Andrew Weil, M.D., is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. Combining a Harvard education and a lifetime of practicing natural and preventive medicine, he is the founder and director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, where he is a clinical professor of medicine and professor of public health. A New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Weil is the author of 15 books on health and wellbeing, including Mind Over Meds: Know When Drugs Are Necessary, When Alternatives Are Better, and When to Let Your Body Heal on Its Own; Fast Food, Good Food; True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure; Spontaneous Happiness; Healthy Aging; and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health. He is the editorial director of DrWeil.com, the leading online resource for healthy living based on the philosophy of integrative medicine. He is also a founder and partner in the growing family of True Food Kitchen restaurants.
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0:00:00.5 Paul Austin: Welcome back to The Third Wave podcast. Today we have Dr. Andrew Weil, world renowned leader and pioneer in the field of Integrative Medicine.
0:00:10.8 Andrew Weil: I really worry that now, unless there is a major change in consciousness, we are headed for not a good thing, whether it's environmental destruction, civil unrest, I mean, all of this is really possible now. And frankly, I think psychedelics are the only thing I see out there that might save us. I think if enough people have positive psychedelic experiences, that could initiate the change in consciousness, which might lead to changes in behavior that can help heal our society.
0:00:43.9 PA: Welcome to The Third Wave podcast. I'm your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs, and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let's go and let's see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
0:01:21.2 PA: Hey, listeners, I'm so excited to have celebrity doctor Andrew Weil on the podcast today. As you can imagine, this was an incredibly fascinating conversation. It was such an honor to be able to welcome Dr. Andrew Weil to The Third Wave podcast. And we went really deep into his story. We went into the mentorship that he had with Dr. Richard Evans Schultes. We talked about the time that he smoked cannabis in front of the US government while testifying. We talked about the many ways and avenues and reasons as to why he believes psychedelics will be a powerful tool. And overall, it was just a fascinating conversation, as you can well imagine. So I'll just to give you a little bit more context on Dr. Andrew Weil.
0:02:07.3 PA: Dr. Weil received a degree in biology from Harvard in 1964 and an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1968, from 1971 to '75 as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs, Dr. Weil traveled widely in North and South America and Africa, collecting information on drug use in other cultures, medicinal plants and alternative methods of treating disease. Dr. Weil is the founder and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, where he also holds the Lovell-Jones Endowed Chair in Integrative Medicine and is Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health. A New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Weil is the author of 15 books on Health and Well-Being, including Mind Over Meds, Fast Food, Good Food, Spontaneous Happiness, Healthy Aging and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health. Before we dive into today's episode, a word from our sponsors.
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0:04:19.2 PA: Alright, that's it for now. Let's dive into this episode. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Andrew Weil.
0:04:27.8 PA: Dr. Weil, thank you for joining us for the podcast.
0:04:28.9 AW: My pleasure.
0:04:32.6 PA: It really is quite an honor. I was mentioning sort of the opening story of how I got to know your work, which was growing up, my dad had your cassette tapes on breathing in his Toyota Camry that he used to drive to and from work. And then when I started Third Wave in 2015, I read a book called the Harvard Psychedelic Club, which you are a central character in, and I found that you, in fact, had been very influential in the '60s in the sort of formation of the psychedelic movement. And where I wanna start today is slightly before that in fact, when you graduated from high school, when you had the chance to to travel abroad to Thailand, India and Greece. And I'd love if you could just sort of set a frame for our listeners about sort of why was that influential living abroad, graduating from high school, how was that influential in the development of your career and your path?
0:05:26.8 AW: You know, travel has always been very important to me, and that year that I had between high school and college was an amazing experience of living with native families in a number of countries. I think having the perspective of other cultures is invaluable. I think that's one of the problems with the United States, it's such a big, isolated country and many people have no experience of other ways of experiencing reality and interpreting reality. So, a lot of my philosophy of medicine, of health, my thoughts about drugs, have really been shaped by living in other societies.
0:06:02.7 PA: Were there any lessons in particular or any sort of stories in particular from that time in Thailand, India or Greece that are illuminating of that or that are dear memories to you?
0:06:15.9 AW: Well, so many. First... The first country that I was in was Japan. I was 17, I felt totally at home there, and I think I've had past lives in Japan. But one of my experiences there was for the first time trying... Learning to drink tea and green tea and Matcha in particular, and loving Japanese food and learning a bit about Japanese traditional medicine. In India, a very strong memory is, I was in Calcutta for a few days, and I remember on a full moon night being on the banks of the Hooghly River and there was a temple. I was with a woman who is part... Another student, and this old guy with a long white beard came out of the temple, and he said to us that it was very important to hear the sound of the universe, and then he chanted OM, like, really long and loud. I'd never heard anything like that. I remember the vibration in my body and this experience of being under the full moon and by this temple, it was a very powerful experience.
0:07:22.7 PA: And so after traveling you ended up going to Harvard for college and while there you had your first mescaline experience.
0:07:31.8 AW: But before that... Can I... Yeah. Sure.
0:07:34.1 PA: Please, please. No. Go, please.
0:07:35.6 AW: No, I was gonna say that I arrived at Harvard and I had to choose courses. I had no idea what I wanted to do 'cause I was interested in so many things, but I saw this course in the catalog called Plants and Human Affairs, the title intrigued me. And it was at the Harvard Botanical Museum, taught by Richard Schultes who's the father of modern ethnobotany and a great expert on the Amazon and psychedelic plants there. He became my mentor and I formed a really long association with him. So that was very influential. I also was a reporter for the undergraduate newspaper, and in that position I reported on the activities of Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert as they became controversial at the university.
