“Blue Mind” Docuseries: May 23-26!

By Neenah Payne

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider.

Did you know that over 75% to 90% of all doctors’ visits are for health problems related to Red Mind? (Download the free 27-page ebook Do You Have Red Mind?)

Wallace Nichols Ph.D., called “Keeper of the Sea” by GQ Magazine and “a visionary” by Outside Magazine is an entrepreneurial scientist, movement maker, voracious idea explorer, New York Times best-selling author, international speaker, loving Dad, strategic advisor, and collaborator.

Dr. Nichols’ experiences as a field research scientist, government consultant, founder and director of numerous businesses and non-profit organizations, teacher, mentor, parent, and advisor all support his quest to build a stronger and more diverse Blue Movement to inspire a deeper connection with nature through the neuroscience of the human-water connection.

Dr. Nichols’ current focus is on what he refers to as Blue Mind, a powerful new universal story of water and a movement of global proportions.  He communicates the cognitive, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual benefits of healthy oceans and waterways.  By connecting neuroscientists and psychologists with aquatic experts and artists, his work is transforming many sectors, including water and food infrastructure; environment and conservation; technology and innovation; health and well-being; education and parenting; arts, architecture and design; real estate and planning; travel and tourism; as well as sports and recreation.

Dr. Nichols has authored more than 200 scientific papers, technical reports, book chapters, and popular publications; delivered over 300 presentations in more than 30 countries; and reached millions in print, web, radio, podcast, film and television media outlets including NPR, BBC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Time, Newsweek, GQ, Outside Magazine, Elle, Vogue, Fast Company, Surfer Magazine, Scientific American, and New Scientist, among others.

His book Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do quickly became a national bestseller, has been translated to over a dozen languages, and has inspired a wave of media attention and practical applications.

Now you can register for the Free 7-day Blue Mind docuseries at: https://bluemindhealth.com. See the trailer below:

[embedded content]

Blue Mind Movie Sizzle Reel from Working Pictures on Vimeo.

See the interview with Dr. Nichols below:


https://empoweringyouorganically.com/podcast/episode-31/

Blue Mind Health Series: May 23-26

Each episode airs for 24 hours.

Episode 1: Blue Mind Health: Water Is Medicine – May 23 at 12 AM EST — Nichols shows the remarkable human connection to water and the tremendous physiological, emotional, and mental changes that occur when you’re in, on, or around water. Blue Mind can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.

Episode 2: Blue Mind: A Deep Dive – May 23 at 12 AM EST — Discover the incredible origins of the Blue Mind concept that has already changed lives and brought millions together in a common pursuit of #waterismedicine!

Episode 3: Get Your Blue Mind On: Blue Mind 101 – May 24 at 12 AM EST — Everything you need to know to achieve and apply Blue Mind in your own life right now!  You don’t want to miss this incredible conversation with Dr. Nichols!

Episode 4: A Healing Voyage – May 25 at 12 AM EST — Meet the amazing Special Operations combat veterans who were inspired to transform the health of our planet’s marine resources and use the power of water to heal their minds and bodies as they heal the environment.

Episode 5: A Healing Voyage – The Force Blue Team: Mission Therapy– May 25 at 12 AM EST — You loved the team in “A Healing Voyage”. Discover how Force Blue provides “mission therapy,” for these special men and women by retraining them from combat fighters to our ocean protectors. You won’t be able to get enough of the Force Blue Team!

Episode 6: Blue: 7 Ages of Water – May 26 at 12 AM EST — Discover how water directly influences every stage of your life from birth to death and how you can harness that natural power for better mental, emotional, and physical health right now!

Episode 7: A Flowed State of Calm: Depression and Blue Mind– May 26 at 12 AM EST — The depression epidemic is rocking the world and impacting the quality of life of millions every day. Find out how Blue Mind can help ease the symptoms, manage the disease, and give you back control of your life.



Through a deep and effervescent experience complimented by an e.e. cummings poem, Dr. Wallace Nichols inspires us to engage in a deeper relationship with nature. Using our oceans as the prime example of how insignificant humans can feel while also being unmistakably connected to the spirit of nature, Nichols urges us to embrace our natural surroundings to live robust and full lives.

Dr. Nichols defines “Blue Mind” as “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from the color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion.

