Plant medicine has been around for thousands of years. The healing effects of many plant medicines have shown a profound efficacy in healing many ailments that pharmaceuticals sometimes can’t even come close to. For things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many chronic diseases, single experiences with some of these compounds have found to be life-changing for many people — and this is now documented in actual scientific studies.
This week, I am talking to my good friend Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein MD, who brings a unique angle to this because she walks in both the world of conventional medicine and in the world of spirituality, herbalism, nature, and plant medicines. We get into spirituality, nature, and the potential role of plant medicines in the healing journey.
(Note: These are topics that are actually near and dear to my heart, but I haven’t really broached these topics before. I will explain more about why that is in the podcast. I will also share some of my own personal experiences with entheogenic plant medicine and let you in on what I derived from those experiences.)
With that said, I hope you will enjoy this podcast.
In this podcast, you’ll learn:
- What indigenous cultures say is the cause of disease
- Why viewing some of these plant medicines as just “party drugs” is a very bad mistake of thinking
- The absolute best plant medicine to counter depression
- The most powerful plant medicine to prevent deaths from addiction
- Why physicians have such high suicide rates
- What spirituality is and why it is important
- The importance of re-connecting with nature
- The dangers of using plant medicine, and who SHOULD NOT use it
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Healing with Plant Medicine, Nature, and Spiritual Connection – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey, there this is Ari Whitten, and welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I am here today with a very special guest, one of my favorite people in the world and one of the smartest people I know, Dr. Maya Shetreat Klein, and she is a pediatric neurologist, herbalist, urban farmer, naturalist and author of the Dirt Cure, which I highly recommend by the way.
She’s also been on the podcast before, so you guys might remember her. In addition, she’s also a mitochondria, a fellow mitochondria acolytes like me, and she does awesome work. It’s such a pleasure to have you on the podcast again.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Thank you so much. I feel like you and I are the people that like find each other at a party and sit in and talk about nerdy science things.
Ari Whitten: For sure, yes. I think we did actually. I think we’ve done that on a couple occasions now. On the last podcast, we talked a lot about the Dirt Cure, we talked about things related to the gut microbiome to mitochondria, things like that.
On this podcast, I invited you on and I wanted to discuss something a little bit different and something I’ve never really discussed before. For some kind of fears and things like that, that we’ll get into later in this podcast.
I want to talk to you about the relationship of humans with nature, I want to talk to you about indigenous cultures, I want to talk to you about spirituality. I want to talk to you about plant medicine, so I want to talk to you about all kinds of cool stuff that I personally am a huge fan of and that I love talking about, but I haven’t really broached these topics before.
With that said, let’s get into it. I know that you are very much in tune with indigenous cultures and a lot of your paradigms have been influenced by your time that you spent in various indigenous culture. I’d love if you could just talk a little about that.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Sure. Yeah, I mean, it’s funny because in my own family, my family is from, my dad’s side is from Morocco and not very far back like my grandmother got married when she was nine years old, and had her first baby when she was 13, and they were kind of like just coming out of like a nomadic kind of life. I think from my family had a lot of kind of connection to a much more, I mean, we call it primitive but it’s… other people might call it more grounded or more rooted. It’s just a different kind of approach to life.
As I kind of progressed in my own awakening as a physician much later on, I ended up getting really called. I would almost say to a trip to Ecuador, where I began to study with my teacher who is a fourth generation Shaman and also a Ph.D. in ethnobotany. She’s actually very accomplished in the academic world but also comes from this background that’s very spiritual and very experiential. She’s a very fascinating person and so I went on this trip with a bunch of people and we began a real …
I began a very deep study at that time of the different approaches of indigenous groups, in particular the Quechua and Huaorani people, but there are so many. It’s been an amazing journey to learn from these different teachers.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Yes, so to get into some more specifics, in what ways do you feel they’ve kind of influenced your approach to health? I mean, you’re kind of walking in two worlds that it’s very unusual for an M.D. to be kind of, you’re grounded in a very conventional medicine sort of education. Then, at the same time, you’re also walking in these worlds that are totally foreign to conventional medicine, and that they don’t dabble in, they don’t spend any time educating on, and most MDs really have no awareness of that these things even exist, or they might brush them off as nonsense if they encounter them.
