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Psychedelics in Medicine

with Dr. Julianna Giles

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Herbal medicine, a study of pharmacognosy, dates back tens of thousands of years before even the inception of medical technology. In any culture around the world, it was not unusual to experiment with and harvest plants for the sake of healing, as there was virtually no other option. The modern age may have introduced new medical devices, treatments, medications, etc. but the objective still stands to cure as many known diseases in the healthiest, most natural way possible.

This February, the Sanctuary had the privilege to interview Dr. Julianna Giles, Resident Physician at the Seattle AIMS Institute and one of the nation’s leading figures in Ayurvedic (natural) medicine. In this edition of our webinar series (which we highly recommend joining), Dr. Giles discussed her groundbreaking research of herbal medicine and how psychedelics along with cannabis can change the course of medical treatment.

We conducted the webinar with her and Dr. Pejman Bady, co-founder of the Sanctuary and renowned doctor of osteopathic medicine. In their interview, the two experts discussed their experience in the field and the benefits of herbal medicine on the endocannabinoid system. You can click the link here to watch the full interview on our YouTube channel.

Dr. Julianna Giles, ND, MSAS

Our guest of honor for February’s webinar is acclaimed Ayurvedic specialist and passionate wellness instructor Dr. Julianna Giles. Truly a master of the Ayurvedic arts, Dr. Giles career really began at 13 when she was already an experienced yoga practitioner. Talk about starting early! She then went on to travel around the world (an adventurer at heart) and do her training abroad where she would be completely immersed in new cultures and discover new alternative approaches to medicine.

Such discoveries would lead Dr. Giles to become a naturopathic doctor and certified yoga instructor, teaching college students across the country. “I love teaching yoga on campus to students & faculty who seek deep rest & recharge from the intensity of academic life,” says Dr. Giles. She is currently a Resident Physician at the AIMS Institute in Seattle, Washington’s leading institute of alternative medicine, and hopes to become a certified naturopathic oncologist.

For all of the great benefits of herbal medicine and the diseases that they treat, the worst one of all remains at large in terms of a cure, and that is cancer: Something that could find a treatment in the cannabis industry.

Dr. Giles hopes to change that by becoming an oncologist in the field and further research the effects of herbal and psychedelic therapies on different cancers. “Cannabis is what got me into studying medicinal mushrooms, I had done a lot of research on them through my mentor and attending physician (at Bastyr University), and she conducted the first human trial with mushrooms for breast cancer. That is where it came full circle.”

Benefits of Medicinal Psychedelics

The hosts touched on psilocybin, which are like the mushroom equivalent of cannabis concentrates. While they may be most known for the strong high, psilocybin has actually been known to reduce cravings, alleviate withdrawal symptoms and have been used to treat addiction and depression. Dr. Giles was only an undergrad when the first cancer trial with mushrooms was conducted and they have only increased in popularity since then.

When Dr. Bady asked our guests how psychedelics have been used for patients with learning disabilities, she had this to say: “Absolutely! One molecule in the brain (BDNF) up-regulates neurological pathways and creates new pathways and new neuronal connections where they didn’t used to exist. So it is going to be way more solidified in retaining information if you are branching off on these points (having trouble processing and focusing on things). But now, you have one learning focus that branches off in 10 different ways, as opposed to one that you’d forget if you do not apply it.”

Dr. Giles also describes this neurological increase as having a peak experience in nature or just in your day to day life but not using it, which would result in losing that information or your ability to learn from it. However, psychedelic therapy has been used for patients with mental health conditions, as they develop a much broader focus on one thing and retain that new information.

How do Psychedelics Compare to Opioids?

“Michael Pallan said it best when he said that the people who are too ‘organized’ in their mind, those with OCD, anxiety, depression, or where there is so much rigidity in their mind with little neuroplasticity: Those are the people who would respond best to psychedelics.” -Dr. Giles.

Much like how cannabis was found not to be a gateway drug but actually turn you away from harder drug use, it is essentially the same advantage with psychedelics compared to opioids. A recent study showed that participants who were prescribed medical psychedelics showed a decrease in opioid use of nearly 60% across the board. Psychedelics have been used to treat addictions and withdrawal, as mentioned, so not only are you healing naturally but you are also drastically reducing your likelihood of overdosing from your medications.

Shrooms vs. Cannabis

Since some cannabis strains can give you psychoactive effects comparable to mushrooms, the two are sometimes synonymous when discussing psychedelic medicine. However, cannabis is technically not considered a psychedelic drug so it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges (if they both got you high). The two only fall within the same category of osteopathic medicine, in which Dr. Bady is certified as a DO while coming from a family of allopathic doctors.

Both can take about one hour to kick in with the effects lasting 4 to 5 hours longer, but more research needs to be done to examine how the two work together. The reason why is solely because taking two drugs (at the same time) that have such an effect on your brain was probably common at Woodstock but not as well researched as of late. Dr. Giles agrees that all experts in the Ayurvedic field stay up to date on their medicinal effects as our knowledge of them is constantly evolving.


Dr Julianna Giles

Dr. Julianna Giles

Resident Physician at AIMS Institute Seattle
Pejman Bady

Pejman Bady

President, Medical Director NuVeda Natural Medicinal Solutions.

Want to learn more?

You can get more information about medical cannabis in out blog, check out these articles.

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