He knows that inspiration comes sometimes through adventures, or simply by walking and talking — other times through writing, images, and art. Science and knowledge can also stoke our fires. But he also knows that what really moves people is feeling part of and touching something bigger than ourselves.

Force Blue Team’s Life-Saving Mission

The Force Blue Team is featured in the visually stunning and inspiring Episode 4 and Episode 5 of the Blue Mind Health docuseries. This will change everything you think you know about our mental well-being and how we take care of our lifeline: the ocean.

FORCE BLUE grew out of a dive trip Jim Ritterhoff and Rudy Reyes took to the Cayman Islands. In the summer of 2015, they traveled to meet their friend Keith Sahm, General Manager of Sunset House  which is the oldest continuously-operated dive resort in the Caribbean. For Ritterhoff and Sahm, experienced recreational divers who’d been reef diving for decades, this was just another week in paradise.

However, for Reyes, a former Recon Marine who had struggled with post-traumatic stress and depression since returning from multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience was nothing short of life changing! “Here’s this trained combat diver,” Ritterhoff remembers. “One of the best, most highly-skilled individuals you’ll ever encounter underwater. Yet, he’d never seen a fish.” For Reyes, like most dive-trained veterans, diving meant hauling 200 lbs. of gear underwater to destroy potentially dangerous targets in the dead of night. What Cayman offered was transformative.

Reyes immediately proposed another trip so he could bring his recon brothers to experience what he had. However, after a few hours of discussion, the three men hatched a larger plan that included combat divers from all branches of service with marine scientists, conservationists, and journalists. “We saw it as an opportunity to do some good not only for our veterans, but for the planet as well. By starting a program that helps veterans and the marine environment, we’re uniting two worlds,” says Ritterhoff.

FORCE BLUE MISSION: To unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both. To sum it up: “We are so connected to water. If people don’t care about what they’re putting into the ocean, it’s crazy. It’s unsustainable. Every conservationist works hard to bring this to light. Unless you’re seeing it every day, you don’t fully appreciate how our actions have a consequence. We have to act as a team. We have to work locally, regionally, and globally if we’re going to have a positive effect. There really is no excuse anymore.”

Force Blue Saving Florida’s Coral Reefs!

Importance of coral reefs explains why coral reefs are SO vital – and are under SUCH great threat.

This video from the Force Blue Team website shows that the team is working to save Florida’s coral reefs from the disease that began about four years ago. With the help of the Force Blue Team, Florida may be able to save 2,000 corals instead of just 20 or 200. The reefs add over $7 billion to the state’s economy!



Unfortunately 27% of coral reefs are gone and this number could rise to 60% in the next 30 years.  Force Blue says its mission is to change that outcome. The rescue is an urgent task that requires innovation and collaboration between scientists and veterans that has never been seen before.

Sarah Frangman, the Superintendent of the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary says she would like Florida to become a model. She believes that the rescue of the Florida coral reefs can be an example of the kind of teamwork that can be used to save coral reefs elsewhere since this is a global problem.

Coral Reefs: Rainforests of the Ocean

Force Blue is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) initiative that unites the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of coral reef conservation for the betterment of both. FORCE BLUE gives former combat divers and SOF veterans the chance to experience and explore one of the most critically endangered ecosystems on the planet and to adapt their training and teamwork to aid in its protection.

Force Blue’s mission is vital for the planet.

The Smithsonian Institution’s Corals and Coral Reefs site points out:

Coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems. They teem with life, with perhaps one-quarter of all ocean species depending on reefs for food and shelter. This is a remarkable statistic when you consider that reefs cover just a tiny fraction (less than one percent) of the earth’s surface and less than two percent of the ocean bottom. Because they are so diverse, coral reefs are often called the rainforests of the sea.

Coral reefs are also very important to people. The value of coral reefs has been estimated at 30 billion U.S. dollars and perhaps as much as 172 billion U.S. dollars each year, providing food, protection of shorelines, jobs based on tourism, and even medicines. Unfortunately, people also pose the greatest threat to coral reefs. Overfishing and destructive fishing, pollution, warming, changing ocean chemistry, and invasive species are all taking a huge toll. In some places, reefs have been entirely destroyed, and in many places reefs today are a pale shadow of what they once were.

