Ben Greenfield is a biohacker, human body and brain performance coach, ex-bodybuilder, Ironman triathlete, professional Spartan athlete, anti-aging consultant, speaker and author of the New York Times Bestseller “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life”. Ben's newest books are Boundless and Fit Soul.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine? What are some of the common misconceptions?
I believe that people need to understand that, despite the fact that psychedelics are, right now, painted in, arguably, a very favourable light, as kind of the holy grail of the next frontier of medicine when it comes to everything from trauma, to depression, to cognitive performance. They are not without their own perils and dangers.
They do interact with serotonin, with dopamine, with neurotransmitters, and receptors in the central nervous system, and also in the gut in a manner that requires them to be approached with the same amount of respect, careful consideration, and research as any other medication or pharmaceutical drug or compound that one might consume. So, in the same way that St. John's Wort flower extract can interact pretty heavily with serotonin and act very similarly to a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, potentially causing neurotransmitter imbalances or elements very similar to something like serotonin syndrome.
The same could be said of LSD or psilocybin or czuba, or Ibogaine, or anything else that one might turn to as a psychedelic fix. So, the future is bright, but do not assume that because the future is bright, and because these things are championed in such a positive light, that they are without risk. They can indeed make one's life better. They have indeed made my own life better, particularly via the use of infrequent journeys, such as on a quarterly basis, and also more frequent microdosing. Yet, I still think that one needs to take caution.
I think probably one of the biggest issues I see is a lack of proper preparation and integration. Meaning, a lot of times people will turn to psychedelics as a quick fix, and not do much of the hard work of journalling, therapy, talk and integration afterwards. I think that anyone, especially who's going into a more hefty psychedelic journey, should ensure that they've done the hard work beforehand. I think that often could include something that does not involve plant medicine, but that instead involves fasting, meditation, prayer, a digital detox, extraction from a lot of the things that detract us from mindfulness, particularly technology, information-overload, media, and just the hubbub of modern life.
I think by extracting oneself from that scenario, and going out into something like wilderness immersion, or a five day fast, or a deep bout of something very similar to a sabbatical, where one steps away from work for a certain period of time, and just immerses oneself in mindfulness and meditation and breath-work and fasting; I think that many people would experience the same type of breakthroughs as they get from psychedelics by doing something like that.
I think that type of hard work should be incorporated into one's life before one turns to psychedelics as a quick fix, because I found that the people who do the hard work that I've just described, and then use psychedelics as a supplement to that, or as the icing on the cake, tend to see a lot better results versus the people who just pop pills with no actual results.
Can you share a bit about the science that made you first curious about psychedelics and the impact they could have in your own personal life? Was there one thing that grabbed your attention or was it a gradual process of discovery?
Well, as a supplement formulator and the owner of a supplements company, Qian; as a guy who is educated in physiology, human nutrition, and pharmacology in a university setting; and someone who does quite a bit of advising in the nutrition in the diet space; I found the pharmacology and the molecular interaction of a lot of these compounds in the human body to be absolutely fascinating.
I had actually studied up on a lot of the pharmacology, the mechanism of action and the impact, particularly on the nervous system, of these compounds prior to actually trying any of them myself. I had not tried a single psychedelic including marijuana until I was about 30 years old. I began to use cannabis and found that to be incredible for creativity and also for social ability and relaxation at the end of the day. Then I experimented with a wide variety of compounds from the time I was 30 up until now. I'm 38 years old.
From Ibogaine to psilocybin to a variety of different lysergamides, like LSA and LSD, to Huachuma, San Pedro, to a lot of synthetic derivatives of DMT, as well as DMT and Ayahuasca, it's more natural form. All the way down to very simple use of things like snuffing hapé.
How do you see psychedelics as a tool for personal growth and spiritual experiences?
I've found that, over the years of using these types of compounds, both macro doses and micro doses, that the impact on my own personal life has been pretty profound.
I engage in a quarterly plant medicine journey with my wife, in which we have our own solo journey, which is following a dieta for about a week: alcohol and marijuana abstinence, and a very simple and clean diet. Then, we drop into our own personal space, have our own personal journey, overseen by a facilitator, and then come together facing each other in bed, re-administer medicines, and journey together in a heart opening setting. We found that to be deeply impactful for our spiritual connection, for our relationship; for truth, transparency, and honesty in our relationship. When we integrate the discussions that we have during that ceremony, in that setting, and take that forward into our day-to-day life that occurs afterwards.
It's absolutely transformative and we always follow up a journey like that with about three days of quiet time by ourselves: walking together, journaling together, talking together, and taking a lot of the things that we've discussed during our journey and deciding how we're going to implement those from personal level, on a spiritual level, in our own relationship with our family and friends.
In your own experiences, how has microdosing helped you and what have been some of the things you have learned from your own trial and error?
The other area in which I found psychedelics to be particularly impactful has been micro dosing. I currently microdose, with something that could be described as very similar to a lysergamide, about one-to-two days of the week, particularly days in which I require more focus and productivity. On another one to two days a week, I will microdose with something very similar to the standard stack of psilocybin and blood flow precursors, such as niacin and lion's mane. This would be for creative writing tasks, for nature immersion, hikes, paddleboarding, for a deeper sensory connection in nature, etc...
I've even used these types of compounds to increase sensory awareness when hunting.
