Plant medicines have grown massively in popularity over the last few decades. Lately, scientific research on the matter has begun to catch up. Early reports indicate that plant medicine offers a wide range of benefits ranging from greater life satisfaction to decreased symptoms of mental illness.
If you’re looking to experience plant medicine, your best choice is to embark on a plant medicine retreat. A retreat is a controlled environment – far safer than trying the medicine alone. A responsible retreat center will have protocols for receiving clients and measures to handle emergencies. They minimize your risk.
At Tandava, we have experience running plant medicine retreats at our center in Mexico. We made a guide to the 3 most relevant plant medicines to help you decide which one is best for you. We’ll discuss:
How Do Plant Medicine Retreats Work?
Plant medicine retreats depend somewhat on the type of medicine work you’re doing. However, there are many common threads between them. You’ll notice that these retreats are typically hosted in places like Costa Rica or Mexico, where authorities don’t regard plant medicine so harshly.
First off, plant medicines are not risk-free. Some individuals with a history of certain medical conditions or mental illnesses are advised not to work with certain psychedelic medicines. Most retreat centers will sit down with you beforehand to ensure that you’re not in a high-risk category, which varies from medicine to medicine.
Furthermore, pre-screening allows the retreat facilitator to build a container for your experience. That means they will discuss the best way for you to experience in-depth spiritual healing as a result of the medicine. In doing so, the facilitators will assess your personal journey and values.
The Retreat Center
Of course, plant medicine ceremonies always occur at the retreat center. This is also the location where you eat, rest, and pursue other activities in between your ceremonies. Usually, you’ll engage in meditation and light exercise in nature. The center is organized to make you feel as comfortable as possible throughout.
In essence, integration amplifies your experience with plant medicine. It allows you to derive meaning from your experience with a particular medicine. Some people believe they can work with a plant medicine once and not do anything to incorporate the experience. Those who do this usually end up forgetting their experience altogether. To understand why people work with plant medicines, you’ll need to perform the necessary inner work to integrate the experience.
Typically, your retreat facilitator will help you integrate by designing a container ahead of time and then discussing the experience with you afterward. All the new sensations and perceptions that plant medicine induces can be confusing without a professional to help you make sense of them all.
Important Criteria For Choosing Which Plant Medicine To Work With
The first step to picking out a plant medicine to work with is to take stock of your preferences and expectations. Of course, you’ll find out later if you have any misconceptions regarding these medicines, but you’ll need to evaluate which medicine corresponds best to your current position in life.
Your Personal Objectives
You have to question your reasons for wanting to work with plant medicines. Is it because you want to heal from some physical or emotional trauma? Perhaps you want to go deeper down the spiritual path. Spiritual awakening and healing are not mutually exclusive. However, certain medicines are better suited to one purpose or the other.
Introspection with plant medicines differs for everyone. Anecdotal reports suggest that 5-MeO-DMT is the best medicine to work with if you want to experience the feeling of rebirth. On the other hand, there is concrete research suggesting that psilocybin improves people’s self-insight.
Would You Prefer To Have A Group Experience Or A Private One?
You can have a group plant medicine experience at two levels. Firstly, you could choose to partake in a group retreat or a private retreat. Second, some group retreats have group ceremonies while others are private.
Your budget and personal preferences will dictate your choice. A group retreat will be far more affordable than a private one. And a group retreat with a group ceremony might be more affordable still. However, you need to consider whether you can realistically participate in a group ceremony and make the most out of the experience. During group ceremonies, it’s easy for others around you to derail your experience. Plus, you might not get all the attention you need from the facilitators because they could be tending to your peers.
By contrast, a private ceremony keeps all the focus on you. The retreat facilitators will maintain your energy levels and will tend to you immediately in the case of an emergency. Moreover, they can tailor the retreat to your preferences as much as you like.
Just because you opt for a private ceremony doesn’t mean you need to have a private retreat. If the medicine’s effects don’t last too long, it can be quite easy for the center to run a bunch of private ceremonies for a large group of people in succession. The great part about this setup is that you get to benefit from all the social connections one typically makes at a group retreat while still getting the advantages of a private ceremony.
How Much Intensity Can You Handle?
Simply put, some medicines are more intense than others. Not everyone wants to go through the purging that typically comes with Ayahuasca. Even if some people claim it’s not a big deal, we can understand why you wouldn’t want to engage in an activity that induces vomiting.
