Entheogens have been used for thousands of years by indigenous cultures all around the world as a means to connect with and engage in spiritual development and ceremonies. The use of entheogens is known as entheogen plant medicine and, as recent scientific studies have shown, bears some positive effects when it comes to treating people with depression or anxiety. As more time passes and more research is conducted, who knows what beneficial traits and applications can be found regarding the various entheogens out there.
For individuals interested in learning more about entheogens and exactly what they do, stay tuned. This article explores everything there is to know about the term “entheogen” including background information and a review of the most common types as well as how they work.
What Is An Entheogen?
An entheogen, bluntly put, is a psychoactive substance that is used in various spiritual and religious ceremonies, however, in a broader sense, entheogens could be applied to various other drugs, artificial or natural, that induce altered states of consciousness that are reminiscent of the traditional entheogens to use in ceremony.
The term entheogen was adopted because both terms “hallucinogen” or “psychedelic” was somewhat misleading and installed negative associations in most people’s minds. The term “hallucinogen” poses too many similarities in its etymological relationship to words like delirium and insanity while the term “psychedelic” sounds eerily similar to the term psychosis. In other words, the term “entheogen” can be used interchangeably with the terms hallucinogen and psychedelic, in modern times, but more specifically refers to the substances that are commonly used in spiritual and religious ceremonies.
Because of recent medical trials and scientific research, it has been suggested that entheogens, like psilocybin, can kickstart or break the cycle in the specific brain processes that are present in people with depression. Entheogens are considered to be safe to consume under the use of proper supervision while in a controlled environment. However, it should be noted that, in certain doses, some of these substances could become toxic or even lethal.
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The Most Common Entheogens & How They Work
Tons of entheogens exist both naturally and artificially, across the globe with varieties that exist in certain locations while others, like cannabis, have spread to global popularity and consumerism. Although the stance around the world regarding the treatment of these entheogens varies with some countries monitoring strict control over the substances, these substances have remained staples in various indigenous cultures around the world while some garnered special medical attention and investigation. Below are four of the most common entheogens as well as a discussion into how they work and how they are used in a spiritual or religious ceremony.
Cannabis is probably the most well-known and prevalent entheogen, especially in modern times. Due to the rising of acceptance towards this plant and the changing laws around the world, the accessibility of cannabis has skyrocketed and provided many people with a means to treat various medical conditions while also providing a pleasant recreational experience. Cannabis is commonly used for recreational, medical, and spiritual purposes as this substance provides a high that can reduce anxiety and allow an individual to be more mindful and in-tune with their emotional and spiritual state.
Although there are over 500 chemical components to marijuana, the two most well-known and common are (tetrahydrocannabinol) THC and (cannabidiol) CBD. THC is the component responsible as the primary psychoactive chemical while CBD is commonly used to provide pain relief and treat various medical concerns.
Ayahuasca is a unique entheogen as this substance is a conglomeration of numerous plants that are found within the Amazon basin containing psychedelic properties. The prominent psychoactive substance found in ayahuasca is known as N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which is extremely potent; however, once it interacts with the human body it is almost immediately neutralized by substances in the digestive system. With the makeup of ayahuasca, the inclusion of the caapi vine in the concoction allows for the DMT to take effect.
DMT, unlike other hallucinogens, is extremely potent and is known to trigger powerful psychological and emotional reactions that can be viewed as either positive or negative. Most people report that taking ayahuasca provided life-changing experiences for them and can be used to benefits those who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even addiction.
It should be noted that ayahuasca trips should be reserved under the supervision of an experienced shaman or host as the experience could be dangerous without a guide or support.
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance that is found in various species of fungi for over 200 years. It is believed that psilocybin has been used for hundreds of years by ancient, indigenous cultures like the Mayans or the Aztecs to induce a trance-like state that facilitated divination rituals and produced visions. Although psilocybin is a substance that is banned in various places around the world, specifically the United States, there have been recent revelations into the fact that psilocybin is effective in treating people with depression or anxiety. Psilocybin also poses to be a significant benefit in producing long-term benefits in those who suffer from depression by helping to restructure thought more constructively.
Micro-dosing is a common practice when it comes to psilocybin, however, it will not produce psychoactive effects, instead, it will help to increase creativity and focus. Psilocybin is one of many entheogens that produce strong hallucinogenic effects and should be handled with caution.
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Mescaline is a psychoactive substance that is found in a particular family of cacti that are native to certain parts of America. The family of cacti includes peyote, San Pedro, and Peruvian torch varieties which have been used for hundreds of years by Native American ceremonies, and by indigenous peoples to treat various ailments. The most common form of mescaline is powder, however, it can also be found in a capsule or liquid form.
Mescaline is a very potent hallucinogen that is known to produce emphatic feelings to help provide a space for self-exploration. Some people experience visual effects which can take the form of geometric shapes, patterns, or colors. It should be noted that of all the natural sources, the peyote cactus is the species with the highest concentration of mescaline.