration and trial-and-error matching of patient and drug — and where halting treatment too abruptly can lead to a brutal relapse.

While research on psychedelic medicine demonstrates how it can help heal us from mental health disorders, research demonstrates that is does even more: psychedelics allow us to experience mystical states of consciousness.

In 1999, Griffiths and MacLean risked their career to research psilocybin — the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. Their groundbreaking research on psilocybin stunned the world and rocked the pharmaceutical industry. The research led donors to help Johns Hopkins University launch the first dedicated psychedelic research center in the United States, called the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Roland Griffiths, the center’s director, published a landmark study Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance19. The study is considered to be a milestone that marks the re-initiation of psychedelic research after decades during which research had been suspended due to widespread propaganda.

"Experiences that people describe as encounters with God or a representative of God have been reported for thousands of years, and they likely form the basis of many of the world's religions," says Roland Griffiths, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Although modern western medicine doesn't typically consider 'spiritual' or 'religious' experiences as one of the tools in the arsenal against sickness, our findings suggest that these encounters often lead to improvements in mental health”.

In the early 2000s, he a landmark study investigating how high-dose psilocybin can produce mystical experiences of religious or spiritual significance. Griffiths and Alan Davis published the largest survey ever conducted with 2500 respondents reporting their experience of the compound DMT.

  • 75% of respondents in both the non-drug and psychedelics groups rated their "God encounter" experience as among the most meaningful and spiritually significant in their lifetime.

  • 89% of participants reported positive changes in their life satisfaction.

  • 82% reported a positive change in their life’s purpose and meaning.

  • 75% of participants reported being in contact with a conscious, intelligent, benevolent sacred, eternal entity.

  • 58% said tripping on DMT had triggered a belief in divine beings and powerful supernatural entities.

The research grew out of an initial survey by the Johns Hopkins team exploring “God encounter experiences” triggered by psychedelics. In a survey of thousands of people who reported having experienced personal encounters with God, Johns Hopkins researchers report that:

  • 2/3 of self-identified atheists no longer identified as such after a personal encounter with “ultimate reality” or “the God of your understanding”.

Moreover, the researchers say, a majority of respondents attributed lasting positive changes in their psychological health—e.g., life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning—even decades after their initial experience. The findings, published online in PLOS One, add to evidence that such deeply meaningful experiences may have healing properties, the researchers say.

The most common psychedelics reported to have been associated with "God" encounters were:

  • Psilocybin, or "magic" mushrooms (1,184 participants)

  • LSD (1,251)

  • Ayahuasca, a plant-based brew originating with indigenous cultures in Latin America (435)

  • DMT, a naturally occurring substance found in certain plants and animals (606)

Professor John Vervaeke, a cognitive scientist and psychologist at the University of Toronto, prefers the term “sacred” to “divine.” “When I hear ‘divine,’ I hear there’s a consciousness, and there’s an intelligence attached to that,” he says. “I don’t know about that. But do I think there are depths of reality that we can fall in love with that transform us? Yes. Yes, I do.”

“With psilocybin, these profound mystical experiences are quite common.” - Dr. William Richards, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University

The notion that hallucinogenic drugs can bring about mystical experiences is not new and was previously studied in a famous Harvard study known as the “Good Friday experiment.” The study involved a group of seminary scholars being given psilocybin during the Easter season service to see how it altered their experience of the liturgy. Almost all of the members of the experimental group reported experiencing profound religious experiences, providing empirical support for the notion that psychedelic drugs can facilitate religious experience.

Psychedelics appear to unlock this connection to the divine by tapping directly into what the mystics have been trying to mine over the history of modern religions with chanting, fasting, meditation, and prayer.

The Science of Ego Death

In psychedelic culture, Leary, Metzner and Alpert define ego death, or ego loss as they call it, as part of the experience of death in which the old ego must die before one can be spiritually reborn. The ego death is commonly reported to researchers by participants during psychedelic experiences, is said to be similar to experiencing physical death, but after the ego is gone, the subject is surprised and relieved.

If who and what we believe we are (our ego) were to dissolve shouldn’t there be nothing left? Some psychedelic researchers have concluded that after the ego dissolves what is left is the experiencer, the subject, the “I”, or consciousness27.

