This glossary is not meant to be exhaustive, but to cover all the topics raised in the book – key topics that perhaps need more illumination here.

5-MeO-DMT: a psychedelic medicine of the tryptamine class so powerful that it was named “the God Molecule.” It is four to six times more powerful than DMT (the medicine found in Ayahuasca). Naturally, it can be found in a wide variety of trees and shrubs, often alongside DMT and bufotenine (5-HO-DMT), as well as one species of toad. The medicine has also been synthetically produced.

Addiction: a chronic dysfunction of the brain system involving a person craving a substance that helps the user escape discomfort and reality (typically from past trauma). The addiction can get even strong with a lack of concern over consequences. Addiction may involve the use of substances such as alcohol, inhalants, opioids, cocaine, and nicotine, or compulsive behaviors such as gambling, sex/cheating, shopping, eating.

Antidepressants: prescription drugs marketed as relieving the symptoms of depression; designed for short-term use, but many take for decades. Antidepressants are classified into different types depending on their structure and the way that they work, including: monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)

Anxiety: while a normal and necessary emotion, it is the most common mental illness diagnosed in the U.S., with approximately 1-in-8 Americans affected by some degree of excessive levels of nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry – generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Mild anxiety can be vague and unsettling while severe anxiety can have major impacts on daily living. Anxiolytics are used to treat symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Anxiolytics: prescription drugs used to treat various anxiety disorders and more commonly known as anti-anxiety medications or minor tranquilizers; they are thought to work on key chemical messengers in the brain, helping to decrease abnormal excitability. Some of the more frequently prescribed anxiolytics are benzodiazepines, including: alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan). Note: these drugs are habit-forming and can lead to dependency.

Ayahuasca: a psychedelic medicine that is known as the “vine of the soul.” It is prepared from the combination of the Ayahuasca vine and the leaves of the Chacruna shrub – both of which grow naturally in the Amazon in South America. Also called caapi, yaje, or yage, this DMT-infused tea has been used for healing and community for thousands of years, though traditionally, only the shaman (or healers) drank the tea. Drinking the tea causes altered states of consciousness, including visual hallucinations and altered perceptions of reality.

Bad Trip: No such thing. See: challenging trip.

Cannabis: a master plant that is worthy of study and medicinal use – one that can even have some psychoactive properties – though most experts do not consider cannabis to be a psychedelic. That said, research is discovering amazing benefits from cannabis, especially in relation to post-traumatic stress, inflammation, anxiety, pain, and sleep. (Other names associated with cannabis include hemp, CBD, marijuana, THC.)

Challenging Trip: many psychedelic journeys, especially at higher doses, are going to present some intense and challenging memories and images. We used to call these “bad trips” because recreational users (as well as anti-psychedelics propaganda) portrayed these experiences as fearful and dangerous – when in reality, we need to face these images for healing to occur. The more trauma you have experienced, the higher the likelihood of a challenging (but not bad) trip. It’s because some journeys can be challenging that many recommend people have support – of a clinician, facilitator, guide, tripsitter, or sober friend.

Controlled Substances Act (CSA): established a federal policy to regulate the manufacturing, distributing, importing/exporting, and use of regulated substances. The CSA was enacted by Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon into law in 1970. The law places all substances that are in some manner regulated under existing federal law into one of five schedules – based upon the substance’s supposed medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability. All psychedelics (many of which had proven medical benefits before the law went into effect) are currently illegal under the CSA, though new clinical trials may finally result in reclassification of several psychedelic medicines.

Default Mode Network (DMN): is a system of connected brain areas that show increased activity when a person is not focused on what is happening around them. When the brain is directed toward a task or goal, the default network deactivates. “Default mode” was first used by Dr. Marcus Raichle in 2001 to describe resting brain function. It’s been shown that psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, Ayahuasca, and others operate to significantly reduce activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN). This reduction in DMN activity functions as a kind of rebooting of the brain, and is thought to be linked to one of the most enduring therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances.