While some medicines are physically demanding, others can be quite demanding mentally. However, this is sometimes the burden you must take to acquire meaningful insight.
How Much Time Do You Have?
Retreats can last anywhere between a couple of days to a couple of weeks. With more intense medicines, it’s best to block a sizable chunk of time out since integration will take longer post-ceremony. Of course, you must consider what obligations you have in your daily life when you schedule the retreat.
Explore The Different Types Of Plant Medicine Retreats
There are numerous types of sacred plant medicine, but we’re going to focus on the 3 most common. Each type of retreat we discuss is often structured similarly. The main differences lie in the plant medicine ceremony, where the retreat facilitators must adapt to the medicine.
Better known as “magic mushrooms,” psilocybin is a plant medicine that often produces revelatory visions. You can find psilocybin mushrooms in many different forms across the world.
Psilocybin retreats will usually involve several different healing modalities including meditation and yoga. Oftentimes, retreat participants will take psilocybin in the middle of nature. However, this experience is usually conducted as a group rather than by oneself with a facilitator.
How psilocybin feels
During a psilocybin trip, time seems to slow down completely, as a result, the experience can feel far longer than it is in reality. Most importantly, Psilocybin helps people feel more connected to things external to themselves. The medicine opens your mind to new perceptions and sensations of an intensity otherwise unattainable during normal states of consciousness. Music becomes more melodic and colors become more vivid. Psilocin, the chemical compound that psilocybin produces in your body, is what triggers this response.
It is thought that people have been working with psilocybin since prehistoric times. Indeed, there is evidence of various tribes using mushrooms for spiritual practices around the world.
There are over 180 variations of mushrooms containing psilocybin. Because of how proliferated these mushrooms are across the world, several cultures have developed their own approach to working with the medicine.
The current approach
Psilocybin is probably the most liberally-regarded plant medicine in the world. Several jurisdictions in the West have already made psilocybin legal. For instance, California and the Netherlands. Consequently, most psilocybin retreats will take place in those areas. It’s for the best considering that they will have some standards and regulations that an overarching body will force them to adhere to.
We’ve already mentioned that the medicine will alter your consciousness. As such, you will begin to think more creatively. Many take psilocybin for this reason. You’ll be able to adopt a new philosophy or see things from a different point of view much more easily. This can increase your life satisfaction as you learn to appreciate what you have already. This feeling of gratitude and connection during the retreat is often referred to as “deep healing.”
While magic mushrooms are known as a party drug, the reality of this medicine is that it would be put to better use in a quiet setting that allows for contemplation. Given that psilocybin amplifies sensory experiences, a crowded, noisy nightclub is perhaps the last place you would want to experience this. You shouldn’t take a high dosage on your first attempt either, it won’t cause “ego death” as some claim, but the medicine has a different effect on everyone at the beginning so it’s better to take a small dosage at first.
Another aspect of psilocybin that many get wrong is the notion that the larger the psilocybin mushroom the more potent it is. However, since there are so many different strains of mushrooms with varying degrees of potency across sizes, we can’t say this belief is true.
Ayahuasca is a mixture of medicinal plants, it’s not a plant medicine by itself. Ayahuasca also goes by the name “DMT” and is likely one of the first psychedelics that people consider when they begin their journey with plant medicines.
Ayahuasca ceremonies usually take place in Central or South America. Hence, experienced shamans will run the ceremony, or at least, the retreat center will draw from shamanic practices.
How ayahuasca feels
Usually, Ayahuasca is a beverage that participants drink. The mixture is extremely potent and lasts 4 to 6 hours, though you won’t feel the effects until around 20-60 minutes after you drink it.
Since the psychedelic trip lasts so long, you’ll usually need to work with Ayahuasca in a group. As you know, that might take away from the quality of your experience. Although, you will still completely lose track of time as you would with other substances. The experience is extremely sense-heavy and hallucinatory.
As for the Ayahuasca trip itself, it’s generally thought that Ayahuasca shows you what you need to see at that moment. I.e., your own beliefs and preconceptions affect your experience greatly. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced facilitator before and after.
While there is concrete evidence of individuals experimenting with Ayahuasca dating back at least 1,000 years, people have probably been working with it for much longer. Shamans in pre-colonial South America seem to have been experimenting with Ayahuasca for thousands of years before that.