They have postulated that in our normal waking consciousness, the subject, or the experiencer, continually but incorrectly identifies with the ego, while experiencing the ego as an object of its perception. But if the ego is no more, then the subject has nothing else to identify with other than itself. The subject’s consciousness becomes self-aware. Michael Pollan writes of his own psychedelic-induced experience of ego dissolution: “The sovereign ego…was simply no more… Yet something had succeeded it: this bare disembodied awareness, which gazed upon the scene of the self’s dissolution with benign indifference. I was present to reality but as something other than myself. And although there was no self left to feel, exactly, there was a feeling tone, which was calm, unburdened, content. There was life after the death of the ego. This was big news.”

Trials of psilocybin can help cancer patients deal with their “existential distress” at the prospect of dying. The pivotal role of the mystical experience points to something novel about psychedelic therapy: It depends for its success not strictly on the action of a chemical but on the powerful psychological experience that the chemical can occasion.

Perhaps ego death is something we need to actualize as part of our culture. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in American youth ages 12-25. Maybe our children are self-harming because as teenagers you are supposed to want to die, however; that death is supposed to be metaphorical and spiritual. Your childhood has to die so you can become an adult but nobody has told them this death is metaphorical and spiritual. So the children have this doubt or urge that they actualize in the physical world as opposed to natural maturity. This is but another symptom exposing the flaw of a western culture devoid of spirituality. The data supports my claims. Public polling from Gallup shows that American happiness is at record lows, only 40% of Americans are satisfied with life28. We are very unhappy people. We are also a people devoid of true spirituality. In regards to the children, they simply want this nightmare to end. They don't recognize that the depth of what their spirit is seeking is a cultural death because within western culture, the spirit is separated from the earth from the flesh so you can't have this transformation. This makes the most sense to me when we can see research that shows people being reborn from a place of darkness, depression and anxiety and having a new lease on life.

I find it fascinating that no one knows why these medicines make people spiritual or exactly why any of it changes people’s personalities for the better, boosts them out of mood disorders, or ride them of addictions. We just know it works. That’s why I call it God’s medicine.

Your Brain on Psychedelics

So how does psychedelic therapy work? And why should the same treatment work for disorders as seemingly different as depression, addiction, and anxiety? According to Amanda Fielding, founder of the Beckley Foundation, “It’s a well-known fact that LSD, and all psychedelics for the matter, work through the serotonin 2A receptors37.”

For several decades, we didn’t know anything beyond Amanda’s statement, however; within the last few decades scientists have discovered how psychedelics change our brain. Psychedelics induce neuroplasticity and create neurogenesis in the brain - a process that causes your brain to grow new cells38. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change and adapt due to experience. It is an umbrella term referring to the brain's ability to change, reorganize, or grow neural networks. This can involve functional changes due to brain damage or structural changes due to learning. Through visualization we can see the direct impact psychedelics have on the brain in the chart below.

Here you see two brains. On the left is the placebo brain going about its normal day. On the right, we see the brain under the influence of psilocybin. Psilocybin is the natural compound in magic mushrooms. The Psilocybin brain looks like a lot of things are going on there but actually, what is happening in the brain is reorganizing itself in a smarter, more effective way. The diagram depicts diverse brain regions not normally in communication becoming strongly linked. Psilocybin causes the brain to explore new underdeveloped parts of the brain.

As Michael Pollan explores the neuroscience in his new book How to Change Your Mind, he writes: When scientists at Imperial College began imaging the brains of people on psilocybin39, they were surprised to find that the chemical, which they assumed would boost brain activity, actually reduced it, but in a specific area: the default mode network. This is a brain network involved in a range of “metacognitive” processes, including self-reflection, mental time travel, theory of mind (the ability to imagine mental states in others), and the generation of narratives about ourselves that help to create the sense of having a stable self over time.

The default mode network is most active when our minds are least engaged in a task—hence “default mode.” It is where our minds go when they wander or ruminate. The Imperial scientists found that when volunteers reported an experience of ego dissolution, the fMRI scans of their brains showed a precipitous drop in activity in the default mode network, suggesting that this network may be the seat of the ego.

