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An Ethnopharmacologist on Hallucinogens, Sex-Crazed Cicadas, and More | Dennis McKenna

Dennis McKenna — An Ethnopharmacologist on Hallucinogens, Sex-Crazed Cicadas, The Mushrooms of Language, BioGnosis, and Illuminating Obscure Corners | Brought to you by Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement (, Eight Sleep’s Pod Pro Cover sleeping solution for dynamic cooling and heating (, and Shopify global commerce platform, providing tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business (

Show notes:

0:00 Intro
2:34 How Dennis and his brother Terence tuned in to “vegetable television” with the addition of an ayahuasca ingredient to their regular consumption of mushrooms and cannabis, and why even the components of tried-and-true ayahuasca are in constant flux depending on who’s making it.
09:15 Why is it that psychoactive drugs don’t always work — even in people who usually feel their effects — and what keeps us from finding out through controlled studies?
18:06 As much as Dennis has experimented with adding and subtracting ingredients to various psychoactive admixtures, he’s come to believe it’s best to avoid combinations if possible. There are often alternative ways to dial the effects of these substances up or down as desired.
25:20 Why would we have cannabinoid, opiate, and other molecular receptors in our brains unless we’re designed to consume these substances from external sources?
32:54 Tales of terror from the world of psilocybin cicadas, cordyceps zombies, and toxoplasmic rodents.
38:56 Dennis shares his thoughts on psychedelics as a potential treatment for dyslexia and other language-based disorders.
46:49 What happened to Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell after having his savikalpa samadhi experience — a mystic glimpse beyond the self into the true nature of things? Does Dennis believe current psychedelic pioneers are misguided in downplaying the mystical experiences certain compounds bring out in people?
51:17 For anyone curious about Albert Hofmann’s discovery of LSD, Dennis recommends the graphic novel Bicycle Day by Brian Blomerth.
52:31 My recommended resources for learning more about the perceptual phenomenon of synesthesia.
54:36 What ESPD 55 entails: its history, its itinerary, and how you can participate even if you can’t physically make it to the conference in the UK from May 23rd to the 26th.
1:07:43 How does Dennis relate to mortality and the inevitability of death?
1:11:12 What is BioGnosis?
1:13:34 How does Dennis feel about synthetic substitutes for psychedelic compounds that have been traditionally harvested from natural — and often endangered — sources? What adaptations might groups who see these plants as sacred have to make to ensure that some of them don’t go extinct?
1:25:57 Most communities of any size eventually have to deal with in-fighting and power grabs from a certain element, and the psychedelic community is no exception. Can Dennis imagine any solutions to this unfortunate reality?
1:35:58 What would Dennis choose if he could only partake of three psychoactive substances for the rest of his life?
1:37:45 The pros and cons of cannabis consumption and its methods of delivery, and how modern strains can induce experiences akin to psychedelics.
1:44:35 What we can expect from an upcoming second edition of The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss, The BioGnosis Project (and its first associated documentary [to be screened at ESPD 55]), virtualizing the Herbarium in Iquitos, and other parting thoughts.

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