Ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna is familiar to many people who visit The Nexian and DMT Nexus. We are proud to introduce an exclusive interview with Dennis McKenna, in which we discuss the current and future status of psychedelic culture and research.
Macre: What do you think are the most significant components of the psychedelic resurgence of the past 20 years both in academia and broader society? Why do you think that DMT and Ayahuasca seem to be featured prominently amid this resurgence?
Dennis: Well there’s a whole interview right there. I don’t know why there is all of a sudden resurgence; well it’s not all of a sudden, as it has actually been coming for a while. I think that people are not as afraid as they were before, kind of like the hysteria has gone away. Well it’s not gone away but it’s diminished a lot, and there are things on the other side that are balancing it out. So it’s beginning to be clear that these things do have therapeutic uses, a lot more people have had experience over that time, so now it has kind of entered mass consciousness.
Macre: Like it is all part of a widening of the realisation that we have the potential to learn great things from these experiences.
Dennis: I think it’s a combination of things. I think that people are very concerned about what is happening with the planet right now, and the peril we are in. A lot of people are going to the Amazon and having experiences with Ayahuasca and are coming back with that message, and other people are getting it other ways. I think that is part of it, people have a longing for meaningful spiritual experiences and they’re not getting it in this culture. They’re looking outside of their normal cultural, religious or institutional boundaries for something that is really meaningful. So they’re looking back at these archaic cultures or these indigenous cultures. They are seeing these people don’t have anything, they are materially poor, but they are spiritually rich. I think people are looking at those cultures and want to see it from that perspective.
Macre: There have also been some great advocates spreading positive messages.
Dennis: Well that is part of it I would say. Why is it Ayahuasca and why is it DMT? I think you would have to credit my brother with a lot of that, the DMT part. Maybe I could take some credit for the Ayahuasca part, but he was certainly a spokesman for DMT, and that resonated with a lot of people. Most of the focus of my professional work has been with Ayahuasca and there’s a lot of interest out there with Ayahuasca right now. I think partly there is an appeal to the exotic nature of it; people are attracted to the idea of going to the jungle and finding a shaman and having this adventure. The reality of it is there are lots of travel agencies that are happy to arrange that for you. It’s not a life threatening adventure particularly; I mean it’s a luxury vacation. I still think the impulse leads people to do it. They want those experiences that are legitimate experiences.
Ayahuasca and DMT just happen to be the ones that all the interest is in, and mushrooms to some extent. You don’t see a big mushroom tourist phenomenon any more like you did in the sixties. Now that tourism is Ayahuasca and it has played out a little differently than the mushroom thing did. The mushroom trip was like people going to the Sierra Mazateca to find mushrooms and it wasn’t really a welcome thing. It was like, “Who are these crazy hippies running round? We can’t relate to this, we don’t want this.” With Ayahuasca it’s actually more open; the whole phenomenon socially is more open to foreigners. So I think it’s a combination of people seeing it as an entrepreneurial opportunity, combined with people’s genuine search for spiritual meaning and it’s a good match. So they come to places like Iquitos, they don’t have to look for it; it will come to them probably before they even get to their hotel. So it’s just out there, it’s a phenomenon. I’m not sure what is behind it but those are some of the factors certainly.
Macre: What would be your recommendation for someone thinking of going to the Amazon to take Ayahuasca? Are there alternatives or ways to diminish risks or negative impact?
Dennis: I think it is the Wild West out there, kind of. Mostly I would say don’t go off half-cocked, don’t just go down there and hope you’ll stumble into something. Do a little planning and some word of mouth checking around. Try and get to know what to expect before you land at the airport and hopefully have some arrangements made, have an idea of where you’re going to go and have a local contact already lined up that leads you in the right direction and keeps you out of the wrong places. It’s like any foreign country where the rules are different. If you have somebody who knows the ropes you’ll do a lot better, and that’s the main thing I would think. There is a very interesting new non-profit started up called the Ethno-botanical Stewardship Council.
Macre: Yes, they do great work.
Dennis: Have you heard of that?
