Anima Mundi: Psychedelics and The Ensouled Earth

illustration representing Jung's theory of the conscious and unconscious to represent Psychedelics Today column "Psychedelics in Depth"

By Simon Yugler

Original Illustration by Martin Clarke

What is the ‘Anima Mundi’ and how can it help us understand psychedelic experiences?

This is part of our column ‘Psychedelics in Depth‘ which defines and explains depth psychology topics in the context of psychedelics.

Once upon a time, people saw nature as vividly alive, full of gods, spirits, and beings that existed beyond the realm of human culture. Nature was ensouled, and the earth was animate. In the tradition of depth psychology, this concept is known as the Anima Mundi: the Soul of the world. In this article we will explore the interplay between psychedelics, the earth, and the spirit of place.

Can psychedelics put us in touch with a more-than-human intelligence that emanates from the earth itself? Do certain places carry particular energies or “souls” which psychedelics might allow us to perceive? Finally, what role can psychedelics play situated at the crossroads of nature and culture, especially in this time of dire ecological collapse?

Ask yourself: have you ever felt immersed in some ineffable communication with an aspect of the natural world during a psychedelic experience? Have you ever felt uneasy upon setting foot in certain places, yet unable to say why? Have you ever felt a powerful sensation upon visiting an ancient redwood grove, a stone circle, or one of the earth’s many sacred sites?

Truth be told, there is an extremely high likelihood that most long-time users of psychedelics would report at least one instance of the natural world having a profound influence on their trip in ways that defy rationality.

But before we go any further, a story.

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Land Memory and Psychedelics

I work as a psychedelic therapist with MycoMeditations, a legal psilocybin retreat based in Jamaica. I’m fortunate to get detailed insights into a vast array of psychedelic experiences on an almost weekly basis.

During one retreat, a woman shared about a repetitive vision she had during her trips. She explained how, on each mushroom journey, she heard a certain kind of “tribal music”—drumming and singing in an incomprehensible language. During her third and highest dose, she found herself near a campfire glimpsing the “people” responsible for this ecstatic sound. She described them in detail, especially their uniquely pointed heads. She had no explanation for this.

As it happens, the Taino, the Indigenous people of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, practiced what is known as “cranial shaping,” a method of elongating the skulls of their newborns. This practice, done by many Indigenous peoples of the Americas, was a distinguishing cultural marker of the Taino, who lived in greatest numbers on Jamaica’s south coast—exactly where MycoMeditations happens to be based.

In fact, the very stretch of coast where our retreats occur, an area now called Treasure Beach, is known as an archaeologically rich zone for Taino pottery, confirming this region as one of, if not the most significant ancient centers for the Jamaican Taino population.

As a colleague informed me, guests having visions of “pointy-headed people” was not something new to her. She was utterly unfazed by this seemingly inexplicable synchronicity.

What do we make of this? Despite mounting research, there is still a healthy dose of mystery lingering about these plants and molecules. To discard her experience as meaningless, or simply ‘coincidence,’ either briskly diminishes its significance and robs her of potential avenues for meaning-making—the very antithesis of psychedelic therapy and integration—or reveals something concerning about the practitioner themselves.

No psychedelic facilitator worth their salt attempts to dictate the meaning behind someone’s experience.

Depth psychology would have us take seriously these moments of exchange between the human psyche and the living earth, and encourage us to lean into these liminal crossroads of perception. For if myth and medicine tells us anything, it is that the most fertile ground for growth is where our domesticated understanding of life ends and the wild unknown of the forest begins.

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The Anima Mundi and the Ensouled World

Yet, why is it that the idea of a tree or a river or a gust of wind having something to say to us is so unsettling? Why is the notion of an ‘inanimate object’ having some claim on our senses so confronting to the modern Western psyche?

Author and professor of history, Theodore Roszak, who coined the term ecopsychology (along with counterculture, interestingly enough,) wrote in his book Voice of the Earth, “If we could assume the viewpoint of nonhuman nature, what passes for sane behavior in our social affairs might seem madness. But as the prevailing reality principle would have it, nothing could be greater madness than to believe that beast and plant, mountain and river have a ‘point of view.”

To believe that the natural world has a point of view, or is ‘ensouled’, as archetypal psychologist James Hillman explored in his book, Re-Visioning Psychology, is to understand that rocks and waterfalls contain an equally relevant quality of psyche that allows for avenues of communication between our two seemingly disparate beings.