One way to think about the ego is as a mental construct that performs certain functions on our behalf. Chief among these are maintaining the boundary between the conscious and unconscious realms of the mind and the boundary between self and other.

So what happens when these boundaries fade or disappear under psychedelics? Our ego defenses relax, allowing unconscious material and emotions to enter our awareness and also for us to feel less separate and more connected—to other people, to nature, or the universe. And a renewed sense of connection is precisely what volunteers in the various addiction, depression, and cancer anxiety trials have all reported.

This points to the most compelling reason to pursue the new science of psychedelics: the possibility that it may yield a grand unified theory of mental illnesses, or at least of those common disorders that psychedelics show promise in alleviating: depression, addiction, anxiety, and obsession. All these disorders involve uncontrollable and endlessly repeating loops of rumination that gradually shade out reality and fray our connections to other people and the natural world. The ego becomes hyperactive, even oppressive, enforcing rigid habits of thought and behavior—habits that the psychedelic experience, by loosening the ego’s grip, could help us to break.

That power to disrupt mental habits and “lubricate cognition” is what Robin Carhart-Harris, the neuroscientist at Imperial College who scanned the brains of volunteers on psychedelics, sees as the key therapeutic value of the drugs. The brain is a hierarchical system, with the default mode network at the top, serving as what he variously calls “the orchestra conductor,” “corporate executive,” or “capital city.” But as important as keeping order in such a complex system, a brain can also suffer from an excess of order. Depression, anxiety, obsession, and the cravings of addiction could be how it feels to have a brain that has become excessively rigid or fixed in its pathways and linkages—a brain with more order than is good for it.

Dr. Carhart-Harris suggests that, by taking the default mode network offline for a time, psychedelics can, in effect, “reboot” the brain, jog it out of its accustomed grooves and open a space for new pathways to arise. His lab has made maps of the brain’s traffic patterns on psychedelics showing that when the default mode network is quieted, myriad new connections spring up in the brain, linking far-flung areas that don’t ordinarily talk to one another directly40.

Your DNA on Psychedelics

Dr. Simon Ruffell, is a Senior Researcher at the Psychae Institute and Chief Medical Officer for Heroic Hearts UK, a charity supporting veterans with psychedelic plant medicine. As a researcher at Kings College London, Dr. Ruffell led an observational study where the team looked at the use of ayahuasca by 63 participants who attended a traditional Shipibo retreat, and its effects on their mental health41.

The research team collected inventory surveys before and after participants’ retreats, and then again six months later to look primarily at depression, anxiety, and self-compassion, as well as mindfulness, general well-being, the perception of traumatic memories, and other secondary measures. They also collected saliva samples.

“We collected saliva samples in order to assess potential changes in gene expression—a field called epigenetics,” says Ruffell. His team assessed three genes related to trauma and neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to make new connections.

Ruffell says based on the existing body of research on ayahuasca and mental health outcomes, he wasn’t surprised to learn that participants showed decreases in depression and anxiety and improvements in mindfulness, self-compassion, and general well-being. In addition, participants were found to perceive memories in a less negative way.

“We also found that, the greater degree their mystical experience, the greater their decrease in depression, which was in line with other psychedelic research,” he added. The results of the six-month follow-up showed that the impact ayahuasca had on participants’ depression was lasting, with some even continuing to experience a decrease in their symptoms long after the retreat had ended.

“This was the first-ever study to look at any psychedelic and epigenetics, and that in itself is exciting,” says Ruffell, though he’s quick to caveat that statement with a note about the study’s small sample size. While he says there was a “statistically significant change” in the expression of the gene SIGMAR1, which is thought to be involved in how traumatic memories are stored, it’s too early to generalize the results.

“We can’t draw any conclusions, but what it does suggest is that ayahuasca may well be having some kind of effect on the genetic level,” he says, noting the group is awaiting additional funding to continue the study and increase the sample size.

Making Psychiatry Spiritual Again

“Psychiatrist” derives from the Greek words psukhe meaning “soul” and iatros meaning “healer”. So “psychiatrist” actually means – and originally meant when it was first used around 170 years ago – “soul healer”42.