Fast-forward to the middle of the 20th century when doctors took notice of Ayahuasca and decided to study it themselves. While the subsequent prohibition of the medicine put an end to their work, their preliminary results indicated that Ayahuasca could help people cope with opiate addictions.
The current approach
Since Ayahuasca is made up of several different plant medicines, the medicine has more complexity than meets the eye. For example, Ayahuasca is also good for detox since it causes intense purging. This makes Ayahuasca ideal for those who are battling with addiction. The purging rejuvenates their bodily health while the DMT compound offers a fresh perspective in their minds.
Since Ayahuasca is one of the most popular psychedelics, you should be aware that many scammers have latched onto the medicine’s notoriety to create their own dubious retreats. You should research Ayahuasca retreats in-depth before choosing a retreat center, lest you fall prey to one of these scams.
Ayahuasca requires a lot of inner work beforehand to open your mind to the medicine. However, many are willing to do the work and as a result, they have been able to successfully cope with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction. We would like to emphasize the fact that Ayahuasca is particularly helpful in relieving past trauma as it will allow you to make peace with the harmful actions of others.
Since Ayahuasca goes by the name DMT, it is often confused with 5-MeO-DMT. Their names sound the same because they have similar chemical structures. The similarities end there. As you’ll soon find out, 5-MeO differs substantially from Ayahuasca.
If you’re looking for Cpiritual depth, 5-MeO-DMT produces some of the most profound insights that anyone can realize in any state of consciousness. 5-MeO-DMT doesn’t produce the same intense visions as the other two medicines we mentioned, but many experienced psychonauts have found that the medicine produces far more valuable insights once proper integration is applied.
How 5-MeO-DMT feels
Lasting between 10 and 45 minutes, a 5-MeO-DMT ceremony is far more compact. That said, you still won’t feel time pass just as you wouldn’t with the other medicines. Hence, it’s common to incorporate a private ceremony into a group experience. There is no need for the two to be mutually exclusive.
Throughout the 5-MeO ceremony, your facilitator should lie you down on a flat pad and observe you throughout. There is no need to intervene frequently, you only need to be guided through energy blockages should they arise.
Some might be surprised to hear that 5-MeO is a plant medicine considering it’s often associated with the Sonoran Desert Toad. Little did they know that 5-MeO was initially discovered in plants thousands of years ago. Its presence in toad venom was only discovered in recent decades.
The current approach
Lately, 5-MeO usage has shifted back towards plant medicines. Unfortunately, using toads to produce the medicine wound up depleting toad populations drawing the ire of conservationists in the United States. Also, note that synthetic 5-MeO is another common alternative to plant and toad medicines. The synthetic format is the easiest one to administer.
You can regard the benefits of 5-MeO from a spiritual or psychological standpoint. On the spiritual side, one might say that 5-MeO induces a sort of rebirth in the participant or even a so-called “merging with God”. These reports are anecdotal, we would generally say that the 5-MeO experience is difficult to describe, but it does prompt some enlightening new thoughts during and after the experience.
Regarding mental health, a 2019 study found that 5-MeO has delivered sustained enhancements in life satisfaction in most of the study’s participants. This might be the result of the increased neuroplasticity that the medicine engenders.
We mentioned that 5-MeO-DMT often comes in the form of synthetic medicine. Some detractors have pointed out that this is “unnatural” in comparison to toad or plant-based medicines. Since we’re experienced with 5-MeO-DMT, we must say that we haven’t noticed a difference between the quality of experience with synthetic or naturally occurring 5-MeO.
Decide Which Plant Medicine Is The Best For You
After reviewing the three major plant medicines listed, we can safely say that Psilocybin might be the best introductory medicine for those who are intimidated by psychedelics. Meanwhile, 5-MeO-DMT probably produces the most profound experience for those looking for intense introspection. Ayahuasca, on the other hand, might be best for those looking to overcome trauma or addiction.
That said, you shouldn’t assume that one medicine is limited to a single function. 5-MeO is perfectly good for overcoming trauma and psilocybin can be extremely profound. But when it comes time to commit to a plant medicine retreat, think of which medicine excites you the most.
Reach Out For More Info
At Tandava, we’re dedicated to promoting education in the field of plant medicine and psychedelics. You can read our blog to learn more, or contact us about 5-MeO retreats if you’re interested in personalized information.