This CBS News video featuring Force Blue can be seen below:



Film: Mercy, Love, and Grace: The Story of Force Blue

Mercy, Love and Grace: The Story of Force Blue chronicles the nonprofit’s first deployment to the Cayman Islands. It is the story of seven (7) Special Operations combat veterans…two U.S. Reconnaissance Marines, one Air Force Pararescueman, a Navy SEAL, an Army Green Beret, a British Royal Marine and one Combat Medic….each struggling with his own transition back to civilian life, coming together on a mission to preserve the planet and restore themselves.

It is the story of the marine scientists, environmentalists, therapists, and filmmakers who came to instruct them for two weeks, but left having learned their own lessons about sacrifice and service. In the end, Mercy, Love and Grace: The Story of Force Blue is the story of passionate people healing across the divide – and the magic that can still be conjured, even in these partisan times, when we are willing to become one team with one fight.

The moving trailer can be seen below:



Blue Mind: Blue Marble: Our Water World

Dr. Nichols’ research and expeditions have taken him to coasts and waterways across North, Central, and South America, to Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe where he continually finds that the emotional connection to waters of all kinds – rather than force or financial gain – is what keeps his colleagues and collaborators working hard to understand and restore our blue planet.

In each of his talks, Dr. Nichols makes sure that every member of the audience receives a blue marble. At the end of the Organixx podcast, he explained that if the interview had been in person, he would have given each of the interviewers a blue marble.

It is a way to remind people that we live on a big blue marble and that our own health is intimately connected with the health of the oceans, rivers, lakes, bays, creeks, streams – as well as our tap water on which we depend every day for cleaning, flushing, bathing, drinking, and cooking. Our daily lives are TOTALLY dependent on our access to clean water!

Dr. Nichols points out that the waters of the world not only support us physically, but are key to our emotional and mental health – to our Blue Mind.

Credit: Pixabay

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Compound in Broccoli Sprouts May Restore Brain Chemistry Imbalance

By Johns Hopkins

In a series of recently published studies using animals and people, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have further characterized a set of chemical imbalances in the brains of people with schizophrenia related to the chemical glutamate. And they figured out how to tweak the level using a compound derived from broccoli sprouts.

They say the results advance the hope that supplementing with broccoli sprout extract, which contains high levels of the chemical sulforaphane, may someday provide a way to lower the doses of traditional antipsychotic medicines needed to manage schizophrenia symptoms, thus reducing unwanted side effects of the medicines.

“It’s possible that future studies could show sulforaphane to be a safe supplement to give people at risk of developing schizophrenia as a way to prevent, delay or blunt the onset of symptoms,” adds Akira Sawa, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Schizophrenia Center.

Schizophrenia is marked by hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking, feeling, behavior, perception and speaking. Drugs used to treat schizophrenia don’t work completely for everyone, and they can cause a variety of undesirable side effects, including metabolic problems increasing cardiovascular risk, involuntary movements, restlessness, stiffness and “the shakes.”

In a study described in the Jan. 9 edition of the journal JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers looked for differences in brain metabolism between people with schizophrenia and healthy controls. They recruited 81 people from the Johns Hopkins Schizophrenia Center within 24 months of their first psychosis episode, which can be a characteristic symptom of schizophrenia, as well as 91 healthy controls from the community. The participants were an average of 22 years old, and 58% were men.

The researchers used a powerful magnet to measure and compare five regions in the brain between the people with and without psychosis. A computer analysis of 7-Tesla magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) data identified individual chemical metabolites and their quantities.

The researchers found on average 4% significantly lower levels of the brain chemical glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex region of the brain in people with psychosis compared to healthy people.

Glutamate is known for its role in sending messages between brain cells, and has been linked to depression and schizophrenia, so these findings added to evidence that glutamate levels have a role in schizophrenia.

Additionally, the researchers found a significant reduction of 3% of the chemical glutathione in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex and 8% in the thalamus. Glutathione is made of three smaller molecules, and one of them is glutamate.

Next, the researchers asked how glutamate might be managed in the brain and whether that management is faulty in disease. They first looked at how it’s stored. Because glutamate is a building block of glutathione, the researchers wondered if the brain might use glutathione as a way to store extra glutamate. And if so, the researchers questioned if they could use known drugs to shift this balance to either release glutamate from storage when there isn’t enough, or send it into storage if there is too much.