Then finally, I'll use, sometimes in a social setting, or when I'm on a date with my wife, etc, a little bit more of a heart opening compound, like a micro dose of Yuma, for example, or San Pedro. I found that to also be quite helpful for increasing overall social mobility and, also, to have a little bit of a heart opening effect, particularly for things like excursions with my wife or a date night or something like that. I also do some micro dosing ketamine, particularly for sex, or macro dosing with larger amounts of ketamine via lozenge for bodywork therapy, because it's a general muscle relaxant. I found that to be quite useful for massages, and I'll do that on a sound healing table; dose with ketamine and then get a long 2-3 hour massage while I listen to very good music. There's some great tracks on Spotify from the Johns Hopkins foundation and also a few other good tracks that pair quite well with ketamine and I found that to be a kind of treat every couple of weeks for bodywork and body therapy.
What do I see psychedelics and micro dosing playing a role in people's lives?
Well, I do think that, when used responsibly, and, when used in a manner in which one is taking frequent breaks from them to ensure that there is no sensitization to such compounds, for cognitive performance, for focus, for merging of the left and right brain hemispheres, for things like creativity and problem solving, for focus, for productivity, and even for social outings, that microdosing can really enhance one's life.
If one is careful with dosing, and with frequency of use, they can actually, very similar to other supplements and superfoods, enhance health or enhance cognition, very similar to the realm of nootropics and smart drugs. I think that these things can be incredibly effective. And I think they are some of the more powerful cognitive performance enhancers (nootropics and smart drugs) that one could use, compared to, say, the family of Racetams or Lion's Mane extract or Choline extracts or lithium, nicotine, caffeine; a lot of these things that people use to enhance cognition, I think can be supplemented along with something like a psychedelic, or a psychedelic can be used on its own to be able to enhance the effects of a lot of these things.
How do I see psychedelics becoming a part of the future of wellness and health care?
I mean, honestly, I just had a great discussion with David Rabin on my podcast in which we talked about that and how they could fit in a proper set and setting, especially when overseen by a medical practitioner or even when using telemedicine via an app and a series of, of musical tracks and the oversight of a digital or virtual practitioner. I think that they can be enormously helpful in helping people get through personal issues, trauma, depression, etc.
For me, personally, like I alluded to earlier, I don't consider them to be something that one should rely upon as a crutch. I think many times they are used as almost like an addictive escapism route to be able to run from one's problems and to be able to disconnect from reality, when in fact, I feel that they they should be used in conjunction with journaling, with personal dietas, with a lot of the hard work that goes into into true permanent, personality changes. It's pretty rare to see psychedelics work on their own and I think that's the biggest issue. People just want to pop a pill and not do the hard work.
Am I personally investing in or partnering with any psychedelic focused companies?
Yeah, I've invested in field trip health. I have a wide variety of cannabis investments, both in Canada and in the USA; in the realm of edibles, and in cannabis extracts, as well as some CBD companies. Examples of that would be Botanica Seattle, which does a wide variety of amazing edibles that are often mixed with different herbs to enhance the efficacy of the cannabis. Aurora cannabis up in Canada was an early investment of mine, which did quite well. Another one is BioCBD, which has a great water soluble extract of CBD combined with tumeric and some other compounds, particularly for athletes and for recovery. They're based out of California.
So, I've got a few investments in cannabis and CBD and also in Field Trip Health, which is primarily focused on ketamine therapy, and, hopefully, eventually, psilocybin therapy. They've even developed a synthetic alternative to psilocybin that could be a novel molecule that can be used for psilocybin-esque therapy.
Is there someone doing important work in the world of psychedelics that you think more people should be aware of?
There's a lot of folks out there, but I think my own personal facilitator. He's working with a wide variety of both Native American and Amazonian medicines and using them in some pretty impressive stacks, along with combining those with synthetics for an experience unlike any that I've ever had. I don't want to name him in this interview, but I can tell you that the wide variety of compounds that he uses, in the way that he stacks them, is quite impressive.
It's also quite impressive that despite not having a background in science or medicine, he has actually developed a lot of these therapies through what has been revealed to him through a sacred intelligence type of experience, through his own journeys. He's the guy that I do a lot of my work with my wife with and who I do a lot of my micro dosing protocols with. Although I don't want to name him, he's certainly someone who has played a great and wonderful role in my life.
I think that there are also some great medical-focused companies. Wild Health Medical Network would be one example of a group of physicians who I think is really beginning to integrate psychedelics into their medical practice and into their physician's education programs. I think they're going to be training a lot of really good physicians who can use psychedelics as part of both a modern allopathic, and also an ancestral approach to medicine. They do a lot of self quantification as well.
I'm also quite excited about the potential of combining a lot of bio hacks with plant medicine. What I mean by that is, I would love to see clinics begin to pop up that will allow for administration of something like plant medicine but have really good things before and after to stave off a lot of the neural inflammation. Some of these medicines can cause the same amount of neural inflammation, as a traumatic brain injury or concussion and, so, should be taken with things like vitamin C, glutathione, molecular hydrogen, fish oil, ketones and ketosis, magnesium and five HTP and N.A.D, leading up to and after a journey.
Then also utilizing bio hacks like photobiomodulation, hyperbaric oxygen, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, or a lot of wearables such as sound therapy. I've named David Rabin's, Apollo Neuro, but also things like bio-acoustic mats or other things like PMF mats along with essential oils or hapé nasal sprays - things that can really, really enhance the effects of a full plant medicine experience. Even peptides, to do things like clear calcification of the pineal gland, like Penialon, or to manage neural inflammation post journeys, such as BPC-157.
A lot of these things, there's no clinic that I know of that's using this full broad-spectrum approach to stack all these different supplements and compounds along with bio hacks, pre and post-journey, to not only enhance the journey, but also allow someone to recover faster to decrease neural inflammation.
That's something I would love to see emerge is a really good clinic that merges modern science and biohacking along with a lot of the ancestral wisdom of plant medicine. I'm very excited about the prospect of those types of clinics emerging. That's the type of advising that I would like to do for companies that are interested in incorporating those type of things.