Dennis: They are trying to do some great things. For one thing assure the sustainability of the medicines. Not just Ayahuasca, but other shamanic medicines and that’s really important because there’s going to be a strain on that resource, there already is. The other side of what they want to do is to kind of create a voluntary framework where retreat centres can join. They get a kind of good housekeeping seal of approval if they do, if they conform to certain standards.
Macre: Sustainability is vital, as well as bringing those who carry out good work to the forefront.
Dennis: I think that’s a good thing. No one is forcing them to do it but it’s kind of like a TripAdvisor for Ayahuasca centres. People’s experiences will filter out the ones where they are not having such good experiences, and hopefully the cream of the crop will rise to the top and the good ones will survive. I think that is one of the positive things going on right now in this whole thing, so I am happy to see that.
Macre: What role do you see these shamanic medicines playing in the future of modern 21st century culture and beyond?
Dennis: It’s hard to know. They really have had, really since the sixties, an impact on mass consciousness. The word psychedelic has been part of our lexicon ever since the mid-sixties when LSD came on the scene. I think it’s taken a little more seriously today and as people are learning about it. Medical applications are one way to force the door open and that’s happening, as these studies get done. They’re good, rigorous studies that show psychedelics are useful to treat addiction, PTSD, alcoholism and that sort of thing.
I think an area of medical use that crosses over into spirituality are the end of life studies that are being done with psilocybin, to help people with existential anxiety about dying come to terms with that. That’s not really a medical application; I mean it’s a kind of medical application. It could eventually be incorporated into hospice care and that would definitely be a positive development. In bio-medicine today we don’t do death very well, you know, we can do everything but that. When a person is terminal we don’t really have support structures in place as good as healing structures, to help a person come to terms with dying. That’s where I see something like psilocybin being applied.
Inside or outside of a religious context the conventional answer would be people would look to their religious elders, or their religious faith to help them face death. Many people now find that those institutions don’t really support them. They don’t believe in them or they don’t really give them the kind of comfort that they might need in that stage of their life. So they reach for something beyond that, a really meaningful experience, and psilocybin reliably delivers that so that’s huge. Other than psychedelics there are no other medicines that can do this. I think people want that and they have a right to want that, so that’s an application you’re going to see.
I think also in the area of simply the exploration of consciousness. One thing that psychedelics have revealed to us over the last thirty years, especially the tryptamines, is that there’s a vast unexplored territory. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious experience, the subcontinent of the mind is largely unexplored. With these tools we can begin to explore that and the work of people like Benny Shanon for example, if you know his work on Ayahuasca.
We need to chart these dimensions and find out, what is this strange land? You know, inside of our head; where does that come from? I think that also impeaches on some of the most important questions in neuroscience too and the whole mind and brain question of just, what is consciousness? Where does it come from? Is it something the brain generates and it has no existence outside that? Or is it something different like the brain is a receiver or a receptor for consciousness, and consciousness is built into the structure of reality? I don’t know if psychedelics will let us answer those questions but they will let us examine them in a closer way than we’ve ever been able to before, so I think they’re very important for an understanding of what it is to be consciousness, if we were to link consciousness to brain activity, the mind and brain problem.
We know a lot about what the brain does and we know a lot about what is does on psychedelics. What parts of it light up, what receptors are activated and so on, and we could talk about that endlessly until the end of the day. We haven’t crossed that great old bridge between this is what the brain is doing on a high dose of DMT to psilocybin, and this is what I am experiencing. That is the connection we need to make, and if that is made it will be a breakthrough in the understanding of consciousness, and it may completely overturn a lot of our paradigms. I hope so haha.
Macre: Haha, yes absolutely. Having seen some of the evidence of what the DMT Nexus has been able to do from a research and analytical perspective. What current areas related to psychedelics, ethno botany and phytochemistry do you think benefit from this decentralised, collaborative approach?
Dennis: You mean all this experimental ethnopharmacology that’s going on?
Macre: Yes exactly, among many other things of course.
Dennis: I think it’s definitely a good thing. This is how science has always explored and always probed the unknown. I think there are dangers; obviously nothing worthwhile that you do is without danger. I think dangers can be minimised, so I think that sharing information like DMT-Nexus does, the community can identify the red flags and the hazards and they can warn others. They can just say “Well, the application of common sense and a little bit of good judgement can minimise the dangers,” and that’s a very good thing.