In another study, described in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal PNAS, the team used the drug L-Buthionine sulfoximine in rat brain cells to block an enzyme that turns glutamate into glutathione, allowing it to be used up. The researchers found that theses nerves were more excited and fired faster, which means they were sending more messages to other brain cells. The researchers say shifting the balance this way is akin to shifting the brain cells to a pattern similar to one found in the brains of people with schizophrenia. Next, the researchers wanted to see if they could do the opposite and shift the balance to get more glutamate stored in the form of glutathione. They used the chemical sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts, which is known to turn on a gene that makes more of the enzyme that sticks glutamate with another molecule to make glutathione. When they treated rat brain cells with glutathione, it slowed the speed at which the nerve cells fired, meaning they were sending fewer messages. The researchers say this pushed the brain cells to behave less like the pattern found in brains with schizophrenia.

We are thinking of glutathione as glutamate stored in a gas tank,” says Thomas Sedlak, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “If you have a bigger gas tank, you have more leeway on how far you can drive, but as soon as you take the gas out of the tank it’s burned up quickly. We can think of those with schizophrenia as having a smaller gas tank.”

Because sulforaphane changed the glutamate imbalance in the rat brains and affected how messages were transmitted between the rat brain cells, the researchers wanted to test whether sulforaphane could change glutathione levels in healthy people’s brains and see if this could eventually be a strategy for people with mental disorders. For their study, published in April 2018 in Molecular Neuropsychiatry, the researchers recruited nine healthy volunteers (four women, five men) to take two capsules with 100 micromoles daily of sulforaphane in the form of broccoli sprout extract for seven days.

The volunteers reported that a few of them were gassy and some had stomach upset when eating the capsules on an empty stomach, but overall the sulforaphane was relatively well tolerated.

The researchers used MRS again to monitor three brain regions for glutathione levels in the healthy volunteers before and after taking sulforaphane. They found that after seven days, there was about a 30% increase in average glutathione levels in the subjects’ brains. For example, in the hippocampus, glutathione levels rose an average of 0.27 millimolar from a baseline of 1.1 millimolar after seven days of taking sulforaphane.

The scientists say further research is needed to learn whether sulforaphane can safely reduce symptoms of psychosis or hallucinations in people with schizophrenia. They would need to determine an optimal dose and see how long people must take it to observe an effect. The researchers caution that their studies don’t justify or demonstrate the value of using commercially available sulforaphane supplements to treat or prevent schizophrenia, and patients should consult their physicians before trying any kind of over-the-counter supplement. Versions of sulforaphane supplementsare sold in health food stores and at vitamin counters, and aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“For people predisposed to heart disease, we know that changes in diet and exercise can help stave off the disease, but there isn’t anything like that for severe mental disorders yet,” says Sedlak. “We are hoping that we will one day make some mental illness preventable to a certain extent.”

Sulforaphane is found in a variety of cruciferous vegetables, and was first identified as a “chemoprotective” substance decades ago by Paul Talalay and Jed Fahey at Johns Hopkins.

According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia affects about 21 million people worldwide.

Article source is Johns Hopkins Medicine. Image credit: Thomas Sedlak. Authors on the papers who were not yet mentioned include Anna Wang, Subechhya Pradhan, Jennifer Coughlin, Aditi Trivedi, Samantha DuBois, Jeffrey Crawford, Frederick Nucifora, Gerald Nestadt, Leslie Nucifora, David Schretlen, Peter Barker, Bindu Paul, Gregory Parker, Lynda Hester, Adele Snowman, Yu Taniguchi, Atsushi Kamiya, Solomon Snyder, Minori Koga, Lindsay Shaffer, Cecilia Higgs, Teppei Tanaka and Jed Fahey of Johns Hopkins.

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STUDY: Obamacare Patients Less Likely To Receive Medical Appointments

By Drexel University

Among adults with mental health needs, those covered by Medicare or employer-sponsored health insurance have greater access to medical treatment, less out-of-pocket cost and are more likely to receive care than those seeking an appointment through an Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace-sponsored plan, according to findings from researchers at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

Their study, published in the May 2019 issue of Health Affairs, provides preliminary results on disparities among those experiencing psychological stress since the ACA became law in 2010.

