Dr Mark Plotkin on Ethnobotany, Real vs Fake Shamans, Hallucinogens, and More | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Dr Mark Plotkin on Ethnobotany, Real vs Fake Shamans, Hallucinogens, and More | The Tim Ferriss Show".


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Intro (00:00)

Hello boys and girls ladies and germs this is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show where it is my job to interview and deconstruct world class performers from all different fields. My guest today super exciting long time in the making doctor mark plot can you can find him on twitter at doc mark plot can p l o t k i n is an ethno botanist who serves as president of the Amazon conservation team you can find that at Amazon team org. Which has partnered with 55 tribes to map and improve management and protection of 80 million acres of ancestral rainforests. Educated at Harvard Yale and Tufts plot can have spent much of the past four decades studying the shamans and healing plants of tropical America from Mexico to Argentina. Although much of his work focuses on the rainforests of the northeast Amazon is best known to the general public as the author of the book. Tales of a shamans apprentice one of the most popular books about the rainforest ever published his new book published by Oxford press is the Amazon subtitle what everyone needs to know.

Discussion On Ethnobotany And Traditional Medicine

Sponsor - Four Sigmatic (00:59)

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Sponsor - Theragun (05:15)

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Who is Richard Evans Schultes? (05:49)

This altitude I can fly out for a half mile before my hands start shake. I also have a question. Now we're the same. I'm a cybernetic organism living to show a metal hit the sky. Me too. Paris show. Mark welcome to the show Tim good to be here and we were chatting before we hit record I said my audience likes stories and specifics and you said I might have a few of those certainly based on what I know of you based on our conversations based on suggestions from friends who know you. I think we will have no shortage of ground to cover and I thought we could start with a name and a person who fascinates me endlessly and that is Richard Evan shalteys and I would love if you could explain who this is and how you cross pass with this person. Well shalteys is often called the father of Anthony and she'll be passed away by 20 years ago when he was told this would often say well you know Anthony started with the pharaohs and I'm not quite that old. So he had a marvelous sense of humor and seeing him in the field I think this is really one of the ways he won his indigenous colleagues over he might have been a world famous Harvard professor but ultimately a very down to earth or the wonderful smart kind conscientious fellow. Shulteys talked for many years at the Harvard Botanical Museum and he influenced people far and wide not just his students like me or Tim Plowman or way Davis but people even knew of his work and didn't take his course people like Alan Ginsburg great Shulteys fans. People like the great biologist E.O. Wilson were Shulteys fans so his effect on popular culture and on science were as I said far and wide and this great new institute Tim that you helped start at the Johns Hopkins University bringing some of these and the agents some of these hallucinogenic principles to bear on so called uncurable incurable diseases like PTSD or schizophrenia in a sense traces back to a lot of Shulteys work because Shulteys is the one who went into the sub tropical forest or southern Mexico and Oaxaca in the 30s and came up with the magic mushrooms and Shulteys is the one who went into the rainforest in northwest Amazon in the 40s and came out with Ayahuasca so his impact positive impact on the world is still being felt. And I want to second what you just said in the sense that much of my fascination and thinking on ethno botany which I'll I want you to define force in a moment comes from reading the work of Shulteys and I have one book for example that I've traveled with for many many many years, which is plants of the gods which I'm sure you've seen which in which was not only co-authored by Richard Evin Shulteys but also Albert Hoffman, the first person to synthesize LST 25 and then Christian Rach although I'm not sure if that's how he pronounces his name in German that is how it is spelled. And what is ethno botany since we'll be will be digging under the hood with this quite a bit.

What is ethnobotany? (09:05)

You know in the broad sense ethno botany is simply the relationship between plants and peoples but in popular culture ethno botany is the search for medicinal plants in the rainforest from tribal shamans so you can go broad or you can go narrow but it has to do with plants and peoples. The bottom line is that Shulteys taught and Shulteys believed and taught the rest of us to believe that much of human culture is based on our relationship with plants. There's evidence to indicate that many of the world's religions had their beginning and the effect of these magical plants on the minds of our ancestors and as we know the effect of these plants and these fungi and these frogs we now know on our minds is having a very positive effect when used correctly either in traditional settings under the care of traditional healers who really know their stuff or in the hands of Western physicians who are beginning to discover the incredible power and potential of these compounds. The bottom line is that these antigenic hallucinogenic compounds in the hands of shamans who I work with are essentially digital scalpels that allow these men and in some cases these women to understand analyze treat and sometimes cure emotional ailments brain ailments that are owned physicians yet cannot. One of the things that impresses me most about you and Shulteys by extension but that impresses me about you is your field work you have traveled extensively in the field and have interacted with so many different tribes so many different nations of people. I'm curious to know when you were bitten by the bug so to speak when did this journey start for you. It started on a cool September night in 1974 I dropped out of college and was working at Harvard and a colleague of mine says you know Harvard has a night school and there's this extraordinary Harvard professor who went down to the Amazon in 1941 and essentially disappeared and essentially went native for about 14 years. I just want to pause to say for people 14 years just let that sink into your mind for a second and this was just a place of time this is in the what the 30s or 1941 to 1934. Okay please continue sorry to interrupt. Shulteys to entice the students gave a version of his very famous lecture on the plant hallucinogens in the northwest Amazon and there was this one slide this one image that changed my life forever and it was a picture a black and white picture that had three indigenous peoples in Barcloth, Mass and Graskerts. Shulteys said here you see three Yucuna Indians doing the Kayari dance to keep away the forces of darkness. The one on the left has a Harvard degree. Next slide please. And that image got me hooked got me hooked on plants got me hooked on indigenous peoples got me hooked on the Amazon.

When the interest became a career (12:23)

Next step or the step that led it to becoming a career for you. How did you take that interest and translate it into a trajectory. Well you know that famous saying of pastures which is that chance favors the prepared mind so it wasn't dumb luck but there were certainly a lot of luck involved. I had dropped out of college and I was working in a museum and was you know looking for adventure as they say and there was this one incredible graduate student who himself was sort of legendary. And he said there are rumors of an endangered man eating crocodilians called the black Cayman in the northeast Amazon in a country called French Ganna this forgotten little ex colony in the northeast shoulder of South America. You want to go. I signed up then in there.

Gordon Wasson, Terence McKenna (13:12)

So what was it just to backtrack for a second about and I'm not going to spend too much time on Shulteys but I think the parallels are interesting. What was it that caught the interest and peak the curiosity of say Ginsburg or an E.O. Wilson. What was it about him how was he portrayed. Well Shulteys was essentially a trickster and I mean that in the very positive shamanic sense of the word. You see this man this this elderly man in a white lab coat with a crew cut and a Harvard tie. He looked like the straightest lace fellow in Harvard Square and this is culturally the end of the 60s beginning of the 70s. Yet when he talked and told his stories and showed his pictures he was this wild man who went down to the jungle and did all these tribal dances and did all of these tribal drugs and I thought wow you know that great quote of Walt Whitman's that everybody cites about I hold multitudes. Well there were these multitudes the ultimate pillar of the establishment and the ultimate swashbuckling explorer all in the same person. I have no idea if if there is any connection here but when I first discovered Shulteys it made me think there had to be some type of historical basis for Indiana Jones minus the theft of artifacts but the the similarities are pretty striking so aside from the physical appearance I suppose. Well this is always a big debate in the academic community where people say you're Indiana Jones and or you're not know I'm not Indiana Jones back and forth who is who isn't Indiana Jones is a fictional character. Indiana Jones was a tomb robber but Indiana Jones fired the imagination of many of us who made a living out of tropical research. So the net effect was tremendously positive remember that that elements of Shulteys which are correct were baked into the Indiana Jones archetype elements of Shulteys were also baked into a Sean Connery in the movie Medicine Man. So he wasn't just portrayed by Harrison Ford he was also portrayed by Sean Connery pretty amazing for a straight laced Harvard professor.