Depression: also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest – affecting how people feel, think, and behave – and which can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. New research is now questioning several of the major assumptions made about depression and the brain. Depression has traditionally been treated with prescription medications (antidepressants), talk-therapy (psychotherapy), or a combination of the two. Psychedelic medicines (particularly psilocybin and MDMA) are being studied for possible FDA approval for treating depression and so-called treatment-resistant depression.

DMT: N,N-Dimethyltryptamine is a psychedelic chemical that occurs naturally in many plants and animals, including human beings, and which is both a derivative and a structural analog of tryptamine. As DMT, this medicine is ingested in crystal form, smoked it in a pipe or bong, as well as vaporized – producing a powerful, but short-lasting hallucinogenic state, considered to be one of the most intense psychedelic experiences in existence. DMT is also the active hallucinogenic compound in Ayahuasca.

Ego Death/Dissolution: is a “complete loss of subjective self-identity” that occurs during higher-dosed psychedelic medicine journeys; it is the temporary loss of one’s sense of self. The feeling is usually captured by statements like “I felt at one with the universe” or “I lost all sense of myself.” Ego dissolution can help people incorporate less ego and more soul into their daily lives – providing better introspection and disrupting negative patterns of behavior. However, in some cases, instead of the ego shrinking (in relation to the immensity of the universe), the ego expands (feeding the shadow self).

Entheogen: a psychoactive, hallucinogenic substance or preparation (such as psilocybin, Ibogaine, or Ayahuasca) that results in transcendental experiences – especially when derived from plants or fungi and used in religious, spiritual, or ritualistic contexts. There now exist many synthetic drugs with similar psychoactive properties, many of which are derived from these plants. Chemist and botanical researcher Jonathan Ott is credited with coining the term, which literally means “God within us,” in 1979. Often used interchangeably with hallucinogens, psychedelics, psychotomimetics.

Facilitator/Guide: is a professional with specific training and experience to help guide a psychedelic journey. A facilitator/guide helps provide direction, safety (harm reduction), and security when working with psychedelic or altered states of consciousness. They provide a safe and secure “container” for the psychedelic experience – the structure and support to help focus on your journey – equipped and prepared to help unlock more powerful experiences or deeper truths, ensuring a safe and powerful experience.

Four Pillars of Safe Psychedelic Use: many experts recommend, especially for those first experiencing psychedelic medicines outside of clinical settings, these four elements be in place before starting any psychedelic journey. These pillars include: set (mindset), setting (location), sitter, and substance. One must have the proper intentions/mindset, in a comfortable and safe environment, being watched over by a sitter (or guide or facilitator), with knowledge of the purity and dose of the medicine to be consumed.

Hallucinogens: a diverse group of drugs that alter a person’s awareness of their surroundings as well as their own thoughts and feelings. They are commonly split into two categories: classic hallucinogens (such as LSD) and dissociative drugs (such as ketamine). Hallucinogens can be naturally extracted from plants or fungi (such as with Ayahuasca) or can be purely synthetic, produced chemically. Hallucinogens work at least partially by temporarily disrupting communication between chemical systems throughout the brain and spinal cord.

Heroic Dose: first coined by guru Terence Mckenna (an American ethnobotanist and mystic) in reference to consuming 5 grams of dry psilocybin mushrooms in a specific, isolated setting. However, as psychedelic medicines have become more popular, the term references a large dose across all the medicines – a dose large enough to result in a powerful and life-changing experience, including ego dissolution. It’s best to work with a clinician, coach, guide to get the best dosing for your situation.

Ibogaine: a naturally occurring psychoactive substance used for medicinal and ritual purposes in African spiritual traditions of the Bwiti religion in Gabon. It was first promoted as having anti-addictive properties in 1962 by Howard Lotsof, who was a heroin addict himself. In France, it was marketed as Lambarene and used as a stimulant. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also studied the effects of Ibogaine in the 1950s. It’s the most gnarly psychedelic and is primarily used in treating addiction to opiates and other highly-addictive drugs, though it is also becoming more common as a tool for personal transformation and spiritual development.