Yet so much of 21st Century mental health treatment focuses only on the mind. Could it be that one of the reasons rates of what are known today as mental health problems have increased so dramatically is because we ignore the spiritual aspect of being a person?

Since the Industrial Revolution started in Europe in the 18th Century, the Western world has put increasingly less emphasis on spirituality. Nations and their people look to the material world as a reason for living and the way to happiness.

Striving for material gain has led to much more pressure and stress in life. Now, for instance, it is a necessity that both partners work full-time whereas until relatively recently that was not the case.

In a recent talk entitled The Power of Connection,43 physician, trauma expert and author Dr Gabor Maté said: “There are mental illnesses that develop originally really as compensations against stress and trauma. In a materialistic society, we measure success by the possession or the control or the production of matter, of materials. It’s materials that matter. But is it a true measure of a successful society? Can a society be called successful because it produces, controls or owns more matter than some other society? An equally important measure, at least as important measure of a society and culture, is to what degree does it meet human needs? How well does it promote healthy human development and to what degree and ways does it undermine it?”

Maté talks about disconnection caused by our modern Western system playing a major part in both physical and mental illnesses. Connection with others can be seen as a spiritual aspect of the human condition. Feeling disconnected from others is a major part of many mental health illnesses, including conditions such as addiction and depression.

We live in a world today that despite us being more connected than ever before through technology, there is often less actual connection. A large part of recovery is about restoring connection. That is to other people – but also for the person seeking help to reconnect with their true selves.

A Moral Biology

Clinical psychologist William Richards, the longtime collaborator in the John Hopkins psilocybin trials, concludes that ethics and morality are hardwired, “perhaps genetically encoded” within the human DNA44. Psilocybin appeals to unlock that code by tapping directly into what the mystics have been trying to mine over the history of religion with chanting, meditation, fasting, and prayer. Morality is encoded in our biology. Science affirms that morality is a human biological attribute because we make moral judgments: to judge some actions as good and others as evil. The primary origin of our moral instincts traces back to the relation between cooperation that humanity needed to create the proper infrastructure for civilization.

Biological research shows that human societies are so prosperous mostly because of how altruistic we are. Unlike other animals, people cooperate even with complete strangers. We share knowledge on Wikipedia, we show up to vote, and we work together to responsibly manage natural resources. This branch of study is called biological altruism. Evolutionary biologists and animal behaviorists study such behaviors, looking for both immediate and evolutionary explanations. ‪Arunas L Radzvilavicius‬, an evolutionary theorist at the University of Pennsylvania, partnered with Joshua Plotkin, a theoretical biologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and Alex Stewart at the University of Houston, both experts in game theoretical approaches to human behavior, to better understand the source of biological altruism45.

Their research model which claims that the modern empathy members have in a society is directly linked to the success of society matches up with other biological and real world research.

Humans are social, and empathy is a fundamental component of the human condition. As humans, we all have mirror neurons in our brain. Mirror neurons allow humans - and all other animals - to mirror the emotions of others as if they were their own. The scientific press often refers to them as “empathy neurons”. The discovery of mirror neurons has forced biologists, philosophers, linguists, psychologists and others to rethink a generation of misinformation about our innate connection to each other and to nature. Marco Iacoboni is a neuroscientist at UCLA and a leading researcher of mirror neurons. In his book, Mirroring People, Professor Iacoboni points out neuroscience research which shows that we are wired to connect:

“Mirror neurons help us to be empathic and fundamentally attuned to other people. This is perhaps the most important finding of all, and it is a beautiful46.”

Human nature is not to seek autonomy - to become an island to oneself - but, father, to seek companionship, affection and intimacy. Babies, for example, are prewired for companionship. Research shows that if infants are denied affection and maternal companionship, the infants will lose the will to live47. The point that Iacoboni and other scientists are making is that empathy is our nature and what makes us social beings.

Psychedelic Policy Reform

Psychedelic medicine is so transformative it has inspired me and countless others to join the psychedelic medicine movement to demand change and give people access to the healing they rightfully deserve. The research on the potential of psychedelics is clear and the movement is seeing results in various psychedelic initiatives all across the United States.