Shamans, ayahuasca, jungle medicine, and trade-offs (15:20)

So lest people think that shaman shaman you know good on their eye was scared whatever we want to use is a term I suppose good on their own this case if we're talking about Spanish would be limited to hallucinogens. Could you speak to this is a story I've heard you tell but your foot injury and as a way to just provide a little more surrounding context for the conversation we're going to have. Well people need to understand that the Amazon is full of different cultures when you're looking at indigenous cultures is between three and four hundred. One of the most important things is the minority of those are ayahuasca drinkers okay a minority of those are coca chews so when people say to me what do Indians in the Amazon want what are shamans like you're dealing with a lot of diversity here and that's something that the general public doesn't really seem to get. I've done a lot of my work in the northeast Amazon on the surname Brazil border and there is no ayahuasca there there are no hallucinogenic fungi there or if there is they don't take them. And these people are still masters of the rainforest these people still are mastered diagnostitians and healers no shame in just like no physician can cure everything. And there are different forms of expertise and different forms of healing even within Amazon cultures and here's an example I was in the northeast Amazon where I've worked for decades and I came into the village and the shaman who is an old friend of mine said you're limping. And I said yeah you know I hurt my foot and doesn't seem to be healing very well and he says and I'll never forget this he says take off your shoe and give me a machete. And it did as I was told he walked over to a palm tree which was about three meters away scraped off a fern growing on the palm tree through it in the fire applied it to my foot burn the hell out of me through it in a pot and had me drink it. No the pain stopped almost instantaneously. I understand that when I injured my foot I put on heat I put on cold I took aspirin didn't work I went to the doctor she gave me a cortisone shot didn't really work I went to a masseuse went to an octopus didn't work. And this guy cured me on the spot. So I don't understand how it worked chemically or spiritually or harmonically but my foot cut better. Now seven months later it came back and I was back in the rainforest and he fixed now that's ten years ago and it doesn't hurt. And I would rather be treated by. Again the point being that these guys can't cure everything but sometimes sometimes they can cure things at our own physicians our own masseuses our own Ayurvedic physicians cannot. And that's why I am so anxious to make sure that these healing traditions are preserved these healing plants and fungi preserved and that these cultures have room and breathing room to exist in a world which is pressing in on all sides. And as we know from the headlines COVID-19 is pressing and particularly heavily.

Western medicine versus ancient practices (18:33)

One of my favorite quotes of yours that I found is and please correct me if I'm getting this wrong it might be a paraphrase but Western medicine is the most successful system of healing ever devised but it has holes right and then I think I put some ellipses in there so I probably omitted a bunch in the middle but what types of first you can correct that and then could you elaborate on what you see as holes. I think it's quite clear to all of us that Western medicine can't cure everything anybody who's lost a relative to cancer anybody who has lost a relative to suicide anybody who has trouble sleeping anybody who stressed out Western medicine doesn't seem to be able to cure many cases of these ailments. And again no shamanic system Chinese medicine doesn't have all the answers all of these systems do something well and all of these systems need to be protected for their own sake and for the betterment of all of us the medical office of the future if we get it right I believe is going to have a physician is going to have a shame and is going to have a masseuse therapist is going to have a nutritionist. All of these things that should be working together so it shouldn't be you know the physician versus the medicine man or woman it should be ways of combining that now I don't think that we're ever going to see a healer where it's going to be a woman using ayahuasca and antibiotics and Ayurvedic therapy and massage therapy one person just can't contain all that stuff which is why you need different people maintaining and practicing these different systems.

Electric eels (20:08)

There's such a breadth of subject matter and unless you want to go an inch deep in a mile wide it seems like you really need to specialize and there are a couple of notes here I have that I'd love to explore just to kind of show how much territory there is to explore. Could you please speak to electric eels and dolphins I can't wait to hear this because I don't know what comes after the question but new discoveries in the Amazon regarding electric eels and dolphins. Well electric eels are hard to miss there eight foot slabs of meat that send out Jedi like impulses that paralyzed on and sometimes kill their prey. So this isn't something that's a recent discovery electric eels have been studied for 250 years. Linnaeus himself described the first electric eel vault a built the first battery inspired in part by his studies of electric eels. And just last year 2019 we found two new species of electric eels and one of them shot out 20% more electricity than electric eels are known to produce the point here being. If we still don't know how many species of electric eels there are and now we're studying this to find ways of building new micro batteries which we can implant within the human body to power electrical devices. Think what else is out there that is an eight feet long and hard to miss. And so the excitement is defined stuff like this the flip side of it is watching it be destroyed as we all see last year with the Amazon fires the pace of destruction picking up in Brazil. So it's both exciting and disheartening at the same time. It's the dolphin example also one of new species being discovered. Same thing and again I want to emphasize that it shouldn't be about protecting species whether it's here at home in Austin Texas or Peru or California or wherever it shouldn't be about protecting species because they can cure cancer or because they can teach us how to make new batteries. I think species in general and conservation in general is an ethical exercise. We shouldn't be destroying species through our stupidity and our greed because sometimes sometimes sometimes these things turn out to be life changing. Now in terms of the pink dolphin of the Amazon they just found a new species of a pink dolphin. How do you miss pink dolphins? Okay but the Aragua River Dolphin is a different species. So again we're seeing that big large conspicuous well studied creatures still have secrets that can share with us and they might help revolutionize certain aspects of medicine like it seems possible with these new electric eels or it might just be a cool species that we can go down there and see and enjoy. Because one thing you have to remember when people talk about well we can't afford conservation because we need to develop. The fact is that tourism eco tourism is the second biggest industry in the world and as we live in an ever urbanizing planet people have more and more desire need to commune with nature. So the value of these wild dolphins and electric eels and all the other cool things around the world only increases if we protect them and their oceans and coral reefs and rain forests and deserts in which they live. So let's hop from some of these what you would think would be very conspicuous animals that have been missed and by mist I suppose we should say by Western science not necessarily by the people who live there on the ground. Could you explain what you is please.

Yopo, ayahuasca, and other archaics (23:49)

You know is the great undiscovered hallucinogen of the Amazon everybody focuses on ayahuasca all for good reason. However there is a very powerful hallucinogen my personal favorite in the north central Amazon centered on the Venezuela Brazil border and it's called you. It's a hallucinogenics enough many people saw this in these famous films by Napoleon Chanyan anthropology 101 and this is a tree sap or less recognized a leguminous crushed seed because he's a very different hallucinogens that the mommy blow up their nose for the purpose of divination and healing and it is quite an extraordinary experience because it hurts like hell for a few minutes and then it is an extremely visual spiritual trip that lasts for 20 minutes. And then you feel absolutely wonderful afterwards. So for all of us who take an LSD and went to that black period remember that's why the stones wrote painted black. You feel better afterwards immediately afterwards which in my experience is unique and it just goes to point that there are other mind altering substances that are still out there it's not just all about ayahuasca and I'll give you a concrete example. My late friend Lauren McIntyre was lost on the Brazil crew border in 1969 was taken in by a group of uncontacted peoples called the mat says who had a very ferocious reputation and they were the ones that introduced him to hallucinogenic frogs now known as as the most important thing I learned about this from McIntyre I put this in a TED talk I gave a few years ago and when I went to one of the villages in which I work in South Suriname I gave my TED talk in the tribal language. And when I showed the magic frog from Peru one of the shamans taught me and said oh we have that frog here and I said no you don't that's from Peru and he goes no we have it here and I said no no it's it's from Peru it's like you know her to this place thousands of miles away that frog does not occur here and I said, no way and he says yeah it's here but it's in the canopy. And I said what use it for me so we use it for hunting magic just like those Indians are talking about. And I said I've been working here over 30 years and you never told me this and he said well you've been working here for 30 years and you never asked me. And by the way there's another frog that we use for the same purpose. So I was able to collect and identify this frog completely different families not like sometimes you know the next species or go have the same compounds in it completely different family and actually some analysis had been done with this and it contains Bufo tenant which is a hallucinogenic principle. So once again the Indians were right in the Western scientists was wrong. And by hunting magic that means they consume this to divine beforehand or they use it for the hunt itself. They use it the night before the hunt to see where the animals will be. And as a Western scientist this makes no sense to me but as an ethnobotanist when people tell me stuff, indigenous people tell me stuff that I found hard to believe it's important to put aside my disbelief and be willing to listen and learn. And the classic account of this was published by my buddy Peter Gorman who heard about Lauren McIntyre's first encounter with this drug and went down to the Northwest Amazon where he had a fair amount of experience and he tried it and he said I took the stuff. In my mind I saw this taper crossing the river to place I knew the next day we went hunting we got to that crossing and there was the taper. Raises a lot of questions doesn't it. There's many questions more questions than answers but that's what makes this field of study endlessly fascinating.

The one exception (27:41)

Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors and we'll be right back to the show. People always ask me what podcasts I listen to and the truth is I don't actually listen to that many given all the projects that I'm working on given producing this podcast. One exception is business wars from the podcast network Wondery you know a lot of their shows already as at least 20 of Wondery shows have reached number one on Apple podcasts. Now business wars is a great show that profiles epic stories of competition so you might have say WWE versus WCW which is a great one you've got Netflix versus blockbuster and that entire story one great way to listen to business wars is with a Wondery plus membership which allows you to enjoy business wars one week before the episodes are available anywhere else and add free so you can listen to the remarkable stories of groundbreaking rivalries like Amazon versus Walmart eBay versus PayPal and Coke versus Pepsi uninterrupted. You might also enjoy pizza wars dominoes versus pizza hut which explores the rivalry and special sauce that makes these brands so successful. And the Wondery plus membership also gives you access to the exclusive business wars season playboy versus penthouse. This is a really really fun season. They're very short, very dramatic, easy to listen to. I enjoy them a lot. So check out Wondery plus today with this exclusive offer for listeners of this podcast. You can get 25% off a one year membership at Wondery. That's w o n d e r y Wondery plus dot com slash Tim to start enjoying business wars and much more. That's Wondery plus w o n d e r y p l u s Wondery plus dot com slash Tim to enjoy enjoying Wondery plus. Let me ask you another question related to Yopo so you said your personal favorite for someone who does not have any personal experience. How would you describe the differences between Yopo and say ayahuasca aside from the duration of the experience. Somebody asked me recently, Tim about ayahuasca if I take in and I said well you know I mean that's no bot unless it's my job. And they said well how many times have you taken it. And I said 87, I think. And as you know, these experiences are often very different. It depends on where you are in life. It depends what's on your mind depends on the shame and depends on the mix because most ayahuasca mixes are comprised of different admixtures by the real masters. And it depends on what you need. Sometimes you're going to the ninth dimension and making love to the goddess the river under the water. And sometimes you don't see anything in sleep deeply and when you ask the shame about it he or she will say well you got what you needed. So it's very difficult to say ayahuasca is this and Yopo was that and the magic mushrooms are that. But I will say this, the Yana Mami with whom I had the great pleasure to live and study this stuff make two kinds of Yopo.

Is Yopo akin to Ayahuasca? (30:40)

One is made from the sap of a vorola tree which is essentially an Amazonian nutmeg. Remember nutmeg is a tree from the Southeast Asian tropics. And if you read the autobiography of Malcolm X he talks about sneaking into the prison commissary at night and sealing nutmeg so they could get a buzz. Catch a buzz out of it. Now I find the Yopo from the vorola snuff to be very, very, very visual. It takes you a different place. The visions are extraordinary. Much like I've seen in some ayahuasca experiences. And then with the other Yopo which is made from the crushed seeds of a savannatory is primarily auditory. You're hearing extraordinary things. You can hear everything in the jungle. It is unlike any other endiogenic substance which I have taken. And that to me a very striking differences. But again the details are in primarily who's the shaman. What is he or she treating you for? What is the dosage? So I really can't be more specific than that. Well thank you for making the attempt nonetheless. Let's talk about this word.

Exploring Ayahuasca And Indigenous Knowledge Conservation

What is the yage-slinger? (31:51)

Shaman, shaman, it gets used a lot. It seems like everyone on Facebook who plays the DIGERY DUE does yoga or has been to Burning Man is now shaman these days. For you what does that designation connotate? And understanding that that is not the word that these people would use to describe themselves necessarily in these indigenous communities. But what is that signified you? What are the prerequisite skills or experiences that would lead someone in your mind to qualify for that? The etymology of the word when I looked it up was he who knows. And I think there are many terms for you and I would think of as a shaman. It is somebody who is an expert healer. Somebody who is a keeper of the traditions. A keeper of the laws. A cyclopomp, the person who conveys souls to the underworld. And one way to contrast it with our own healers and why I think some of the shamans are so effective is in our system if you're sick you go to the general practitioner and if that doesn't work she sends you to a specialist and if that doesn't work he sends you to a psychiatrist. Whereas the shaman in sense it's kind of one stop shopping. And there's two things that stick in my mind is how you know you're dealing with the real thing. One is in the Northwest Amazon if you ask somebody if they're a shaman they will never say yes. They will say well some say that I am or who knows. And then anybody who pounds their chest like some sort of tribal tars and it says yes I'm a shaman or I'm the great shaman or whatever is an a shaman. Secondly I gave the commencement address to a medical school a couple years ago my hometown in New Orleans. And then I before had a few drinks with the dean and I said I got to ask you something I said why did you ask an ethanol botanist to give the graduation speech in a medical school and this after a lot of wine he said well we want to Jimmy Carter but we couldn't afford him. But the reason I bring up that example to answer your question is one of the great shamans the Northwest Amazon or real ayahuasca master Don L'Oriano he's a long gone now of the ingano people's I once asked him how long does it take you to become a shaman. A titan that's what in their language that's what they call a shame how long to take you to become a titan and he says you know my son. He says in your system you have to go to school for three years to come a doctor. He says in your years he says I'm over 90. He says I'm still learning. I thought that is a true shaman.

Real shamans never say "yes." (34:32)

So let me sub in for quite a few listeners out there to follow up on your mention of 87 or so times at the cup with ayahuasca. The question that one might ask is why so many times why keep doing it. Is this not supposed to be the Wambam thank you van dam one stop shopping where you come in and you have this transfer experience why keep going back to the well. How would you respond to that.

Ayahuasca resources & risk associated with hallucinogens (35:00)

And like I said I may not know about this it's my job seven in the tribes who work with the original ayahuasca tribes he's the same tribes that taught it to shulties. So when you want to work with an ayahuasca and he says well we have to do this in ceremony we do okay very very very few occasions Tim have I gone down there and said I'm having a problem I have an issue I can't deal with I really want to have a ceremony. In almost every single case it was part of bonding with these people it was part of communicating with these people it was never like hey I hear he's a great champion let me give this a world. I don't work that way I mean I've you know as an ethnic botanist you don't want to be a shaman snob like oh well I know real shame and you don't sort of stuff it's nonsense. However it does give you access to this shamanic world and you're dealing with the real deal and I want to bring up our mutual friend Michael Pollan. You know I hope everybody read Michael Michael's great book on hallucinogenic plants in practice. And one thing that comes through repeatedly time and time again is this is not a toy. People with mental ailments who are often the ones who go down to the rainforest in search of these things often come back worse so that you really need to be dealing with the real deal and stuff that you buy on the internet or workshops you hear about on the internet you got to be real careful because it's not like smoking a joint you know you can really have a bad trip it can really do you harm. And so the point here is not to say okay well I've done it 87 times and Tim you've only done it 83 times so you know I'm a bigger stud than you are that ridiculous. I mean I remember when I was back in college and people would like well the people smoke the most dope or supposed to be the wisest. How did that work out right. There are people to go and take ayahuasca once and they say I got it. I'm done that I got what I needed I'm never going to do it again or the shaman will tell them. Okay you don't need to do this anymore or you need to take another copper don't you dare take another cop. You know this is how it has to be regarded you need you wouldn't go to a doctor that you you heard about on the internet who didn't have an MD and wasn't certified. Why would you undergo something so profound and frankly so risky with just some fly by that operation.

Michael Pollan and How to Change Your Mind (37:25)

Yeah I want to mention a few things to underscore a few of the points that you made so the first Michael Paulin for those interested his book how to change your mind is exceptional I also have two interviews with him on this podcast. Great 30,000 foot view as well as experiential account of someone who is psychedelically naive. Researching not just the history but the current day and also having his own first person experiences and to the point related to risk just to give a few concrete examples so that people understand what can happen. In some areas of Peru and certainly hallucinogens are not limited to Peru these plants and there are many different types of plants are not limited to Peru but that has become one of the top destinations for those seeking something. Some type of transcendent experience or who are desperate to address a problem they have not been able to address and in some areas and other parts of Peru. There are a lot of basically walking dead I'm not going to say dead but you have these westerners who have had psychotic breaks or just wandering around homeless I mean it's a non trivial problem and it's really important to understand that these compounds can cause you know what Roland Griffiths at Hopkins would call ontological shock where your perception of reality is so fundamentally shifted that you cannot get back to more your boat. You cannot get back to the dock and I know someone personally who actually know multiple people who went down he did a dietta which involved fasting and consuming a plant in this case Cídíxanango which is very valuable in a number of contexts but whether it was the administration or his genetic predisposition or any number of other factors he was untethered from reality for a good I want to say it was between one and two months and his family had to fly down to South America and the only way they could get him on a plane was by convincing him that he was God and that he would be doing them a great service. It would be a demonstration of his power to get on this plane with them to fly back to the United States I mean this is not to say typical experience but it's not altogether rare alternatively so I don't have to take us too far into the sort of encyclopedic list of these types of side effects but you have to treat them very carefully so if you're not going Craigslist to find a neurosurgeon and I don't think you should buy I was for your slow cooker on the dark web and invite your friend who's had one hallucinogenic experience to be your shaman for the weekend. Anyway I'll get off my soapbox well I completely agree and in my new book the Amazon what everybody needs to know I talk about I was going to and I point out the subscuralliana that was dug up in a sense by shulties in the 40s and 50s is now being taken from the Israel to Istanbul and you take it at your own risk I get a lot of calls and emails from people saying where should I go to take it it's like I'm a conservationist I'm an ethnobotanist I'm not running an ecotourism operation for psychonauts so don't even ask me but understand that there's risk like I said earlier hallucinogens or vegetal scalpels and scalpels can heal you and scalpels can hurt you they are the vegetal or fungal two-edged swords so this idea and I get this all the time people say well it's a plant so I can't hurt me really ever here is strict nine. Yeah, hemlock yeah, Bellamy lot of I'm all in favor of plant medicines or fungal medicines but the idea that they have all the answers and there's no downside is as ridiculous as saying if a doctor doesn't know it nobody else can. Agreed and I want to talk about more things that can hurt or heal.

The story of how Dracula got its name (41:14)

Let's start with vampire bats or maybe not vampire bats specifically but you were bitten by a vampire bat this is something I did not know or is it maybe a story about someone else okay let me say more. This is recounted in my first book tales for shame and is apprentice which talks about my 15 year search for medicinal plants in the northeast Amazon and I was on the Suriname Brazil border on the Suriname side packing my gear to hike across the border and into Brazil and remember Americans typically arrive in Brazil on foot. And I was in the camp and I had my lantern on and I felt this terrible pain in my leg and I looked at me and there was a bat attached to my leg biting me slicing into my leg and I mean I was bleeding like a stuck pig. I yelled and my indigenous guide came running in took a machete and sliced it in half and I just stood there bleeding all over the floor and I said to him oh my god. I said am I going to get rabies and die and he said no and then he said what's rabies. So he was right I didn't get rabies and die but the reason that I was bleeding like a stuck pig is that vampire bats have anticoagulants in their saliva much as leeches do if you feed on blood for a living you don't want it to clot. Right that means dinner is over. So this saliva this compound is being looked at in the lab and it's got a great trade name Dracula. So the thing here Tim is that are you serious is that what it's called that's what it's called. Oh my god that's incredible. The important thing is you know I started out working at the world while I find and we're all about to save the elephants and save the pandas and save the whales and that's great but there's not much coming out of elephants pandas and whales in the medicinal realm. It's often the creepy crawlies often the poisonous things like poisonous snakes which led to the birth of ACE inhibitors of you know billion dollar drug industry on its own. And so it's sometimes a very good reason for saying we can't just protect the cute cuddly things that are appealing to us emotionally. Sometimes it's the nasty mean hairy aggressive insects scorpions or the things like that that might have real potential.

Preserving indigenous knowledge (43:43)

Yeah if I'm not mistaken I mean if you've undergone anesthetic if you trace it back a lot of the I want to say some of the early innovations related to anesthetics were from curari and poison darts used in South America which I would imagine probably came from frog venom of some type or toad venom but you could perhaps speak to that. It's incredible how much knowledge is possessed in this is held in the heads of these. Let's just call them elder doctors in the rainforest not by our credentials but certainly in their traditions and I think you've called them one of or the most endangered species right because in a sense whether it's cuter cuddly whether it's a creepy crawly how they can be used medicinally or plant certainly how they can be used medicinally has been vetted through trial and error for hundreds and thousands of years by some of these groups of people. And there's a real question of how you can preserve that when these people are being displaced and certainly the older generations are dying the younger folks have perhaps become seduced by modernity understandably on some levels and disillusioned with their traditional medicinal approaches how do you preserve and you have done such great work in this respect but how do you even hope to try to preserve that. Well that was the birth of the shamans apprentice program that we run out of here at the Amazon conservation team is that I quickly realized decades ago that I could never collect all the information. Jolties can never collect all the information and a much better way to preserve it is within the cultures themselves. And the fact is that no matter how much a shame and will teach me after decades and decades and decades of partnership collaboration friendship love. They're still teach even more secrets to their kids or their grandkids. And so the answer we stumbled across me and my indigenous colleagues was let's pass it down within the tribe. Okay these are traditional secrets it's not going to be published it's not going to be marketed it's up to them. But as long as the young people don't learn it we're doomed. Well through this program we now have four shamans apprentice clinics in the northeast Amazon. We have one of the first books ever written by the Indians for the Indians in their language documents all of their medicinal plant knowledge. We have them running clinics first and foremost for themselves and their own culture outsiders are coming to them for treatments. And it's a living breathing thriving tradition where when I went there it was it was dying out you had all these great shamans they were like the last of the mastodons that weren't going to reproduce. Well now they're reproducing and the point we made the point I made time and time again was not like okay you can be a shaman or you can have an iPhone. Right you can do both but if we're going to introduce technology let's do it in a way which supports the perpetuation of the culture rather than replaces it. Because when you have the equivalent of I call it tech bombing where you have outsiders just come in and give these guys all sorts of trinkets you know iPads and iPhones they're very seductive. But let's show them how they can use to document their creations to record grandma and grandpa not just the medicinal plants the old songs the legends and things like that so it's never lost.

Traditional Medicine, Prevention Of Pandemics And Failures Of Sustainable Development

Side effect of shamans teaching their partners how the land is laid out (47:05)

How do you from a brass text standpoint tactically on the ground because like you I've seen the iPads the big screen to you is and so on. Used not in a focused way but how most of the world and certainly how sometimes I use these things as a source of entertainment and distraction how did you help to incentivize the participants especially the younger generations to help facilitate this. How do you actually yeah what do you do surprisingly easy 20 years ago the chief of the trio tribe which is the major tribe in the northeast Amazon who is a friend of mine at the time still is. Said to me we want to get title to our lands and we need a map that's the government told us you need a map we didn't know what a map was they showed us. So we want the help of the Amazon conservation team and I said you got it and he said so you'll make us a map and I said no and he said but you said you can help us and I said we will and he said so you'll make us a map and I said we won't. He said I'm confused. I said we will not make a map. We will teach you to make your own map and we will provide the training and the technology to do so which we did. So technology came in specifically to help them protect their land to later claim to the traditional territory and while you're at it why don't you talk to grandpa and find out all the names of the rivers and ask him why those rivers have those names was at a great battle was at the bottom of the road. A battle was at the home of a sacred spirit stuff like that so it was introduced specifically to protect land and culture. Now yeah I mean do they play games and stuff like that they do but it was introduced in a serious and purposeful way and they have taken it unto themselves to find new ways to use an argument example. If you're a botanist you know that Brazil nuts only live in the Amazon basis that's what I was taught as a student at Harvard but the trios in mapping their lands which crosses the border between Brazil and Cernon found 13 stands of Brazil nuts outside the Amazon basin because again as the other side of the watershed so they decided to create maps of their Brazil nut trees because that is a sustainable resource that was their idea I didn't tell them to do it. One of the proudest moments in my career happened this week when I saw a picture of the same Indians in a clinic which we help them set up all of them wearing masks and the shamans were creating what they call a immunostemulant beverage from local plants and giving it to all the villagers as part of the ways to keep the coronavirus at bay. So this shows the perfect marriage of ancient shamanic wisdom which is the plants and 21st century knowledge which is the face masks. Okay and the technology has been a very important part of the equation. So it's not this thing like let's give them all our technology because it's cool and we want to show them that we're cool. Nor is it this equally ridiculous idea of saying oh no there Indians will spoil them if we give them technology. You know they're part of the modern world and with the exception of the 70 uncontacted tribes in the Amazon. Everybody has a sense what's going on.

