Sitting on their yoga mats in a candle lit room in Boulder, CO, students hold their hands out as Red Wiggler worms slither across the marma points of their palms (energy points in the body). The worm’s bio slime activates these points, and the vermicompost (worm excretions) contain a bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, that has been found to release serotonin in the brain, the chemical that makes us feel happy and relaxed—and connected to the ganja plant medicine.
The essence of Ganjasana—a Cannabis Yoga ceremony developed by Rachael Carlevale, who aims to revive the ancient practice of working with plant medicine in body, mind, and spirit, just as our ancestors did thousands of years ago—is to harness a deeper understanding, from soil to flower. Seeing ganja as a sentient being, we can heal through these symbiotic relations. When we feel and know the life in the soil, we begin to understand our purpose, and connection to nature by becoming allies with the natural world. Carlevale developed the practice from the roots of her own experience, healing her body from cancer through the cultivation of cannabis and the practice of yoga. Ganjasana aligns regenerative cannabis “Ganja” (from the Sanskrit word Ganjika) with sacred yoga methods “Asana” and is founded on the ethics of Permaculture—earth care, people care, fair share.
Plants arrived on Earth many years before us humans, and they hold inherent knowledge—if we can learn to quiet our minds enough, we will be able to listen. Our minds are constantly running. We have a chatter, chitta, that through mindfulness practices, we can learn to quiet and bring a stillness to truly become present. Mindfulness, by definition means to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. We can powerfully become aware of this present moment and find gratitude in the now when intentionally working with cannabis.
Carlevale emphasizes the fact that the ganja plant is the true teacher, and her purpose is to simply hold space—a safe container to explore and deepen these cannabis plant spirit connections. Enlightenment is not something we attain, rather a remembering of divine wisdom that is fundamentally held within our DNA. It is a peeling away of all the influences that prevent us from living in our highest truth.
She has the students hold up a fan leaf, the wide nutritious part of the plant whose function is to harness the energy of the sun through photosynthesis. She instructs the students to speak to the plant, to whisper their intentions, sankalpa, their questions. She instructs participants to actively use their senses—sight: gaze and contemplate all of the energy it took to create the ganja plant; touch: to notice the various textures and parts of the leaf; smell: to take in the aromatic compounds; and to listen. Putting the leaf up to their ears, the students refine their awareness to hear the messages of the ganja plant spirit.
Ganjasana aligns regenerative cannabis “Ganja” (from the Sanskrit word Ganjika) with sacred yoga methods “Asana” and is founded on the ethics of Permaculture—earth care, people care, fair share.
Cannabis has shown up as a holy sacrament in many cultures across the world. The oldest mention of cannabis is in the ancient Vedas, sacred Hindu texts from India, which state that Shiva is known as the Lord of Bhang, a cannabis elixir. Sadhus, Holy Yogis from India, have been pairing the sacred cannabis plant with yoga, and Ganjasana seeks to revive this ancient tradition.
Ceremonies are designed to deepen alignment of body, mind, and spirit with the master cannabis plant thro-ugh the practices of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. “We value the most ecologically conscious, sustainable, and safe cannabis pairings with our yoga practice. We believe in medicine of the purest form, that goes beyond organic cannabis that aims to not only be sustainable, but regenerative in nature; grown through permaculture styles, and biodynamic living systems. In order to deepen connection with plant spirit, in respect for ourselves, our community and our environment, it is vital that no chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides are used in the growing process.” Carlevale explains. Ganjasana serves regenerative cannabis, and designs ceremonies around a specific genetic cultivar to keep the container of the ceremony and participants on the same plane.
Mindfully consuming, starting with slow and small solutions, helps to cultivate a positive, legal, and meaningful experience. Carlevale chants to praise the holy ganja “Om Shiva Shankara, hari hari Ganja!” – Know in your heart, that God accepts the smoking of sacrament as worship… the plant represents the body, the burning is the fire of the mind, the smoke is the spirit, the high feeling is the union, yoga.
Ganjasana leads cannabis yoga ceremonies nationally and offers a 100-hour Yoga Alliance Certified continuing education course for those looking to share these practices with their communities.
Plant Ceremony Curandera | Permaculture Farmer | Yoga Teacher | Mindfulness Educator | Cannabis Activist & Cultivator
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Turmeric is a root vegetable commonly used as a spice in various Indian and other cultures’ dishes. Turmeric is in the zingiberaceae family, as is ginger. The turmeric plant is native to the southeastern region of Asia and commonly harvested in places like India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. It is responsible for curry’s signature orange color, and its vibrant pigment will give essentially any meal an orange hue.
Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin, and curcumin has been shown through research to offer anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic benefits. The scientific name for the turmeric plant is Curcuma Longa, and likely where the name curcumin comes from. When people are talking about the health benefits of turmeric, they are referencing curcumin so you may hear the two names used interchangeably. Curcumin is part of a group called curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most active and the most beneficial for health. Flavonoids are another substance found in various plants and give these plants their color. Curcumin is a flavonoid and is responsible for providing that bright orange color to turmeric. In addition to providing aesthetic value, flavonoids are also strong antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry published a study done by Sanjaya Singh and Bharat B. Aggarwal of the Cytokine Research Laboratory at the world-renowned cancer hospital, M.D. Anderson. The study found that curcumin suppressed NF-κB, a protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory responses. In other words, turmeric shuts off the body’s inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatories can be beneficial for many different ailments, including chronic pain and digestive disorders. A lot of CBD companies even put curcumin in their products because of its benefits. It is believed to be a synergistic pair with complementary therapeutic properties. The thought is that the two plant medicines are powerful on their own; as a combination, they can deliver even more anti-inflammatory and medicinal benefits.