How indigenous cultures have influenced Dr. Maya’s practice
I guess, how have those two kind of paradigms and educations, how have they blended, and what specific learnings have you taken from those indigenous cultures that have influenced your practice?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Well, I’ll tell you for a moment I think about what kind of opened me up to it, I think in the most profound way and then that might kind of tell you a little bit and then I’ll be able to tell you better I think what I’ve taken away.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, please.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: The story of my book The Dirt Cure kind of all began with my son who is a very, very amazing spiritual teacher as children often are but he’s particularly so. In the beginning of my medical training, I actually had my son and he was sick and you know I learned how food really was influencing his health, was affecting his asthma and his neurologic development, and all these different things and kind of went into this world of food and where it comes from and ended up writing about The Dirt Cure.
After that, I really felt like I knew a lot about integrative medicine and I knew a lot about food and nutrition and herbs, I’ve done training, I was teaching a lot. I really found all these different kind of, I feel like I had a lot of hubris at that time because I thought anyone who has a problem like I can help that person, I know different things that are going to be able to help that person. Then, it turned out that we had mold actually in our apartment in New York City, and we had to leave and have a whole mold remediation for five months, because my son was again very sick.
Then, when we move back in there was no mold, it had been gutted. Everything was clean it was like, “Okay, we’re starting fresh,” and he went to take a shower I’m having like a little light spirit behind me there.
Ari Whitten: I think it might be your aura.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: It’s just the sun. He went to take a shower one day and he had a seizure in the shower, or getting into the shower. Obviously, as a pediatric neurologist, I mean it was a really profound moment for me.
I was afraid, as I think most people are when you know someone’s having a seizure. I was worried and I also knew suddenly in that moment with literally everything in me that I … with everything I knew. I think I knew probably more than any other pediatric neurologist in the world maybe or among the very few who knew and walked in these different worlds.
I knew I didn’t have the tools that I needed to help him that his problem was not something I was going to be able to address physically, just physically, or just with diet and things I’ve done all those things and he’d been doing really well but as he always has he was taking me kind of into a new world and onto a new journey.
That was when I kind of ended up finding this teacher who was lecturing at a conference in the United States and ended up being drawn into this new way of looking at health.
Why indigenous healers say diseases are a result of long term emotional stress
That kind of brings me to what kind of things did I learn. One of the main things I would say the primary things even that I learned was, like in a lot of these different … like there’s just a completely different paradigm among indigenous healers, which is that we have a physical body and emotional body and a spiritual body. Actually physical health is probably the most downstream of all of them.
They say, if you’re healthy that means you’re in good relations with yourself, you’re in good relations with the people around you your community, and you’re in good relations with your place like the terrain where you live. You’re in good relations in those three ways that is going to mean that you’re not going to have health problems, emotional problems. All of those things are going to be okay. We think of all these things in a very fragmented way, if we even think of them at all.
We talk about stress and stress is sort of something we can talk about and feel okay to talk about, we could talk about like depression or we can talk … We have like a few names for these different non-physical States.
Ari Whitten: Neurotransmitter imbalance.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Right, or with Prozac deficiency.
Ari Whitten: Yes, exactly.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: I mean it’s not funny, but it’s such a different way of thinking about it. Physical like disease is something that’s like the tip of the iceberg, like you’ve already you’ve already been sick for a very long time in my kind of the medicine people I’ve spoken to. You’ve been sick for a long time before you ever get physically sick.
That was helpful to me as a healer in so many ways because, I mean, I see in my practice and I suspect that a lot of the people that you’re working with and in your audience as well.
I used to always call them little Shamans, like I see these children let’s say with autism, and not just them. I mean, all the different kinds of neurologic conditions kids with seizures, kids with ADHD like, these kids are like …
They have these like special antenna where they feel the world in a way that a lot of other people don’t, and it’s a gift. I think it’s a gift. To be sensitive in that way, it’s just that our world our culture, our society, doesn’t know what to do with these people who are these very sensitive people to all these different …
Yes chemicals, yes stressors, yes the bad diet, I mean all those things but there’s more. I would even say maybe we on a certain level feel things in a way that maybe other people don’t or other people just shut out.
The things that influence the spiritual body
Ari Whitten: Yeah, fascinating. These three bodies, you said spiritual, emotional, physical. As you were just alluding to kind of most of the discussion we hear is really around the physical body, or maybe the emotional body. I mean they don’t maybe use that language but we have clinical psychologists and psychiatrists that you could maybe say that they’re addressing the emotional body. What about this spiritual body, I mean is that the most upstream of all of these? What kinds of things influence the spiritual body?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: I mean, I think like, I would say it is, all of the bodies are important. I mean I wouldn’t try to say one is more important. I mean, if you don’t have your physical body in intact like it’s not a very good container for your emotional or spiritual body. I think, I don’t like to kind of like rate things in that way, but I do think that I want to think what you … what was the last thing you asked me?
