In recent years, there’s been surging interest surrounding psychedelics, psychedelic research, micro-dosing, and the infamous plant medicine retreat.
And if you’re a fellow curious cat, you may have wondered about the differences between taking mushrooms on your own, like that one time at a Phish show, versus actually attending a retreat specifically for plant medicine.
In this article, I will share a brief history of plant medicine, the current day offerings of plant medicine retreats, my personal experience going on one of these retreats, and also tips on how to find a retreat that’s right for you, if you’re feeling called to do so.
Read on to learn more!
A Brief History of Plant Medicine
The use of plants as medicine has been around for thousands of years. While this type of medicine is thought to have been used some 60,000 years ago, the oldest written documentation about plant medicine dates back 5,000 years.
Some of the plants known to be used then include cannabis and poppies. Both contain the capability to heal and alter the user’s experience.
Today’s Plant Medicine Retreats
I first heard about plant medicine retreats two decades ago during a class on Shamanism at the University of New Orleans. A quick search of the web provides varying results on the definition of Shamanism, ranging from religion to experiences with spirits and cultural identity.
Shamans heal in many ways, and one of these is with plant medicine. However, instead of trekking into the South American jungle on a soul-searching expedition, one can simply search social media or the web for a plant medicine retreat of their choice.
Of course, specific laws stand in the way of what plants can actually be used in a particular location.
Plant medicine retreats are no longer hush hush experiences for only the well-traveled, Birkenstock-wearing individuals. This previously obscure experience is now a real possibility for even the most modern city dwellers.
Individuals interested in expanding their consciousness with the use of mind-altering plants still illegal in the states, can find a retreat in another location with the medicine of their choice. Even Gwyneth Paltrow has a Goop Lab episode on Netflix about her team’s experience at a plant medicine retreat in Jamaica.
Although I’d taken psychedelics before, I’d never done it under the instruction of a guide or in any type of ceremonial form.
Being a health professional with a degree in nutrition and education in cannabis, I was already a big fan of plant medicine. Tea, herbs, food, cannabis and even the occasional psilocybin micro-dose can be found in my repertoire of wellness when it comes to using plants.
Yet, I still craved experiencing plant medicine in the form of a guided retreat, filled with intention and surrounded by others on a similar, ritualized journey.
My Plant Medicine Retreat Experience
For my first plant medicine retreat, I decided to attend a long weekend event hosted by friends working in the wellness space. Although they’d hosted a handful of retreats by this point, I’d yet to attend one. And with this one falling on the March equinox, the beginning of spring, there was no way I could miss it.
Along with my wellness friends, the retreat was co-led by one of their old classmates, Sean Graves, who works in plant medicine. He’s hosted many events and guided countless individuals on their own healing journeys. Originally from New England, he gained training and insight from other healers in different cultures and countries.
We started the weekend with a vegetarian dinner, sipping cacao elixir, cleansing the space with some sage, and having a bit of rapé snuff blown up our noses. Pronounced “ha-peh,” rapé is finely ground tobacco mixed with other plants.
This type of snuff has been used medicinally for years among other cultures. I instantly swallowed it out of reflex and found myself in the bathroom soon after, purging the medicine and anything else ready to leave my body.
Our guided and ritualized psilocybin experience was held the next night after a day of yoga, meditation, breathwork and journaling.
Reflecting on that night is a kaleidoscope of colors, emotions and visions.
Everyone’s experience was different from the next. My evening was full of peace, white light, and soft conversation. However, some of my new friends were bundled in blankets, dueling with their demons, and sweating buckets in front of the wood-burning stove.
Others were bouncing around like kids ready to play. And some were living that night with an endless supply of tears flowing down their beautiful faces like leaky faucets.
As great as it was to live in the moment, I recorded much less of the weekend than I’d hoped.
Although we had our own journeys that weekend, we still came together as a community to hike, howl at the moon, and share what we were experiencing.
I left that weekend feeling settled, as if I’d been washed clean with my version of holy water.
Our last evening together consisted of taking turns showering each other with words of kindness and love, while writing these affirmations on the back of our recently painted art canvases.
The sensations and understandings I experienced that weekend came from a culmination of plant medicine, guided journeys, connection with nature, and love found in myself and with those in the house.
Looking back on the weekend, I learned and experienced many things, including:
- An increased sense of community even with those I’d just met
- A closer connection to nature and the earth
- A long-forgotten sense of peace and trust within myself
- Overwhelming love and beauty
- Dissolution of uncertainty and separateness I often feel in my everyday life
- Friendships for a lifetime
Reflections From My Plant Medicine Experience
I left that weekend feeling settled, as if I’d been washed clean with my version of holy water. Being guided during these experiences – the plant medicine, breathwork, yoga and more – made all the difference.
The experience would have been much less profound had I simply taken the medicine on my own or at a party-style event like I’d done in the past. The intention and ritualization involved left my consciousness aware and open to receiving any and all messages the weekend had for me.
It’s been a few months since my first plant medicine retreat, and thinking about it resurfaces an emotion I can only describe as joy. And joy was something that had been seriously lacking in my life on a regular basis for quite some time.
The Renaissance of Plant Medicine and Retreats
As popularity in psychedelic research continues to rise, accessibility and education about plant medicine retreats will become more mainstream.
Tim Ferriss, books like How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan, and many other influential individuals support and share the healing capabilities of psychedelics. MAPS, or the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is a fantastic resource for education, ongoing studies and the legalities of psychedelic research.
Interested In Attending Your Own Retreat? Consider The Following Factors
If you’re curious about attending a plant medicine retreat, consider the following factors:
- What are your expectations of the experience?
- Do you have the ability to travel?
- How much you can afford to spend?
- How is your current state of health – both mentally and physically? Do you have any possible contraindications, like medications or current illness?
- How is the reputation and safety of the facility you’re interested in?
Finding a plant medicine retreat center can help you to assess some of the above considerations. For example, Soltara Healing Center which specializes in ayahuasca, along with other plant medicine, has a specific intake protocol to ensure the safety of all of its guests. This includes a medical questionnaire and physical exam.
By exploring options for plant medicine retreats, you’ll find answers to information about location, cost, medicine used, ceremonies offered and what to expect. Consider reviews, testimonials and word-of-mouth when it comes to the reputation of a facility.
Regardless of whether it involves psychedelics or other types of plant medicine, or if you ultimately choose to start with a yoga retreat, there is a retreat offering out there for everyone who’s looking.
Moving Forward with Plant Medicine
With each trip, both in the plant medicine world and as aging human beings, we continue to learn more about ourselves and heal who we are as individuals and society.
And when it comes to healing, the power is not just on how plants impact the individual but can bring a community together. There’s a saying that nature always provides, and this certainly rings true when it comes to plant medicine retreats.