“Hallucinogens are vegetal scalpels, and scalpels can heal you and scalpels can hurt you. They are the vegetal or fungal two-edged swords.”
— Dr. Mark Plotkin
Dr. Mark Plotkin (@DocMarkPlotkin) is an ethnobotanist who serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team, which has partnered with 55 tribes to map and improve management and protection of 80 million acres of ancestral rainforests. Educated at Harvard, Yale, and Tufts, Plotkin has since spent much of the past four decades studying the shamans and healing plants of tropical America from Mexico to Argentina, although much of his work focuses on the rainforests of the northeast Amazon. He is best known to the general public as the author of the book Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, one of the most popular books about the rainforest. His new book from Oxford Press is The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know.
His upcoming podcast series is titled Plants of the Gods: Hallucinogens: Culture, Conservation, History and Healing, and it will be coming out in late October. More information will be available on Mark’s website.
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
Want to hear another episode with someone seeking to understand humanity’s relationship with the natural world’s unknown variables? Listen to my conversation with Paul Stamets, an intellectual and industry leader in the habitat, medicinal use, and production of fungi.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Dr. Mark Plotkin:
- Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Amazon Rain Forest by Mark J. Plotkin
- The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know by Mark J. Plotkin
- The Amazonian Travels of Richard Evans Schultes | The Amazon Conservation Team
- These 100-Year-Old Glass Flowers Are So Accurate, They Rival the Real Thing | Artsy
- The World’s Largest Psychedelic Research Center | The Tim Ferriss Show #385
- What Is Ayahuasca? Experience, Benefits, and Side Effects | Healthline
- Medical Benefits of Magic Mushrooms | Healthline
- Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers by Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hofmann, and Christian Rätsch
- Ethnobotany: A Living Science for Alleviating Human Suffering | Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- The Lost Amazon: The Pioneering Expeditions of Richard Evans Schultes by Wade Davis and Richard Evans Schultes
- The Yucuna Indians (or Yukuna) | Laurent Fontaine
- French Guiana, South America | Lonely Planet
- Song of Myself, 51 by Walt Whitman | Academy of American Poets
- Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark | Prime Video
- Medicine Man | Prime Video
- Use of Curanderismo in a Public Health Care System | JAMA Internal Medicine
- People in the Amazon Rainforest | Mongabay
- Suriname, South America’s Hidden Treasure | The New York Times
- Mark Plotkin: What the People of the Amazon Know That You Don’t | TED 2014
- Ayurveda: A Brief Introduction and Guide | The Ayurvedic Institute
- The Iconic Electric Eel Is Actually Three Species | The Atlantic
- Amazon Tragedy Repeats Itself as Brazil Rainforest Goes Up in Smoke | The Guardian
- Amazon River Dolphin | Whale and Dolphin Conservation
- Pink River Dolphins Of The Amazon Rainforest’s Hunting Secret | BBC Earth
- The International Ecotourism Society
- What Is Yopo? | Zamnesia Blog
- The Yanomami: An Isolated Yet Imperiled Amazon Tribe | The Washington Post
- Paint It, Black by The Rolling Stones
- A Forgotten Adventure With a Telepathic Tribe | National Geographic
- Matsés | Wikipedia
- This Amazonian Tree Frog’s Poison Has Become Part of the Latest Supercleanse Trend | ABC News
- Tapirs | National Geographic
- The Use of the Genus Virola as a Hallucinogen In South America | Ethnobotanical Leaflets
- Anadenanthera Colubrina | Wikipedia
- Burning Man
- Shamanism | Wikipedia
- Ayahuasca: Shamanism Shared Across Cultures | Cultural Survival
- Michael Pollan — Exploring The New Science of Psychedelics | The Tim Ferriss Show #313
- Michael Pollan — Exploring the Frontiers of Psychedelics | The Tim Ferriss Show #365
- How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
- Canadian Lynched in Peru After Being Accused of Shaman’s Death | The Guardian
- Survey of Subjective “God Encounter Experiences” | Roland Griffiths, PLOS One
- Chiric Sanango | Gastro Obscura
- Draculin, Stroke Drug from Vampire Bats, Moves Closer to Circulation | Discover Magazine
- World Wildlife Fund
- From Snake Venom to Ace Inhibitor — The Discovery and Rise of Captopril | The Pharmaceutical Journal
- The Flying Death and Other Adventures in Anesthesia | Brought to Light
- South America’s Inca Civilization Was Better at Skull Surgery than Civil War Doctors | Science
- Shaman and Apprentice Program | GlobalGiving
- Indians Are Key to Rainforest Conservation Efforts Says Renowned Ethnobotanist | Mongabay
- ACT Raises $35,000 for The Trio Indian Shaman’s Encyclopedia | Amazon Conservation Team
- ACT President Dr. Mark Plotkin Speaks with Members of the Trio Tribe in Suriname | ACT United States
- 7 Proven Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts | Healthline
- COVID-19 Fears Grow for Indigenous South Americans as Yanomami Teen Tests Positive | The Guardian
- Maroon Communities in the Americas | Slavery and Remembrance
- Roots: The Complete Miniseries | Prime Video
- Top 10 Rainforest Aphrodisiacs | Listverse
- How I Discovered Viagra | Cosmos Magazine
- Landmark Agreement Between Samoa and UC Berkeley Could Help Search for Aids Cure | UC Berkeley News
- Ensuring Equitable Benefits: The Falealupo Covenant and the Isolation of Anti-Viral Drug Prostratin from a Samoan Medicinal Plant | Pharmaceutical Biology