The researchers used National Health Interview Survey data on adults experiencing mental illness. They looked at a dataset that included 4,500 Medicaid enrollees, 8,600 with employer-sponsored insurance and nearly 900 on a Marketplace plan, and measured access to treatment, specifically whether individuals received care in the previous 12 months and whether those patients could afford treatment.

Among those seeking mental health care during the previous 12 months, success was highest for those with employer coverage. Although 5 percent of those with employer-sponsored insurance and 9 percent of Medicaid patients reported trouble getting a mental health doctor appointment in the previous year, 12 percent of Marketplace-enrollees experienced this same trouble.

Additionally, nearly 12 percent of Marketplace and nine percent of Medicaid enrollees – but only four percent of those with employer-sponsored insurance – reported being unable to be accepted as a new patient during the previous 12 months.

Of the 44.7 million adults with a mental illness in the United States, only 43.1 percent received treatment in the previous year in 2016. The ACA mandates coverage of behavioral health services in Medicaid and all exchange health plans, and expands protections in individual and small-group insurance markets.

“Although the ACA added about 20 million people to the number of insured in the United States, significant disparities remain,” said lead author Ryan McKenna, PhD, MA, an assistant professor of Health Management and Policy in Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. “Policy makers must look at this data and remedy these barriers for millions of Americans.”

The authors propose making health insurance more transparent by developing a metric to measure quality and size of a plan’s network, much like the one that exists for Medicare’s Star Rating System. Sorting enrollees into plans that fit their health needs more effectively may help lower out-of-pocket and out of network costs for enrollees, the authors suggest.

To combat a shortage of behavioral health specialists participating in various health plans, the authors advise simplifying administrative processes. The researchers note that changing Medicaid organizational procedures may speed up reimbursements to clinicians and lower costs for physicians to accept Medicaid.

Article source is Drexel University. Authors include Ryan McKenna and Jessie Kemmick Pintor of Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health and Mir M. Ali of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Image by Robyn Wright from Pixabay

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Remarkably Well-Preserved 1,000-year-old AYAHUASCA Kit Found in Cave Excavation

Ritual bundle contents include leather bag, carved wooden snuff tablets and snuff tube with human hair braids, pouch made of fox snouts and camelid bone spatulas.

By Yasmin Anwar

Today’s hipster creatives and entrepreneurs are hardly the first generation to partake of ayahuasca, according to archaeologists who have discovered traces of the powerfully hallucinogenic potion in a 1,000-year-old leather bundle buried in a cave in the Bolivian Andes.

Led by University of California, Berkeley, archaeologist Melanie Miller, a chemical analysis of a pouch made from three fox snouts sewn together tested positive for at least five plant-based psychoactive substances. They included dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and harmine, key active compounds in ayahuasca, a mind-blowing brew commonly associated with the Amazon jungle.

“This is the first evidence of ancient South Americans potentially combining different medicinal plants to produce a powerful substance like ayahuasca,” said Miller, a researcher with UC Berkeley’s Archaeological Research Facility who uses chemistry and various technologies to study how ancient humans lived.

She is lead author of the study, published today (Monday, May 6) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Miller’s analysis of a scraping from the fox-snout pouch and a plant sample found in the ritual bundle — via liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry — turned up trace amounts of bufotenine, DMT, harmine, cocaine and benzoylecgonine. Various combinations of these substances produce powerful, mind-altering hallucinations.

The discovery adds to a growing body of evidence of ritualistic psychotropic plant use going back millennia, said Miller, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand who conducted the research during her doctoral studies at UC Berkeley.

“Our findings support the idea that people have been using these powerful plants for at least 1,000 years, combining them to go on a psychedelic journey, and that ayahuasca use may have roots in antiquity,” said Miller.

The remarkably well-preserved ritual bundle was found by archaeologists at 13,000-foot elevations in the Lipez Altiplano region of southwestern Bolivia, where llamas and alpacas roam. The leather kit dates back to the pre-Inca Tiwanaku civilization, which dominated the southern Andean highlands from about 550 to 950 A.D.

In addition to the fox-snout pouch, the leather bundle contained intricately carved wooden “snuffing tablets” and a “snuffing tube” with human hair braids attached, for snorting intoxicants; llama bone spatulas; a colorful woven textile strip and dried plant material. All the objects were in good shape, due to the arid conditions of the Andean highlands.