0:08:22.7 AW: I also had heard about mescaline and was fascinated by what I read and wanted to try it, and I figured out how to get a chemical company to send me some. And I took it with no knowledge, I hadn't used any other substances except alcohol. And the first time I took it, I really felt physically altered, but no really interesting mental experiences. Subsequently, when I took it, had a very powerful experience of, I guess, you'd say a mystical experience, but in a way it scared me because I felt that if I followed what I saw there, I would drop out of college, I would not pursue a career in medicine. So I kinda boxed that up until some years later when I got back to really experimenting with psychedelics.
0:09:10.6 PA: And what was that insight? What came up during that experience that was scary or intimidating?
0:09:16.3 AW: Well, that there was a lot more to reality than what I was seeing at Harvard College, and I really saw the magical aspect of reality and, I mean, wonderful things, but I couldn't put that together with the academic mindset that I was in.
0:09:36.3 PA: And so you're at Harvard in the '60s, and one question that I wanted to ask to you is about that dynamic. You know, there's a fantastic book which if listeners wanna go deeper into this, the Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin. But there was this thing between you and Richard Alpert, who later became Ram Dass and Timothy Leary. And I'm curious from your perspective, from your lens, what was going on at that point in time? What was happening with the research and why did you choose to write the expose that you wrote for Harvard Crimson at that time?
0:10:10.6 AW: Alpert and Leary had done very good research. I mean, they had come up... Had really documented some of the positive aspects of psilocybin and LSD; they were the first people to emphasize the importance of set and setting. I felt Leary genuinely thought these substances were gonna change the world in a positive way; he had no anticipation of opposition that he would encounter. Alpert was a different story. I think he was very uncomfortable in his own skin. At any rate, the two of them began gathering around them a group of followers who more and more began to look like a cult, and this frightened the faculty of Harvard, generated controversy. And I as the only scientific major on the Harvard Crimson was asked to sort of report on this area.
0:11:03.2 AW: So I wrote a series of stories and ultimately these exploded and led to Alpert being fired from Harvard. Leary had left voluntarily, but this was front page news on the New York Times, and it was really the first time that probably most Americans had ever heard of these substances. You know, it really put it out there in the mainstream consciousness. It was some years before I reconciled with Leary and longer with Alpert, and I had a relationship with him over the years. A couple of years before he died, I spent some time with him in Maui, and we really went over everything, and he said that I had done him a blessing, because if he had not been forced out of Harvard, he wouldn't have become Ram Dass.
0:11:49.4 PA: Which was his path to becoming, which... That's what...
0:11:51.6 AW: Yeah.
0:11:51.8 PA: … I mean, how was that for you? How was that with the publicity? How was that with... At the time, the tension. I mean, I think you were 20 years old when all of this was going on, it must have been very intense. I'm just curious from your lens, how did you handle that? How did you navigate that?
0:12:09.2 AW: It took some juggling because I had had these experiences with psychedelics myself, and yet I was writing from the other perspective. And anyway, I was eventually able to work all this out and be at peace with it and find my own path to move on from.
0:12:28.5 PA: And so, that path of yours, you graduated from Harvard in 1964, what happened over the next five to 10 years after graduating from Harvard? Where did life lead you?
0:12:38.7 AW: Well, I spent four years at Harvard Medical School, right afterwards. And in my senior year, I did the first double-blind experiments with cannabis. That really is the first time anyone had given human being... Human subjects cannabis in a controlled setting. It took an immense amount of work to get permission from all the agencies involved in this. And the only reason that Harvard allowed me to do this was they said that I was the one who had blown the whistle on Alpert and Leary. So that's... Anyway, I was able to use that in a positive way. I did a medical internship in San Francisco in 1968, which was a very intense time, where the society was as polarized as it is now. That's when I really began experimenting with psychedelics and having a lot of interesting experiences. I then had to go to work for the government for a year, it was during the Vietnam War. That was a horrible experience I won't go into, but I eventually left that...
0:13:36.9 PA: Traumatic.
0:13:37.5 AW: Yeah, very traumatic. I got no selective service credit for that year. I was about to be sent to Vietnam. I was planning to go to Canada. I wrote a very strong statement, conscientious objector application and said that as a result of the year that I spent with the government, I was absolutely unwilling to do any alternate service for them, nor could I practice Western medicine in good conscience, because I'd really come to question a lot of the assumptions of it. And it was... Anyway, I went and... I mailed the letter, I went to live on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation to work with a medicine man I'd met. I spent a few weeks with him, grew my beard. I was prepared to leave the country, came back, found a letter from my draft board in Philadelphia, granting the CO without a hearing, which was unheard of. So suddenly for the first time in my life, I had nothing to do. I had no income. I... [chuckle] That's when I did a lot of things in that year. I became a vegetarian, started practicing yoga, breathing. I wrote my first book, The Natural Mind, which if you haven't read, I urge you to read it. I think it is a... Was a really...
0:14:47.2 PA: I will read it.
0:14:47.9 AW: Way ahead of its time. Yeah. And then I went off to South America for three and a half years. I had a fellowship that allowed me to go there and study Shamanism and medicinal plants. I lived in Columbia for a number of years. It was also a very formative experience.