Icaros: Icaro means “song,” or more specifically, a sacred medicine song – typically used in traditional Ayahuasca ceremonies. Icaros are specific to certain regions and teachers/healers, and are sung in different languages. Icaros are seen as powerful tools that help with healing, calling on the healing properties of the plants.

Integration: tools used to help figure out how to incorporate the lessons learned from a psychedelic journey into your life… figure out how to heal from any previously unknown traumas, figure out what all the images you saw mean, what the whole experience means. People can do most of the integrating by themselves, contemplating all that they discovered in their journey; or, people can integrate with others – including hiring an integration coach. Integration is an ongoing process – and some would say a lifelong process. Learn more in Chapter 3.

Intention: a clear statement of your goals or motivations for your psychedelic journey. Intentions help keep us focused on that goal, even if/when a journey gets challenging. Intentions can be fairly open and general, such as “show me what part of me needs healing.” But intentions can also be very specific, such as “help me heal from my childhood sexual abuse” or “Help me break my addiction to alcohol.” Why bother with an intention, especially if the medicine will show you what it wants to show you? When you are intentional about something, you’re more focused, thoughtful, and in the here-and-now.

Journey: consuming a psychedelic medicine produces a temporary change in our mental and physical states, releasing us from old and limiting patterns of self-identification, and propelling us onward into odd and mystical experiences – what’s called a journey (and in hippie lingo, a trip). Each medicine has different aspects to a journey, including intensity and duration length, so conduct your research and know exactly what to expect on your journey – given the medicine and the dosage you plan to consume.

Ketamine: is a NMDA-based dissociative (which works by blocking NMDA receptors), and dates back to 1962 when it was first synthesized by American scientist Calvin Stevens at the Parke Davis Laboratories; it’s a medication primarily used for induction and maintenance of anesthesia. It induces dissociative anesthesia, a trance-like state providing pain relief, sedation, and amnesia – and is considered a hallucinogen – but not a classic psychedelic (such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT).

Lemon Tek Tea: a method of consuming magic mushrooms that can shorten the duration of a journey and decrease nausea, but can also make the whole experience more intense. It involves steeping dried mushrooms in lemon or lime juice before consumption – essentially cooking them as the citric acid breaks down the mushroom material. Find a detailed guide here:

LSD: Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a classical hallucinogen that was first produced in 1938 from a chemical (lysergic acid) derived from ergot, a fungus that infects grain, by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman. It is one of the most well-known psychedelic substances, used extensively in therapy in the 1960s – as well as by the hippie counter-culture. It is considered one of the “least harmful drugs” – second only to psilocybin. The active component of LSD interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain, just like psilocybin and DMT (the active component in Ayahuasca).

Macrodosing: Consuming a large enough dose of a psychedelic medicine to have a hallucinogenic experience – the typically profound, classic psychedelic journey. A macrodose tends to result in drastic perceptual, cognitive, and emotional changes. A macrodose could be anywhere between a threshold dose – the dose at which perceptual changes just become noticeable – and a heroic dose, where one often has deep and intense effects – such as ego death/dissolution.

Magic Mushrooms: See Psilocybin.

MAPS: Founded in 1986, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a nonprofit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and cannabis. Founded by Rick Doblin, MAPS has raised more than $130 million for psychedelic research and education over the course of the past 35 years, leading the way in MDMA-assisted therapy research.

MAOI: Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are an older type of antidepressant and anxiolytic medications (such as Marplan, Nardil, and Parnate) that have largely been phased out by newer drugs with fewer side effects, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In nature, MAOIs are known to “activate” the DMT in Ayahuasca. Plants to avoid, unless you want a much more intense and longer journey, include Syrian rue; yohimbe (also known as quebrachine); and passionflower. MAOIs interact with numerous other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including certain anesthetics, painkillers, migraine medications, sedatives, antihistamines, antidepressants, sleeping pills, and allergy meds.

