Taylor Hayes is a psychiatric registered nurse with a passion for psychedelic plant medicines that she has used to found the new International Association of Psychedelic Nurses (IAPN).Taylor’s journey to plant medicine use began through her own exposure and the benefits she received. One trip changed the trajectory of her life.
As a college student at Auburn University, Taylor had no idea what she wanted to do in addition to struggling with depression and PTSD for almost a decade. “I had never gotten help before. So I went to counseling services. I thought I would try this out and see what mental healthcare is like. And I received some help there. I was inspired by some of the people who helped me through that time period. It inspired me to want to help people as I recovered from my own depression and PTSD, I wanted to be there to help other people through their struggles, so I chose nursing school and knew I wanted to go into psychiatry since I started. I fell in love with psychiatry and all the psych patients that I have worked with mostly inpatient kids, adults, adolescents, teenagers.”
Taylor’s first exposure to a psychedelic plant was in college, and she didn’t take it with the anticipation that it would have any huge effect. “It was a mushroom, I had a psychedelic experience and it completely changed my life. I went to my psychiatrist and I told him that I didn’t feel like I needed my medications anymore; I didn’t feel depressed; I had made significant lifestyle changes following this one experience: started exercising and eating better and just caring about my life.” With the approval of her psychiatrist, Taylor was able to come off of her medication.
Throughout her journey with plant medicines, Taylor has participated in research studies and expanded her own knowledge through study in South America. “I signed up to be a participant in a psilocybin research study down in Jamaica. […] I kept following plant medicines, it became very important to me. I took a semester off school to go stay at an ayahuasca research center in Peru. I studied in San Pedro with the indigenous healers of Peru. I just had so many life-changing experiences throughout the course of that. It made me want to further study the plants and their applications within Western psychiatry: treating addiction, mental health, depression, PTSD, trauma. I actually learned throughout this journey that a significant portion of western medications originated in the Amazon Rainforest Basin, which means there’s probably countless medicines left to derive from the plants there.”
As we continue to profile cannabis nurses, GRAM recognizes the power that nurses have. Taylor says, “Nurses have taken the lead as far as self-care in the way of medical cannabis. They’ve started writing standards of care. I think that is because the nursing practice is more pinpointed. Nurses are powerful; they’re the hands of healthcare and the heart of healthcare and they’re a significant portion of the whole body of healthcare. So if nurses get behind plant medicines and there’s no telling what kind of changes could happen.”
In February 2020, Taylor launched IAPN, which currently has about 200 members. They are “Nurses and nursing students who are interested in learning more about psychedelics and the plant medicines and how to fit this into healthcare appropriately and insightfully determining best practices and standards.” The goal is, “Increasing our database of information, increasing our membership, increasing awareness, compiling the research so that we can start putting the research into practice and into best practices for the field.”
Taylor definitely thinks plant medicines should be legal, accessible, and regulated. “I think people should be able to possess whatever plant. As far as administering or hosting ceremonies, I definitely do think there should be some regulation around that, because it can be unsafe with people who don’t know what they’re doing or aren’t medically trained. If we promote a culture of education and safety around proper use of these plants and medicinal use of these plants, I don’t see why anybody shouldn’t be able to use them.”
In order to allow people to have safe access to psychedelic plant medicines, Taylor has also launched Hope Network Health. In coordination with licensed medical professionals, they work to provide psychedelic plant medicine care in a controlled, legal environment. They are scheduled to have their inaugural psilocybin group healing session in January 2021.
Taylor has a lot of hope for the future of plant medicine. “I am really looking forward to the future of what can be done in this space if we work consciously and with a good intention. There’s lots of potential for a new wave of healing or medicine.”
Psychedelic medicine has the potential to revamp and expand the mental health care system in the U.S. Taylor tells us, “We have a very good system in the U.S. as far as some parts of mental healthcare, but I think that our system can be expanded and improved upon. I’m advocating for an expansion, for adding new substances to medical practice, so that people can have options especially people who have tried the traditional therapy and it’s not working, now perhaps they can have access to a breakthrough therapy psilocybin or MDMA. There’s such high demand for healthcare workers because there’s so many sick people. If we can get better medicines perhaps we can improve our healthcare system, see fewer patients, less personnel on staff, less stress in everyway on the system itself, less stress on society in general, if we could get mental healthcare under control, our opiate and alcohol addictions under control, you might see less DUIs, less domestic violence, all these things are related to each other so if we have better medicine options, I think we would have a much happier and more productive country altogether. I want to see our country well.”
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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.