Andrew Weil — The 4-7-8 Breath Method, Cannabis, The Uses of Coca Leaf, Rehabilitating Demonized Plants, Kava for Anxiety, Lessons from Wade Davis, The Psychedelic Renaissance, How to Emerge from Depression, Tales from 50+ Visits to Japan, Matcha Benefits, and More | Tim Ferriss Show (#615)

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Key Takeaways

  • According to Dr. Andrew Weil, 4-7-8 breathing is the most powerful method to access the relaxation response and the most powerful anti-anxiety measure
  • The basic technique of 4-7-8 breath (for more details check out this video of Dr. Weil doing the technique)
    • Breathe quietly and through the nose to a count of 4
    • Hold the breath for a count of 7
    • Forcibly blow air out through the mouth for a count of 8
  • Coca is not cocaine, it has different effects (unique medical effects)
  • “There are no good or bad drugs. There are just good and bad relationships with drugs.” Dr. Andrew Weil
  • Kava is likely the most significant natural anti-anxiety remedy out there 
  • The majority of sleep aids (e.g. Ambien) are dangerous because they don’t reproduce natural sleep
  • “For depression, we have tremendous evidence of the value of physical activity, both as a preventive and a treatment.”Dr. Andrew Weil
  • Matcha has the highest level of antioxidants and L-theanine (the calming amino acid that modifies the effects of caffeine)
  • Fermented turmeric tea mitigates neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, prevents cancer, and protects liver function
  • “I think there’s such tremendous potential for psychedelic experience in physical medicine, for really changing the course of chronic disease, for really affecting how people experience their bodies.”Dr. Andrew Weil

Intro

  • Andrew Weil, MD (@DrWeil) is a well-known expert in the field of integrative medicine and has been listed among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world
    • In this episode, Dr. Weil gives unique insights on alternative methods of treating disease, medicinal plants, 4-7-8 breathing, and the positives and negatives of psychedelic exploration
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

4-7-8 Breathing: How It Works, Benefits, and Uses

  • The basic technique of 4-7-8 breath (for more details check out this video of Dr. Weil doing the technique)
    • Breathe quietly and through the nose to a count of 4
    • Hold the breath for a count of 7
    • Forcibly blow air out through the mouth for a count of 8
  • When you’re first learning it, repeat for 4 breath cycles
    • Eventually, you can go up to 8 breath cycles (but no more than that)
    • Do this at least twice a day
    • The real effects come after four to six weeks
  • According to Dr.Weil, 4-7-8 breathing is the most powerful method to access the relaxation response and the most powerful anti-anxiety measure

Rehabilitating the Sacred Leaf (Coca)

  • Overcoming the stigma of coca leaves to realize their medical benefits
    • Dr.Weil is a great fan of coca leaf and has worked for many years to try to teach people the differences between coca and cocaine
    • Coca is not cocaine, it has different effects (unique medical effects)
    • It’s the sacred plant of many indigenous people in South America
    • Finally, some momentum is building around legalizing coca, making it medically available
  • It’s not the plant, it’s the misuse
    • “There are no good or bad drugs. There are just good and bad relationships with drugs.” Dr. Andrew Weil
    • The same goes for plants (taking cocaine out of coca, ephedra, and khat, opium poppies, tobacco, etc.)
    • The problem is how we’ve related to that plant (it’s our misuses of these that have caused trouble)
    • There are a ton of different plants that we consider problematic, and it would be interesting to try to rehabilitate some of them

What is The Beneficial Plants Research Association?