Ari Whitten: What are the things that influence the spiritual body? So forget the like ranking the different bodies in order of importance. Let’s talk about the spiritual body and what that really means? I mean, the word spiritual itself is kind of a weird word. There’s big semantic problems there right? What does that word really mean? It means very different things to different people.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Absolutely, we’ve described a lot of organized religion and other things like that, that people can get very … We don’t have good language around this and I talk a lot about like earth being sacred, I don’t mean that necessarily in a religious way, but just in the sense that it’s precious and it’s special and it’s something that speaks to us in all those bodies. I think in terms of like what can hurt our spiritual body, I could give you some examples but I mean I think like we know it but we don’t know how to talk about it.
How trolls on the internet can affect your happiness and relations
Think about how you feel when you read the comments of trolls on the internet. I know this sounds like a weird thing to say but like stay with me a minute because these are like …
Ari Whitten: Actually, just real quick we shouldn’t define what trolls are, maybe not everyone knows what that means. Maybe they think it’s a little kind of things living under a bridge.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Right, the little men are not necessarily commenting on the internet, but the people … Oh I’ll let you say, you could say what trolls are.
Ari Whitten: Trolls are basically just somebody who’s attacking you like just for the sake of attacking you. If you put some kind of, let’s say, me or you my we, we publish an article or video or something.
Certain small percentage of people will just come and attack you just because they want to attack you and they want to provoke a response and that’s their thing is, that’s what they get off on. That’s what a troll is basically.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Right, so what it is, and I think a lot of people could even say, okay, I’m reading the comments on of some article on the internet. It’s like you feel weird, you feel unpleasant. You don’t like the way people are talking because there’s sort of no accountability, whatever. Let’s say, someone writes something. ”I think what you wrote is stupid and you’re a laughingstock.” ”You think you understand science but you’re just an idiot”, or whatever, whatever things. You experienced that and then you turn around, you’re feeling whatever you’re feeling, and maybe like your friend is there, or maybe your spouse is there, or maybe your kid is there and you turn around and what do you do?
Are you going to be like, “Oh, honey. I love you!” Or are you going to be like, “Why did you just put the …” You might have a lot of this kind of you’re feeling something which is not just a feeling but it’s basically like someone’s discharged certain kind of angry energy, which now you’re holding.
How do we discharge that energy? I mean because these are things that then we hold on to.
One of the reasons for the high suicide rates in physicans and psychologists
When you see let’s say like another example would be doctors, and a lot of doctors there’s a very high rate of suicide and depression and a lot of those kinds of things and physicians. A big reason for that is because they’re holding space for a lot of suffering, and a lot of those kinds of … We’re holding a lot but we don’t really know how to discharge it.
Ari Whitten: Actually, if I can interject one thing on that point, I went through a … I don’t know if I ever talked to you about this but I went through a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology. I did my whole, all the three years of course work and I finished it and then realized I didn’t want to be a talk therapist. Actually, part of the reason that I didn’t want to be a talk therapist, interestingly enough is a very simple observation.
In my professors, in the Ph.D. program, I noticed that so many of them had lines on their face that were, the wrinkles that were the lines of sadness and suffering. Part of being a psychologist is sitting across from someone and entering that space and empathizing with them, and feeling what they feel.
I mean, if you’re a good psychologist you’re not just going to sit there cold totally an empathetic and not feeling any of what they’re feeling.
I saw the lines in their face and I just had this feeling in me that I didn’t want to spend the next 30 years or 40 years of my life feeling all of that suffering in me too. I want those people to be helped but for whatever reason it didn’t feel right to me to be in that role helping people in that way. You know what I mean?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Right, yeah, absolutely. I think you know that like so what … Let’s say what the way my teacher might talk about it is, because also you could be watching certain kinds of shows or movies, right?
Ari Whitten: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: There are certain shows, I won’t name them that like you know I maybe try to watch on Netflix once or twice and I felt like, I don’t feel good when I watch this. When you know how to feel good, when you know like she talks about the vibrational energy of different things and we could go there or not, but she talks about something being in the right vibration. What I like to feel, I like to feel you know … It’s not that I’m afraid of suffering obviously, I mean I’m a doctor and I see a lot of kids who are suffering and I’m okay with that, a holding space in that way and working with them because the kind of work that I do.
It’s just about so it’s like, we live in a culture where there’s a lot of ways to be exposed to kind of negative feelings. We would call it, but you know you might … if we were talking to and one of the indigenous medicine people I’ve spoken to they might say, you’re feeling forces negative forces or things that are kind of like entities, they might even say in certain cases. It’s a different paradigm but it’s one that I think we’re going to have to develop some language around in our culture.
