What is plant medicine?
Plant medicines are a healing tool, used by Shamans and indigenous healers to access different states of consciousness wherein they believe they are able to heal the body and/or mind from illness and disease. The reason for the moniker ‘plant medicines’ is that they are generally made of plant-based materials, as in the case of Peyote (cactus), San Pedro (cactus), Ayahuasca (vine), Psilocybin (mushrooms), Iboga (shrub).
Currently, the better known of these plant medicines is Ayahuasca, a vine-based brew made throughout South America. Many people do not realize that Ayahuasca is not the only medicine available. Plant medicine is also at least partly a misnomer, as there are some fauna-related sacred medicines.
Is it a drug?
Well…yes and no. Yes, because it is at least slightly hallucinogenic, and therefore drug-like from most people’s perceptions, but no, because it’s nothing like taking drugs.
Ideally, a plant medicine experience (when done properly, and with serious intention) won’t have any similarities to taking LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs. If you have lots of experience with hallucinogens, you may even be underwhelmed that the ‘visuals’ of your experience are far less dramatic with entheogens. On the other hand, the psycho-emotional experience should be much, much more profound than the time you dropped acid with your friends in the backyard while your parents are away.
In the plant medicine ceremonies I’ve been in, I and almost everyone involved has been completely compos mentis. Maybe a bit light-headed, even a bit giggly at times (and desperately sad at others – all emotions come up), but never out of our minds. I always tell people intending to come to a plant medicine ceremony that you can easily ‘click’ into place if needed; if your boss or mother called, you’d be able to grab the phone, handle the call, and then hang up and ‘click’ back into the vibe of the ceremony.
So, long story short: no, it’s not a drug.
What is it like to take it?
This is impossible to describe: every person’s experience is different and every time you do it is different. There is no such thing as a ‘standard’ plant medicine experience.
I’ve known plant medicine participants to: cry wailing sobs, sleep the entire time, sing, dance, remember nothing, see visions of their childhood, envision future children, see past lives, be told things by a ‘voice’, receive spontaneous physical healing, be shown future developments in their career.
Just know that whatever happens for you will be
a) what you need and
b) what you can handle; nothing more, nothing less.
Will it/can it change my life?
I don’t know – are you ready to change your life? Will you change your life? Nobody can say if it will change your life, that’s for you to decide.
The challenge of returning to life after a plant medicine journey and applying that wisdom to your reality, instead of just enjoying the cozy bubble you experience immediately post-ceremony cannot be understated. This is what most people would call ‘integration’.
I use the analogy that a plant medicine ceremony is someone asking you to marry them; integration is the 30-year marriage that happens afterwards. What matters more, the one-time romantic event, or the 30-year grind of staying committed and loving to another person?
The really life-changing stuff potentially comes together in the integration period, not just in the plant ceremony.