The idea that the world itself has a Soul, and is therefore an animate, even conscious being, is one of the most radical notions within the depth tradition. Carl Jung deemed this old idea the Anima Mundi: a concept with roots going far back into esoteric religious and mystical traditions such as hermeticism, gnosticism, kabbala, and of course countless Indigenous traditions across the world.

Tracing European culture’s disconnection from this ancient notion of the ensouled earth, Jung wrote in his Collected Works Volume 11, “The development of Western philosophy during the last two centuries has succeeded in isolating the mind in its own sphere and in severing it from its primordial oneness with the universe. Man himself has ceased to be the microcosm and eidolon [image] of the cosmos, and his ‘anima’ is no longer the consubstantial scintilla, spark of the Anima Mundi, World Soul.”

The research on psychedelics’ capacity to dissolve the ego and increase one’s connection to nature places these substances in direct conversation with the climate crises, which could be seen as an equally, if not even more valuable benefit of psychedelics.

Embracing the notion of the Anima Mundi can help us navigate and integrate psychedelic experiences that blur the culturally constructed lines that our society would have us believe separates humanity from the living earth.

In this regard, the Anima Mundi and depth psychology asks us to question many pillars of European thought, specifically the legacy of Enlightenment thinkers like René Descartes, whose work marked a decisive turning point by cleaving apart any remaining threads of pagan belief, which connected European consciousness to the living earth.

The Research: Nature-Relatedness and Psychedelics

If generations of ceremonial plant medicine use by Indigenous people across the globe was not sufficient evidence, current research shows us that psychedelics can foster a greater sense of connectedness to the natural world. A 2019 study by Kettner et al. concluded that a sense of “nature relatedness was significantly increased 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 2 years after a psychedelic experience”, and that the frequency of lifetime psychedelic use was positively correlated to a baseline sense of nature relatedness in healthy participants.

Concluding their research, Kettner et al. wrote: “With the loss of self-referential boundaries being a defining characteristic of ego-dissolution experiences under psychedelics, as well as experiences of awe in nature, it may be that the loss of perceived boundaries between the self and the other may in turn facilitate an expanded perception of self/nature continuity or overlap, reflected by increased feelings of nature relatedness.”

This discussion of “self/nature continuity or overlap,” invokes and calls into question the legacy of Descartes mentioned above. Indeed, it places these types of psychedelic experiences squarely in the other corner from centuries of Western philosophy and worldviews. In the age of global climate collapse, the implications of this research cannot be understated.

Current research on psychedelic medicine’s potential to treat many intractable mental health issues is invaluable, to be sure. As a mental health professional, I could not be more thrilled. Yet, the research on psychedelics’ capacity to dissolve the ego and increase one’s connection to nature places these substances in direct conversation with the climate crises, which could be seen as an equally, if not even more valuable benefit of psychedelics.

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Defining Anima and Animism

Many Indigenous traditions embrace what anthropologists called an “animistic” way of perception, and have woven it into their cosmologies, ceremonies, and the very fabric of their cultural belief systems. The personification of plants and places within certain Indigenous traditions, especially terms like “madre ayahuasca”, “grandfather peyote”, or La Pastora” (one of the many Mazatec names for Salvia divinorum) plainly acknowledges that there is more going on within the earth than an “inanimate” accumulation of minerals and dirt.

From my own time spent with Indigenous peoples from many different cultures, as well as years of formal academic study in anthropology, religion, and depth psychology, this is one of the clearest messages that I’ve received: the earth does indeed have something to say to us, if only we can remember how to listen.

Indigenous ways have always been relevant to depth psychology because of this very understanding, that the earth is undeniably ensouled, living, sentient, and worthy of respect. Psychedelics can play a crucial role in helping many people remember this humble fact, and guide us down a path which, at heart, requires a style of listening, reverence, and attention which our culture has quite painfully forgotten.

Anima Mundi for Facilitators: Relationship to Place, Grief and Soul

Now would be a reasonable time to ask how any of this applies to actually working with people navigating and integrating psychedelic experiences.

To start, establishing some form of relationship to the actual land where one’s work takes place is the bare minimum. Learn about the Indigenous people of your particular place, who they are and were, and any Indigenous place names you can manage to dig up; even better if you can learn it in person from their living descendants, and cultivate a relationship with them.

The story shared at the beginning of this article would have not meant much to me if I were ignorant of the Taino people and their particular practice of shaping their skulls. Uncovering the untold story of the land, its ecological and geological timeline, and especially its history of human migration, colonization, and modernization, must factor into a holistically grounded relationship with a place.