What spiritual connection means to Dr. Maya
Ari Whitten: Yeah, so what does it mean to be … I mean for you at least. What do you think it means to have a spiritual connection or to be a spiritual person? What does it mean to have spirituality in one’s life?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: I mean, the way I think about it is feeling kind of a sense of connection, I think is actually probably like the simplest way to say it. For me, it’s feeling a sense of connection with myself, but also feeling and feeling a sense of connection again with like the world around me. When I’m outside, I’m really feeling connected to plants and trees and I’m in it, people walk in the woods with me. It’s like, I become like a five-year-old. Like I want to touch things, I like looking at things, I might take pictures of things, I might trees, I might talk to trees a little bit.
I’m still a neurologist, I’m still doing all the work that I do with my patients and helping my patients, and I read scientific articles and do all that as well. This kind of disconnection I think is what … kind of having a sense of gratitude and reverence and for me, it’s about being the sacred in kind of in everyday life. I think that’s really what being spiritual is.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Yeah, for me, speaking personally, it really revolves around connection with the natural world, where I feel I guess the most spiritually connected is when I’m out in the ocean, or when I’m hiking in a canyon or rock climbing or something like that, just being in nature but not just being in it and kind of just observing it, but like engaging with it like interacting with it.
There’s something magical to me about that, and I think what’s cool also is that we now have this book, kind of merging worlds. We have this body of evidence that’s emerging around like Shinrin Yoku and some of this other stuff as far as we know how science to show that a lot of this stuff really does kind of amazing things in us.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Yeah, absolutely.
The definition of the term plant medicine
Ari Whitten: In terms of people who are … Actually, let’s go to plant medicines. One of the other big things that a lot of indigenous cultures are very into is plant medicines. This word plant medicines has a lot of different meanings, I mean there’s a lot of different kinds of plant medicines, but I know that you are very much a fan of plant medicine.
Can you talk a bit about I guess what that term even means for people who are unfamiliar with it?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: I’ll kind of talk about it the way I think about it. I mean, I think it’s used in a lot of different ways, especially now. When I’m talking about plant medicine I’m talking about all the different ways that we interact with plants and experience healing in that relationship. For me, plant medicine could be giving someone flowers because giving flowers is transformative. You are giving someone flowers usually because it could be because you want to make them happy, it could be because you love them and you want to express that feeling, it could be because they’re grieving.
I mean, there are many reasons we might, celebration. All these different reasons that we give flowers to people and it’s to transform them. To me, that is a form of plant medicine. We drink chamomile tea or dandelion root tea, these are things which are influencing our body and plants are so complex that they influence our body actually and our physiology in many, many ways even if we’re just talking on a physical level.
We have these different ways that we interact with plants where we might experience something with them by handling them or being near them or ingesting them or taking tinctures or even pills. I think, then there’s become this sort of new world of talking very openly about even things like cannabis.
The benefits of marijuana when used a a plant medicine
Now, like medical marijuana has become really available. There’s a shadow here. It’s become really available and we’re seeing such amazing studies on it.
We’re finding now that in areas where medical marijuana is available deaths from addictions dropped significantly.
There’s like this sort of idea of how plant medicine can actually potentially prevent the kinds of deaths that we, because I think a lot of people think of cannabis as being a bad drug, but in fact it’s possible that they can actually rescue people from very damaging drugs and addictions.
Ari Whitten: What kind of other addictions are you talking about specifically alcoholism or like hard drugs heroin and cocaine and things like that?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: We’re talking about deaths from addiction, so I think what was being discussed in that paper are let’s say heroin overdose, or related to like meth, or different kinds of addiction deaths from addiction. It’s preventing fatalities I mean, which is incredible. Not to mention also treating a lot of what we consider as untreatable right conditions whether it be chronic pain, whether it be relating to cancer, whether it be seizures that are not responding to many, many different medications and pharmaceuticals.
Now, we’re kind of learning right plant medicine is something a little different even then we thought in terms of like herbal medicine, that it’s sort of like … We have to open our minds a little bit I guess is what I would say. I think now there’s been a real opening of people talking about things like psilocybin, so from like magic mushrooms and there’s a lot of studies coming out now about that as well, where it’s being used for addiction.