- Jaguar Health: Plant-Based Prescription Medicines
- A Novel Extract SB-300 from the Stem Bark Latex of Croton Lechleri Inhibits CTFR-Mediated Chloride Secretion in Human Colonic Epithelial Cells | Journal of Ethnopharmacology
- Akurio People | Wikipedia
- Coronavirus and Conservation: Preventing the Next Pandemic | Mark Plotkin, Los Angeles Review of Books
- How a West African Shaman Helped My Schizophrenic Son in a Way Western Medicine Couldn’t | The Washington Post
- What Colombia’s Kogi People Can Teach Us About the Environment | The Guardian
- Bellavista No More: Peru’s Infamous Wildlife Market Reduced to Rubble | Mongabay
- ‘Wet Markets’ Launched the Coronavirus. Here’s What You Need to Know. | National Geographic
- Kumbaya: History of an Old Song | Folklife Today
- List of Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs) | CDC
- Skoll Foundation
- United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) | Britannica
- George Bush, Sr. at Rio Earth Summit | C-SPAN.org
- Cuban Leader Fidel Castro Speech at Rio Environmental Conference | Educational Video Group
- Jacques Cousteau Criticizes Nations for Ignoring Environmental Dangers | UPI
- Forging a New, Bipartisan Environmental Movement | Newt Gingrich and Terry L. Maple, Issues in Science and Technology
- Mazatec Perspectives on the Globalization of Psilocybin Mushrooms | Chacruna
- Shipibo-Konibo Indigenous Culture | PeruNorth.com
- 6 Modern Societies Where Women Rule | Mental Floss
- Xingu Peoples | Wikipedia
- Wayana | Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
- The Wai Wai Tribe | Guyana Then And Now
- Evidence of Yanomami ‘Violence’ Relies on False Data, New Paper Reveals | Survival International
- Black Lives Matter
Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.
- Who is Richard Evans Schultes, how does his story cross paths with Mark’s, and what is ethnobotany?
- When and how did Mark’s interest in ethnobotany begin? When was the moment he knew he was hooked?
- What was the next step for Mark in making a career out of this interest?
- In what way was Schultes a “trickster” in the shamanic tradition, and was he the template for Indiana Jones?
- There are between three- to five-hundred indigenous cultures in the Amazon, with an equally diverse array of healing traditions. Here’s how a shaman in the northeastern part of the Amazon cured Mark’s foot pain instantly when no one else could.
- What does Mark see as the “holes” in Western medicine’s understanding?
- On electric eels, pink dolphins, fires in the Amazon, and an urgency to protect the unknown before we destroy it forever — whether or not it has practical applications.
- Ayahuasca may get all the hype, but it’s only used by a small percentage of shamans in the Amazon. Mark talks about hallucinogenic frogs used for hunting magic and a psychedelic snuff called yopo.
- Mark considers yopo his favorite Amazonian hallucinogen, but how does it compare to ayahuasca?
- To Mark, what qualifies someone as a “shaman?”
- What has compelled Mark’s 87 experiences with ayahuasca? What’s to be learned beyond the first few times of trying it?
- What are the risks of doing ayahuasca and other Amazon-derived hallucinogens? Aren’t they all natural and harmless?
- That time Mark got bitten by a vampire bat and bled like a stuck pig thanks to an anticoagulant in its saliva called — no kidding — draculin.
- How the Amazon Conservation Team’s Shaman’s Apprentice clinics aim to preserve knowledge of obscure compounds (and their sources) when traditions are eclipsed by the temptations of the outside world for younger people among indigenous populations.
- How Mark and his team have used technology to help the indigenous people of the Amazon protect their land, resources, health, and culture rather than entice them away from them.
- What Mark did to illustrate for the chief of a tribe the importance of keeping a written record of their collective knowledge for future generations, and why he insists on leaving it untranslated from their native language.
- When Western expertise insisted that there was no such thing as a male aphrodisiac, but shamans in the Amazon knew otherwise.
- Do indigenous tribes ever profit from introducing their knowledge of preciously guarded compounds to the outside world?
- Mark details two common failures in sustainable development, and one success story.
- Is there anything in Mark’s experience in the Amazon that might help prevent future pandemics? What do the people who live there and in other remote areas know that we in the West haven’t seemed to wrap our heads around?
- What official policies would Mark like to see put in place to protect the world’s remaining wildlife, natural resources, and indigenous people?
- Does Mark see the Amazon rainforest as a glass that’s half-empty, or half-full?
- As a boundary walker who’s been good at finding common ground between disparate causes, what does Mark see as the way toward bipartisan support for the Amazon Conservation Team’s mission?
- How common are matriarchal societies and female shaman among the Amazon’s indigenous people?
- Among tribes with which Mark has spent time, how often are hallucinogens used specifically for hunting and/or warfare?
- How can those of us in the West who benefit from compounds derived from the Amazon ensure they’re sourced responsibly and not being outright stolen from the people who live there without any type of reciprocation? How can we help people who don’t necessarily benefit from just having a bunch of money thrown at their problems?
- Mark shares the story of how a shaman healed one of his old wounds 13 years ago with no recurrence — where Western physicians had only failed before.
- Parting thoughts.
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