Sitting with the raw story of a place often leads one down the dark stairwell of grief. This is a good thing. But it is wise to be prepared for it, and to know how to support others who may find themselves immersed in a story whose weight might be much more than they can bear. Grief, however, can be one of the most profound gateways to feeling, and therefore to the Soul. Psychedelic experiences which bring one face to face with land-grief are important because they are emanations from the place itself. One could say that it is one of the earth’s many attempts to speak to human beings​​—a process which we have conditioned ourselves to largely ignore. 

Finally, cultivating one’s own relationship to the natural world, to the unique curvature and temperament of a place, will inform what occurs when the mists of the otherworld begin to encircle one’s perception. Personally, before any psychedelic journey, I offer some tobacco, and ask permission from whatever ancestors called that place home. You wouldn’t just wander into someone’s house without knocking first. There are many reasons for doing this, the least of all being that it’s simply polite.

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Closing Thoughts on Anima Mundi and Psychedelics

Psychedelics can provide a key to unlocking our culturally fractured and traumatized relationship to the natural world, and its indwelling Soul, the Anima Mundi. Psychedelics have the capacity to dissolve the ego and open one to experiences of awe in nature, which in turn help a sense of greater nature relatedness take root.

As individuals, we need awe-inspiring encounters with the Anima Mundi which crack open the ego and reveal the Soul. As a culture, we are in dire need of a renewed sense of reverence and respect for the more than-human-world, which psychedelics may be able to instill in our increasingly adrift society. And as ensouled beings, we need deeply personal, Soul-level encounters with something greater than ourselves, which help us remember how to listen to the language being sung all around us.

The other road, I’m sorry to say, is bleak.

The poet-philosopher Goethe knew this when he wrote, “And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.”

About the Author

photo of Simon Yugler, a white man with blond hair and a goatee.

Simon Yugler is a depth and psychedelic integration therapist based in Portland, OR with a masters (MA) in depth counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Weaving Jungian psychology, Internal Family Systems therapy, and mythology, Simon also draws on his diverse experiences learning from indigenous cultures around the world, including the Shipibo ayahuasca tradition. He has a background in experiential education, and has led immersive international journeys for young adults across 10 countries. He is passionate about initiation, men’s work, indigenous rights, decolonization, and helping his clients explore the liminal wilds of the soul. Find out more on his website and on Instagram , Twitter (@depth_medicine) or Facebook.

About the Illustrator

Martin Clarke is a British Designer and Illustrator from Nottingham, England. Specializing in branding, marketing and visual communication, Martin excels at creating bespoke brand identities and striking visual content across multiple platforms for web, social media, print and packaging. See more of his work here.

Psychedelics and Pregnancy: A Look Into the Safety, Research and Legality

By Rebecca Kronman

Illustration by Amalia Rompoulias for Plant Parenthood

Psychedelics and pregnancy is a highly controversial and often unspoken topic. But beyond the stigma, what does the research, law and culture say?

As she had done many times before, Leticia Pizano sat in ceremony with her medicine sisters waiting to feel the effects of the four grams of magic mushrooms that she had ingested. An experienced journeyer, Pizano found it strange that 45 minutes later she began vomiting, an effect she was unaccustomed to so early in the trip.

“The medicine just showed me that I needed to get that out of my body because I was with baby,” she tells Psychedelics Today.

Still, the mushrooms took effect and led her on a trip she described as beautiful and empowering. The experience enabled her to form a deeper bond with her unborn child. “There’s just a different connection with her; almost non-human,” Pizano says of her daughter, now six months old and the youngest of her twelve children. Since her daughter’s birth, Pizano has brought her “medicine baby” to every ceremony she has attended.

For Pizano, participation in community-based ceremony was a motivating factor for her use of entheogens, and her use during pregnancy was consistent with cultural norms—she is a member of the Sac and Fox and Kickapoo tribal nations, where partaking in ceremony that includes plant medicine sacraments spans throughout the lifecycle. For most non-Indigenous people, such participation would be unusual and likely stigmatized, perhaps viewed as dangerous or irresponsible.

Yet, as psychedelics enter a more mainstream era, non-Indigenous birthing parents are relying on them as tools for wellness and even lifesaving measures to address treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Our current paradigms for substance use during pregnancy do not account for these new developments, and examining them with a thoughtful, critical lens may be required to accommodate the myriad ways our culture has shifted towards relying on these substances for well-being.

Photo of Leticia Pizano and her daughter. Permission granted by Pizano.