In 2020, Oregon became the first US state to legalize and medically regulate psilocybin for personal use for those over age 21. By the end of 2022, Oregon Psilocybin Services will adopt rules for the facilitation of psilocybin therapy in a clinical setting. Applications for licensure will open in January 2023.

In 2021, my organization Legalize Psychedelic Medicine along with a veteran-led coalition of non-profits: VETS (veterans exploring treatment solutions), the Warrior Angels Foundation, Heroic Hearts Project, and SOAA (the Special Operations Association of America) led the charge for Texas House Bill 1802, a bill that provided funding for the state of Texas to facilitate a clinical study of how psilocybin — found in "magic mushrooms" — helps treat veterans with mental health problems. A bipartisan effort, Texas House Bill 1802 passed successfully and showed the greatness of America, that a small group of committed veterans and citizens can change the world.

In the fall of 2022, Colorado citizens passed Proposition 122. Their vote thus enacted the Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 (NMHA) which legalizes supervised or facilitated therapeutic sessions for adults twenty-one years and older using certain psychedelic plants and fungi.

The Federal government is slowly embracing psychedelic medicine and clinical research trials. Ketamine therapy, the only legal psychedelic medication, was given expanded access to treat veterans’ suffering mental health issues through the Veterans Administration healthcare programs. In 2021, John Hopkins received a 4 million dollar NIH grant to research psychedelics for, the first federal grant issued in 50 years. In November 2022, two House lawmakers formed the Congressional Psychedelics Advancing Clinical Treatments (PACT) caucus, the nation’s first psychedelic medicine caucus. The caucus is co-chaired by California Democratic Representative Lou Correa and Representative Jack Bergman, a Republican from Michigan who is also a retired lieutenant general with the United States Marine Corps.

“Having served our Nation as a member of the United States military and in Congress, I’ve seen the destruction post-traumatic stress disorder can cause on my fellow veterans and their families,” Bergman said in a statement, as reported by the Washington Examiner. “Our job is to find solutions to these problems, and if psychedelic-assisted therapy can help treat or even fully cure someone of their PTSD, we need to take a closer look at these potentially life-saving therapies.”

Not to be outdone, members of the Senate are crossing the aisle and partnering to champion the cause of mental health. In November 2022, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Breakthrough Therapies Act, a bill that would reclassify MDMA and psilocybin.

"We urge Congress to swiftly pass the Breakthrough Therapies Act, which responsibly reduces the barriers to research and limited access of potentially life-saving treatments like MDMA- and psilocybin-assisted therapy,” said Martin R. Steele, a retired Lieutenant General in the United States Marine Corps., Chief Executive Officer of Reason for Hope, and head of the recently formed Veteran Mental Health Leadership Coalition. “Veterans should not be forced (nor should anyone else) to leave the country - at great expense - to access breakthrough therapies that can be safely provided and further studied in real-world settings here at home."

“We believe the Breakthrough Therapies Act is the tip of the spear in our fight to ensure that Special Operations Veterans have access to the most advanced and effective medical treatments in the world,” said Daniel Elkins, Special Operations Association of America Founder and Member of the Moral Compass Federation. “The Breakthrough Therapies Act will ensure Special Operations Forces receive the care they deserve from the country they fought for.”

Why are Plant Medicines important to Chesed Torah?

Psychedelics are an essential part of Jewish tradition practiced by our ancestors but has since been forgotten due to persecution over the last 2700 years.

The Torah emphasizes the importance of maintaining a clear mind, in order to be able to fully engage with the world around us, to study and understand Jewish law and teachings, and to fulfill one's obligations to God and to others. The use of psychedelic plant medicine sacraments enhances one's spiritual awareness or connection to God which provides clarity of mind and purpose.

Torah places a strong emphasis on ethical and moral behavior, and on living a life of kindness, compassion, and social responsibility. The use of psychedelics is a practice of ritual purification that allows to embody these values from the highest state of consciousness.

Overall, while some individuals may view psychedelics as a way of enhancing their spiritual awareness or connection to God, their use is not condoned or encouraged by Jewish tradition. The Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of maintaining a clear and sober mind, and of living a life of ethical and moral behavior, as a way of fulfilling one's obligations to God and to others.


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