The Tim Ferriss Show – Dr. Andrew Weil on Optimal Health, Plant Medicine, and More

Key Takeaways
  • Garlic has many health benefits
    • It’s a powerful antibiotic
    • It lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
    • But you have do eat it fresh and raw – cooking garlic lowers it’s medicinal properties
  • Nutmeg is a psychoactive drug, if you take enough of it
  • Cannabis:
    • Does not dilate the pupils
    • Doesn’t lower blood sugar (often thought to cause the munchies)
    • And in people who have never smoked it, it causes some impairment on basic physiological and psychomotor tests (but giving it to people have had experience with the drug, doesn’t show this)
  • The set/setting in which you take a drug, is as important as the drug itself
    • Set = all the expectational factors that a person brings to an experience
    • Setting = the environment, both physical and social
    • You can give a stimulant to a person in conditions of set/setting that cause a person to fall asleep, and a sedative drug to someone under conditions that cause a person to become alert/stimulative 
  • People react to the tone of what you’re saying, not so much the content
    • A lot can be dismissed, if you are angry
  • The 4-7-8 breathing exercise
    • Let all the air out through your mouth, breathe in quietly through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and blow air forcibly out for a count of 8
      • Repeat this for 4 cycles
    • “For treating anxiety, it is by far the best method I have found”
  • A cool book that peaked my interest:
      • “So many of my friends are trapped in repetitive patterns with other people that are very unfulfilling”
      • The book is all about how we project something onto another person, which is really inside us
  • A great question to ask at a dinner party –  When is the last time you remember crying tears of joy?
Intro
Andrew’s Love Affair with Plants
  • As an undergrad at Harvard, Andrew majored in botany, receiving his degree in 1964
  • He loves his gardens
    • Andrew has one in Tucson, where he lives in the winter, and British Columbia where he lives during the summer
    • He grows much of his own food 
  • Are there any particular go to plants, that Andrew uses on a daily basis for food, or other health purposes?
    • “There’s nothing like having fresh food from the garden”
    • The secret to good food, is it’s freshness
    • Garlic is his favorite medicinal plant, which he grows
      • It’s a powerful antibiotic
      • It lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
      • But you have do eat it fresh and raw – cooking garlic lowers it’s medicinal properties
Doors of Perception, Nutmeg, and Cannabis
  • The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, inspired Andrew to take mescaline
    • Andrew first took it in 1960 – What was his first experience like?
      • He took a half gram in his dorm room with his roommate, while multiple friends were watching
      • He felt only some mild physical effects, “no significant psychological change”
        • But the second time he took it  – “I did experience a very profound altered state, which is hard to describe, but it was a real sense of the oneness of everything, and a much larger reality than I had been aware of”
  • The thesis Andrew wrote, for his graduate degree at Harvard (prior to going on to Harvard Med), was on nutmeg as a narcotic
    • It’s a psychoactive drug when you take enough of it
    • You really have to take a lot – like a whole can of powdered nutmeg
  • Cannabis
    • Andrew didn’t try smoking it until he was a senior in college
    • At Harvard Med, he used it more frequently…but it amazed him that there hadn’t been much research done into the drug (as of the 1960s)
    • So as a senior in med school, Andrew devoted his elective time to performing the first human double blind placebo controlled studies with the drug
      • His research was published as a lead story in Science in 1968
      • The research was also front page news on the New York Times
      • What did Andrew’s study find, in regards to cannabis?
        • It’s a relatively mild intoxicant
        • It does not dilate pupils
        • It doesn’t lower blood sugar (often thought to cause the munchies)
        • In people who have never had it before, you could demonstrate some impairment on basic physiological and psychomotor tests (but giving it to people have had experience with the drug, didn’t show this)
      • “I thought pot would be legal in five years. Boy was I wrong.”