It’s being used for post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s being used in severe anxiety and actually is transformative. It’s being looked at in chronic pain, again, all these different conditions where things that we’ve considered as drugs and have kind of been afraid of are now getting, having all the science behind them as possible instruments of healing if we approach it in the right way.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. This is one area that I personally have… I’m very passionate about, but I’ve never actually talked about it publicly because of basically what you’re just describing that so many people who haven’t looked at the science, haven’t had any experiences with these kinds of things have this stigma around them that, “Oh, it’s a drug,” and this was part of this hippie revolution, and just a bunch of people dropping acid and getting high at concerts and things like that, and jumping out of windows and doing stupid stuff.
That’s the association that they have with these kinds of substances. When you look, if you have the right kind of experience yourself, or you start digging into the science and I’ve even seen some very there was a recent convention where a whole big group of scientists were getting together to discuss all this new scientific literature around all the different benefits of psilocybin and various entheogens psychedelics.
The conection between psilocybin and depression
I mean, the science is amazing. I mean, sometimes they do studies like Roland Griffiths research where they’ve done some research and people with … I think it was depression in at least one of these studies and they’ve shown absolutely huge effects from a single dose of psilocybin from magic mushrooms that lasted for months, and that people subjectively went back and rated and said, it was one of the top three experiences of their life and things like that.
Why plant medicine is not commonly used
If these same things were happening with a drug firms from a pharmaceutical company, these things would be hailed as miracle drugs and everybody would be … I mean these things would be rampant. They would be used all over the place and advocated by MD.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: I want to say a couple of things about that, I think we are living in a world filled with miracle drugs which are plants, and there’s a very specific reason we don’t get to hear a lot about what they do and it’s because they can’t be patented.
So no one can make that much money off of them because plant medicine is really, as one of my herbal teachers to run a low drug always said, plant medicine is the people’s medicine, herbal medicine is the people’s medicine. That means, we can make our own plant medicine.
We don’t need any other company or anyone else to do it, and plants, I mean I present a lot about plants and obviously I could talk on and on but the science behind even things like Reishi mushroom is just profound. I mean, it’s looked out for things like HIV and hepatitis C virus that are not easy to treat conditions or Herpes Simplex, like really has a profound effect on the mitochondria.
I mean, all the things that they do because their actions are so, their complex and their actions are so complex and wide ranging. I think we do have all these “miracle drugs”. I would also say about the dangerous part of it because I think it’s important that psychedelics and also just kind of what we call drugs in general.
Why respecting plant medicine is crucial to your wellbeing
In native cultures, there’s a huge amount of respect for these plant medicine that are powerful plants, and the way I was taught is that their master plants have these incredibly powerful properties and you have to really go to them with respects and really reverence and gratitude, and being asked to be in relationship with them. I would just give an example like the coca plants is still widely used in Ecuador, and kind of in that part of the world. It’s stimulating like to chew the leaf or make a tea from it. It’s actually incredible for altitude sickness.
Some of the advice I got when I went to Ecuador was don’t be afraid to drink coca tea, because it’s very helpful, and I actually do get altitude sickness sometimes. I did drink a coca tea and it was incredibly helpful. It was incredibly helpful but then what’s happened right is like, we turned around and said we want to turn this into a drug, we want to get like what we can get out of it. Instead of going to it in this kind of reverent way, where you ask to be in a relationship with it and show respect we’d sort of took it and used it.
These were master plans and they’re very powerful and if you don’t go with them in relationship and in a respectful way, the people I study with believe that these types of plant medicine can destroy you.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and on that note I should mention that the first time that I was invited to do a type of entheogenic experience I had no experience with anything in that realm before. My conception of what the experience would be like, I mean my only reference for comparison was that I had smoked marijuana a few times.
My kind of idea of what I was going to experience was that we’d all you know made a bunch other guys would sit around this bong and smoke some marijuana, and that we get euphoric and giggly, and have some laughs and that would be that. I went in and that experience was a DMT experience which is a very powerful entheogen and it kicked my butt. It absolutely was the most by far, the most terrifying experience of my life. Also, the most euphoric and one of the most enlightening experiences of my life, all kind of wrapped up into one.
I mean, it was so terrifying that I slept for 13 hours, 13 hours a night for about two weeks following that experience because my system was so drained from this insanely intense fear response. These things are absolutely no joke and if you don’t approach them with reverence and you don’t approach them with the right attitude, and you don’t do them in the right setting they can be, they can teach you a lesson for sure. Not in a good way.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Well, again, like the people I study with would say, you get the medicine you need. You don’t want to need that kind of medicine. Better get to go in with, and just because you go in with respect doesn’t mean it will kick your butt. If you need your back kicked, so these master plans are so powerful.