  • It’s a research foundation that Dr.Weil started in 1979
    • It had an amazing advisory group (including Dick Schultes, Albert Hofmann, and Alexander Shulgin)
    • The purpose of the association was to look at plants that had been neglected or unrecognized but could be of great use in the US
    • They wanted to make research, to teach people about them
    • Coca was one of the main ones, also kava (which was relatively unknown at that time)
  • Unfortunately, they were way ahead of their time
    • Eventually, they folded, but Dr. Weil is hyped about resurrecting the project
    • Now is the time to try this again
  • Dr. Weil and Wade Davis are reviving The Beneficial Plants Research Association
    • Wade Davis is a very well-known anthropologist, ethnobotanist, prolific writer, and traveler
    • There are so many plants yet to be discovered that have beneficial effects, not just psychoactive ones, but things with medicinal effects, stimulants, sedatives, and all sorts of things that are potentially useful
    • “I’m a great believer in natural products and think that in many ways many of them are superior to synthetic, chemical drugs.”Dr. Andrew Weil

Thoughts on Kava and Its Effect on Sleep Quality

  • Kava is the primary psychoactive plant that’s used in Oceania and many islands throughout the Pacific
    • Kava has a unique chemistry
    • People make a beverage from it (by chewing the root and spitting it into a bowl and mixing it with coconut juice)
    • Serves as a social stimulant and lubricant
    • Natural sedative and calmative, extremely useful, and essentially has no toxicity
    • Kava is likely the most significant natural anti-anxiety remedy out there 
    • No interactions with alcohol and other sedatives 
    • It’s quite safe, and Dr.Weil recommends it very frequently to people
  • The majority of sleep aids (like Ambien and so on) are dangerous because they don’t reproduce natural sleep
    • They suppress dreaming, which is an essential component of good sleep, and distort sleep architecture
    • They’re addictive, and they interfere with cognitive function
    • Only for short-term use because of situational insomnia
    • Kava has none of these negative effects. It can be used long-term regularly
    • However, Dr. Weil is not aware of any good studies on how kava affects sleep quality

The Positives and Negatives of Psychedelics Going Mainstream

  • The positives
    • People are hungry for psychedelics experiences, and it’s a very good thing according to Dr. Weil
    • “The more people who have positive psychedelic experiences, that may lead to the change in consciousness which I think is the only thing that can turn things around for us.”Dr. Andrew Weil
    • There’s a great need for people trained in how to guide psychedelic experiences
  • The negatives
    • Plenty of people are using psychedelics just as party drugs and recreational drugs
    • This is fine but they miss out on the real potential
    • Commercial interest, big pharma industries looking at how they can capitalize on all this

How Did Andrew Emerge From Dysthymia (Mild to Moderate Depression)?

  • “For depression, we have tremendous evidence of the value of physical activity, both as a preventive and a treatment.”Dr. Andrew Weil
    • Huge evidence for the use of omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, or fish
    • Psychological methods like cognitive therapy are extremely useful
    • Spiritual techniques like meditation, mindfulness, or even gratitude can also help
    • Keep a journal of things to be grateful for as you go to bed
    • “Just the simple act of keeping a little journal of things to be grateful for and making a note of that as you go to bed can improve your mood for lasting effects for a month.”Dr. Andrew Weil
  • Be wary of who you spend time with; hanging out with negative people will worsen your depression
    • “Moods are contagious, and you can track them through a population just like you can track the movements of an infectious disease.”Dr. Andrew Weil

Health Benefits of Fermented Turmeric and Matcha Tea

  • Wide-ranging effects of fermented turmeric tea
    • Mitigates neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s
    • Prevents cancer, and protects liver function
  • Matcha is the only form of tea in which the whole leaf is consumed
    • It has the highest level of antioxidants and L-theanine (the calming amino acid that modifies the effects of caffeine)
  • How L-theanine modifies the effects of caffeine
    • Dr. Weil believes it takes the jittery edge off of caffeine 
    • The effects of caffeine and tea and then coffee are very different 
    • Coffee produces a “jangling” effect in many people 
    • There’s often a crash after a period of stimulation 
    • Many coffee drinkers are physically addicted to it and have withdrawal syndrome when they stop
    • You don’t see anything like that with tea and part of the reason is that the L-theanine has a calming effect that changes the effect of caffeine

What Gets Missed Most by Current Psychedelic Exploration

  • Maybe too much emphasis on mental, and emotional health
    • Dr. Weil wants to see more exploration of the dramatic effects of psychedelic experiences on people who’ve had chronic illness
  • “I think there’s such tremendous potential for psychedelic experience in physical medicine, for really changing the course of chronic disease, for really affecting how people experience their bodies.”Dr. Andrew Weil
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