0:15:06.1 PA: Did you have any overlap with the McKennas, Terence McKenna or Dennis McKenna during that time in the '70s?
0:15:12.9 AW: I did. I knew both of them from way back, so we would interact over the years.
0:15:18.8 PA: Okay.
0:15:19.2 AW: So yeah, I knew them quite well.
0:15:21.4 PA: Okay. 'Cause I know that Terence was down in Columbia in the '70s, I believe as well, him and Dennis, researching ayahuasca and yage.
0:15:28.2 AW: Exactly. Yeah.
0:15:30.5 PA: Okay.
0:15:30.5 AW: Yeah, yeah.
0:15:30.7 PA: Okay. And so, for the... You mentioned the Lakota medicine man, was that... Was peyote involved with that in terms of your interactions and engagements or was that just sweat lodges?
0:15:45.3 AW: It was sweat lodge, which was consciousness altering in the way that they did it, but no, no substances.
0:15:55.8 PA: So, you have this fantastic sort of adventure, leaving Harvard, getting your medical degree, working for the government, doing early research on cannabis and then finding yourself in South America in the '70s and '80s. At what point did you become the Andrew Weil that many of us know, the celebrity doctor, the really prominent figure in alternative medicine and integrative health, what was that evolution like for you?
0:16:24.6 AW: When I came back from South America, I really had no idea where I wanted to be. My car broke down in Tucson, Arizona, took a long time to get fixed. I never left, fell in love with the desert. I was living in a very remote place, making my living as a writer, you know, this marginal existence. The university of Arizona found out that I was there and asked me if I would give lectures on cannabis, because there was a lot of interest in it and they didn't have anyone on their faculty who knew anything about it. So I talked to medical students about cannabis and then about other psychoactive substances, and this became a regular thing. And then I said to them, you know, what I'm really interested in now is alternative medicine. They didn't even know what that meant. But so I began giving lectures on other kinds of medicine, which I was experiencing and thinking about. And from those lectures I put together my first book called Health and Healing, which is my philosophical basis of integrative medicine.
0:17:22.0 AW: Patients began showing up at my doorstep. So I began, reluctantly got drawn into practice. At first what I did, I called Natural and Preventive Medicine. And then over the next, I would say 10, 12 years, I got a larger and larger following in the general public as a result of my books and speaking, but no one in the world of medicine paid any attention to me. I mean, none of my colleagues had any... Would listen to me or had anything... Any interest. It was okay with me. I knew what I was doing was right. I was putting together my ideas and I just went along until the early 1990s when my best friend from Harvard Medical School was named Chief of Medicine at the University of Arizona. And he came with a new dean. They had been at the University of Massachusetts and my friend said, well, now you have friends in high places. What do you wanna do?
0:18:12.8 AW: And I said, I wanna change all of medicine. And he said, how do you wanna do that? And I said I'd like to create a new field, Integrative Medicine. So we talked to the dean and I got permission to create a fellowship for people who had gotten their medical degrees and finished their training. And we started, I had one assistant, a woman friend. We had a... We were given a... Basically a large closet and a trailer behind the medical school. We had no money. And... But from that humble beginning, we started the program in Integrated Medicine, now a very robust center of excellence at the University of Arizona. We've graduated close to 3000 physicians from our intensive training programs and hundreds more in residency programs. We train medical students, allied health professionals. We have satellite programs in other countries. It's quite a thing and really becoming mainstream.
0:19:11.0 PA: Do you teach around psychedelics in that program?
0:19:14.6 AW: Absolutely. That's one of the greatest demands we get from people in training. They wanna know about them, they wanna know how to use them, they wanna know all of this. So, we are developing curriculum in that area. I also will tell you that in the past few years, especially pre-pandemic, when I was traveling a lot, wherever I would speak, whatever the subject, whether it was nutrition, healthy aging, integrative medicine, questions always about psychedelics. I mean, the interest in this is at an all-time high.
0:19:42.5 PA: Why is that, do you think?
0:19:45.2 AW: Well, it's about time, first of all. You know, it's been a long, long...
0:19:49.5 PA: Right.
0:19:51.3 AW: Lap since the 1950s when people...
0:19:52.0 PA: It's been a long trip. Yeah. [chuckle]
0:19:54.4 AW: It's been a long trip. I think it's a combination of things. I think one is the legalization of cannabis, another is publicity about research recently, which is really documenting positive... A great many positive benefits, especially in the area of mental health. It's just, it's something that's happening, and the extent to which it's happening is amazing to me. Some months ago, Vogue Magazine had a cover story on Psilocybin. And more recently, Town & Country Magazine, of all places, [chuckle] had an article titled, Why Is Everyone Smoking Toad Venom? I mean, good God! That is mainstream.
0:20:32.3 PA: It's so mainstream, and then Michael Pollan's Docuseries just came out on Netflix, a couple of weeks before we were recording this, and so, that's continued to push and evolve the conversation, which has been incredible, because even when I started Third Wave in 2015, it still felt like the Dark Age, you know, in the broader psychedelic Renaissance. There was some research coming out. Tim Ferris had just started to publish a few podcasts.
0:20:55.2 AW: Yeah.
