This guest blog post was written by Jonathan Lu, co-founder of Magi Ancestral Supplements
If I told you there was a practice followed for thousands of years by ancestral cultures around the world that helps to:
- Focus the mind
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Improve health and well-being
- Increase self awareness and understanding
- Develop a sense of inner peace and connection
What do you think I am referring to?
- A Psychedelic Journey
If you answered “all of the above”, you are correct! Dr. Stanislav Grof, the pioneering researcher who led the study of LSD and other psychedelic drugs on human consciousness in the 1960s, once said:
“Psychedelics can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth, but they are not a shortcut to enlightenment. Meditation is the foundation of any spiritual practice, and it is essential for integrating psychedelic experiences.”
Psychedelics, microdosing, and meditation have gone hand in hand for millennia. But how can they work together to amplify all of the benefits listed above? In this article we review how microdosing and meditation benefit the brain, body, and mind. And we discuss how to incorporate microdosing and meditation practices together to amplify each other.
Meditation as a practice dates back to 5,000 BCE where it was first developed by ancient yogis and rishis who were seeking to understand the nature of reality and to achieve enlightenment. It was later adopted by other religious and spiritual traditions, including Buddhism and Taoism as it spread across the Silk Road through China starting 130 BCE. Each culture developed its own unique meditation practices, but all shared the common goal of cultivating inner peace, self-awareness, and compassion.
Different forms of meditation include:
- Mindfulness meditation: focusing on the present moment and observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment (e.g. Vipassana, open awareness)
- Concentration meditation: focusing on a single object, such as the breath (e.g. Zen, fixed attention)
- Transcendental meditation: focusing on a mantra to transcend the thoughts and reach a state of pure consciousness (e.g. Samadhi, Zikr)
- Moving meditation: focusing on the breath and body movements (e.g. Yoga, Tai Chi, holotropic breathwork, Sufi whirling meditation)
Neurobiology of Meditation
Firstly, studies show that meditation increases activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the region of the brain that is involved in attention, planning, decision-making, and emotional regulation. It also increases activity in the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in memory formation and consolidation. Brain scans demonstrate that meditation increases alpha frequency brainwaves in these regions of the brain, which are associated with feelings of relaxation and calmness. Research shows that meditation increases gray matter density in the brain and improves white matter connectivity, a sign of improved communication between different brain regions. Check one for brain health!
Secondly, studies also show that meditation decreases activity in the amygdala, the region of the brain involved in fear and anxiety (fight or flight). Mindfulness meditation in particular is an effective anti-anxiety tool and minimizes the body’s stress response to anxiety. Check two for mental health!
Finally, studies also show that meditation reduces inflammation and strengthens the immune system. The American Heart Association even published a statement advocating for meditation as a means to reduce cardiovascular risk. Check three for physical health!
The term “microdosing” was first coined by James Fadiman, who experimented with microdoses of LSD and psilocybin at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in the 1960s. He found that microdoses of psychedelics could produce subtle but positive changes in mood, creativity, and problem-solving abilities.
While microdosing is a relatively new term, its origins can be traced back to indigenous cultures. Across the globe, many ancestral cultures used microdoses of psychedelics, oneirogens and plant medicines for centuries for healing and spiritual purposes.
When most people think of shamanic psychedelic plant medicine ceremonies, they think of the heroic dose. But doses were often low, even to a lightly perceptive or sub-perceptive microdosing level. For example, a 2020 study analyzed the chemical composition of 102 different ayahuasca brews used by religious communities. This study showed that many of the brews contain less than 1/5 of the typical amount of DMT. Communities belonging to the Santo Daime church even prepare ayahuasca brew with only 1/20 the typical amount of DMT.
The ancestral use of psychoactive and psychedelic plant medicines is as diverse as the plants themselves. For example, the Zoroastrian priests in ancient Iran prepared Haoma, the legendary elixir of truth from the ancestral plant Espand (Syrian Rue) at very high doses. They drank haoma to embark on a spiritual dream-like journey to the realm of after death in pursuit of otherworldly insights. We now know that this was due to the high content of Espand’s active ingredients: beta-Carbolines.
These priests, known as the magi, also consumed Espand in lighter doses by burning its seeds as incense during regular ritual meditative ceremonies. We believe that inhaling smoke from Espand seeds provided them with a lighter dose of beta-Carbolines that helped them reach a deeper meditative state. It mimicked the dream-like state while awake.
“Meditation and psychedelics are both powerful tools for self-exploration and transformation. When used together, they can help us to see ourselves and the world in new ways and to break free from our conditioned patterns of thinking.” – James Fadiman
Neurobiology of Microdosing
The neurobiology of microdosing psychedelics is not well studied. Research suggests that microdosing may offer the same brain and mental health benefits of psychedelics without the subjective effects. For example, studies show that psilocybin induces the rapid growth of neurons in the hippocampus which is the part of the brain involved in memory and learning.