Information, Misinformation and Disinformation: Research and Public Health Information on Psychedelics and Pregnancy

Just as with other psychotropics like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, birthing parents and their healthcare providers need to evaluate existing information on psychedelics and pregnancy to make informed decisions about whether to continue using them during pregnancy. But seeking information on the web yields few results. And what little information does exist on the topic is often confusing, incomplete and misleadingly shaped by the War on Drugs.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers a blanket statement recommending the cessation of all marijuana use. Other psychedelics are similarly classified into a category of “substances that are commonly misused or abused”, a classification that bears the markings of bias and misinformation. According to the Global Drug Survey, we know that many psychedelic users ingest these substances in a safe, prepared and informed way, and according to longtime drug researcher David Nutt’s book, Drugs Without the Hot Air, psychedelics like mushrooms and LSD are not inherently addictive.

The March of Dimes, a research and advocacy group for mothers and babies, offers an unsourced page last edited in 2016 on their website that reads: “Street drugs are bad for you, and they’re bad for your baby.” The psychedelics included in this category are marijuana and ecstasy. This broad categorization fails to account for the therapeutic applications of these substances. It also excludes critical factors like set, setting and dosage, all of which make a significant difference in a psychedelic user’s experience.

Mother to Baby provides more nuanced and specific information on psychedelics, but contains obvious biases such as suggesting that “people who use LSD might also have unhealthy lifestyles.” They also include misleading, inaccurate and fear-based information including the suggestion that people may mistake magic mushrooms for poisonous mushrooms.

These blanket prohibitions are largely based on the absence of—rather than the presence of—information about how a substance will impact a growing fetus. The medical research canon contains very little information about the effects of these substances during pregnancy, and substantial obstacles exist for this research to take place at all.

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Due to ethical and safety concerns, “The research we do have on pregnancy in general—let alone pregnancy with psychedelics or plant medicine—is minimal because we don’t do research in pregnancy for the most part,” says Jessilyn Dolan, a registered nurse, herbalist, hemp farmer and member of the Board of Directors for the American Cannabis Nurse Association.

Aside from ethical considerations, says Dolan, another challenge is measuring the long-term health impacts to the child of just one substance due to the enormity of confounding factors. For example, is a person who consumes cannabis edibles during pregnancy also consuming caffeine, alcohol, or prescription medication? How might these substances along with the birthing parent’s diet and lifestyle impact the long term health outcomes for the child? And how might the child’s environment, including exposure to toxins, food insecurity, poverty or traumatic life events, play a role in their health as well?

“When we look at pregnancy, breastfeeding and chest feeding and then doing longitudinal studies around kids, we have so many factors working against us to make that research really legitimized and standardized,” says Dolan

Of the existing research on this topic, most is either outdated or based on small sample sizes. As legal restrictions on these substances shift, this may change. But information about the safety of ingesting substances during pregnancy is still scant, inconclusive and conflicting.

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A study from 1968 on nine children exposed to LSD-25 in utero—the only study that we could identify on the topic—found elevated levels of chromosomal damage compared to a control group. However, none of these babies exhibited any birth defects. This study, with its very small sample size, has never been replicated. It also did not look at long-term outcomes for these children, rendering the results limited in value.

Similarly, an often cited and widely circulated study from 1994 compared 24 newborns exposed to cannabis to 20 who were not; results at 30 days showed that the cannabis-exposed babies actually scored higher on measures of alertness, were less irritable and had better reflexes. But this study, again with a small sample size and never replicated, did not take into consideration the many confounding factors that could have contributed to the results. For example, the study took place in Jamaica where cannabis use during pregnancy is a common practice and is not stigmatized. In addition, the heavier cannabis-using birthing parents were also more educated, more financially stable and had fewer other children to care for, all of which could have impacted outcomes for their babies.

More broadly, research on prenatal drug exposure is often mired in biases. In his book Drug Use for Grownups, Dr. Carl Hart details several problems associated with brain imaging research on people exposed prenatally to drugs. It is easier to get findings published, he says, when they are consistent with the widespread notion that drug use is bad for the developing fetus. In addition, Hart writes the findings are almost never replicated and researchers often ignore their own data in order to draw conclusions that reflect their own biases.

Photo of Amanda Fielding. Permission granted by the Beckley Foundation.

Still, experts in the field like Amanda Fielding, executive director of the Beckley Foundation, a UK-based NGO that funds psychedelic research and supports policy change, remain hopeful about the prospect for more research on the topic.

“Scientific exploration could be carried out using animal models, or using naturalistic surveys to get answers from people who are already using or have already used psychedelics during their pregnancy,” Fielding says.