Though the cave where the artifacts were found appeared to be a burial site, an excavation did not turn up human remains. Moreover, the plants found in the bundle do not grow at those altitudes, suggesting the bundle’s owner may have been a traveling shaman or another expert in the rituals of psychotropic plant use, or someone who was part of an extensive medicinal plant trading network.

The Cueva del Chileno in Bolivia where the bundle was found.

“A lot of these plants, if consumed in the wrong dosage, could be very poisonous,” Miller said. “So, whoever owned this bundle would need to have had great knowledge and skills about how to use these plants, and how and where to procure them.”

Of particular fascination to Miller is the pouch made of three fox snouts. She describes it as “the most amazing artifact I’ve had the privilege to work with.”

This pouch was made from three fox snouts. When Miller scraped the inside, she found evidence of hallucinogenic substances.

“There are civilizations who believe that, by consuming certain psychotropic plants, you can embody a specific animal to help you reach supernatural realms, and perhaps a fox may be among those animals,” Miller said.

Ayahuasca is made from brewing the vines of Banisteriopsis Caapi and the leaves of the chacruna (Psychotria viridis) shrub. The leaves release DMT, and the vines release harmine — and therein lies the secret of the ayahuasca effect.

“The tryptamine DMT produces strong, vivid hallucinations that can last from minutes to an hour, but combined with harmine, you can have prolonged out-of-body altered states of consciousness with altered perceptions of time and of the self,” Miller said.

Once the drugs take effect, ayahuasca users typically enter a purgative state, which means they vomit a lot.

Though its use is currently fashionable among Silicon Valley techies, Hollywood celebrities and spiritual awakening-seekers worldwide, Miller says these latest archaeological findings pay homage to ayahuasca’s ancient history.

Miller joined the Cueva del Chileno excavation project when archaeologists Juan Albarracín-Jordán of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in Bolivia and José Capriles of Pennsylvania State University sought her expertise to identify the plant matter they had found in the bundle.

She traveled for two days to reach the cave site near the remote south Bolivian village of Lipez and helped with the final phases of the excavation. The bundle was transported to a laboratory in La Paz and, once permits were in place, samples were exported to the lab of Christine Moore, chief toxicologist with the Immunalysis Corp. in Pomona, California.

Moore’s lab provided the liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry technology needed to conduct toxicology tests on the samples. Once the contents of the Andean bundle tested positive for five kinds of psychotropic substances, Miller’s research team was over the moon.

“We were amazed to see the incredible preservation of these compounds in this ritual bundle,” said Miller. “I feel very lucky to have been a part of this research.”

Article published by University of California Berkeley. Photos courtesy of Juan Albarracín-Jordán and José Capriles.

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Psychedelics To Treat Mental Illness? Australian Researchers Are Giving It A Go

By Martin Williams, Monash University and Stephen Bright, Edith Cowan University

An estimated one in ten Australians were taking antidepressants in 2015. That’s double the number using them in 2000, and the second-highest rate of antidepressant use among all OECD countries.

Yet some studies have found antidepressants might be no more effective than placebo.

Not only does this mean many Australians aren’t experiencing relief from their psychological distress, but some may also be contending with adverse side effects from their medications.

Also, the provision of these medications is costing Australian taxpayers millions of dollars through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Australia needs a paradigm shift in the way we treat mental illness. Scientific research is increasingly pointing to psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more commonly known as Ecstasy) as viable options.

While social stigma and academic conservatism have seen Australia lag behind other countries in this area of research, we are on the cusp of the first Australian trial of psychedelic drugs for mental health.

This research is going to look at psilocybin-assisted therapy for anxiety and depression among terminally ill patients.

A brief history of psychedelic drugs

Psychedelics are a broad category of drugs that can produce profound changes in consciousness. “Magic mushrooms”, containing psilocybin, have been used by some indigenous communities for at least 1,000 years. Other psychedelics, such as LSD and MDMA, were first synthesised in the laboratories of major pharmaceutical companies early in the 20th century.

In the 1950s, psychedelics were considered “wonder drugs”, used with psychotherapy in treating a range of conditions. These included depression, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol dependence.