Progress of compiling a pharmacopoeia for traditional medicine (50:24)

How do you or how did they go from using GPS and other tools for mapping to recording the and I'm going to mispronounce this maybe you can tell me pharmacopia pharmacopia. Both are the both okay great I'll go with both the spectrum of plants and compounds and animals I suppose that could be used medicinally as well as the methods of preparation. And administration how do you make the jump from mapping land to that or how is it done in any instance. Because it was a process I went down there to collect ethno botanical information I like shulty's making lists and writing it down. And when they said why do you want to do this I said well you know that Bible you read in church I'm not a Christian I'm a Jew. And if my ancestors had written down their information we wouldn't have the Bible to learn from today. So I want to work with your shamans to write down their knowledge so 20 years from now 200 years from now. Your great great great great great grandchildren will have your original wisdom to learn from well the chief was a fundamentalist. This was perfect. And we did so so we started writing down lists of plants and what they're used for and then the shamans would prepare for me so I realized okay well you're actually you need. You know the dosage you need the preparation it's not just a they use species a for headaches that doesn't really tell you much. And then I did this all with with guides my age I started this when I was 27. And after eight years I very proudly handed the chief a book of his ethno botanical wisdom in his language he had two books in his language at that point. The Bible presented by the missionaries and the teneno epipon pia the tree of plant medicine handbook done by me in collaboration with the shamans it's the power of the written word. I mean you've written enough books Tim it's the power of the written word you put it in front of somebody and it's written down it carries much more weight than just you know a conversation or an interview or anything like that. Really revolutionize their thinking of the value of this stuff so I said look I got you guys started but ultimately it's not all about me my first book tells the shamans apprentice. It's kind of a trick title because I'm not the apprentice they are. But in following me and me helping them kids start this interest in their own traditions they took it over which is the way it should be. Was the book in their native language to prevent biopiracy yes it was yes please continue. No I mean I've been criticized for not publishing this information in the technical literature but I have no interest in it it's their secret I'm not going to reveal the secret that's told me in confidence I can get tenure. You know I run it off for profit I don't face that challenge but I wouldn't do it anyhow. And so the knowledge is first and foremost for them and if they want to commercialize it or sell it somehow good for them. I mean I'll give them advice but I'm not going to do it I'm not going to do it for them I'm not going to take what I know and I know a lot and make money commercially I run it off for profit profit is not my prime motivating factor in life.

Mail Maci (53:39)

So let's take an example just to explore this a little bit further mail after DZX so I was going to say what has your experience been with them but what I mean by that is. In your field studies I mean we can we can go any direction you want but in your field experiences whether it's with the trios in the north east Amazon or elsewhere. Maybe you just walk us through your sort of exposure to this and the reception from your western friends and colleagues. Yeah I was working with the trios first trip I think was 1982 and they kept showing me this one plant and they say that's a male for DZX that's a male for DZX that's a male for DZX. Now you have to understand that Seamus knowledge is individualistic in that even within the same tribe even within the same village. Very seldom do you have a shaman who will say I use this plant for this and I use this dosage and I prepare it this way and so on and so forth it's not a perfect match. Okay it's like our own medicine it's art and science if you go to three doctors with one ailment very seldom do you get the exact same recommendation in my experience. So I came back and but they kept saying this might not be easy this mail so I got back to my office at a Harvard I was working in the museum for and with shelters at the time and he said we'll call the medical school see what they say so I got this guy on the phone at the medical school calling here from the Harvard Botanical Museum and I said look I found this thing and they say it's a it's a male for DZX and he said did you try it. I said look I'm 27. I wouldn't be able to tell if it worked or not so he said well understand there's no such thing as a male for DZX and I said what do you mean he says it was physiologically impossible. And I said well I mean what about Spanish fly he said it's an urban legend it doesn't work there is no such thing as a male for DZX okay fine. A year later I was working with the Yana people to the east on the Suriname French Ganna border and they showed me this other plan they said it's a male for DZX and three shamans said it's a male for DZX wasn't even the same family. Okay once again you know if something's just one species over in the same genus probably the same compounds completely different plan completely different family. And so I got back to Harvard and I called the medical school the guy says oh you're the guy who called last year I told you there's no such thing no such thing no such thing. A year later I was working with the Maroons the Maroons are Afro Amazonians they are the descendants of escaped slaves they were up to the northeast Amazon in the 1700s they got off to slave ships looked around and said this is equatorial rainforest I'll see you white boys later and took off in the area. Okay and you go in their villages and it looks like the set of roots it looks like you know 17th century West Africa. And they showed me a plan that they said was a male for DZX different species different genus different family except these guys were selling it in town. So I didn't even call the medical school because I didn't want to have the same conversation. A few years later some physicians got I think it was the dosage wrong on a blood pressure medicine and all of a sudden all these guys in the old folks home are popping woodies. Right. It's a male aphrodisiac. So for shame in her red breach class says it's a male aphrodisiac the guy in the white coat says it's impossible to guide white coat stumbles across it you know it's billions of dollars and maybe a Nobel Prize. Is there you know this is a side note this could be a total urban legend I heard that the way this could be total fancy but that the way that Viagra was identified for male enhancement erectile to function whatever you want to call it was that they had called it a fail for blood pressure or blood pressure or whatever the primary outcome measure was for the study and they asked the subjects these elderly folks to return their supplies and the men all refused and they were like what the hell is going on here. What is going on here? This is very, very odd.

Success Stories and Strikes (Out) (57:43)

So in your experience have you seen any tribes who have been able to without sort of destroying setting fire to their own homes metaphorically speaking take some of this knowledge and monetize it for their benefit have you seen any success stories. And the reason I ask is one of the compelling reasons to say preserve rainforest and all sorts of different ecosystems is for the medicinal value that might be contained so I'm wondering if there are any success stories. It's really a good question for my colleague Paul Cox who's a fellow ethnobotanist trained at Harvard around the same time I was and he was making great progress with some compounds from American Samoa antivirals where the deal he cut which is the way it should be done where they would make a keystone payment. In other words, let me take this plant and if it cures AIDS I'll be back in 17 years with a billion dollars. You know it's a crapshoot, it's a long shot for any plant or animal product or fungal product to make it to the market for a variety of reasons. But he said okay if you want to study this in the lab you have to pay these people X and then if it passes phase one which you did then you have to pay them Y. And then if it passes phase two you have to pay them Z and then if it gets to market they get a piece of the action. Another colleague of mine Stephen King at Jaguar Health has been developing a new anti-direal from Tressap in Peru and has made a lot of progress in putting money back into these communities. I wish I had a great success story to tell you about some tribe that made a billion dollars and saved their rainforest and looked happily ever after. The answers aren't completely in but these were two successful examples that really bear looking into further. Thank you. No that's very encouraging. I really just don't know if there are any precedence or deal structures that have made sense long term and it sounds like there are some case studies that people can learn from.

Sustainable Development Failures (59:56)

I think that would people fail. There's two failures in this idea of sustainable development. One is that we have to find X whether it's the cure for cancer or an equal tourism lodge or non-term before us products and they can live happily ever after. And anybody who has a pension or has stocks knows that you don't put all your money on one horse even at the racetrack right. So what we need is a diverse portfolio as we would call it where they're making some money from eco tourism and they're making some money from handicrafts and they're making some money from running a shamanic clinic and so on and so forth. That's the way to really help these people. The other fallacy is that we just got to get them a lot of money as much as possible as soon as possible they'll be better off. I've seen this time and time again where these guys make enough money to move to the city and actually they don't live in the nice part of the city. They live in the slums, the body or the favela and they're much worse off. So a little money on a very steady basis based on non-destructive aspects of the ecosystem to me is the way to go. And I'll give you an example of that. There's a tribe of hunter-gatherers called the Aquarius. They were essentially dragged out of the forest right before I started my work in the 70s and 80s in the northeast Amazon. But the other Indians regard them as almost legendary in terms of their ability to hunt, in terms of their knowledge of the forest. And I always told they had 35 words for honey. And I have to report that was an exaggeration. There's only 34. I wrote them all down. I got together with my colleagues and said, let's create a project on sustainable development of honey. We'll show you guys how to build hives. We'll have the Aquarius as our technical experts to talk about what produces the best honey, what's the stingless bees we should be working with. And we're now producing honey, not a single tree's cut down. And they're making money and they have more honey than ever. And it's one of those win-win situations. They're never going to get rich from this. But when they go to town, they've got honey in their pocket, which essentially means money in their pocket. It's something they can sell without having to cut down a mahogany tree or sell off the lands to gold miners or anything like that.

A cure for pandemics: prevent them in the first place (01:02:17)

Well, that sounds certainly like tremendous progress, or at least providing a very viable alternative to cutting down the mahogany and so on. I would love to explore perhaps the other side of the coin. And what I mean by that is I mentioned just a few minutes ago, say finding the, or you did also the cure for cancer or the cure for AIDS or the cure for fill in the blank. But it strikes me that there's also, and it's certainly this is not my original thought, there is the avoidance of the next AIDS or the next fill in the blank pandemic. Could you speak to your thoughts on preventing pandemics? Any policies or lessons that you think are worth underscoring? Well, I did an editorial recently for the Los Angeles Review of Books. It's on my personal website, markplotkin.com, in which I point out that the pandemic was caused by abusive nature. And by that, the concrete example of that is it came out of a bat that was crammed together in some fetid cage in Wuhan, China. And we don't know exactly how it jumped to the human species, whether it went to a pangolin and then to a human, that parts a little unclear. But it's clear that this terrible virus originated in the bat and our attitude towards abusing these animals, cruelty to animals is causing real harm. I mean, hundreds of thousands of millions of death, trillions of dollars already, and no end in sight. So when indigenous peoples, whether they're pygmies in West Africa or indigenous peoples in the Amazon, tell us we're going to pay a price for abusing nature, we're paying that price. Some of the most extraordinary people I've ever met are the Kogis. The Kogis live in northern Colombia in this here in Nevada. It's not in the Amazon, but they've been called the Dalai Lamas of South America. They're the most traditional people. They don't wear shoes. They don't have wristwatches. They don't have cell phones for the most part. And they have been saying, and they told me this in February, Tim, they told me this in February and March, if we don't stop abusing nature, we're going to pay a terrible price. Well, guess what? They were right. And I'm sure they take no joy in that. But this whole attitude towards monetizing everything towards short-term thinking is destroying the planet on which we live, is following the nest in which we live. So this attitude, oh, well, foreign aid is a waste of money, and third world people deserve what they get. Really? How much money have we spent in the US now on coronavirus? And as I said, there's no end in sight. So I really don't like to hear this phrasal. What's the silver lining in this pandemic? There's no silver lining. It's terrible. But there may be some lessons learned. And one of those lessons has got to be abusing wildlife is a real bad idea, bad ethically, bad spiritually. But obviously, perhaps worst of all, bad epidemiologically.

Discussion On Shamanic Cultures And World Challenges

Control or end the wildlife trade? (01:05:28)

Are there any actions that you would like to see taken? Any policies put in place? Seems like regulating what markets in China would be or is exceptionally challenging. But I haven't been tracking the news or developments to perhaps steps have been made to try to mitigate some risk. Do you have any thoughts on what could be done to remedy some of these problems? Well, as I recall, you have extensive experience in East Asian studies and martial arts and things like that. So maybe you have a better understanding of the mindset than I do. But we're all paying a price here. The Chinese, the Americans, Canadians, the Amazonian, indigenous peoples. I would hope that we as a species can sit down and say, let's have some guidelines here. You know, there's a lot of people calling for an end of the wildlife trade. In an ideal world, maybe that would be possible, but we don't live in an ideal world. Let's control it. Let's have less cruelty. Let's have less conditions that lead to diseases jumping out of these species, whether they're bats or pangolins or amidellos. And I know from other biologists, there are as many viruses in the bats of the Amazon as there are in Southeast Asia. So it's not just like, okay, if we shut down the wet market, muhan, we're cool. Okay. I'm always much more in favor of building bridges and creating alliances than pointing fingers and saying, you know, this person said, "Faulties, the bad guy, I'm the good guy." That's how the works. It just goes against human nature. But the same token, the idea that everybody will just get together and sing kombaya is equally ridiculous. The wildlife trade is the biggest illegal market with the sole exception of narcotics and munitions. So we're not talking about a couple of guys doing bad things on the side in the back of a market somewhere in the tropics. We're talking about a lot of power and a lot of money. But if we don't tackle it, the next pandemic is going to be right behind it. This is not a one-off. There's nobody who understands epidemiology or the wildlife trade. Thanks. Okay. Once we get past this, we're in the clear. Nobody. And in some respects, this was a real warning shot. I mean, it's caused long-term economic damage, certainly skyrocketing, unemployment around the world. You have many deaths, but it's nowhere near as bad as it could have been. It's very much a virus that's designed to trick smart people in a lot of ways, but it's not nearly, at least as far as we know right now, as lethal as it could have been compared to many other viruses that have even scarier combinations of R0, the sort of transmissibility and lethality. So hopefully this will act as a sort of flair to catch the attention of people who can take steps to mitigate some of these risks. Well, somebody's been working the Amazon for a long time. I'm often asked, well, when I look at the Amazon rainforest, is the glass half full or half empty? And my response is always the same. Any glass half full is half empty. So as terrible as things are with COVID-19, as you said, it could be worse. I wouldn't say that's a silver lining, but I would say, like you said, Tim, that it is a wake-up call. And when you look at some of these terrible hemorrhagic fevers, they're even scarier. But that's not to belittle this virus, which is killing our species right left and center. So the focus needs to be on dealing with this pandemic, but the focus at the same time needs to be on preventing the next pandemic. When I started working in the rainforest in the 70s, many people said to me, like, well, rainforest, who cares about that? We have to worry about zero population growth. Now people say to me, well, the rainforest, who cares about that? We need to worry about climate change. But overpopulation is driving deforestation of the rainforest. And deforestation of the rainforest, destruction of the rainforest is pouring carbon into the atmosphere, and it's a number two cause of climate change. Number two, driver of climate change after fossil fuels. So the idea that, oh, well, let's just solve COVID-19, and then we can worry about wildlife, and then we can worry about poverty, and then we can worry about promoting the pandemic. No, we need to do all those things now.

The importance of long-term relationships in addressing the world's challenges. (01:09:50)

Yeah, it's all interrelated. And one thing that strikes me about your bio and your stories and looking at your career is that, much like shulties, you are a boundary walker, right? Just like the coyote, just like the trickster. You're a rather raven, right? I mean, you're both boundary walkers, and we won't go into a whole Joseph Campbell, mythological expedition right now. But you're both boundary walkers, and as a boundary walker, you've been very good at finding common ground, common interests, and building long-term relationships with people who at face value would seem to be very different from yourself. And I'd be interested to hear, since I do think that building bridges is going to be very important. If we want to tackle any of these issues that we just mentioned, there's going to need to be in the US bipartisan support. They're going to need to be, as you put it, large tents, as we were talking before we started recording. Could you speak to some of your longer-term relationships, what they look like? For instance, you mentioned in a note that you shot me a shaman that you hadn't seen in 32 years. I don't know the story behind that, but could you tell it? I was invited to a conference of Indigenous leaders, mostly shamans. I was the only white guy there. It took me four days to get there. That in itself is a long story, which I'll spare you this time. But when I got there, I met an old friend who was the one who invited me, who was a tribal leader. And while we're talking, his brother walked up, and he said, "Remember me?" And I said, "Yeah." He says, "I haven't seen you in 32 years. You were my father's friend. I walked five days to be here. Can I give you a hug?" I mean, I almost burst in a tears. Wow. I almost burst in a tears. I mean, how sincere is that? But the point here is that a long-term relationship allows you to work with people, whether it's a shaman in the Amazon, or whether it's somebody in Capitol Hill, or somebody you grew up with. Based on a level of trust and friendship and knowledge that you simply can't do in a hurry. And we're rushing everywhere, less so these days. You just cannot create the connections to get things done. And if we need system change, which the Skoll Foundation, which is one of the supporters of our work, founded by Jeff Skoll, who says we need system change, means that we can't just tinker around the edges. And what a lot of people don't realize, if you look at the history of environmentalism, particularly in this country, is founded by Republicans. The first great environmentalist was Teddy Roosevelt. And the second greatest environmentalist in terms of presidents was Richard Nixon, also a Republican. So this whole idea that, well, if you like trees, or you like hunting, or you like wildlife, you should be a Democrat, or Republicans don't believe in this. Everybody gets sick. Everybody wants clean. Everybody wants clean water. So this is one thing where there shouldn't be any political discord. There should be broad agreement. And clearly we need to work together, Democrats, Republicans, independents, people elsewhere, even in dictatorships. You know, for the common good, I went to the real conference in '92. It was the greatest gathering of world leaders ever. George Bush, Sr. Rosario Fiel Castro was there. And this was probably the greatest occasion in the history of the world, where everybody put aside their politics and said, "We want a better world, not for ourselves, so much as for our kids and our grandkids." That's the attitude we need to have. I agreed. I'd like to, if you don't mind, take a bit of a left turn. We're going to come back to this, but I want to travel back to the Amazon or surrounding areas for a second, because you mentioned the magic mushrooms of Mexico and in shulties.

