Fans of psychedelics weigh in on how plant medicines can combat anxiety

The recently conducted Spirit Plant Medicine Conference in Vancouver has speakers from U.S. and Canada talking about benefits of plant medicines


By Charlie Carey

The Spirit Plant Medicine Conference, despite being virtual this year, still had fans of psychedelic plants wanting to shake things up. 

Usually held at The University of British Columbia, the conference went virtual this year touching on all things plant medicine – with speakers mostly presenting on psychedelic flora and fungi. In an effort to diversify this historically white and male-driven commercial industry, conference speaker Zoe Helene has made it her business to challenge the status quo.

 “To me, diversity is exciting. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s also exciting for the movement itself.”

Coining the term “psychedelic feminist,” Helene started Cosmic Sister, an environmental feminist and educational advocacy group that has several projects running to support women in the psychedelic industry.

The Dank Duchess, who wouldn’t give her real name, is a hashish maker and artist and conference speaker from Oakland, Calif. She says she knows intimately how cannabis and psychedelics can be used to manage feelings of anxiety and depression during this time of prolonged isolation and protests over social justice.

“Now that we have found ourselves by ourselves and our usual life path has been disrupted, we’re forced to question who we are and why we are, and cannabis and psychedelics, I think, have a unique place to give us the space to be ourselves.”

With her own use of cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, Duchess says she has seen her own anxiety reduce. “CBD is very, very helpful for bringing a sense of calm to a situation. With anxiety a lot of times, it’s these recurring thoughts over and over and over, and CBD tamps that down.”

For many people though, plant medicines can overload the body’s nervous system and have the opposite intended consequence. 

Not everyone agrees.

Deboragh Varnel, practitioner and director of Transcendental Meditation for Women Centre in Coquitlam, B.C., says: “Sometimes the drugs aren’t very powerful, and then they are too much. If it’s too much of a load on the nervous system, then there’s a detrimental effect happening.” 

Varnel specialises in Transcendental Meditation, an “effortless practice” of transcending one’s consciousness. Varnel says it is one of three kinds of meditation practices and requires the least brain activity to accomplish. 

“It’s such a holistic practice. It brings peace, it brings integration of the mind and body, it allows the emotions to flow and it releases stress, which is really what people are experiencing during the pandemic.”

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