MDMA: First synthesized by Merck in 1912 – from an oily liquid extracted from the sassafras tree’s bark or fruit – producing 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine. It produces a heart-opening, euphoric feeling (because it is an entactogen) that begins about 45 minutes after ingestion, and lasts 3-6 hours (unless you also consume a booster). Other benefits include increased energy levels, improved mood, sharper mental clarity, and reduced anxiety. Note: MDMA is not the same as the street drugs Ecstasy or Molly, both of which contain MDMA as the active agent but may also contain unknown – and sometimes dangerous – cutting agents or adulterants.

Meditation: A mind-body practice used by many people, often as part of integration practices with psychedelic medicine experiences. Meditation, which has been used for thousands of years, focuses on developing an intentional focus of thought – while blocking out the noise and random thoughts that often enter our minds – keeping focus on breathing. It can help us lower stress and blood pressure levels, help us be more connected to a higher power, and improve our abilities to focus.

Mescaline: a naturally occurring, gentle, and heart-opening psychedelic protoalkaloid found in certain cacti (best known are the peyote and San Pedro/Huachuma), and known for its hallucinogenic effects, which are comparable to those of LSD and psilocybin. Mescaline became a “thing” when Aldous Huxley took the medicine for the first time in the 1950s and wrote a series of essays that was then published in book form with the title The Doors of Perception.

Microdosing: consuming a tiny fraction (5-10 percent) of a full dose of a psychedelic medicine, allowing many of the benefits of the medicine to be utilized without the hallucinogenic (psychedelic) experience. While research has been mostly anecdotal, we are seeing studies that suggests that microdosing can bring about some of the benefits observed with full-dose treatment without causing the intense and sometimes negative hallucinatory experiences. For others, microdosing is also used as a tool for gently “getting to know” a psychedelic medicine before deciding to complete a macrodose journey.

Neuroplasticity: is the ability of neural networks in your brain to change through growth and reorganization – in response to life experiences – creating new neurons and building new networks. Old thinking had the brain cease growing/learning at the end of childhood. Emerging research suggests that there’s a clear link between psychedelics and neuroplasticity, and that using psychedelics may help you make long-term, positive changes to your brain. Your brain actually has increased neural plasticity when consuming psychedelics, providing an opportunity to make significant changes to your life that may last a long time.

Post-Traumatic Stress: a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a serious, deadly, shocking, scary, or dangerous event in which people’s fight or flight response is extremely exaggerated, resulting in being triggered into extreme action from sometimes innocuous situations. PTS, or PTSD as it is often referred to, can happen to anyone in almost any situation. We mostly attribute PTSD to veterans and first responders, but anyone facing a traumatic situation can experience PTSD. Psychedelics seem to be a breakthrough protocol for reducing, eliminating PTS.

Psilocybin: a naturally occurring psychedelic produced by more than 200 species of fungi, and which have been used for as many as 10,000 years – maybe even longer. Hallucinogenic mushrooms – so-called Magic Mushrooms – include species that contain psychedelic substances, including psilocybin; these mushrooms can be found across the globe: 53 are found in Mexico, 22 in the United States and Canada, 19 in Australia and the surrounding islands, 16 in Europe, 15 in Asia, and 4 in Africa… though new species are still being discovered.

Psychedelic: a mental state induced by certain compounds, and characterized by a profound sense of intensified sensory perception, sometimes accompanied by severe perceptual distortion and hallucinations and by extreme feelings of either euphoria… or despair. These medicines work by stimulating, suppressing, or modulating the activity of various neurotransmitters in the brain, which causes a temporary chemical imbalance in the brain, leading to hallucinations and other effects. The term psychedelic, first coined by British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond, is composed of the Greek term psyche (soul, spirit, mind) and dēlos (to manifest, to reveal) … thus it translates into “soul manifesting” or “spirit revealing.”

