By: Mica Cruz
For this month’s Infusion Issue, the Emerald interviewed herbal advocate Chris Kilham, aka the “Medicine Hunter.” Kilham has traveled all over the world searching for traditional herbal treatments—through Asia, Europe and South America, including deep in the Amazon. He has authored 14 books ranging from stories about his travels, to practical advice on wellness and sexual health, and he continues to educate people on the benefits of traditional natural medicine.
We also talked about infusing cannabis with other herbal remedies, as well as how the movement for psychedelic exploration is becoming more visible. Kilham even shared his personal experience with oral cannabis as a psychedelic. He also gave us a nice dosing guide for psychedelic cannabis brownies, but please be careful! Kilham described their effects as a very long and intense trip, which some people might find too terrifying—no newbies allowed here!
We covered a lot of ground, including the differences between herbal and pharmaceutical medicine and the nuances of traditional and herbal supplements. Read up, and be sure to check out his latest report on Ayahuasca Sustainability. **
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Emerald Magazine (EM): What are your thoughts about medicine and herbal remedies?
Chris Kilham (CK): Herbal medicines have been in use for many thousands of years that we know of, and in the past twenty-to-thirty years or so, many of them have undergone human clinical studies showing efficacy and safety. We co-evolved with plants—I mean, we share biology with plants. The pharmaceutical drugs that are available—I mean, some can save your life—there’s no question about it. But for the most part, they’re highly toxic, synthetic agents that are not part of our biology and with which we did not evolve with and which haven’t been in safe use for thousands of years.
It used to be that, many decades ago, many of the pharmaceutical drugs were actually compounds derived directly from plants, but once those effective drugs went out of patent, the drug companies looked to make other things, and not because the other things were necessarily more effective, but because they could be patented. So, really we’ve seen a broad range of pharmaceuticals that were originally derived from plants that have gone in and out of favor only because of patent law.
EM: Does this mean that traditional medicine is different from using herbal remedies?
CK: People who practice traditional herbal medicine really practice—they see people, they help to treat people. Today, in the way the law works in the U.S., the closest we can get to that mostly is herbal supplements, so you miss out on the expertise of the natural doctor. [Traditional medicine] certainly does include herbal supplements but not the entirety of natural medicine.
EM: Cannabis is considered a traditional medicine by many, but now it’s also an FDA-approved drug ingredient [for some limited purposes], and they’re looking to regulate THC, CBD and other cannabis-derived drugs. What are your thoughts on this?
CK: The U.S. government itself filed a patent [in 2003, U.S. Patent 6,630,507], on the use of cannabinoids, THC, CBD and other cannabinoids, as drugs. The government itself has a patent on these things. And realizing that these are effective and also that billions were to be made, they’ve really positioned themselves as the arbiters of who gets to sell this stuff. And, of course, the difference between other herbs and cannabis is that cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic, at least by legal definition—even though it’s not a narcotic. So, it doesn’t occupy the same legal neighborhood as echinacea, ginkgo, ginseng, whatever—it’s very different in that regard. And the FDA wants to block the ability of small companies to make great CBD products and all of that. They really want this to be tied up with big pharma, and I think a large battle is brewing.
EM: You’re saying that the U.S. government has a patent on THC, CBD and other cannabis-derived compounds, as drugs?
CK: Right, and anybody can look up the patent. It shows cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. This was issued in 2003, and you’ll see what this is about. This is the feds realizing early on that this is going to be monster medicine, and they wanted a piece of the financial action. The government can [grant] licenses to entities, to pharma companies.
EM: That’s interesting, because it’s federally illegal, with “no accepted medical use,” yet the government filed a patent for its medical use. Now, about the infusion of other herbs with cannabis: Do you have specific herbs that you think would work well with cannabis?
CK: Yeah, I’ve been blending different herbs with cannabis since the late ’70s actually. Cannabis deserves to be treated like any other kind of herb in this regard. It has a broad range of functions. It can help with pain, it can help some people with sleep, it can help some people be more sexually relaxed. I mean, it helps with a number of things, and so if you add to cannabis botanicals that support a particular activity, for example, if you’re looking for cannabis for sleep, then you get some sort of an indica cannabis, and maybe you add passion flower to it, then you’re going to get this dreamy sleep formula.
On the other hand, for mind-sharpening purposes, rhodiola and panax ginseng with cannabis get the pleasant uplifting effect of something like a nice balanced sativa, and then, with the ginseng and rhodiola, you get that extra [bit] of mental clarity and a little bit more energy—but not caffeine energy—so it’s a really nice kind of overall alertness approach.
You should be able to do this with anything if you’re using cannabis, for example, for pain then adding it to a good curcumin from turmeric and maybe also a high-humulene hops extract, which also is pain-relieving—that’s a powerful anti-inflammatory combination. This combination of botanicals with cannabis is well upon us. I think that that’s clearly the future, as is the case with other herbs
EM: Thank you for sharing your go-to blends of herbs with cannabis. I found on your website that you work with some psychedelics. Do you think these would be legalized soon, too? And if so, what psychedelic do you think should be legalized first? Which one would be the most beneficial?