As far as the data that is accumulated, that is all useful. It’s not necessarily systematically written down anywhere codified, but DMT-Nexus is starting to do that. It is emerging as a body of literature, and I think that ultimately, that is going to make a difference.
It’s also kind of like new world explorers who went to the new world and came back with all these crazy tales of what is going on, and people said “You’re nuts! You’re hallucinating.” More people have these experiences and also a body of experience emerges with similarities between people’s individual encounters with the tryptamine state show up and there is a gradually accumulated consensus about what these states are like and what the reality is, what the other dimension is that people encounter. I think it’s a healthy thing, although some people can be reckless and caution is advisable and all that, but what we are engaged in is the exploration of the unknown. That is what science should be about in its finest instantiation.
People forget that, that science is really a rather remarkable tool for asking questions of nature and getting the answers back that you can verify or at least quantify, so that is a powerful tool. It’s also limited, people who practice science should always stay conscious of the limitations of their knowledge because if you’re up against something like the psychedelic experience you can’t ignore that, it shoves it right up into your face. The whole thing about how little you really know about this, you know, you monkeys, you don’t know much. It’s important to remain humble but also open, okay I don’t know much, I’m willing to learn, I want to understand.
I think that in the years to come we’re going to know a lot more about consciousness than we know now. What the consequences of that are going to be, I’m not sure. Hopefully it will make us better people, it will make us more evolved, it will make us more compassionate, it will make us less arrogant and more humble. We could certainly use that, and it will further our understanding of phenomena, of just how marvellous this world is and how we apprehend it. We can’t even really say where this exploration is going to end, but it will create new paradigms for new modalities of healing, medicine and psychiatry.
I think the psychiatry of twenty years from now or even ten years from now will look a lot like shamanism. In fact the two disciplines are already melding together because shamanism provides the tools to validate these dimensions. People can say well it’s all quackery and showmanship, yes there is an element of that to it, but the thing is it works. It does provide a framework within which people can let these experiences unfold and not completely lose their orientation, you know, be able to navigate through it and back out of it, and integrate it into what we call the ordinary state of reality; even that is a hallucination as we’re finding out
I think that we haven’t even really scratched the surface of what these substances might be able to tell us over time about the nature of our consciousness and the nature of reality, it’s not what it seems. You know, if you’re exposed to something like DMT it really puts that out in front of you, and you realise, no it’s not what it seems at all. We may not know what it is, but we know what it isn’t and that is a healthy thing.
Macre: Can you comment on the role of entheogenic plant connections in human evolution, and to what extent the ills of modern culture may be rooted in a disconnection from these vegetable intelligences? Do you think it is possible to recapture that connection in this day and age?
Dennis: Yes I do, I think that is what’s happening as we rediscover the psychedelics, especially ones like Ayahuasca. We are attempting to re-forge that connection with nature and the natural wisdom of the community of sentient species, if you want to put it that way, which we lost. We’re now coming out of a two thousand year old trance, in a sense, of being enthralled of a sort of Judeo-Christian perspective that somehow we’re separated from nature and somehow we own nature and nature is there for us. When actually, I think we are beginning to rediscover, and not too soon, that it’s not the way it works, we are part of nature.
We need to learn to become stewards of nature because we are within it. If we destroy nature we destroy ourselves. I think these entheogenic plants are structural tools to help us learn that or re-learn that. In that sense I think that maybe that’s part of the reason there is such resurgence, because nature is in some sense getting more and more frantic as the systems destabilise it’s knocking harder and harder on our heads basically, it’s saying wake up you monkeys. We’re in crisis here; you’ve got to wake up because you’re really screwing things up. A lot of people may go to South America or encounter these entheogens in their own living room, back yard or whatever. They come away with this more urgent message, realisation in a way, about the interconnectedness of all things, of us with all species and the rest of the planet and the need to respect that and change the way we relate to it. Get away from the historical and corporate perspective that has driven global culture for too long and we’re now seeing the consequences of that, this idea that nature is simply something that is just a set of resources for us to exploit without thinking about it too much, that doesn’t work anymore.