But, in the 1960s, psychedelics escaped the clinic and became popular among the younger generation. In response to their association with the counterculture movement, a moral panic ensued. Psychedelic drugs were made illegal internationally in 1971.

Research and practice were abandoned, until recent shifts in attitude led to the re-emergence of medical research using psychedelics.

Some people will take antidepressants for many years. From shutterstock.com

In 2013, we wrote a piece in The Conversation about this international psychedelic science renaissance.

By that time, researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine had shown psilocybin could reliably induce mystical states leading to positive changes in personality such as openness and sociability. Psychotherapists at UCLA harnessed these effects to reduce anxiety and depression in people with terminal cancer.

Meanwhile, researchers across the USA, Switzerland, Canada and Israel had achieved promising results treating PTSD with psychotherapy (“talk therapy” guided by trained therapists) assisted by MDMA.

In the past six years, two phase 2 clinical trials have shown psilocybin can improve quality of life for people with terminal cancer.

Another study showed psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy can effectively treat depression. Some 67% of participants showed clinically and statistically significant reductions in depressive symptoms.

Phase 3 trials are now planned. If these confirm the treatments to be effective, MDMA and psilocybin are likely to become approved medications in some countries within the next five years.

Psilocybin even appears useful in treating alcohol and nicotine addiction. And MDMA may ease social anxiety in people on the autism spectrum.

How psychedelics work in the brain

We’re now beginning to understand the neurological mechanisms responsible for the mystical states and creative thinking psychedelics can produce, and how they can aid the treatment of anxiety and depression.

Psychedelics reduce the activity of a neural circuit in the brain called the default mode network (DMN).

‘Magic mushrooms’ contain psilocybin, a mind-altering psychedelic substance. Jonathan Carmichael, Author provided

The DMN is responsible for our “resting state” sense of self, which can become distorted as depression and similar mental illnesses take hold. By temporarily decreasing the activity of the DMN, psychedelics appear to enable other less direct neural pathways to be established.

These interconnections can reduce the amount we persistently rethink the same thought, which is characteristic of depression. Similarly, they promote the development of fresh perspectives on personal situations and interpersonal relationships.

It also appears psychedelics can promote the physical regrowth of neuronal connections that have withered away in people who experience long-term depression.

The mechanism of this process is not yet understood, but it seems to correlate well with the demonstrated positive mental health outcomes of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.

On the other hand, various health conditions for which psychedelics are not suitable are widely recognised. In particular, people with underlying personality disorders or psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia risk worsening of their symptoms.

People who have medical conditions such as heart or liver disease, or who are using a wide range of medications including antidepressants, are also advised to avoid psychedelics without careful medical supervision.

In all cases, it is stressed that psychedelic therapy should always take place under professional supervision to minimise potential health risks.

An Australian first

Since our last Conversation article, we’ve seen some fundamental shifts in Australia.

Later this year, a phase 2 study of psilocybin-assisted therapy for anxiety and depression in 30 terminally ill patients will begin at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.

This trial, due to be completed in 2021, will look at the effects of psychedelic psychotherapy in people with terminal conditions other than cancer, in addition to those with cancer.

Meanwhile, a newly established charity, Mind Medicine Australia, is aiming to negotiate Australia’s regulatory framework to have psychedelics reclassified from the most restrictive drug category to one that accommodates prescription medicines.

If the results of our study, and those of others around the world, confirm the promise of the initial trials already completed, there is an excellent chance several of these treatments will be approved for prescription use within three to five years.

But, as well as proving the efficacy of these treatments, we will need to continue to demonstrate their safety, negotiate regulatory hurdles and ultimately convince doctors and the public that psychedelic psychotherapy is a viable approach for mental health treatment.The Conversation


Martin Williams, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Monash University and Stephen Bright, Senior Lecturer of Addiction, Edith Cowan University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Stressed Out? New Study Suggests You Need a 20-Minute “Nature Pill”

By Amanda Froelich

The idea of retreating to nature when life gets too hectic is nothing new. For instance, this study suggests that negative ions in natural environments benefit those suffering from depression and anxiety and contribute to feelings of mental-wellbeing. But, for the first time ever researchers have deduced a specific dose of an urban nature experience to counteract the effects of stress. The researchers concluded that a 20-minute “nature pill” is sufficient to significantly reduce stress hormone levels.