Here, we could also talk about some of these other entheogens like ayahuasca or San Pedro or some of the others that I think becoming probably more popular now than they have been. I think a lot of people do go in with this idea of like, “Ohh, I’m doing something interesting,” and then they have their butt kicked.
Ari Whitten: For sure, and one other thing that I think is worth mentioning here is there’s this kind of idea around that doing a dose of ayahuasca or having an ayahuasca experience or DMT experience or maybe a mushroom experience is like doing 10,000 hours of psychotherapy wrapped up in a few hour experience.
I certainly felt that way and I was actually … My first experiences I’ve only done this a few times, but my first experiences were actually during my time in my Ph.D. program for clinical psychology. In part of that program was that you have to actually be seeing a therapist yourself, just as your own kind of personal hours of experiencing this profession. I was experiencing that and then at the same time I’d gone and done this and I was like, there’s no comparison here.
I feel like I just had more benefit from this experience of this one night than I could possibly get from a decade of this kind of talk therapy.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: [crosstalk] in minds though that a decade of talk therapy all wrapped into five hours, you have to be ready for that, you have to want that, you have to be ready to process that. Many people will have an ayahuasca experience and quit their job, leave their marriage. There’s a healing process that may be going on that like he’s awakening you know someone maybe to their higher self or their purpose or what have you.
Ari Whitten: It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
How to use entheogenic plant medicine to overcome fatigue
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: [crosstalk] in the process, so and I think I would also add the way it’s prepared is important to people that you’re with are important, the person who is holding space and really kind of protecting the group is important. All of these things are … it’s not something I think to be taken lightly or to enter lightly but the healing potential and again there is science to support this.
There are more and more studies even on things like ayahuasca, the sciences is profound in the kinds of healing that can occur.
Ari Whitten: Yes, so I would love for you to talk more about that because a lot of people listening to this maybe have severe chronic fatigue syndrome, or maybe other conditions maybe hypothyroidism or severe depression anxiety that they’ve been dealing with for years maybe even decades in some cases. I would love to help those people understand the potential role for these kind of entheogenic plant medicine, that those, the potential role of those plant medicine that they could play in these the healing from these conditions.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Yeah, well let me start by saying that in my practice I see actually patients from all over the world who have very often not gotten better with any number of traditional means, they might have been to many different institutions, all the smart people out there. After a lot of years of working with these kinds of patients, I have a general sense of what works and what helps people and how quickly it happens everyone’s individual, but there’s sort of a pace that I’m used to and what I started to see in my patients is that some of them really weren’t getting better the way I expected that they could and should and normally would.
It seemed like there was something else happening. Now, I’m not sending children to take ayahuasca or anything like that. I’ll be just very clear about that. What I started to see is, I knew that we were addressing the physical things and I mean obviously, there’s always things I might missed et cetera, et cetera, but I’ve been doing this long enough to kind of have a pretty good sense of that.
I would look at kind of the emotional life as well, but sometimes it’s really looking at things on this kind of energetic level that really open things up for these not just children but also I see adults that were chronically ill with all different kinds of conditions. The idea behind using something like plant medicine in this way is that, we don’t have the treatments for sometimes the kinds of conditions that affect our spiritual energetic body but these plant medicine can do that.
That’s from the standpoint of like maybe paradigm, and what we see is they really can help. I don’t think that it’s for everyone at all as I think we just discussed you have to really be prepared to kind of enter something that might be very, you might be facing some of your deepest darkest fears that you didn’t even know you had.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that was certainly the case for me, for sure. Yeah, I mean the caveat emptor there is a potential for tough experiences here, this is not all sunshine and rainbows.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: We’re tough.
Who should not be using entheogenic plant medicine and why
Ari Whitten: I think we should maybe if you want to just talk a moment on maybe certain who this is contraindicated, who shouldn’t be going to do things like this?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: I mean, there’s a long list but I will say kind of the top is I mean people have significant cardiac conditions, no, people who have psychosis or a real propensity towards significant mental health issues. That’s a whole conversation because there are people with severe intractable depression who have recovered using something like ayahuasca but I people especially who have hallucinations and things like that. It can be really contraindicated, people with seizures. Again, contraindicated, pregnancy contraindicated, trying to think what else is like just right off the top of my head. What we’re ruling out a lot of people here …
Ari Whitten: Then just I think to go back to what you’re saying earlier, just also not necessarily in a medical condition but if you just or maybe not the most introspective type that is necessarily looking to dig into maybe some deeper layers of your personality and you’re not ready and willing and open to doing that work. Maybe not the best fit also.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Well, yeah I mean I think and I don’t even think it’s about not being introspective. I mean, you could be introspective but you cannot be ready. Not everybody wants to face and experience can be very different for different people. Oh, I forgot to mention there’s a lot of medications you’re taking medications, there are many medications that are contraindicated, and some of them are antidepressants.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, SSRI is for the Ayahuascas, yeah.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Yeah, so that actually can be dangerous, quite dangerous. I just want to mention that. I don’t think it’s about being introspective or not but just like you have to be kind of willing to really face things that could be really scary and I know that you know not everybody has a scary experience, but like many people do. I mean many people also may vomit during the experience.
A lot of people feel really anxious about that piece, but like in my experience I have vomited, and when people like that sounds horrible and like I don’t even that like is not even a memory I have, or think about or worry about because everything else was so much more intense. I’m trying to think of even the word but …
Ari Whitten: It’s like the intensity of those experiences, I mean the intensity of the unpleasantness of vomiting versus the intensity of what you’re experiencing when you actually enter that state. In my opinion, it’s like 10,000 full difference in terms of intensity. It’s like oh vomiting like who cares, like that was just a little thing that it’s insignificant. I have another question for you. It’s a question that if I was being asked I wouldn’t know how the hell to answer it.
It’s a tough one. I’m going to ask it to you anyway hopefully you have a better answer than I do. There’s going to be a subset of people listening to this podcast who have no experience with these kinds of things who maybe came into this podcast thinking, “Oh those are drugs, those are just like hippies dropping LSD and you know what possible benefit could I get from that? Are you just going to see a bunch of unicorns and hallucinate all kinds of weird stuff and how is that going to help me or what relation? What importance could that possibly have to my healing journey?
I guess, my question is, for somebody who has no kind of conception of what an experience like this would be like, what actually happens? What happens when you have these kinds of experience what’s going on that actually is so beneficial or potentially beneficial?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: This is like the million dollar question really, but I think, and let’s say we’re talking about ayahuasca just as an example. I mean I would just say you know many people will say about like, ayahuasca that they speak about ayahuasca as a sheet, that she’s … They thought sort of like … Ayahuasca is such a powerful experience that many people will have experiences where they kind of can visualize in some way her spirit or her entity in some way that I mean they talk about mama ayahuasca and you’ll look at a lot of like ayahuasca visions artist who draw afterwards and you’ll see a woman and also a lot of shamans will talk about ayahuasca in that way.
I think for one thing what we were talking about before sort of these energetic experiences that we have, where we experience suffering or we witness suffering or trauma or all these different things that there’s not a lot of good … We don’t have a lot of language and certainly not a lot of treatments to effectively address those experiences and what they do to us on an emotional level on an energetic level, but also on a physical level.
I mean think about entheogenics right, we know now that like suffering that our grandmother had, we’re experiencing the aftermath of that through our the way our genes are read. We’re experiencing ancestral traumas and stresses, we’re experiencing our own traumas and stresses and suffering. There’s a lot of just complexity to what’s happening in our physical health and we don’t have a lot of language around it, but what we do know is that these plants in many cases plant medicine, most cases plant medicine have some ability to help us release those things that we’re holding that are causing us to be sick in some way.
The benefits Ari experienced while using entheogenic plant medicine
In many cases, it’s helpful to people who are physically very sick. I think like I would say in the simplest way that this is about like releasing what needs to be released from our kind of physical emotional and kind of spiritual or energetic body.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s a beautiful way of expressing it and much better than I could have done with that question. On a personal note, I’ll talk in very simple terms about some of the benefits that I got from some of my experiences. In some of my early experiences, I really had a lot of caught like anxiety and tension just kind of constantly built up into me even would manifest as physical tension and back pain and like trouble breathing, and I discovered in one of my first experiences that this was related to just not trusting like a lack of trust in the world around me and the universe that things were going to unfold in a beneficial way, or in a nice way and so I was constantly like on guard like feeling like I have to control everything worried about this potential thing and that potential thing.
That way of being oriented to the world was manifesting as all this chronic anxiety and eroticism and even physical pain in my body as just as a result of that kind of mental orientation to the universe, and like whether or not I’m trusting how life will unfold for me or not. That the first experience that I had was very much like, “Oh, I can trust I can relax.” I don’t have to be on guard trying to control and like be the puppeteer of every moving piece of my life at every moment for fear that something is going to go terribly wrong at any second.
That was a huge shift for me that massively decreased my anxiety and also manifested itself as better breathing and I no longer had pain in my mid back, and like all these things that I had suffered from for it for years just like basically went away. It was miraculous, and so it’s interesting to see if hopefully I painted a picture of kind of some of these layers of the spiritual layer, the emotional layer, the physical layer how they’re kind of all intertwined there.
I think that gives people maybe one potential type of example of the kinds of experiences one can have. It’s not just a simple intellectual thing like, oh trust the universe. It’s an experiential thing that you can only get from that kind of intensity of experience it’s like, wow I get it now.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: It might take days, weeks, months for some people longer to kind of get the full kind of understanding of what their experience really means and how it impacts them.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful, so I want to be respectful of your time here. I mean you might have to run here in a minute. Do you have to go here in two minutes here?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: I have a few more minutes.
Ari Whitten: Okay, so I guess we’ll end. Are there any final kind of guiding notes that you want to leave people with? I mean I know that we’ve talked to some of the contraindications. We’ve talked a little about set and setting like these are not necessarily things that you want to go out and do as a party drug and these are things that should be done in a very sacred way with reverence in a setting that is for you to kind of have a more spiritual experience not to like party and get high?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Yeah, and a safe experience as well.
Ari Whitten: Is there any kind of final thoughts you want to leave people with on this?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: I mean I think that what I would say about using some of these master plants and sort of having the most beneficial relationship with them really means that you have to prepare yourself. That means because there’s a whole diet actually they called the Dieta, which is an actual particular not just any diet but a very particular way of like avoiding certain kinds of foods and some of them because they can actually influence the way you experience the plant medicine, but also some of them to really prepare your body and to really walk into it again in this kind of sacred mindset of you’re entering something which very healing and it’s with a very powerful plant spirit is the way that these communities will feel.
I think the kind of preparations are actually like, you’re asked to do no drugs to really avoid pharmaceuticals. If it’s not contraindicated, and you need it then obviously don’t avoid that but to avoid unnecessary pharmaceuticals to come off of the pharmaceuticals that could actually interact. Not to do any recreational drugs and not to drink alcohol. That’s part of how you prepare yourself.
Obviously, the kinds of food and where you get your food all of those things. I would add spending time in nature spending time in a contemplative way, really engaging and immersing yourself with the natural world, a lot of people will bring like an essential oil or some kind of like flower essence or something because you know they want to kind of immerse themselves in plants and flowers in order to kind of have a better experience. I don’t necessarily think that works, but this is not about better. I mean it’s about you have to have the experience you have. I think that’s what that’s the advice I would give is really both before and after to …
Also not to rush to do something of this nature but to actually start with spending time with plants in general and starting to have connections and relationships with plants that you grow or that are outside where you live and starting with that kind of relationship if you’re taking an herb like know what that herb is trying to take, try to have some connection with any plant medicine that you’re consuming and or that you’re using as medication in some way.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Yeah, and I hope that this podcast helped maybe at least some listeners kind of open up to some new ideas. I know some of the stuff like connecting with nature and spirituality and plant medicine and entheogens, may be very foreign and out there for a lot of people listening. I hope we’ve given you guys a sense of how beneficial these things can be in your life and how important they can be to the healing process, and maybe opened up some people to exploring further. With all that said, thank you so much, Maya, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
I know that you have a 28 day cleanse coming up I believe in January. Do you want to tell us a little about that?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Sure. So basically this is just a way to kind of enter into the new year with an approach to kind of cleaning and supporting our physical body, the emotional and that kind of energetic and spiritual so people really I think have loved it in the past and this time we’ve added a lot of great additional staff meditations and other things as well as kind of practical support.
Ari Whitten: It’s like 28 days to cleanse yourself nutritionally, physically, spiritually?
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Yes.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it. Well thank you so much, Maya, it’s been an absolute pleasure and always love talking with you. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein: Thank you for having me.
Healing with Plant Medicine, Nature, and Spiritual Connection – Show Notes
How indigenous cultures have influenced Dr. Maya’s practice (4:34)
Why indigenous healers say diseases are a result of long term emotional stress (8:04)
The things that influence the spiritual body (11:08)
How trolls on the internet can affect your happiness and relations (13:13)
One of the reasons for the high suicide rates in physicans and psychologists (15:38)
What spiritual connection means to Dr. Maya (19:08)
The definition of the term plant medicine (21:41)
The benefits of marijuana when used a a plant medicine (23:31)
The conection between psilocybin and depression (27:00)
Why plant medicine is not commonly used (27:47)
Why respecting plant medicine is crucial to your wellbeing (29:23)
Who should not be using entheogenic plant medicine and why (39:09)
The benefits Ari experienced while using entheogenic plant medicine (45:33)