We’ve got to find better models for integrating our activities into nature and becoming part of nature. Our job is not to exploit nature, it’s to nurture it and become responsible stewards of it. So all this interest in sustainability and symbiosis with the natural world and so on, these are all hopeful signs. The amazing part to me is that when you’re involved in the psychedelic community, you have a tendency to think that everybody is doing it and everybody is involved in this. I don’t think that’s true. I think that probably 98% of people on this planet are not. They haven’t woken up and they couldn’t give a shit, and so, we’re still in trouble.
I guess part of the mission is to propagate that message and educate people about these experiences and these plants themselves. They are the instruments, it’s a misnomer to call them our bio-weapons but in some ways they are, but they’re not weapons they’re tools to use to enlighten others and bring others into the fold. You do that the way people have always related to plants, they share them across the back fence, they teach other people how to grow them, they grow gardens and they move them around.
You see this going on very much with Ayahuasca. I mean twenty-five or thirty years ago there was no Ayahuasca in the United States, maybe a specimen or two in some botanical garden somewhere. Now a lot of people grow Ayahuasca in Hawaii and there’s a lot growing and people bring it back, it’s growing in every part of the world. Ayahuasca has escaped the Amazon and now plays out its destiny with humanity on a global scale. It’s the most hopeful thing to come along in many a year in my opinion, despite all the problems with co-opting indigenous traditions, and you can accuse us of bio-piracy and things like that.
I really think something like Ayahuasca is the common heritage of humanity and it doesn’t belong to any one indigenous group. It’s something we have to adopt as a species and respect. We have to treat the indigenous people who preserve that tradition or using Ayahuasca for however many thousands of years they have, that all needs to be respected, but now it’s playing out on a global stage. Probably because it’s time, around the planet we are in crisis.
Macre: When looking at the exploding field of psychedelic research, sanctioned researchers often say people interested in getting involved in such research should find the time and money to follow a pre-established, legitimised path to study these plants and compounds in a sanctioned context. As someone who has experience with both sides of that coin, do you have any advice to people in the community who lack the requisite time and financial means to follow such a path, but are still passionate about these plants and compounds?
Dennis: It’s a tricky question. In the first place I would dispute the contention that psychedelic research is exploding. We’re in it, so it seems like there is more of it going on than ever before, which is great. Still, it’s all privately funded through non-profits like MAPS and Heffter, the government has not stepped up in any way to support this kind of research. When the government starts funding investigations to integrate psychedelics for therapeutic use, treatment of addictions let’s say or PTSD. That may not be that far away but when they start funding it I will really believe we’ve turned a corner in psychedelic research.
If someone is academically inclined and spends many years getting the credentials, and the many tools that make a legitimate researcher. Whatever that means, sanctioned by society with an academic degree and a PhD or something that lets you join the union, because essentially it’s a union card, then I would encourage people to do that if that’s their inclination.
Not everyone is able to do it, they’re not inclined to do it, they can’t afford to do it or they wanted to do something else, what do those people do? I’m not sure exactly, you can pursue it on an individual basis and you can share your explorations with other people. Or you could find a different role, I guess, that works for you that doesn’t necessarily have to involve credentials, academics and that whole science and funding prestige gain, which is what a lot of science is all about.
For example, people go to South America and they take Ayahuasca and they have profound experiences, they come back and they have a calling for this so they want to become a shaman. There are a lot of people who do that, that underestimate the real challenge of it. They figure, well I went to a workshop in Iquitos and took Ayahuasca; I’ll just hang my shingle out and call myself a psychedelic therapist.
I think it is tougher to get there than that. There are some who go down there and take it really seriously and I give them credit. They do find somebody to study with, they do the diets and they go through the whole thing. Nothing is easy about learning to do these things, it’s not a shortcut to anything, but some people do put in the time and effort to do that, and that’s a good thing. Then they can come back to their culture, to our culture essentially, and they have their foot in both. They have studied in their tradition but they’re still completely modern, techno-savvy citizens, but they have something special that they can share with other people.