Keeping a Close Watch on Pregnant Bodies

Weighing risks of physical harm to the fetus against physical or mental health outcomes for the birthing parent is one framework for decision-making of this kind. But these calculations are not the only ones a birthing parent will have to assess. Most people who have experienced pregnancy will be familiar with an increase in monitoring by friends, family and even strangers who may feel entitled to comment on body changes, touch the pregnant person’s body without permission, or offer unsolicited advice or opinions on what the pregnant person ingests. Using psychedelics openly may create social stigma and isolation; the anxiety and stress that those conditions create may pose an additional risk for pregnant people.

Pregnant people are also monitored more closely by state and healthcare agencies. The American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends screening a pregnant person for drugs when they enter prenatal care. Twenty five states and the District of Columbia require healthcare professionals to report even suspected drug use, and eight states require them to test for prenatal drug exposure if they suspect drug use. In 2014, Tennessee became the first state to pass a “fetal assault” law specifically allowing prosecution of pregnant women who use drugs, imposing penalties of up to 15 years in prison. The legislation was so controversial it was discontinued in 2016, but has been introduced several times since.

Monitoring for drug use, however, happens disproportionately along racial lines. While white and Black birthing parents have similar rates of any drug use during the prenatal period (though the substances used and patterns of use may differ slightly), an often-cited study from 1990 found that Black birthing parents were 10 times more likely than their white counterparts to be reported to health authorities for their drug use.

Some states are actively working to correct these disparities, with mixed results. A 2015 study of California hospitals that adopted a protocol to monitor all birthing parents for prenatal substance use found that it did not impact child protective services reporting disparities.

New York has taken a different approach. In a testimony to the New York City Council from 2020, David Hansell, Commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, stated that the agency had actively discouraged health professionals from making reports to them about a child or parent who tests positive for a substance if there is no negative impact on their well-being and instead make a referral to a service agency. While this could theoretically help level out racial differences, the question remains whether the service agencies would be equipped and trained to adequately address the physical and mental health and other needs of a birthing parent using substances.

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Vermont has also taken steps to eliminate the reporting requirement for healthcare practitioners treating birthing parents using substances. If a birthing parent tests positive only for marijuana, they are exempt from hospitals’ and healthcare professionals’ reporting requirements to the Department of Children and Families (although if the marijuana use is thought to endanger a child, it must be reported). The marijuana-only exemption in Vermont is informed by the lack of sufficient evidence suggesting that marijuana use during pregnancy is harmful. But similarly, there is a lack of sufficient evidence demonstrating that other psychedelics are harmful.

For birthing parents who do test positive for substances, their risk of losing custody is also informed by structural racism within the child welfare system. According to Dr. Kelly Sykes, a psychedelic integration therapist and child forensic psychologist, disparities exist between legal systems that govern custody and child protection systems. Allegations of abuse, neglect and drug abuse requiring court intervention exist in both systems. However, only parents within the child protection system—which disproportionately impacts poor single parents of color—can have their parental rights terminated and be permanently banned from having contact with their child. Further, all aspects of their parental judgement are subject to scrutiny; they may be randomly tested for substances, regardless of whether substance abuse was a part of their child protection case.

Community Support: Making Decisions on Psychedelics During Pregnancy

In this landscape of inconclusive, biased and misleading information, how can birthing parents make informed decisions on this topic? And without information from peer-reviewed, evidence based research, what might drive someone to elect to use psychedelics all the same during their pregnancy?

For some birthing parents, the mental health benefits outweigh the potential risks.

“Psychedelics can reduce anxiety and depression, and can help people cope with dramatic changes in their lives,” said Fielding. “For those reasons, it’s certainly possible that psychedelics could be beneficial for expectant mothers struggling with prenatal depression or anxiety.”

Dolan, who has worked with pregnant people using cannabis to address treatment-resistant hyperemesis, a condition in pregnancy that creates severe and persistent nausea, frames the issue similarly. If anxiety and stress impede on the connection between parent and baby, research shows that “the relationship and connection is just as, if not more important than the little bit of pharmaceutical that’s going to pass through your breastmilk or pass through in utero to the child,” she says.

Being in a safe, supportive community to help weigh those decisions and process experiences in a nonjudgmental way can be very helpful. For someone like Pizano, this community is built into her everyday life. She grew up attending peyote ceremonies for occasions like baby namings, funerals or healing, and the wisdom she relies on comes from a long lineage of oral tradition, passed down by elders.

“Star Gazing” by Amalia Rompoulias. Original illustration commissioned by Plant Parenthood, a monthly integration group for parents. Permission to print from Rebecca Kronman.

For those without such a cultural container, more options are emerging for pregnant people in need of support. A recent event on Clubhouse hosted by @mamadelamyco brought together doctors and consumers to speak about psychedelics and pregnancy. On Instagram, communities like @cannabisandparenthood and @bluntblowinmama explore this topic specifically with cannabis. Other groups like Plant Parenthood (which this writer founded) also bring together parents to speak about topics that are so stigmatized, they’re rarely spoken about with others.

“Obviously safety is still a primary concern when it comes to kids and psychedelics, let alone issues like pregnancy,” says Andrew Rose, who co-facilitates Plant Parenthood, “but the riskiest thing is not talking about it at all. You can’t have good healthy community education without open, non-judgmental communication.”

Without a clear path for more research on the horizon, and with a landscape of confusing information to draw from, birthing parents will likely struggle to find simple answers. Individuals will still need to factor in their own level of vulnerability, which varies greatly based on race and other socioeconomic and cultural factors. Perhaps the answers we seek do not exist within a search engine, but in a patchwork of wisdom from Western medical research, ancestral knowledge and most importantly, our own inner healing intelligence. 

About the Author

Rebecca Kronman, LCSW is a licensed therapist and founder of Plant Parenthood, a digital and in-person community of parents who use psychedelics. She is also an assisting trainer with Fluence, a company that trains healthcare practitioners in harm reduction informed psychedelic preparation and integration. At her private practice in Brooklyn, she works with clients using mindfulness, experiential techniques and ketamine assisted psychotherapy to address depression, anxiety and life transitions. She also helps clients prepare for psychedelic experiences, incorporate insights or cope with challenges post-experience. Selected trainings include Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness for Clinicians, Psychedelics 101 & 102 and Beyond Experience Psychedelic Integration Workshop. Outside of work, she is a mother of two boys ages 5 and 7.

Meet Microdosing TikTok—And Why the Community Matters

Microdosing TikTok

By Olivia Alexander

Original Illustration by Martin Clarke

Microdosing TikTok is a vibrant community of everyday people researching and experimenting with microdosing for mental health, and finding support in the process.

What if I told you that the microdosing movement has taken TikTok by storm? Or that TikTok wasn’t just a place for dancing or kids, but a community connecting people in a unique way? Now a cultural force, TikTok has even been invaded by psychedelics, specifically the microdosing movement. And I was there to see it unfold.

When people said I should join TikTok, I politely told everyone the same things you probably think right now. It was for kids, it was for dancing, it was too conservative for people like me mainly because I am the founder of a cannabis company. And of course, who needs another social media app in our already connected world? But during quarantine I (like many) eventually caved, and I found myself trying to make sense of an app that truly felt like another world.

At first, every word I tried to say was censored and I found myself unable to even post about my own business or much of anything outside my dog. I learned the sophistication level of TikTok’s algorithm is part of its beauty and design, and because it’s a Chinese-based company it is skilled at censorship. And don’t get me wrong, censorship is prevalent on all social media apps, but TikTok is inarguably the most strict.

Author Olivia Alexander’s viral microdosing TikTok that put her on the ‘FYP’ for the first time and connected her to a vibrant community.

As a cannabis social media influencer, I’ve dealt with my fair share of getting ‘deleted’ (when an app deletes your profile) and eventually lost 1.5 million followers on Instagram in 2017. On TikTok, I couldn’t find anything to talk about that was both authentic to me and interesting to the audience. Then one day I tried something new, I told my mental health story about being bipolar and how microdosing completely transformed my life. Given the level of censorship, I didn’t say or show much, just a photo series of myself along my journey. You could see the changes, the impact, and the joy in my face. That’s when it happened—I got my first taste of the FYP.

That’s the ‘For You Page’ in TikTok lingo. The app explains the FYP as “a curated feed of videos from creators you might not follow, but TikTok’s algorithm thinks you will like based on your interests and past interactions.” Once I made it to the FYP, I had my first bonafied ‘hit’ and two things were obvious: The first was that microdosing had slipped through the cracks of TikTok’s censorship algorithms, and the second was that the audience craved more. 

It’s hard to describe what happens on TikTok when your video lands on the FYP. To be honest, in the past 15 years of being on social media, I have never seen or felt anything like it. The views, comments, and follows piled up—fast. I was in sheer disbelief that I had stumbled upon something that people wanted to know more about that also wasn’t censored by TikTok. In the months to come, I would be connected to a community I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.

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Why Choose TikTok for Microdosing Info and Community?

The TikTok community, much like I was, is mentally ill, yet at the same time disillusioned by the mental health system; they’re also desperate for healing, while being courageous and hopeful. I was excited to tell my story—despite being a relative newcomer to psychedelics—I’m farther along on my microdose journey than most TikTokers, and I wanted to use this new, powerful platform to share what I’ve learned. Over the next few months I began to contribute pieces of short form content daily from ‘How I Got Off Pharmaceuticals’, to my viral recap of microdosing with LSD for 30 days, to my mother’s microdosing journey.

Was it that microdosing—the act of ingesting 1/10th to 1/20th of a psychedelic substance for enhanced mood rather than classic psychedelic effects—was so new or was it that the psychedelic movement had successfully evaded TikTok’s strict censorship policies?

If you saw the TikTok hashtag #microdosing, which had 60 million views until it was removed in mid-August, 2021, you probably witnessed the broad spectrum of people and their reasons for microdosing. TikTok is a place where people with authentic stories and interesting lives thrive; where you don’t need to be a celebrity to be an influencer, you can just be you. Mental health TikTokers regularly show off their meds, spill revelations from therapists, and share both their traumas and explorations in healing. Microdose TikTok heavily intersects with mental health, fitness, and wellness TikTok. Even with censorship of the microdosing hashtag, the community has continued to evolve and share microdosing content. In the world of ‘the Tok’, there’s an ever evolving lexicon created to skirt the app’s advancing censorship. So soon #microdos or #mycrodose will replace #microdosing like #ouid replaced #weed.

What you’ll find in certain communities of TikTok is that you are encouraged to be yourself, which is unlike other social media platforms where a more polished version of yourself is rewarded. The people who use and create content on TikTok—referred to as ‘creators’—are as unique as the algorithm itself. And unlike other social media apps, these creators can see a quick rise, thrusting them into the spotlight, allowing them to share their journey and experiences with thousands of people seemingly overnight.

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Meet the Microdosing Stars of TikTok

One of the most beautiful things I have found at the intersection of microdosing and TikTok are the vibrant people who tell their stories. The bravery it takes to share your life online is often overlooked by people who don’t do it or look down on social media. It’s a compelling array of stories and personal experiences that could be such a benefit to the psychedelic and scientific communities, especially at a time when microdosing research is so desperately needed.

There’s something about TikTok’s design that makes you feel instantly seen, heard, and validated, and connects you with others in an authentic way. It’s why I believe the work of psychedelic and microdosing creators is so effective and special. Being seen and heard is an important and valuable part of the healing and integration process that’s built right into the platform.

The first person I ever saw cruising the FYP was Veronica Ridge, a hair stylist who shares her story of microdosing for ADHD with candid and endearing videos that her husband Patrick Ridge, also a well-known content creator with 16 years of sobriety, often joins. Veronica’s content about microdosing was endearing and approachable; even though she was microdosing for different reasons, seeing her content made me feel less alone. I was excited to see someone else normalizing microdosing.

Next I discovered TikTok’s microdosing mom (TikTok loves moms), Coach Kathleen who has over 130K followers. Coach Kathleen, a long time coach who focuses primarily on CEOs and executives, told me she went to TikTok after seeing the speed in which users go viral. Since then, she has garnered tens of millions of views on the app. In one of her largest videos, she explains how psilocybin affects the brain’s ‘default mode network’ that has a whopping 8 million views.

Coach Kathleen’s viral TikTok on how psychedelics affect the Default Mode Network.

Coach Kathleen’s educational content and frequent ‘lives’ (specifically microdosing Q&A’s) are much needed support to the TikTok microdosing community. Live is another feature that drives authentic conversations and page growth for creators. It allows users to get to know creators on a much more intimate level. Creators who activate these features often see their communities blossom way beyond what they imagined their reach could be.

There are also athletes and coaches like CoachJeremy305, who has over 875K followers and who has  been a long time fixture on the FYP page sharing how microdosing has aided in his fitness and wellness journey. He often encourages his audience to avoid alcohol and frequently posts psychedelic legislation updates.

Another creator, HolisticHustle, who calls herself “a crunchy mom with depression” has over 60K followers, shares her microdosing and parenthood journey. She focuses a fair amount of her content at the intersections of microdosing, motherhood, and healing her own generational trauma.
Holistic Hustle’s microdosing mom content

While some will write off TikTok as another social media app, I truly believe that would be doing a disservice to everyone. Believe it or not, TikTok has become a cultural mecca and there is so much to learn about people and community on this app. With the culmination of the mental health crisis, opioid epidemic, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic, people needed a virtual space where they feel safe to share, and TikTok has been the answer for a lot of people.

