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Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: 50 Years of Research (1967-2017)

Edited by Dennis McKenna, Ph.D. and Sir Ghillean Prance

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A defining scholarly publication on the past and current state of research with psychotropic plant substances for medicinal, therapeutic, and spiritual uses. 

Editorial Board

  • Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, Director (emeritus) Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Dr. Dennis McKenna, Director of Ethnopharmacology, Heffter Research Institute; Symposium Chair
  • Dr. Wade Davis, