Alternative Medicine


Since the beginning of recorded history hallucinogens have been used by many cultures around the world for various ceremonies, mystical, religious and medicinal purposes. In the 1950’s a group of psychiatrists pioneered research showing the therapeutic potential of such substances. Progress was halted on February 21st 1971, when a UN treaty was signed to issue a control system restricting imports, exports, and to limit the use of psychoactive drugs for medical and scientific purposes. Now as we enter the age of the “psychedelic renaissance,” stigmas are falling away and light is being shed on the truths behind these ancient and derived medicines. Below we explore the brief history, uses, and current or upcoming studies of the most well known psychedelics. Check our routinely updated resources page for links to current studies and other relevant information.

Ayahuasca & DMT

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew made from the plants Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis. There is evidence that Ayahuasca has been used as a ceremonial spiritual medicine for over 1000 years by tribes in the Amazon basin. N, N-Dimethyltryptamine or DMT is the prominent psychoactive tryptamine found in ayahuasca, along with other compounds including harmalines and harmines. Serotonin, also in the tryptamine family, is the primary hormones responsible for feelings of well-being, happiness, sleep, and mood stabilization. DMT binds with the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor along with other receptors in the brain effectively altering visual perception and introspection causing strong hallucinogenic effects. Dr. Richard Manske, a German-Canadian chemist was the first to synthesize DMT in a lab in 1931. It wasn’t until 1956 that clinical trials with synthetic DMT on humans were conducted by Dr. Stephan Szára. Any further progress was halted in 1971 by the UN treaty restricting psychoactive drugs. Until the 1990’s when the author of “DMT: The Spirit Molecule”, Dr. Rick Strassman, a clinical psychologist, began the first US federally approved study on DMT. Continuing research studies on the antidepressant potential of Ayahuasca with promising results were conducted in 2015 and 2018. A study in 2019 showed similarities in the way DMT and psilocybin affect the brain. In 2021 Small Pharma began the first and most advanced clinical trial to date for the treatment of major depressive disorder applying a combination of psychotherapy and DMT.

Mescaline & Peyote

Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychedelic protoalkaloid found in various cacti, notably the Peyote cactus Lophophora williamsii or Lophophora diffusa. Its use dates back to at least 4000 BCE according to radiocarbon dated effigies of dried peyote cactus found in the Shumla caves along the Rio Grande in Texas. In 1896 German chemist, Arthur Heffter, isolated the first naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid mescaline that was ever isolated in a lab from the peyote cactus. Following use gave mescaline a bad rap due to nausea, uncontrollable hallucinations, racing hearts, difficulty breathing, insomnia, depression, and delusions leading to paranoia. Continued failure was found in 1919 when a chemist at the university of Vienna, Ernst Spath hoped it would help them understand schizophrenia with no avail. During World War II both American and Nazi’s experienced failure when trying use it as a truth serum. These failures were still challenged famously by Aldous Huxley, who wrote the book “Doors of Perception,” in 1954 where he describes his trip experiences with mescaline and other psychedelics. Skipping forward to July 2, 2021 Micheal Pollan published “This Is Your Mind on Plants.” Native Americans whom he interviewed for this book said their peyote ceremonies were more successful than anything they had tried at healing the wounds of colonialism, genocide, and alcoholism. Although there are various difficulties in the cultivation of these cacti, some companies are moving forward with drug development and future clinical trials with the aim of addressing obesity, drug addiction, anxiety and depression.


Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychedelic indole alkaloid found in the small bushes or trees of Tabernanthe iboga, Tabernaemontana undulata, and Voacanga Africana growing in tropical Africa. It was originally discovered by a pygmy tribe in central Africa, who passed on their knowledge of the iboga tree to the Bwiti tribe of Gabon. French explorers in the 1900’s learned about the iboga tree from the Bwiti tribe and brought it back to Europe where it is still used as stimulant in small doses. Bwiti healers used smaller doses to cure physical ailments like mental illness, addiction, impotency, stomach ache, fever, and liver disorders. Larger doses were taken by the tribal healer to induce dream-like hallucinogenic experiences where they would be visited by ancestors and other beings from the spiritual realm. Ibogaine has been used in Western Medicine since the 1860’s. Ethnopharmacology studies found that purified ibogaine root was beneficial in treating high blood pressure, fever, and toothache. Ibogaines anti-addictive properties were first widely known in 1962 thanks to Howard Lotsof, who later formed the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance. There are numerous Ibogaine therapy centers to treat addiction where the law allows it in Central and South America, Mexico, and Canada.


Lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD was first synthesized by Swiss researcher Albert Hofman in 1938. He was working with a chemical found in ergot, a naturally occurring fungus that grows on rye and other grains. Hofman accidentally ingested a small amount of LSD later in 1943. He described “extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” On April 19th, 1943, he intentionally took a larger amount of LSD and rode his bicycle home from his lab. This was the first recorded intentional LSD trip. Now april 19th is celebrated in the psychedelic community as bicycle day. Between the 1950’s and 1970’s LSD trials showed its ability to create behavioral and personality changes along with the remission of various disorders and psychiatric symptoms. LSD was used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, psychosomatic diseases and addiction. During that time it was found that LSD could reduce pain, anxiety and depression for patients with advanced cancer. The use of LSD to combat alcoholism was one of the highest quality trials to date.


Methylenedioxy-amphetamine or MDA is a mescaline derivative first found by Californian pharmacologist Gordon A. Alles. Beginning in the 1960’s Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo began testing MDA as an agent to facilitate psychotherapy. Continuing his search for a psychotherapeutic drug, Naranjo and his associate American chemist Alexander T. Shulgin began studying the derivatives and essential oils of nutmeg. This led Shulgin to synthesize the derivative 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA. This new drug appeared to be promising in their search and had a lower hallucinogenic activity than MDA. It became the choice drug for underground psychotherapists. One of the key players in this underground community psychologist Leo Zeff uncovered MDA’s sometimes fatal complications. Thus, Shulgin introduced Zeff to MDMA which appeared to be a less toxic and better alternative. German chemists originally synthesized MDMA, or ecstasy, for pharmaceutical purposes in 1912. During the Cold War, the CIA experimented with MDMA as a psychological weapon. Later in the 1980s ecstasy had become a popular party drug. Its recreational use is often associated with rave culture, dance parties and electronic music festivals. Despite the illicit nature of MDMA some medical researchers now believe it could have therapeutic benefits, particularly among people with PTSD, depression and other behavioral issues.

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