You see this phenomenon too, one expression of that is there are a lot of what you might call therapeutic communities, or spiritual communities that are growing up around the country in the States, I don’t know about in the UK but I suspect it is the same thing, anywhere in the developing world. There are now centres where you can go, they’re under the radar, technically they’re illegal but they do exist. If you work through the network you can find them.
Really sincere people who want to create a spiritual place in their community where people can go and have these experiences, their intentions are good, and they provide a place where people can have a safe environment. Also, preparation for them and some way to integrate what they have learnt. Ideally I think this is the model for our society if psychedelics ever become legal. If they were to become legal this would be how they could be integrated. I think it’s important to not dissociate them from the context. They’re best used in a situation where there’s some structure and shamanism provides that structure.
We’re inventing neo-shamanism. Our shamanism is not traditional but it draws heavily from other shamanic traditions. We’re inventing a new paradigm and that is what I would like to see. There should be places where a person can go maybe for some specific treatment; they have PTSD or some of these conditions. Maybe they’re just there for spiritual purposes or simply curiosity, and that’s legitimate. Basically they can go to the place and be kind of in a safe place, not controlled, but just looked after and they can have these experiences and it will be meaningful for them and they don’t have to worry about their safety and so on, there are people looking out for them. That’s the way to do it.
I think there’s a place for individual experimentation, but as a rule, that’s really for a person who has a calling to this and wants to devote the time to learn how to use them. That’s a kind of shamanic practice, in some ways, or maybe a chemical practice. For most people, they’re not compelled to necessarily put every tryptamine on their own experiential map, that’s a full time job, a lifetime’s work right there as Shulgin and other people have shown.
Shulgin’s a good example of somebody who actually did that and he did it very carefully, he kept good notes and is absolutely one of the most brilliant scientists in this area that’s ever lived. He put his life on the line and he put his nervous system on the line, but he approached it as science. I’m just curious, I want to explore these tools and he did it in a very methodical way. Now the rest of us have that benefit of his experience. He’s made a tremendous contribution to human knowledge. He should get the Nobel Prize, but that’s not going to happen. At the end of the day you look back and you say, who has done more to advance the understanding of consciousness and the brain and mind conundrum in the last thirty years and there’s really no one other than Alexander Shulgin, he’s done amazing work.
Macre: How do you feel when you see forums such as the DMT-Nexus and the organisation of harm reduction, social support and scientific information on psychedelics shared through the new technologies?
Dennis: I think there’s no other way to share it. Those are the tools that are available and I think this is all good. We are as a culture making this up as we go along, we’re forging the paradigms and practices that work for us. We’re drawing heavily from traditional cultures which makes sense; after all they’ve been doing it for a hundred thousand years so we may as well learn what they have. Their culture is not the same as our culture; we’re developing new modalities that incorporate a lot of these traditional elements and some newer elements. What is evolving out of that is a neo-shamanism I guess you can call it. A post 21st century type of shamanism in which we’re cognisant of all the issues, we’ve taken steps to maximise the safety.
The thing is, it’s important to have a structure and it’s important to have a ritual. One of the objectives is; if there is benefit, maximise the benefit. If there is horror, minimise the horror. That is all you can really ask of these things. Other than that, let it unfold.
Macre: Can you expand on your idea of entheogenic molecules, particularly the tryptamines and beta-carbolines, as "Gaia hormones" and the specific levels of biological intelligence they connect us to? Any insight as to why these classes of alkaloids are so often present in the reparative nitrogen-fixing species and so called invasive species?
Dennis: I can speculate endlessly, I do think it’s interesting that something like DMT is only two steps away from Tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s universally found in all living things as far as we know. It’s one of the twenty that go into proteins, so it’s everywhere. The enzymes that convert Tryptophan to methylated tryptamines are also universal components of cellular metabolism. They’re enzymes that move carboxyl groups and enzymes that move methyl groups around. This is such a trivial and such a universal and common step in plant or even in earthly bio-chemistry.