Psychonaut: a label used to describe people who regularly seek out and take psychedelic journeys deep into their consciousness – usually at higher-than-average doses. Like the term psychedelic, the roots of psychonaut come from the Greek – with the prefix psyche meaning spirit, soul, or mind, while the suffix naut pertains to sailing; therefore, a common definition of a psychonaut is a “sailor of the soul.” Less about healing and more about exploring and understanding, these people deliberately enter altered states of consciousness to explore the hidden depths of the human psyche.

Purging: a term used in psychedelics that refers to the release of bad energy, bad memories, bad thoughts. It is the process of eliminating energy, emotions, and trauma from the body – whether via traditional bodily experiences (vomiting and defecation, especially with Ayahuasca) or other purging, such as laughing, yawning, chanting, crying, shaking, sweating, and hacking. Not all people purge – and most certainly people purge in different ways – and even in different ways depending on the medicine.

Rapé (Snuff): also known as shamanic snuff, it is a specific type of tobacco used in some sacred ceremonies, and that is distinct from the type of tobacco that is found in cigarettes. And unlike cigarettes, this type of tobacco is not typically smoked. Instead, most people snuff the compound into their noses.

Set & Setting: a phrase used to emphasize one of the key tenants related to the consumption of psychedelic medicine – and made famous in the early 1960s by Dr. Timothy Leary, a psychologist who spent his career advocating for the benefits of psychedelic drugs. Set describes the mental preparation one needs to do for a psychedelic experience; it deals with getting your mind in the right space – the right mindset for a healing journey. Setting deals with having a safe and comfortable place to experience a psychedelic journey. The more time you spend with getting set and setting correct, the less likely you will experience a challenging (“bad”) trip.

Shadow Self: a term made popular by Swiss Psychoanalyst Carl Jung, in which he theorized that personality can be separated into ‘that which we are conscious of – the ego – and elements ‘that which we are unconscious of – the shadow self. Have you ever felt you have worn a mask or been like a chameleon to fit into certain situations? That’s your shadow – and Jung believed that to have a more fulfilling life, the shadow must be integrated with the conscious… brought into the light. Psychedelic medicines have a way of stripping through all the layers and dark shadows and allowing us to see and address and heal our shadows. In most cases, that results in a reduction of ego, but in some cases, the ego can actually be greatly enhanced.

SSRI: a class of prescription drugs that are meant to work on making more serotonin available, but new research is questioning what actually causes depression – and that SSRIs are not the solution. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and other psychological conditions. SSRIs are one type of antidepressant; other types include tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – all designed to relieve the symptoms of depression.

Tripsitter: sometimes known as a sober sitter, it is a term used in psychedelics to describe a person who remains sober to ensure the safety of the person taking a psychedelic journey – someone who sits with the person while they are under the influence the medicine. A tripsitter is with you both for harm reduction (to protect you), as well as for helping handle anything that might disrupt the setting (such as keeping the music going, getting drinks or snacks, answering the door/phone). Compare to guide/facilitator.

Trauma: a disturbing or hurtful event or experience that often results in pain, shame, guilt, fear, anger – especially if the trauma is not addressed. Trauma can come in many forms, from major traumas (such as physical and psychological abuses) to minor traumas (such as the withholding of love or safety). It’s clear, even from the early research, that psychedelics can be an invaluable tool for healing all types of trauma, but especially deep psychological emotional traumas that have been suppressed for years. Recommended reading: Dr. Gabor Mate’s The Myth of Normal and Dr. Paul Conti’s Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic.

Treatment-Resistant Depression: a term used in clinical psychiatry to describe a condition where standard depression treatments are not enough; it refers to people with major depressive disorder who do not respond positively to a course of appropriate antidepressant medication and talk-therapy within a certain time. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may require trying a number of approaches to identify what helps – including psychedelic medicines.

Tryptamines: are a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the brain that is derived from tryptophan and can be converted into other neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and melatonin. Tryptamine psychedelics – including LSD, psilocybin, and DMT – are also labeled as psychotomimetic, hallucinogenic, psychedelic, or entheogenic; they result in shifts in perception, ego-death, and introspection.