0:20:55.8 PA: But it was still highly stigmatized. And my sense is you have been sort of a public figure at the crosshairs of the stigmatization. I'd love if you can just talk a little bit about that. What has it been like to hold the position that you've held, not only as an alternative medicine practitioner, but also some of the blowback you got for the book, From Chocolate to Morphine? You know, what has it been like to hold that? What have been some of the controversies or some of the critiques that you've been subjected to?
0:21:27.8 AW: Well, really interesting, I mentioned my first book, The Natural Mind, which argued very strongly that there are no good or bad drugs, there are just good and bad uses of drugs. There was a chapter titled, Is Heroin as Dangerous as Alcohol? You know, meant to be provocative.
0:21:45.8 PA: Right.
0:21:45.9 AW: That... When that book was published, Life Magazine had an editorial saying it was a dangerous, subversive book. The Vice President of the United States, Agnew, subsequently completely disgraced for taking cash envelopes in the White House, this was Nixon's vice president, gave a campaign speech saying that I was the new Timothy Leary and a dangerous person. You know, so I left the country, that's when I went to South America. So, quite a lot of controversy around that. But then, Chocolate to Morphine, much more so because that was published right as the war on drugs began. And Nancy Reagan made it a personal thing to get the book banned. And her cohort, a Senator from Florida, Paula Hawkins, stood up on the Senate floor waving the book around saying that this was... You know, should be banned. And a number of libraries did ban it. They got more publicity than my publisher could have gotten.
0:22:39.2 AW: Shortly after that, when I was in Arizona, you know, I was making a living as a writer and doing talks, the White House began sending out dossiers on me to people who were trying to have speaking events where I was supposed to speak, arguing that I was a dangerous person and they should drop me as a speaker. So that was... You know, it was a really... It was a very interesting time to be living through that.
0:23:03.1 PA: Well, it's almost like that early psychedelic experience that you talked about with mescaline. That insight came through was a foreshadowing of what you might face, if you choose... If you chose to fully go down that path, right, of the challenge and difficulty even. Because I can only imagine, right, in the '70s and '80s, you know, we hear a lot about Terence McKenna and the psychedelic space, in terms of... He was sort of that figure that connected from Leary and Alpert into modern day, but really, you've been one of the most prominent figures in Integrative Health, Alternative Medicine, plant medicine substances. And I'm curious, from your perspective, what... Not even from your perspective, but from your tastes, what are some of your favorite plant medicines? What are some of your favorite allies, either currently, or plants that you've used over the years that have been really helpful for you?
0:23:58.6 AW: One is coca leaf. I spent a lot of time studying that in South America.
0:24:04.4 PA: Cool.
0:24:04.7 AW: And I've been working since probably 1979 to make Coca legal here and to teach people about its medical benefits, how it's not cocaine, why we should have access to it. I mean, I really worked quite a lot in this area, and now I'm delighted to see finally, in the past year or so, there is momentum building toward this. So, I think one day we're gonna have coca products available here and this would be a really good thing. So that's definitely been one of my, you know, major allies. Cannabis, interestingly was, I think, my ally through my... In my 20s and 30s, and then my relationship with it really changed and I began getting less and less positive effects from it. And really, finally, by the time I was in my late 40s, I stopped using it, and it is not my plant anymore, so things change. But those are two examples.
0:24:57.6 PA: So I was doing some research and I would love if you could tell the story of using cannabis when you had to speak in front of Congress and sort of that backstory and why you chose to do that, and just what was going on there.
0:25:14.6 AW: In those days, in my late 20s, early 30s, I was a regular user of cannabis, and one of the things that I found really annoying is that people who had no knowledge of cannabis often said that people became crazy when they smoked it. And I maintained that there was really no way you could tell that the person was stoned unless they volunteered that information, there was no way you could tell them apart, especially if they were experienced with it. So I just made a rule for myself that whenever I gave a lecture on cannabis that I was always under its influence, and I just... I took great pleasure in that. So yes, I did that in front of Congress, I did that in a variety of situations.
0:25:56.0 PA: It reminds me when I first started giving public talks on microdosing, this was probably in 2017. I would speak at tech and business conferences mostly about microdosing for creativity or productivity, and I would often when I would get on stage to talk about it, I would actually publicly acknowledge that, "Yes, I am microdosing at this very moment and providing this talk." Because what I sensed is because of the stigma around psychedelics, people think it's just something you do when you sort of go into this other land, this other space, you can sort of disassociate, whereas with microdosing, you can be present and it can actually... It can actually be helpful, it could actually be beneficial. And I think one thing that you often look at is set and setting when it comes to these experiences, right? That the mindset that we come into this is so influential in terms of what that actual experience is like.
0:26:45.0 AW: Yeah. It's hard to overestimate the influence of set and setting on drug effects. You could give a stimulant drug to a person under conditions of set and setting in which they'd fall asleep. You can give a sedative drug to a person under condition of set and setting, which they become alert and stimulated. You know, they can completely reverse the effects of pharmacology. And as I said, Alpert and Leary were really the first people to emphasize this, a great contribution to the way we think about substances. And I think this is a real challenge for people who are interested in doing psychedelic therapy, is to always keep in mind that... The importance of set and setting. The drug is one variable, which includes its pharmacological action and the dose, but then extremely important, the setting, both physical and cultural in which the substance is taken, and then a person's expectations, conscious and unconscious, of what a drug might do to them.
0:27:45.8 PA: So building on that, what do you foresee as some of the limitations of double-blind placebo-controlled studies when it comes to psychedelics?