Psychoactive plant medicine practices in matriarchal cultures. (01:14:01)

And among the Mazatex, much of the fungal medicine work is matriarchal. A lot of women, very female, forward. That's even an expression. But it tends to be matriarchal. And I've certainly seen that there are many, you know, IOS geras among the Shpibo people, female. Have you run into other societies, other tribes, other nations within, say, South or Central America that have been predominantly matriarchal when it comes to the shamanic work or medicine work? Interesting question, difficult to answer. You hit the two highlights. The famous female shamans of the Neotropics are the Mazatex in Southern Mexico and the Shpibo and the Amazon. Now, every tribe that I've worked with and I've worked with a number of them has female healers and sometimes female shamans. They sometimes make that distinction. They're the ones that tend to focus on female ailments, menstrual problems, for example, childbirth problems or kids things. There are, on occasion, female shamans that I've met, but they're few and far between. I've had many discussions with shamans around the fire at night about why that's the case. And they said, women work too hard to have the time to practice medicine. They do all the work around here, right? They raise the kids, attend the gardens, they do all the cooking. It is a very demanding profession. And it's not something you can do in your spare time and tribal societies, women tend to have very little spare time compared to the men. It's obviously a sweeping generalization. But sometimes a woman will feel a call to heal and that is what she'll do. And she'll be the equivalent of any male shaman or sometimes even better. But they tend to be outliers rather than, oh, yeah, there's a bunch of tribes that I know where the primary shamans are women. So I would have to say in my experience, no, but you know, the Amazon is a big place and there's lots of tribes. So you may find different answers from other ethnobodists. Within the tribes that you've spent time, this is going to sound like an odd question, but it's related to the male/female split among practitioners. And that is what percentage, I know it's a lame question, but what percentage of the use of hallucinogens specifically is focused on hunting, aspects of hunting or warfare, and maybe less of today, but tribal warfare. You know, in my experience, the tribes that I spend considerable time with that are very much into a hallucinogen on a regular basis or in the Northwest Amazon. And most of the tribes I work with don't use hallucinogens. And the Shingu in the Southeast Amazon in Brazil, the Trios up on the Sernam-Brazil border, the Wayanas on the Sernam-French-Giana border, the YYs on the Sernam-Sernum. So I can't give you a straight answer there, Tim. It doesn't break down very easily. And most of the groups that I've worked with warfare is definitely a thing of the past, except for some of the Anamami when I worked there 20 years ago, spent time there 20 years ago. There was still warfare amongst the different villages, but I think that's gone by the way since then. And hunting? And the reason I'm asking is I'm curious if the disproportionate male representation in working with some of these plants is related to a disproportionate traditional application to hunting, which I would assume in many of these cultures is predominantly male. But maybe that's an overreach. Well, I hadn't thought about it, but I think that makes very good sense. And the tribes that I've spent time with that do a lot of ayahuasca, for example, and Yopo, it's primarily for hunting, hunting visions, hunting magic, good luck in the hunt, seeing where the animals are going to be. But as I said, the Anamami were still doing some more fair, very limited amount. And that was primarily the men. And the men were the one doing all the Yopo, at least that I saw.

Supporting the plants means supporting the people, (01:18:04)

What do you think the, and this is a heavy term, so maybe it's not the right way to phrase it, but the responsibility, if any, for people in the United States and elsewhere who are using these compounds from the Amazon to in some fashion support or protect the communities, the people from which these medicines came. And that's a loaded question. So yeah, you can answer it however you want. I find it highly ironic that all these people are talking about the vine of life. Don't look where the stuff's coming from. Had humans complaining me, they see plain loads of the stuff flying out of the northwest Amazon. They never got anything for it. There was no replanting. They didn't know where it went. It was a sacrilege to them. So I would like to think that everybody should be thinking about giving back whenever they benefit from something. I'm not just talking about hallucinogens, but there seems to be a lot or very little interest in supporting these forests, very little interest in supporting the shamans, other than, okay, this guy gave me the brew to drink. So I got to slip him a few bucks. It's just kind of a disconnect that it's all about healing, but they're not thinking about who they need to heal as reciprocity for getting some of the healing. You know what I'm saying? I do. Is there anything they can do? And this could relate to Amazon Conservation Team or any number of other things, but I'm wondering if people who are listening, whether they have benefited from psychedelics, whether derived from or synthesized based on the molecular structure of natural compounds, if they wanted to try to support, and certainly this is a great time to support because not unlike the Native American communities in the United States, the indigenous tribes, certainly speaking with some of my friends in South America are having just an atrocious time with COVID-19 and having food supplies cut off and it being viewed in some ways is an opportunity for governments to withhold resources and it's a very tragic situation. So I think that the timing couldn't be better, in a sense, for supporting the communities from which a lot of these medicines came. What can people do? Are there any steps you might recommend? Anything you might suggest they consider? Well, what you're saying I hear two questions, Tim. One is, how should people give back that are benefiting from this healing and these plants and these fungi? That's one thing. And our organization is very active in supporting the Shimano cultures of the Northwest Amazon, which is where Ayahuasca and the use of Ayahuasca originated. I'm sorry to my Brazilian friends who think it all came from Rio and Sao Paulo. No, originally it came from the Northwest Amazon. In terms of helping indigenous peoples in the Amazon, they're getting hammered by this virus. And it's particularly challenging in the sense that it's not like we've got the cure for this and if we just had enough money, we'd give it to them. I wish it was that simple. It's not. We don't have the cure for them. We don't have the cure for them. We don't have the cure for us, but there are positive steps that can and should be taken. And if you look at our website, AmazonTeam.org, you can see some of the things that we've been doing, which is indigenous park rangers who control the borders and keep the outsiders out, but possess how the disease gets in. Number two, educational materials in the tribal language. Don't send in a poster in Spanish reports, you can think, okay, they got it. Also, the educational material has to be aimed at a culturally appropriate way. These are tribal people. They eat out of the same pot. In the age of coronavirus, you don't eat out of the same pot. Sometimes it's just ending in soap. They can make soap from some local plants, but not to the degree that they need it now. I mean, I'm washing my hands 20 times a day as we all should be. So we not only recognize the problem, but we have programs in place to deal with it. We have gotten over two tons of supplies, medical and sanitary supplies, into the hands of the indigenous peoples in the Northwest Amazon. Now, on the one hand, that's a pretty impressive number. On the other hand, it's pretty pathetic compared to the size and scope of the problem and the challenge. So we need more help. We need more support to do more to this and partner with other organizations that can do more along the same lines. So we know there's a problem. We know it's getting worse. We've lost two tribal leaders in the Amazon in the last month who were spectacular people that there's no replacement for. And remember that the way that these diseases strike is they first and foremost hit the elderly. Well, the elderly are the libraries. The elderly are the ones that have all the knowledge in their heads. And secondarily, they hit the little ones, not necessarily coronavirus, but some of the other things we threw. So you're losing the elderly and using the little ones, which means you're losing the library and you're losing the next generation.

The response dashboard and a final shamanic story. (01:23:06)

That's a lose, lose proposition. And for those people interested, they can also follow Amazon Conservation Team on Twitter @AmazonTeamorg. I'll link to that in the show notes. And you recently just published a response dashboard, which is quite impressive. I'm impressed by which was built with something called S3. People can check out at S3, ESRI. Very, very cool. And you can see visually how Act that is Amazon Conservation Team, ACT, is working to mitigate the threat post by COVID-19 to the Amazon Rainforest, most vulnerable populations. It's very cool. It's very well done. And it's a timely tool and it's a timely problem if people have had this in some fashion, weighing on their mind. Or if it just occurred to them that if they are a proponent of healing modalities that include plants or things derived from those plants, inspired by those plants, that this is a good time to sort of toss your hat in the ring. And people can certainly find more about what you do at AmazonTeam.org. Well, Mark, we could go in a million different directions. Is there anything else that you would like to make sure we mention or take some time to chat about? Well, I do have a story. And I have a concluding note, which you can feel free to edit in somewhere. I used to play a lot of racquetball and I injured my arm quite badly, my forearm. And for some reason, the muscles of your forearm don't have a lot of venation. They don't heal well on their own if you injure them a certain way. And I went to the doctor. I went to the masseuse. Same story. As I mentioned earlier with my footage. It just didn't get better. And I went to the shaman. He looked at it and he said, "Mm, this is going to take some time." So I spent a month there. I mean, I was doing other things. But the first thing he did was give me plants as a topical. He rubbed them on. A lot of massage gave me a drink, so it was internal as well. And then he said, "Okay, here's the problem. You have a bad relationship buried in that muscle. That's why your doctors can't heal it and I can." So I am going to chant and I am going to remove those bad emotions because it'll just come back. So he did the chanting. He did the massage. I drank the potion. And he said, "Now, here's the problem. What Western medicine doesn't understand is when you have a bad injury, things will come back and attack that space." So some people, when they're nervous, they get stomach aches or they get pimples or they can't sleep, he says, "What I need to do is put a shamanic patch over where the wound was. There's no more wound. I've healed it. But I'm going to put a patch so it never comes back." So when you have stress or when you're injured, it doesn't start hurting again. That was about 13 years ago. I'm still fine. That's an explanation and approach to healing, which I've never heard from any physician. And frankly, I've never heard from any other shaman. But you know what? My arm doesn't hurt.