Many people simply add turmeric to their dishes as a way to easily incorporate it into their daily routine. It is pretty mild in flavor and can be added to many dishes without changing the overall taste too drastically. Some say that turmeric isn’t strong enough on its own to receive the anti-inflammatory properties that curcumin provides, and therefore recommend a curcumin supplement. Research varies on that, so in the end it is just up to personal preference and your doctor’s approval. Curcumin supplements come most available in capsules. Pregnant women can safely use turmeric as an addition to their food, but should avoid taking high-dosage supplements. Those who are interested in supplementing with curcumin products should talk with their doctor first.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center did another study in 2007 exploring curcumin for cancer treatment. The study found that curcumin inhibits ovarian cancer growth and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels). It does this by targeting and manipulating the NF-κB pathway, the same protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory response. According to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “The nuclear factor NF-κB pathway has long been considered a prototypical proinflammatory signaling pathway, largely based on the role of NF-κB in the expression of proinflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules.”
The trend with curcumin seems to be it’s ability to control inflammatory responses in the body. It does this by multiple pathways, but a commonly researched one is the NF-κB protein complex. Because this pathway is able to be manipulated by curcumin to encourage anti-inflammatory expressions, its potential for successfully treating various ailments is there.
Psilocybin + Magic Mushrooms
When many think of plant medicine, specifically those plants with psychoactive effects, they think of “magic mushrooms,” or fungi containing psilocybin and psilocin that can cause hallucinations depending on the dosage consumed. In many states, there are active efforts to decriminalize these otherwise scheduled substances, lowering penalties for their use and possession. But what value do psilocybin-containing mushrooms offer? New research suggests a range of therapeutic and psychological value ranging from the treatment of substance abuse to anxiety and depression management.
What are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic Mushroom use dates back to 10,000 BCE and references continue throughout the era. Their modern popularity began when the term “magic mushroom” was coined by two etnomycologists who learned of a Harvard study on local doctors in Mexico using these substances, noting the substance’s ability to affect the nervous system. These findings were eventually published in Life magazine in 1957, and the term became the universal reference for psychoactive fungi and truffles, specifically those containing high concentrations of psilocybin and psilocin.
Psilocybin & Psilocin: The “Magic” in Magic Mushrooms
Psilocybin and psilocin are part of a family of psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Psilocin is pharmacologically active, and psilocybin is converted into psilocin when consumed or activated. Similar in structure to serotonin, there are more than 50 species of mushrooms and a variety of truffles that produce both the precursor, psilocybin, and the psychoactive compound, psilocin. Unlike LSD, magic mushrooms do not affect dopamine receptors, solely targeting serotonin sites.
How are Magic Mushrooms used?
Magic mushrooms are often used for recreational, therapeutic and medicinal reasons. “Effects range from mild feelings of relaxation, giddiness, euphoria, visual enhancement (seeing colors brighter), visual disturbances (moving surfaces, waves), to delusions, altered perception of real events, images and faces, or real hallucinations.” Recreationally, this is often known as “tripping.” As an alternative health option, these fungi are being used for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trauma, as well as psychological disorders such as substance abuse disorders, and science is beginning to back the potential for these applications.
Research on Mushrooms
Evaluations of currently available scientific studies suggest a growing number of therapeutic benefits and treatment options. “In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as psilocybin…looking at psilocybin and other hallucinogens to treat a number of otherwise intractable psychiatric disorders, including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug or alcohol dependency.”
Magic mushrooms have been respected as a “safe & natural healing sacrament for millennia throughout Mexico, Central America and the world,” and are known to be beneficial for depression, recidivism (the tendency to repeat past transgressions), and encourages openness, creativity, as well as personal and spiritual growth. UCLA and NYC have done studies on the applications of magic mushrooms in the treatment of end-of-life anxiety and other studies have backed up the use of psilocybin and psilocin in the treatment of substance use disorders, depression (especially in cases of terminal conditions like cancer as well as treatment-resistant depression), and reducing depression and anxiety overall.
Best way for people to consume?
When it comes to the consumption of mushrooms, advice on dosage is about as specific as it was with cannabis under prohibition. Consumers must purchase on the black market and are subject to whatever may be available.
“Recreational doses range from 1–5 grams of dry mushrooms depending on the species and individual strength of the specimens… After ingestion, the psilocybin is enzymatically converted to psilocin. Absorbed from the gastro-intestinal tract, hallucinogenic effects usually occur within 30 minutes of ingestion with a duration of effect of 4–6 hours.”
My recommendation as someone who has used magic mushrooms both for recreational and therapeutic purposes, is to grind the mushrooms into a fine powder and either encapsulate them in small increments and/or combine with lemon juice. Capsules will allow you to titrate your dosage as needed with a recognizable increment, while lemon juice will expedite onset time.
The Legality of Magic Mushrooms
In the United States, psilocybin is a Schedule I controlled substance, with no accepted medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. In contrast, the Drug Policy Alliance states that “Physically, psilocybin mushrooms are considered to be one of the least toxic drugs known.” With that being said, local efforts such as Decriminalize Nature – Oakland and Decriminalize Denver have pushed for and successfully passed initiatives and legislation to reduce penalties and make enforcement a low priority, as was done in the early days of cannabis activism. This has spurred multiple local and international efforts to “Decriminalize Nature,” efforts that we learn more about in this month’s feature.