0:27:54.4 AW: Well, in general, I think there are limitations on double-blind placebo-controlled studies. I don't think there's any way you can separate the mind and body except verbally. And if... One assignment that I often give to students and physicians is to go into a medical library and pull out at random any medical journal that reports the results of placebo-controlled drug trials, pick an article, flip to the end where they have a table summarizing the results and always, and I emphasize, always in the placebo group, there will be one or two or a small number of subjects who show all of the changes produced in the experimental group by the drug being tested. So that means that any change that we can produce in a human being by administering a drug can be exactly mimicked at least some of the time in some people purely by a mind mediated mechanism. That's really important. I mean, we wanna find out how to take advantage of that.
0:28:56.3 AW: You wanna be able to get effects with less and less of a pharmacological agent, which is likely to have toxic effects as well. So I think this is a problem that double... The assumption is that by doing these kinds of controlled tests, you are ruling out placebo effects, you're separating mind and body. That's impossible. You can never do that.
0:29:19.8 PA: And how, I'm curious from your lens, how do psychedelics help to amplify the placebo effect? Or how can psychedelics help to train the mind to have more control or more power, if you will, or more direction, even when they're not it?
0:29:33.7 AW: Well, I think a psychedelic experience, if it's structured properly, can give people a glimpse of a possibility of experiencing their bodies in a different way. For example, people in chronic pain can have an experience of being able to live without pain. That's really important, and this can be just from one experience with a psychedelic. I have to say, I'm a little bothered by the fact that all of the emphasis in psychedelic therapy is on mental-emotional conditions. I think there's tremendous potential for use in physical medicine, in autoimmune diseases, in allergy, in chronic pain, I mean, so many different physical issues in which I think a psychedelic experience could be majorly important.
0:30:19.0 PA: And there's a lack of research. I mean, we know that psychedelics are anti-inflammatory, there's been research out of LSU with Charls Nichols showing that they have that anti-inflammatory, and we know inflammation is really at the root of...
0:30:30.6 AW: Absolutely, yeah.
0:30:31.8 PA: A lot of modern diseases, right? So it's sort of looking at... And this is even I think... I don't know if you've tried microdosing yourself...
0:30:37.6 AW: I have.
0:30:38.4 PA: But one of my sort of hypotheses or assumptions is that one of the reasons microdosing is so beneficial for a lot of people is because it's acting on the autoimmune conditions. It's helping to lower chronic inflammation when consumed regularly, which of course, because the vagus nerve helps with their plasticity in reducing neuroinflammation as well. And I think there's a lot of potential there in terms of how microdosing can be combined with fasting or breath or even ice to help facilitate mind-body wellness.
0:31:08.8 AW: You know, one of the major components of integrative medicine is mind-body medicine, and that includes everything like hypnosis-guided imagery, so forth. That is used so little in conventional medicine. Doctors do not make referrals to those kinds of practices even though they're so cost-effective and so effective. And this is something we're trying to change. So the fact is the mind and body are connected, you can't separate them, and you can take advantage of that to change physical conditions, and psychedelics are a very powerful tool to do that.
0:31:45.0 PA: So we've mentioned and talked a little bit about integrative health and I'd love if you could just provide your definition, how do you define integrative health? And what is your hope in terms of how it will change healthcare and how it is changing healthcare?
0:31:58.7 AW: Well, a short answer is it's the intelligent combination of conventional medicine with natural therapies and emphasis on lifestyle medicine on the mind-body connection and so forth. So I think this is the way of the future. Conventional medicine has become very limited. It's unable to manage the epidemics of chronic diseases that we have, way too expensive, relies mostly on medication and doesn't think about other methods of treating disease. So, in our training programs we're trying to give physicians and other health professionals all the things they should have learned in medical school, information about nutrition, botanicals, mind-body connections, other systems of medicine and so forth. So I think, as I say, this is the way of the future.
0:32:44.7 PA: And how will psychedelics help kind of usher in that new paradigm and that new future?
0:32:50.9 AW: I certainly think they will be part of it because they can show people that there are other ways that you can change the physical body, you can change conditions of disease by changing things in the mind as a result of those experiences.
0:33:07.2 PA: So I'd love if you could tell us a little bit about this book. I read this book a couple of years ago. It was given to me by a friend in New York who happened to know John Lilly quite well, and it's called Wizard of the Upper Amazon by F. Bruce Lamb. [chuckle] And I read that book and in my research, I realized you had written a foreword for it. I'd love if you could just tell our listeners about how you found out about that book, what was your relationship to that book? How was that book important to you, going back to your time in south America and working in plant medicines?
0:33:38.8 AW: I think it was right after or during my travels in South America, I had been writing newsletters on my experiences there, and Bruce Lamb contacted me and he gave me a copy of the book, told me this story, said it was out of print and he'd been unable to get it republished. So I read the book, amazing story about a shaman in Peru that he had met when he worked as a forestry expert. And this man, the story of his life gradually came out that he'd been kidnapped by a tribe of natives who were very... Had not been acculturated and who used ayahuasca regularly. And they trained him to be their chief because they saw that the white people were coming in and were gonna threaten their civilization, they had this idea, if they got one of them and trained them in their ways, he would save them. Anyway, amazing story, very well written. So I arranged for the book to be republished and wrote a foreword to it. It's an amazing story. So I never met Manuel Rios, who was the shaman, but I knew Bruce Lamb quite well.