Set and Setting
  • The setting in which you take a drug, is as important as the drug itself
  • Set = all the expectational factors that a person brings to an experience
  • Setting = the environment, both physical and social
  • “The effects of a drug are not just due to the drug. One factor, certainly, is the nature of the drug, like the dose. But what also plays a role is what a person expects to happen when he/she takes the dose. And then there’s the setting – the physical and social environment in which the drug is taken.”
    • Andrew has concluded that the combined set and setting can actually reverse the psychological effects of a particular drug
      • You can give a stimulant to a person in conditions of set/setting that cause a person to fall sleep, and a sedative drug to someone under conditions that cause a person to become alert/stimulative 
More on Cannabis
  • Andrew doesn’t use it much anymore
  • Why? – His experiences with it have changed over time
    • In his mid 20s, while using it, the highs he had were very enjoyable and uplifting
    • After several years of this, Andrew says the highs changed for him – he found them to be more introspective
    • Over time, he found cannabis to make him more groggy/sedative and not creative/imaginative like it used to
    • “I finally felt it didn’t do much for me, so I weened myself off it”
    • He now uses it very rarely as a social drug
One of the Most Profound Effects of Psychedelics
  • “They can show you possibilities that you wouldn’t have believed to be true” – But it’s up to you to figure how to experience those states more in the future without psychedelics
    • That’s why many people navigate towards meditation after having tried psychedelics
What makes for good psychedelic research and studies?
  • “The person running the show, and giving the drugs, himself/herself has to be fully experienced, they really have to be a shaman. You can’t just have research hacks giving these drugs in clinical settings, expecting to get wonderful results.”
From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs
  • One of Andrew’s books – It came out in 1983, just when the war on drugs began
  • The main premise – “We’re not going to tell you whether you should use drugs or not, but if you do, these are the precautions you might take”
  • It covered a lot of drugs – nicotine, caffeine, psychedelics etc.
  • But it came with some controversy
    • A Republican senator from Florida made it a campaign to get the book banned
    • But….the book is still in print
How can be better fight for the legalization of MDMA, psychedelics, and cannabis for medical applications?
  • Don’t be angry
    • “I’ve gotten away with saying the most outrageous things because I’m not angry, and people listen”
    • People react to the tone of what you’re saying, not so much the content
    • A lot can be dismissed, if you are angry
  • Suggest possibilities for the uses of these agents, that address problems for which we don’t have solutions
    • Ex – The opioid crisis is an excellent opportunity for cannabis medicine
      • Doctors working in states where cannabis is legal, say that is has tremendously improved the lives of patients dependent on opioids
    • Demonstrate that psilocybin can be used to treat OCD
    • MDMA produces excellent results for mitigating/treating PTSD
What is Integrative medicine?
  • Medicine of the future
  • “The intelligent combination of conventional medicine, natural medicine, and preventative medicine, and other alternative therapies”
  • “A system that utilizes the natural healing power of the organism”
    • For example. Andrew will often teach patients various breathing techniques (see below)
      • There hasn’t been a lot of research on the health effects of breathing, but the chance they cause harm is so negligible
      • In general – The more something has the potential for harm, the greater the burden of proof should be
    • “The great promise of integrative medicine is that it can lower healthcare costs while maintaining or improving health outcomes. I think it’s the only way out of this mess that we have with healthcare in this country.”
  • Andrew founded The Center for Integrative Medicine at Arizona Sate University
The Types of Information
  • The information that comes from your own experiences
    • A cool fact – In all languages derived from Latin, the word for experience, and the word for experiment, are the same
      • But not English
    • “Your own experience is a form of experimentation that produces information”
  • Double blind placebo controlled studies
    • Many people think this is the only source of reliable information
    • In the placebo group, there will always be one or two people, or a small number of subjects, who show all the changes produced in the experimental group who got the drug
      • Isn’t this fascinating – “This means that any change that we can produce in the human organism by giving a pharmacological agent, can be exactly mimicked in at least some people, some of the time, purely by a mind mediated mechanism”
The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
  • Let all the air out through your mouth, breathe in quietly through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and blow air forcibly out for a count of 8
    • Repeat this for 4 cycles
  • Andrew recommends doing it at least 4x a day
  • “By doing this, you change the tone of the autonomic nervous system. You decrease sympathetic tone, increase parasympathetic tone/the relaxation response, and after practicing this for several weeks/months, it becomes an amazing tool”
    • It lowers anxiety, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and improves digestion
  • “Breath is the key to controlling involuntary functions”
  • “Breathing is the only thing you can do completely consciously or completely unconsciously”
  • “For treating anxiety, it is by far the best method I have found”
  • Andrew has seen even the most extreme cases of panic disorder respond to this breathing technique once people have practiced it enough
More on Healthcare
  • What current practices will be completely obsolete or revised in the future?