“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the research. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”

Credit: Pixabay

The study was published in Frontiers in Psychology. The researchers hope the finding encourages health practitioners to consider prescribing a “nature pill” before conventional treatments.

As GoodNewsNetwork reports, nature pills could be a low-cost solution to reduce the health effects associated with high stress levels which stem from growing urbanization and indoor lifestyles. Hunter and her colleagues wanted to provide evidence-based guidelines for prescribing a nature pill, so they designed an experiment that gives a realistic estimate of an effective dose.

Over an 8-week period, participants of the study were asked to take a nature pill with a duration of 10 minutes or more, at least 3 times a week. Before and after the nature pill, levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, were measured from saliva samples.

“Participants were free to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of their nature experience, which was defined as anywhere outside that in the opinion of the participant, made them feel like they’ve interacted with nature,” explained Hunter. “There were a few constraints to minimize factors known to influence stress: take the nature pill in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading.

Building personal flexibility into the experiment allowed us to identify the optimal duration of a nature pill, no matter when or where it is taken, and under the normal circumstances of modern life, with its unpredictability and hectic scheduling,” she continued. “We also accommodated day-to-day differences in a participant’s stress status by collecting four snapshots of cortisol change due to a nature pill,” says Hunter. “It also allowed us to identify and account for the impact of the ongoing, natural drop in cortisol level as the day goes on, making the estimate of effective duration more reliable.”

Credit: Pixabay

After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that a 20-minute nature experience is enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. They also found that if you spend more time in nature (between 20 and 30 minutes), cortisol levels dropped at the greatest rate. Past 30 minutes, additional de-stressing benefits continue to add up, albeit at a slower rate.

“Healthcare practitioners can use our results as an evidence-based rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription,” said Hunter. “It provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels in the context of normal daily life. It breaks new ground by addressing some of the complexities of measuring an effective nature dose.”

Hunter and her colleagues hope that this study inspires further research in this area.

“Our experimental approach can be used as a tool to assess how age, gender, seasonality, physical ability and culture influences the effectiveness of nature experiences on well-being. This will allow customized nature pill prescriptions, as well as a deeper insight on how to design cities and wellbeing programs for the public,” Hunter concluded.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!

This article was sourced from The Mind Unleashed.

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School Replaced Detention With Meditation And It Created Incredible Results

By Mayukh Saha

We have all been through those terrible detentions back in school. But it’s really debatable whether detention actually results in any proper productive development in children. While many of us may have been told to step outside the class or stand while others are sitting, in a method to shame us, it always affects us negatively. Rather, we need to find a new way that will actually help students become better than they are without impacting their self-esteem.

In Baltimore, the Robert W. Coleman School brought about a change in their ‘detention’ method and it was a grand success. Taking help of the ancient Hindu practice of meditation, the school introduced the Mindful Meditation Room in February 2016, as reported by Uproxx. Here, meditation was used to calm and help students deal with anxiety and stress – thereby disciplining their mental thoughts. This method was introduced through a wonderful partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation. The school chose to break tradition and it seemed like a risky move. The question was – will it work?

Turns out – it did. The suspension rates in the school lowered significantly. Some of the students have mentioned how the program changed their lives. For example, if they were taking a test, they would just start taking deep breaths. In the midst of noise, they would meditate to tune out all the noise and become one with themselves. And the best part – it actually helped them to build their character. One of the students recalled that in the middle of a conflict with their parents, they were about to lose their cool when they remembered the breathing techniques. After breathing in and out – the anger was gone. That might actually be the best conflict resolution ever. Here are some of the kids practicing meditation:

√HLF uses a reciprocal teaching model so that the kids will go home and teach their families.

Young yogi in the making:

We need a change in our detention system so that we can actually help these students become good human beings in the future. Robert W. Coleman School has set up a wonderful example. Now, we can only hope that the other schools may follow through.

Image credits: Holistic Life Foundation / Facebook


Hey! Message me. I am Mayukh. I help people and websites with content, design and social media management. I am an avid traveler and want to go full digital nomadic by summer 2019. I am currently working on www.noetbook.com – a creative media company. You can reach out to me anytime: [email protected]com Read More stories by Mayukh Saha

This article was sourced from Truth Theory.

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