0:34:44.7 PA: And on the topic of books, what would you say are your... The five most influential books that you yourself have read in your lifetime?
0:34:52.0 AW: Oh, that's a really hard one. I'd say one is autobiography...
0:34:58.3 PA: Or three.
0:35:00.5 AW: Okay. Autobiography of a Yogi was one.
0:35:04.9 PA: Yeah?
0:35:05.2 AW: Yeah, that was a good one. Probably Ram Dass' Be Here Now, which had a great influence on me. Let me see if I can think of any others. No, those are the ones that immediately come to mind.
0:35:17.8 PA: Autobiography of a Yogi, and that was from the guy who started the self realization fellowship, right?
0:35:23.5 AW: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, Paramahansa Yogananda, right.
0:35:28.5 PA: What was it about that book that was so influential for you?
0:35:33.0 AW: Again, it was like tales of wonder and magic and other possibilities, and the possibility of really changing yourself through simple practices. And Be Here Now also was just very inspirational. I think reading that book inspired me to start doing yoga, to meditate. It had a great influence on me.
0:35:57.1 PA: Beautiful. So, for kinda where we are now, one thing that I love to talk about is historical comparisons. And you were around there at Harvard in the '60s as we talked about, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on where the psychedelic space has landed now. What lessons have we learned from the '60s that we have properly integrated? And what mistakes might we be repeating of the past that you are aware of?
0:36:25.5 AW: Well, the '60s were a... It was a very turbulent time. And in some ways, the degree of polarization of society is similar to what we have now, I think now is worse, but it was very tense time. And I really worry that now, unless there's a major change in consciousness, we are headed for not a good thing, whether it's environmental destruction, civil unrest, I mean, all of this is really possible now. And frankly, I think psychedelics are the only thing I see out there that might save us. I think if enough people have positive psychedelic experiences, that could initiate the change in consciousness which might lead to changes in behavior that can help heal our society.
0:37:14.9 PA: It's that sort of mystical experience, right? What I like to call the truth of interconnectedness, realizing how interconnected we are to everything, how interconnected we are internally.
0:37:22.7 AW: Exactly. Exactly.
0:37:23.8 PA: Ken Wilber wrote this book called The Religion of Tomorrow. And he talked about this sort of comparison, this parallel, where in the enlightenment, it was only 10% of people who needed to become literate to create the new structures and systems of society to ensure everyone became literate. And he made that comparison to we only really need 10% of people to wake up, is what he calls it, in order to have that experience. And so, one thing...
0:37:48.5 AW: Yeah, very encouraging.
0:37:50.0 PA: This goes back to the Huxley hypothesis as well. Right? The Aldous Huxley hypothesis with how to use psychedelics that he often talked about.
0:37:56.7 AW: Right. And his book, the Doors of Perception, that I read when I was in high school, and that's what inspired me to get mescaline and take it. So... And he had lectured at... He was lecturing at MIT my first year at Harvard and it was... His talks were broadcast on the Harvard radio station. I wrote him a letter and asked him where I could get mescaline, and he wrote back and gave a name of a chemical company. So that was really my inspiration. But I would say if... That 10% is... That's very encouraging. I like that, and I think that is very possible. Have you seen a video on YouTube called Housewife on LSD?
0:38:36.6 PA: No. What is it?
0:38:38.6 AW: Okay. Look it up, Housewife on LSD. It's an experiment from, I think it's about 1959, of a psychiatrist who I knew in LA who gives a dose of LSD to a very straight woman. I won't tell you any more, but you... This gives you a glimpse of how consciousness can be transformed and what the potential of that is.
0:39:00.0 PA: And we could almost add, Doors of Perception as maybe a third book, that was highly influential in terms of...
0:39:07.3 AW: Yes, I would put that in there.
0:39:09.0 PA: Your path and career, right?
0:39:10.5 AW: Yeah, definitely. Definitely.
0:39:11.4 PA: That seems like it would... So did you ever get a chance to meet Aldous Huxley, or was it the, just the...
0:39:16.8 AW: I never met him, just a letter exchange.
0:39:19.7 PA: That would have been epic.
0:39:21.4 AW: Yeah.
0:39:21.6 PA: Who are some of the favorite people that you've had a chance to meet and connect with over the last many, many years being in this space, whether it's mentors or students or other folks in the alternative medicine space?
0:39:35.6 AW: Well, I mentioned Richard Schultes, who was the godfather of modern ethnobotany, he was a major mentor and friend. I also... I've known all the greats. I was a friend of Sasha Shulgin. I knew Albert Hofmann, all those people I interacted with for a long time. In terms of the alternative medical space, my great teacher was an old osteopath named Robert Fulford. I met him in his 80s. He's the best healer I've ever met, and he's the one that taught me really about breathing and taught that 4-7-8 breath that I teach to everybody.
0:40:12.5 PA: Can you give us... What was the relationship like with him? How did you meet him? Why was he so influential? Who is Robert Fulford?
0:40:19.7 AW: Well, he's passed on. He was an elderly DO who used only manipulation to treat people. Very simple man. He said that you just have to make adjustments, and old Mother Nature does her work. I saw the most amazing cures happen in his office, of chronic conditions and this is from just one hands-on treatment. And this completely... I'd never seen anything like this in my medical training. And he really made me aware of the healing power of nature, of the importance of breath and the possibility of doing medicine in a totally different way.
0:40:56.6 PA: It's beautiful. So, for you today 2022, you're currently 80 years old. What are you most looking forward to over the next five to 10 years as you sort of go into the sunset of your existence here? What are you interested in creating? What are you interested in working on? What is calling to you in life right now?
0:41:23.2 AW: I wanna see integrative medicine be on a very solid footing and really become mainstream in this country and I'm think close to achieving that. I take great pleasure in teaching and seeing all of these people that have passed through our center who are out there now doing wonderful things throughout the world, so that's, I might say, my major work interest. I really would like to see people become more aware of plants and their healing possibilities and the possibilities of using them more than synthetic medications. I'd like to do more traveling because I've been blocked from that during the pandemic. And I might get some more travels in, in my last years.
0:42:08.7 PA: Are there any places in particular that you would love to go to?
0:42:11.8 AW: Well, I wanna go... I have a real connection with Japan, so I wanna go back there and spend more time. India also, there's a new medical school there that wants to affiliate with us and emphasize integrative medicine. And that is of great interest to me. There's a lot of places I'd like to say. I went back to Columbia in January. It's the first time I'd been there in a very long time and it was great to reconnect with that country.
0:42:38.5 PA: To Medellín or to Bogotá, or to the rainforest in the south?
0:42:42.5 AW: I was in both. I was in Bogotá and Medellín. I didn't have a chance to get to the more remote areas this time.
0:42:48.6 PA: Okay. Okay. Beautiful. So in terms of plants, we've mentioned coca, we've mentioned cannabis, we've talked about mescaline and psychedelics. What are maybe, let's say, three plants that are lesser known or that none of our listeners may have heard about that you think are interesting, unique, that are powerful, that could be from various places in the world, and just kinda like three unique plants that you think people would be curious about or should learn more about?
0:43:16.7 AW: Well, I think there are a number of plants that have been demonized, like coca, that really... The problem is not the plant, it's our relationship with it. One of them is the opium poppy. Opium is a very, very useful substance. And when you take things out of it and make that available, you get into trouble. But the plant itself and opium as a natural product is very useful. I'd like to see more understanding of that and correct ways of using it. I'm a big fan of kava, which I'm sure you know. That's a plant that I've studied from Oceania. Most powerful anti-anxiety agent in the natural world, no toxicity, should be much more widely used in medicine. Khat, which was highly stigmatized, this is a stimulant plant from Ethiopia, in that area, it has an amphetamine-like effect. But again, in a... Used properly can be quite useful.
0:44:18.5 PA: What about tobacco?
0:44:20.9 AW: That's a really good, interesting question. The native uses of tobacco in the New World were very different from the way people use tobacco today. There was not addiction. They used it as a ritual sacramental drug and as a powerful psychoactive drug used occasionally, either from putting oral preparations in the mouth or inhaling very strong forms of tobacco, but it causes a huge psychoactive effect. But when you begin using it regularly, or make forms of it that can be inhaled deeply and often, then you get these patterns that we see today which are not helpful. The modern cigarette is the most addictive substance, it's right up there with crack cocaine and it's right in front of our noses. But there was nothing like that in the world before the Europeans came there. So I think used properly and ritually, tobacco has a place, whether you consume it or not, or use it as many natives do just in ceremonial ways, have it present at ceremonies. It is a powerful sacramental plant.
0:45:33.2 PA: And it's often used in conjunction with ayahuasca or yopo...
0:45:36.5 AW: Yeah.
0:45:36.9 PA: Or some of these other psycho-active plant... The psychedelic plant medicines that are within those healing contexts.
0:45:44.7 AW: Very, very powerful. Has to be used cautiously.
0:45:47.2 PA: Yeah. And it goes back a little bit to even when we were talking earlier about the main frustration that you had with, let's say allopathic medicine, it's when a substance comes in, like tobacco, it becomes industrialized, and the focus is on how do we get as many people as possible to smoke it rather than the sacred ceremonial use.
0:46:08.0 AW: Exactly.
0:46:08.3 PA: And that sort of leads me into my next question, which is, we've talked about consciousness and we've talked about psychedelics, from your perspective, what is the role of the sacred and the ceremonial when it comes to these various contexts that we've talked about in the podcast today, and how has that shown up in your life?
0:46:32.5 AW: Well, I think I've observed them in different cultures, but these are ways of standardizing set and setting to ensure positive outcomes; I think that's really the importance of ritual. And I observed that in my travels in South America, I observed it with my interactions with native people in North America. And I think the lack of ritual and sacramental purpose around drug use in our culture is one of the reasons why we've seen a lot of negative use and abusive use of substances.
0:47:05.4 AW: Even with alcohol, when distilled alcohol first appeared, which was fairly recently, there was an epidemic of alcoholism and drunkenness. And people drank distilled alcohol all day in America in the early 1800s. There were barrels of whiskey in every store and you'd go in and have a ladle full and people were drunk all the time. And gradually, there evolved a social consensus about the ways to use alcohol, that you didn't use it early in the day, that you used it with other people, you used it ritually for purposes, and as that ritual and social system developed, the abuse of alcohol really was contained.
0:47:48.7 PA: And was this around the time of Prohibition when this was happening, or was it even prior to that?
0:47:54.1 AW: No, this was before... Early... Middle, early middle 1800s, early middle 1800s.
0:47:58.9 PA: Okay.