Further studies show that psilocybin decreases activity of the claustrum and default mode network, the part of the brain involved in self-referential thinking and rumination. Both LSD and psilocybin increase cognitive flexibility and connectivity across the brain. This helps to form new thought patterns and break long held negative thought patterns. We need further research to understand how microdosing psychedelics can improve brain health, mental health, and physical health.
Our team at Magi Ancestral Supplements has conducted ample research to understand the neurobiology of beta-Carbolines. We make our microdosing, minidosing, and macrodosing nootropics from purified beta-Carbolines extracted from Espand (Syrian Rue). Our formulations combine select beta-Carbolines at a precise dose with other all-natural plant extracts for a unique experience and desired brainwave pattern.
For example, we formulated Mang lucid dream aid as a lightly perceptive minidose to amplify high frequency (beta and gamma) brainwaves during the REM sleep stage when taken before bed. This brainwave pattern supports vivid and emotionally resonant dreams from your subconscious. As another example, we formulated Ameretat neurogenesis aid as a sub-perceptive microdose that promotes a normal and healthy response to cerebral inflammation and release of brain growth factors.
Microdosing and Meditation
The magi of ancient Iran were one of many cultures that learned the benefits of combining microdosing with meditation. The ancient Greeks used the herb kanna to enhance their meditation practice. Early Taoists of China concocted a wide variety of plant-based elixirs, including cannabis and wolfsbane to amplify their meditation in pursuit of enlightenment.
Perhaps the most successful plant-based microdosing for meditation is Camellia sinensis and Coffea arabica: caffeine from tea and coffee. Tea is the most important medicine in the Chinese pharmacopeia. Buddhists and Taosists prized it for helping to stay awake during meditation. Just as Muslims prized coffee for helping to stay awake during prayer (another form of meditation).
The flagship product of Magi Ancestral Supplements is Stard deep meditation aid. We formulated it to promote alpha brainwaves during meditation. Stard deep meditation aid is inspired by the ancient Iranian practice of imbibing beta-Carbolines from Espand (Syrian Rue) incense to reach a deeper dream-like meditative state. Taking it 5 to 15 minutes before meditation promotes a further increase in alpha frequency brainwaves to help you reach a deeper state of conscious and unconscious awareness.
Stard deep meditation aid is a lightly perceptive minidose that contains a precise dose of select beta-Carbolines to help achieve a dream-like state during meditation. We conducted randomized placebo-controlled studies to measure participants’ brainwaves with and without Stard deep meditation aid across a wide array of meditation forms.
The most significant increase in alpha brainwaves was with mindfulness meditation (Vipassana, open awareness). Combining Stard deep meditation aid with mindfulness meditation also resulted in the most profound change in self-reported depth of experience.
Stard deep meditation aid also increased alpha brainwaves with concentration meditation (fixed attention, focus on breath). Its effect was noticeable but less significant with transcendental meditation (mantra, or Zikr). Stard did not improve alpha brainwaves during moving meditation (Yoga, holotropic breathwork).
There is no harm in combining Stard deep meditation aid with physically-intensive forms of meditation such as holotropic breathwork. But for best results, we recommend supplementing Stard deep meditation aid only with non physically-intensive forms of meditation.
The 2021 documentary Descending the Mountain follows Dr. Franz Vollenweider as he conducts a groundbreaking study on the effect of psilocybin mushrooms on meditators. This double-blind placebo-controlled study involved participants who have never used any psychedelic substance before, including a Catholic nun and Buddhist monk. The results were extraordinary. Similar to the stories that make us excited by the potential of psychedelic therapy.
The participants underwent life-changing mystical experiences that were amplified by their natural brainstate and mindstate. They were conditioned by decades of meditation experience. Brain scans showed increased gamma frequency brainwaves, as expected from a psychedelic experience, and similar to that of lucid dreaming in the REM phase of sleep.
This study is similar to others that show how meditation increases brain entropy, and the celebrated paper about psychedelics and the entropic brain by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris. Other studies have demonstrated the synergistic benefits of combining mindfulness meditation with psychedelics, and the similarities between perception of self consciousness between meditation and psychedelics.
- an intense and physically altered experience from a psychedelic journey
- a non-psychedelic but psychoactive or oneirophernic (dream-inducing) macrodose, like our Haoma revelation aid
- a lightly perceptive nootropic minidose like Stard deep meditation aid
The goal is self awareness, connectedness, and inner peace for which meditation is at the foundation. The combination of mind-altering plant substances, microdosing, and meditation has a long and rich history. It continues to be a powerful tool for personal and spiritual growth.
As the recently departed trailblazer of psychedelic research Dr. Roland Griffiths said:
“I think meditation and psychedelics can be very complementary. Meditation can help people to develop a greater capacity for introspection and self-awareness. Psychedelics can then help people to explore their inner world in a more profound way.”
The question I leave you with: whether a hero’s journey macrodose or microdosing, is meditation the gateway drug to psychedelics? Or are psychedelics the gateway drug to meditation?