These enzymes are ubiquitous so you can actually without going too far out on a limb speculate that DMT and molecules like it really are everywhere. Nature is drenched in DMT in a sense; you could speculate that every plant probably has some DMT in it somewhere. Not enough to be useful necessarily, some plants over-express those enzymes, and those are plants we’ve identified and adapted as the sacred or shamanic medicines. All plants I would bet, I don’t know how I would settle the bet, but I would bet that if you just collected plants randomly and where specifically sensitive in simatation, you could pick up DMT in literally any plant you might choose to sample. So what? Well maybe so nothing it’s just an accident of bio-chemistry.
On the other hand if you do believe that there is a certain sentience to nature and I do, I’m very Lovelockian in that respect. I respect Jim Lovelock’s work; I think he is onto something. In other words, if consciousness is sort of etched into nature as a quality of life if you will, maybe nature is in some way saying again, message to the monkeys, just look at things from a slightly larger perspective. Guess what; right around the corner here’s a molecule that with the right nervous system, the right receptors and the right circumstances will open up the portals to another dimension or many dimensions that you never suspected where there.
So that’s you know, kind of cool to think that. I think that’s partly what all these messenger molecules are all about. We can go on and on about, this is what plants do, they relate to their environment through bio-synthesis not behaviour. The language of plants, the way they regulate their relationship with other organisms whether it be primates, bacteria in the soil, insects or things that are herbivores that want to eat them it’s all through chemistry.
These messenger molecules mediate the plants relationships with the rest of the ecosystem. To a large extent they help regulate the ecosystem. The same molecules have multiple purposes, the beta-carbolines for example, in one context they may be antibiotics, or they may be growth inhibitors or things like that. In another context, in the context of mammalian bio-chemistry they’re MAO inhibitors. So they’re important triggers, they are keys that let these tryptamines become available to the nervous system.
They fulfil multiple functions, and the functions we’re most interested in are the ones to do with our own experience of these things, our own conscious encounters with these things. For the plant it’s obvious in some ways, we stumble on a drug plant for example or the same could be said of food and nutritional plants that for one reason or another we like. We like the effects, we like the taste, we like the nutritional benefits or whatever.
So that’s the basis to form a symbiosis with these plants. That may be as simple as domesticating the plants and it’s a great benefit for a plant to be domesticated by us, by these primates, because once that’s done its not subject to the vicissitudes of natural selection it’s now subject to the vicissitudes of artificial selection, as long as we’re around to cultivate plants it’s got an evolutionary free ride, a relatively easy time of it, it doesn’t have to compete out in nature so for the plant this is a great thing. For us it’s a great thing because it produces the nutrients or the alkaloids or whatever of value we get out of it that makes us go to the trouble of forming a symbiosis, so it’s a win-win situation and we need more of this.
More of this kind of symbiotic relationship and less of the industrial approach, the exploitative relationship you find in global agriculture practices and things like that. There are still elements of symbiosis there with some plants. Like when [Michael] Pollan, that the writer for the New York Times, pointed out that corn is the perfect capitalist plant the way it adapts itself to these global infrastructures for mass production and modern culture of crops and it gets along very well. A lot of other plants, not so much. Did we go off track?
Macre: Haha maybe a little, but it’s good to go off track.
Dennis: Haha yes, but does that make sense?
Macre: It makes total sense, the plant and human link that exists.
Dennis: So these messenger molecules are what mediates that relationship and we’re no different, where we also speak the language of these plants on a molecular level. We talk tongue in cheek about symbiosis and Ayahuasca is telling us what to do and leading our evolution and that’s a nice metaphor, it’s not really what’s happening. Maybe it is what is really happening in a certain sense. You can look outside your own context at something like Cordyceps for example. Do you know Cordyceps?
Macre: The invasive fungus that attacks insects?
Dennis: Yes, it has a very interesting life-cycle. It will grow inside of an ant and at a certain point it will extend hyphae into the ant’s brain then it will force the ant to climb a blade of grass and then it paralyses it and the ant will cling to the tip and then it kills it. It then grows throughout the body and releases spores. The whole purpose of this exercise is that it forces the ant to climb to the optimal position for the distribution of spores. Then the spores are released and it goes through the rest of the lifecycle. That is pretty strange but that does go on in nature, so it looks like some sort of intelligent strategy on the part of the fungus at least for propagation. That’s an example, and something similar may be going on with us, not quite like that but you know what I mean.