0:48:00.4 AW: And Prohibition made things worse because Prohibition interfered with this kind of stuff and people began using alcohol recklessly again.
0:48:07.7 PA: Which is why this decriminalization movement, especially around psychedelics, is so critically important. We're still hearing stories, like I just heard a story a couple of weeks ago about a mom in Indiana who might go to prison for 10 years because she's been micro-dosing psilocybin mushrooms.
0:48:23.6 AW: Really?
0:48:25.5 PA: And it's insane.
0:48:27.5 AW: Yeah. And we should remember that all these substances are still in schedule one, we haven't gotten them out out there yet and made them available legally for use. In Chocolate to Morphine, the first line of that book, which probably enraged people, is that wars on drugs are always lost. That's the opening line of the book.
0:48:48.3 PA: You can't win it. You can't win it because drug use is endemic to being a human.
0:48:54.1 AW: Absolutely.
0:48:54.7 PA: And it's endemic to being even an animal, to being a mammal. That is a natural seeking tendency to alter our consciousness.
0:49:00.1 AW: And that was the main point of The Natural Mind, that was one of the main philosophical points there.
0:49:05.6 PA: Are there... Just to... We have about 10 minutes left or so, and I still have a few... This has sort of been a rapid fire podcast. It's been a lot of fun. But I'm curious for where you are, where you are now, what are your practices in terms of diet, in terms of... You mentioned you're a vegetarian, but in terms of exercise, in terms of breath, in terms of meditation, what are the things that help you stay centered, that help you stay healthy, that help you stay vibrant even today?
0:49:35.9 AW: So as for diet, I follow my anti-inflammatory diet, I eat fish and vegetables, so I'm pescatarian. I meditate in the mornings. I do my breathing practices every day, I walk, I swim, I spend time with my dogs, you heard them a moment ago, I think that's extremely important to my health. I have work that is very fulfilling, I get good sleep and rest, I like to laugh, so I think those are all some of the things that keep me in good shape.
0:50:14.1 PA: What haven't we touched on today that would be you think valuable, insightful for the audience that's listening at home?
0:50:21.9 AW: I just wanna say that I think what we talked about earlier, that the promise of psychedelics, I think is the only thing I see out there that might save us as a species. We are headed for destruction, there's no question about that. And it's only if there's a change in consciousness that we can begin to heal all the things that are wrong, and that's the only thing that's happening that I see that has the potential to do that.
0:50:50.0 PA: And we touched on this before, so I won't go back into it, but if being the visionary that you are, especially in integrative health, even with psychedelics in the '60s, if you were to sort of architect that road map, let's say for the next 10 years, how do we roll these out? How do we educate people about it? What's your personal vision or perspective on what that might look like?
0:51:17.4 AW: I don't know. I mean, I'm working to train health professionals about these substances and the possibilities of using them. I will do everything I can. I constantly lobby about changing the politics of these and getting them out of the Prohibition mentality that they're now in. I don't know how all this is gonna play out. There's so many commercial interests jockeying around there for ways to make money from psychedelics. I don't know. I really don't know how it's gonna play out. It'll be very interesting, but I'll do whatever I can to teach people about them.
0:51:50.9 PA: What are your thoughts on the commercial interests? What are your thoughts on the corporatization and all the investment that's come in and how that's impacting the space?
0:52:00.1 AW: I'm amazed to see all the activity. Honestly, I don't know. I think some of these companies are just not gonna be there in the future that people have these dreams of making billions. I don't know that that's gonna play out.
0:52:11.7 PA: Well, a lot of the focus is on pharmaceuticalizing psychedelics. And as we've talked about today, if you try to stuff some of these things into an old model, a broken model, a healthcare system that just doesn't work for a lot of people, then they're likely gonna lose efficacy back to set and setting in the environment in which they're reduced, which is again, getting back to integrative health, integrative medicine and how psychedelics are a phenomenal tool to fit into that because of the set and setting, the container that's already set up for them in that way.
0:52:40.0 AW: Exactly.
0:52:42.1 PA: Well, Dr. Andrew Weil, it's been a pleasure and an honor to have you here. One last question, and then I'll let you get back to the dogs and some swimming. Have you read the Pharmako series by Dale Pendell?
0:52:58.5 AW: I have not. Tell me about it.
0:53:01.7 PA: Okay. It's phenomenal. It's a three-part series. I will send it to you after, in an email.
0:53:08.2 AW: Yes, please.
0:53:08.7 PA: It's a mythopoetic series. It's mythopoetic series.
0:53:11.2 AW: Great.
0:53:11.5 PA: He has three volumes, volume one, volume two, volume three. Volume one is about wine and beer and all these other plant medicines, cacao. Volume two is about kava. And then volume three is [0:53:26.6] Pharmako/Gnosis—it's about ayahuasca and iboga and LSD. And he has beautiful illustrations within them. He has poetry that's weaved in. He has all of these phenomenal, and it's just, especially for someone like you who's world is built around plants, that was just something that came up as I have to tell you about this because I think you would love it as a series.
0:53:48.0 AW: Please send that to me. I'd love to read that. And I would ask you to read The Natural Mind.
0:53:52.7 PA: I will absolutely read The Natural Mind. This has been a pleasure and an honor to interview you today. Thank you for taking an hour of your time to be on Third Wave's podcast. It really is an honor. So thank you so much for joining us.
0:54:06.8 AW: I enjoyed it and you're very welcome.
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