CK: There was a recent referendum in Denver addressing the decriminalization of magic mushrooms, and we also know that referendums like this have been proposed in Oregon, and I think Washington state. So I would say given the popularity and the widespread use of mushrooms, it seems to me that this is what people will try to get decriminalized or legal status for. I think mushrooms are kind of an obvious choice.
In terms of what psychedelics are most beneficial, that’s really impossible to say. I mean, we know, for example, that LSD—especially consumed in therapeutic situations—shows great benefit for addiction, for trauma, for so many things. We see that also with ayahuasca in a big way. We’ve seen the remarkable studies with psilocybin mushrooms, including studies of terminal cancer patients losing their fear of death. So, I think when we think about psychedelics and their benefits, it’s really important to think about the people you’re serving.
For example, for people who are in the fourth stage of cancer and are dying, and you want to provide them with some relief in the form of maybe losing some of their fear of death, it’s probably not a great idea to give them a great big whopping dose of ayahuasca, because ayahuasca is rough—it’s intense. It might do the job, but it also might scare the living crap out of people who are already scared. Whereas we know from the psilocybin studies done at John Hopkins University Medical Center with stage-four terminal cancer patients that the majority of them had a very good experience and lost their fear of death.
So, I think when we think about what psychedelics are the most beneficial, we need to think, “Well for whom and for what?” Are we talking about for terminal cancer patients? Are we talking about for people who want some sort of profound improved spiritual realization? Are we talking about people who want to be relieved of a particular trauma, or are we talking about people who are hooked on oxycodone? Use the medicine that is going to fit the person and the need at that time.
We don’t talk enough about it, but cannabis is a first-class psychedelic. It is every bit as visionary; every bit as extreme; every bit as powerful as the other psychedelics. It’s just that for many people, consuming enough, orally, can really scare them. And I also believe, from my own experiences with that and from talking with many other people, that this purpose will also become better known than it is at present. And oral psychedelic use of cannabis will become something more popular as time goes on.
EM: By “psychedelic,” do you mean it could give you visuals?
CK: Oh, yes! Full on, every bit as much as mushrooms or LSD or ayahuasca. When you consume enough, when you do it properly, you can have very profound visionary experiences. The problem that most people have is that it lasts forever. The first time I did that was when I ate a ball of hash in Kathmandu, [Nepal] and I tripped my ass off for 13 or 14 hours. It just never stopped. It went on and on and on. And fortunately, I had a great time. But I think that can be a little bit rugged or extreme for some people unless you’re [on] a retreat or something like that.
There was a club in France in the 1940s called the Club Hashishan. Many of the big writers of that time—Fitz Hugh Ludlow, the Alcott sisters, Victor Hugo, Dumas, Baudelaire—a great many were members of this, and they would eat significant amounts of hashish, and they would trip their faces off. At the same time, they would then come up with spectacular visions that they would write about. So, this is a big, big deal, and they were among the people who really brought psychedelic cannabis visions to the public.
EM: I would assume that the hashish needs to be decarboxylated first?
CK: That’s a whole funny thing, too. We didn’t know about decarboxylation in ’84, when I ate that ball of hash in Kathmandu. All I did was take a ball of hash about the size of a chickpea, put it inside a dried apricot, and ate it. And I got unreasonably, remarkably tripped out for a long, long, long, lonnnng time. Way into the night, and I started out early in the morning. So, theoretically, you’re supposed to decarboxylate it…. You can even dose it. For example, I know that pretty much anything above half a gram, for most people, consumed, that’s going to give them a psychedelic experience. So, let’s say you have a recipe for brownies, and you use hash. All you have to do is figure out the dosing per brownie. You make a batch of brownies—how much hash are you going to use, and how many slices of brownies do you make so you get a half gram or whatever percentage of a gram you’re going to do?
[Editor’s Note: Be very careful when self-dosing with hash and concentrates. If you want peace of mind, stick to the shop’s offerings]
For those of you who are curious, we figured out the dosing and made a psychedelic brownie recipe for you. Please use with care! Kilham emphasized several times that this experience may be too extreme for some people. Remember to trip in a safe environment, and we’d suggest having a trip sitter.
Serves 12, with an estimated .5 grams of hash per serving
6 grams hash
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup mini chocolate chips
Optional: Decarboxylate your hash by putting it in a heat-resistant glass container and covering it with aluminum foil. Bake, or decarboxylate, the kief/hash for 30-40 minutes for a high-THC strain. High-CBD strains should be baked for 40-50 minutes at 245℉. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 350℉. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, and set aside.
Whisk together hash and melted butter. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, cocoa powder and milk. Whisk until smooth.
Stir in flour, salt and mini chocolate chips, stirring until flour is well incorporated.
Bake for 30 minutes, until brownies are set. Remove from oven, and let cool for 20 minutes before cutting. Cut into 12 squares.