“TikTok has influenced my microdosing journey in the most positive way. Just following you and watching your lives has helped me tons!” Zenia, a 37-year-old mom of three kids who had resigned from her job to run an online business in order to spend more time with her children, tells Psychedelics Today. “Hearing how open and real you are about your journey and experiences made me want to do my own research and create experiences through my own journey.”

“It took me a while and lots of research to start my journey because it was such a new concept to me, but I’m glad I did!” Zenia continues. “I have really felt at home knowing that there is a huge community out there going through what I’m going through.”

This content is serving so much more than likes and views to the creator. It’s carrying microdosing to people who desperately need to know there are other alternatives, and giving them a place to share their microdosing experiences within a community. On TikTok, we see ourselves in the popular creators and feel hopeful for a new therapeutic tool, like microdosing. Plus, TikTokers, like many, are terrified to even speak to their doctors about psychedelics, but are completely out of traditional pharmaceutical options. So by finding community on TikTok, they find hope, access, and most of all, people just like them being transformed in a way they dreamed of for themselves.

 “I discovered microdosing [on TikTok] in January of 2021. In the fall of 2020, after almost a year of unemployment and the utter failure of my romantic relationship (epic implosion), I decided it was time for me to go off of the anti-anxiety/anti-depression pill I’d been on for the past three years. By the end of the year I wanted to learn more about how I might holistically begin to heal myself and by chance, I saw a TikTok where you’d discussed your journey with mental health, pharmaceuticals and microdosing popped up and I thought the universe must have heard my heart because this was exactly what I was looking for,” Jen, a 38-year-old project manager from NY tells Psychedelics Today. “I went through all of the videos and consumed the information like a fire. I looked up the Microdosing Institute, reached out to, spoke to and described microdosing to my personal support circle of family and friends (and urged them to do their own research), found a support group online and based in my region and reached out on Instagram to find my own healer who could act as a guide. By February, I had all of the resources to begin my first journey and so I did at the end of March.”

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Microdosing and TikTok Are the Future: Will the Psychedelic Community Join?

Over my time on TikTok I have been able to come to a unique understanding of the sheer magnitude and scale of the future surrounding the psychedelic space as an industry and the mental health crisis it will be meeting. I sit up late at night and worry about the time it will take for real progress and access for the countless people who endlessly direct message me for help. I feel hopeful for the clinical trials on psychedelics, for FDA approval of these drugs as medicine, and for the legalization of psychedelics because Gen Z and Millenials are not the generations of the past.

We want to be part of the future where entheogens are regulated and accessible. We want to appreciate, know, respect, and understand Indigenous practices. We wish we could talk to our therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists about alternative treatments. We will fight for a future where universal health care covers psychedelic therapy. But for now, we are struggling with mental health—and with the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s new people arriving to the struggle everyday. We’re dealing with despair, isolation, and the side effects of antidepressants for the first time in a broken and overloaded system, and we need help wherever we can get it.

In the unlikeliest of places I have seen and felt a snapshot of humanity that was simply unexpected. A place built so perfectly imperfect, like humans themselves, that even with censorship and sophisticated algorithms alike it could not be stopped or suppress the needs of the people. And it’s my greatest hope that progress, unity, science, Indigenous and modern culture can coexist for the greatest success for all. In the race for the golden ticket of the burgeoning psychedelic industry, TikTok has shown me what’s really at stake—our mental health and wellbeing. I hope more clinicians, researchers, leaders, and companies in the space take on the challenge of joining the rest of the community.

The cultural storm and human need for psychedelics can’t be stopped or slowed down because of the sheer speed of social media, and the psychedelic community can do the important work during this digital age on an app where the impact can be truly astounding.

This next chapter of the psychedelic renaissance will not be televised, it will be on TikTok and I hope the psychedelic community will pay attention.

About the Author

After years spent in the cannabis trenches, Kush Queen founder Olivia Alexander was determined to change the face of the cannabis topicals business for the better. By focusing on CBD-infused products and continually improving formulas designed to work with the feminine body, Kush Queen has become one of the most respected and sought-after cannabis wellness brands on the market. Their nearly instantaneously active Ignite Lubricant is a game-changer in the personal lubricant class, and their carefully formulated tinctures, bath bombs and other personal care products have earned Olivia the title “The Mariah Carey of Weed” by Elle magazine. She has over 1 billion impressions as a social media influencer, sharing her own mental health and alternative medicine journey on Instagram and Tiktok.

About the Illustrator

Martin Clarke is a British Designer and Illustrator from Nottingham, England. Specializing in branding, marketing and visual communication, Martin excels at creating bespoke brand identities and striking visual content across multiple platforms for web, social media, print and packaging. See more of his work here.