    • Dentistry
      • “The whole idea of drilling captivities, and filling them with foreign materials, I think eventually, we will not believe that we were doing that”
      • What might replace this? –
        • A vaccine to inoculate you against the bacteria causing decay
        • Regenerative medicine being able to stimulate the growth of new teeth
        • (There are services which let you harvest the stem cells from baby teeth for later uses)
    • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy will be obsolete in the not so distant future
      • They just don’t distinguish well enough between malignant and normal cells
    • What’s on the horizon?
      • Regenerative medicine
      • Prescribed fasting protocols prior to cancer treatment/chemotherapy
  • What is Andrew most excited about?
    • The mainstreaming of regenerative medicine
What books has Andrew gifted most often?
The Drive To Experience Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness is Innate to Human Beings
  • Example – Children spinning around
  • Andrew talks about this more in his first book, The Natural Mind
What are some of Andrew’s daily or weekly habits, when he’s in “the zone”?
  • He meditates when we first gets up
    • He begins by doing breaths of fire
    • Andrew then does the 4-7-8 breathing exercise for at least 8 breath cycles
    • Most of the effort is spent trying to focus attention on the breath, bodily sensations, and the sounds around him
  • Physical activity
  • “I can’t imagine life without dogs” – It’s been a very important part of his emotional well being
    • He has two Rhodesian Ridgebacks – a male and female
    • Dogs are one of the only animals that hold our gaze – there’s research showing that when a dog holds your gaze, there is oxytocin release in both the dog and human brain
      • The longer the eye connection, the greater the release of oxytocin
  • “Cooking and food preparation have always been very grounding for me”
    • Cooking, in a way, is meditation
The Restaurant Business
  • Andrew is a partner in True Food Kitchen in Phoenix (the original location)
    • There’s now 25 locations around the country, with 8 more planned to open this year
    • There’s a location in Austin – Tim has been and recommends the seasonal ingredient salad with chicken
    • The kale salad is probably the most popular dish
Rapid Fire Questions
  • What’s the most worthwhile investment Andrew has ever made?
    • It has to be his investments (time and money) in True Food kitchen
    • Best time investment? – Writing
  • What new beliefs/behaviors/habits, have really improved the quality of Andrew’s life?
    • Intermittent fasting
  • When is the last time Andrew remembers crying tears of joy?
    • Side note – Tim says this is a great question to ask at a dinner party
    • For Andrew, many times people will write to him, saying that things he has written have changed their lives
  • What does Andrew’s morning routine look like?
    • He wakes up at 4am (he goes to bed at 9pm)
      • He sleeps with his dogs
    • He brushes his teeth
    • Then he does his meditation
    • He’ll then feed the dogs, and himself
      • Andrew loves “Japanese breakfasts” – broiled fish and miso soup with steamed rice and seaweed, maybe some pickles, and some green tea
      • “It’s got to be the best breakfast on the planet” – Tim
      • A side story
        • Andrew helped start a company called Matcha Kari after becoming obsessed with matcha on some previous Japan travels
    • Next, he’ll take the dog out
  • What purchases of $100 or less that have most positively impacted Andrew’s life?
    • Computer glasses – they slightly enlarge things, and cancel out the blue light
  • What would Andrew put out on a billboard?
    • “All the good stuff is inside you”
      • The highs you get from drugs, come from chemicals inside you – the drug just releases them
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