Macre: In our novel analysis of plants, we have found different beta carbolines in small amounts in Mimosa and in variable amounts in some Acacias, most notably 2-Methyl-Tetrahydro-Betacarboline (2MTHBC), which is also present in Chacruna, as well as 1-MTHBC and possibly 1,2-Dimethyl-tetrahydro-betacarboline. Are you familiar with these substances? Do you know anything about their pharmacological effects and possibility that they synergistically affect the experience? Do you think a small amount such as 1% of alkaloid content of these beta carbolines can affect the experience?
Dennis: I haven’t taken each one of them by itself, but I can tell you that if they are in a plant in sufficiently high doses and the plants also contain tryptamines like the Acacias, or there are actually some Banisteriopsis species that contain DMT and 5-MeO-DMT. There is at least reported, but it’s kind of hard to nail it down. If you have a plant where these compounds are present together in sufficiently pharmacological amounts then you should have an orally active entheogenic plant. A tryptamine based entheogen that is a one pot deal, unless there is a combination of two plants.
Methyl-Tetrahydro-Betacarbolines as a group are pretty good serotonin uptake inhibitors; they’re less active MAO inhibitors. They do have some of both kinds of activity. That may affect the pharmacology. Do you have data on the levels of Betacarbolines in Chacruna or Mimosa Hostilis for example?
Macre: We do have data, off the top of my head I seem to remember some Acacias having around 1%, down to 0.5% and I think up to 4%, though I can’t remember exactly. I think you would be interested in the Plant Analysis and Substance Testing section of the forum, all our data there is publicly viewable. We also have a thread specifically for the various Acacia species. There is a lot of data that is available there and it is set to grow over time.
Dennis: This sort of work is great, this is real science and you guys are doing wonderful work by accumulating this data. By taking these measurements and by putting it out there because no government is going to fund this, at least not right now. Nobody sees a value in it, except that we understand there is a value in it. It’s great that you [the Nexus] are doing that. This is a real contribution to our knowledge of pharmacology and these plants. Good for you, for doing this. What do you think about Yuremamine, have you done any work with Yuremamine?
Macre: We are certainly aware of Yuremamine. I am not sure to what extent it has been worked with, but we are aware of it.
Dennis: Yuremamine is a fascinating compound, but perhaps the question with Mimosa Hostilis is, traditionally it’s been taken as a beverage, it’s orally active, it’s got DMT in it obviously. What else has it got in it that might activate the DMT? Now you tell me there possibly are Betacarbolines in Mimosa. I wonder if there is sufficient concentration of those to activate the DMT. Possibly Yuremamine is a MAO inhibitor or maybe it’s a hallucinogen. What I haven’t seen, though if someone has isolated enough pure Yuremamine to actually take it in a high state of purity to assess what it is about, If you could get enough of a pure specimen.
Macre: It would certainly be compelling. Is there any information you can give us about what you are working on at the moment, what can we expect from you in the near future in terms of either research or publication?
Dennis: I can’t even answer that question for myself haha. A couple of things, I just got asked to contribute a chapter to an anthology that Graham Hancock is putting together on the origins of consciousness. I have been going around for a long time talking about the world of psychedelics, the origins of language and so on. It’s kind of good to get that invitation because it will force me to actually sit down and write something a little more in depth than the usual PowerPoint presentation, so I’m looking forward to the chance to do that. Hopefully I will get that done in the next few months.
The other thing that is more longer term I’m trying to get going on. I’m sick of waiting around for the FDA or anybody else to approve doing work with Ayahuasca. I don’t think Ayahuasca is going to be study-able under current FDA rules for quite a while, if ever. So I’m interested in stepping out of that whole context. I don’t play that game anymore. Just go to Peru and do work in Peru but do rigorous and well-designed clinical studies, with participation of shamans as well as regular psychotherapists.
Macre: Dennis McKenna, thank you very much.
Dennis: No problem at all, it was a pleasure talking with you.