What is a liana? (01:26:11)

So many interesting questions. I love interesting questions. I just want to make a quick side note because I realized I didn't answer it earlier. I didn't explain it. But I was thinking, "Liana, earlier, that is a vine or a wooden climbing plant that hangs from trees." "Liana is a woody vine. It's what Tarzan used to swing on. It's what Ayahuasca is."

Conclusion And Sponsors Acknowledgement

Final thoughts. (01:26:33)

Yeah. It's quite a cross-section too. Beautiful looking vine. Not so delicious. Looks better than it tastes. That's perfectly true. And you said you had some closing comments. Yeah. Recently, I was talking to a fellow trying to get some support for fighting COVID-19 amongst the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. He said, "ACT, what does it stand for?" And I said, "Get shit done." He said, "Well, that doesn't match the acronym." I said, "It's Amazon Conservation Team. You want a mission statement? I got a mission statement." The point is, we're about accomplishing the goals, partnering with indigenous peoples to protect their culture and their forest. And the challenge has never been greater in the age of COVID-19. The point being that Western medicine doesn't have all the answers. We don't have a cure for COVID-19. We don't have a cure for coronavirus. Neither do they. But what we're able to do is bring to bear Western knowledge and abilities and sanitation and technology, like to the new dashboard, to keep track of this and try and devise the means to keep it at bay as much as possible. The future of conservation, the future of the rainforest, the future of indigenous peoples, in my opinion, isn't about the microchip of versus the medicine man. It's both of them working together. It's about building bridges and building alliances and coming up with a new way of doing things, a new way of living our lives, a new way of stewarding nature, and it takes boundary walkers, whether it's the shamans who come out of the rainforest to enlighten us with their wisdom, or guys like you or me who have been known to the rainforest to learn from them, or people that have feet in different worlds, or people that are just open to hearing other realities, other modalities, willing to try medicines or chanting or frog slime when Western medicine wasn't able to do the trick. So whether it is Black Lives Matter, whether is it about saving the rainforest, all of these cries should feed productively into a more positive place for all of us, because conservation is not just about saving the rainforest. Conservation is not just about saving the Indians. Conservation is about saving ourselves as well. Mark, we could talk for many, many more hours, and I hope to do that in person. Me too. And this has been just a thoroughly enjoyable conversation, and I really appreciate you taking the time. I think this gives people a lot to chew on. They can find Amazon Conservation Team at AmazonTeam.org. They can find your personal website at markplotkin.com. I'll link to all of those in the show notes, and people can find those at Tim.blog/podcast and just search Plotkin, P-L-O-T-K-I-N. And it'll come right up, or you can search Amazon, and I'm sure it will also pop right up. This has been a blast. I really appreciate you taking the time. I enjoyed it at least as much as you did, Tim. Well, this will be round one, and hopefully we'll get around to set up in person. It might be at a socially appropriate distance, but TBD on that front, and so many more questions, but I'll let those sit for now. And thank you once again, and to everyone listening, be safe, keep your mind open, and if you can support, if you have found benefit from the plants, the compounds that we're describing, I feel like it is, at least for me, a moral imperative. And quite frankly, it's also an existential imperative, if you are consuming these plants, for the compounds themselves, to support these geographies, these people who have been the stewards of this technology, these means of preparation and administration for hundreds and thousands of years. An easy way to do that is to go to amazonteam.org and see what opportunities exist. It doesn't need to be a lot of money. I know there are a lot of different causes. There are a lot of different pains and a lot of uncertainty at the moment, but as you said, conservation is sort of the fabric upon which many of these other concerns rest, and it's all encompassing in some respects. So I will say thank you, Mark, Dr. Mark Plotkin, markplotkin.com. I definitely encourage people to take a look at Tails of Hashemans Apprentice, as well as the Amazon subtitle, What Everyone Needs To Know. And until next time, thanks for listening.

Sign up for 5-Bullet Friday at (01:31:14)

Hey guys, this is Tim again, just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Phyble at Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun for the weekend? And Phyble at Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week. That could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to 4hourworkweek.com. That's 4hourworkweek.com. I'll spell it out and just drop in your email and you'll get the very next one.

This episode is brought to you by Theragun. (01:32:13)

And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it. This episode is brought to you by TheraGun. I have two TheraGuns and they're worth their weight and goal. I've been using them every single day. Whether you're an elite athlete or just a regular person trying to get through your day, muscle pain and muscle tension on real things. That's why I use the TheraGuns. I use it at night. I use it after workouts. It is a handheld percussive therapy device that releases your deepest muscle tension. So for instance, at night I might use it on the bottom of my feet. It's helped with my plantar fasciitis. I will have my girlfriend use it up and down the middle of my back and I'll use it on her. It's an easy way for us to actually trade massages in effect. And you can think of it in fact as massage reinvented on some of it. It helps with performance, helps with recovery, helps with just getting your back to feel better before bed. After you've been sitting for way too many hours, I love missing. And the all new Gen 4 TheraGun has a proprietary brushless motor that is surprisingly quiet. It's easy to use and about as quiet as an electric toothbrush. It's pretty astonishing. You really have to feel the TheraGuns signature power amplitude and effectiveness to believe it. It's one of my favorite gadgets in my house at this point. So I encourage you to check it out. Tri-TheraGun, that's Thera, T-H-E-R-A-G-U-N. Tri-TheraGun risk free for 30 days. There's no substitute for the Gen 4 TheraGun. With an OLED screen, that's O-L-E-D for those wondering, that's organic light emitting diode screen, personalized TheraGun app, an incredible combination of quiet and power. So go to TheraGun.com/Tim right now and get your Gen 4 TheraGun today. Or you can watch the videos on the site which show you all sorts of different ways to use it. A lot of runner friends of mine use them on their IT bands after long runs. There are a million ways to use it. And the Gen 4 TheraGuns start at just $199. I said I have two, I have the Prime, and I also have the Pro, which is a super-cat-like version. My girlfriend loves the soft attachments. On that, so check it out. Go to TheraGun.com/Tim one more time. TheraGun.com/Tim.

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. (01:34:24)

This episode is brought to you by Pornhub. Just kidding. This episode is brought to you by 4-Sigmatic, which is part of my morning routine. Also part of my afternoon routine. Routine saves me. So there are a number of ways that I use 4-Sigmatic. In the mornings, I regularly start with their mushroom coffee instead of regular coffee. And it doesn't taste like mushroom. Let me explain this. First of all, zero sugar, zero calories, half the caffeine of regular coffee. It's easy on my stomach. Tastes amazing, and all you have to do is add hot water. I use travel packets. I've been to probably a dozen countries with various products from 4-Sigmatic. And their mushroom coffee is top of the list. That's number of one. I travel with it. I recommend it. I give it to my employees. I give it to house guests. So if you're one of the 60% of Americans or more who drink coffee daily, consider switching it up. This stuff is amazing. That's part one. That is the cognitive enhancement side, easy on the system side, energized inside. The next is actually their chagaty, which tastes delicious. It is decaf, completely decaf. And some may recognize chagga. It is nicknamed the king of the mushrooms. It is excellent for immune system support. So needless to say, I'm focused on that right now myself. And so I will often have that in the afternoons. They make all sorts of different mushroom blends. If you are doing exercises, I am on a daily basis to keep myself sane. Cordyceps, excellent for endurance. They have a whole slew of options that you can check out. Every single batch is third party lab tested for heavy metals, allergens, all the bad stuff to make sure that what gets into your hands is what you want to put in your mouth. And they always offer a 100% money back guarantee. So you can try it risk free. Why not? I've worked out an exclusive offer with Forseismatic on their best selling lion's mane coffee. I literally have a mug full of it in front of me right now. And this is just for you. My gear podcast listeners receive up to 39% off. I don't know how we arrived at 39%, but 39% off. They're best selling lion's mane coffee bundles. To claim this deal, you must go to Forseismatic.com/Tim. This offer is only for you and is not available on their regular website. Go to Forseismatic.com/Tim. Get yourself some awesome and delicious mushroom coffee. Full discount is applied at checkout.

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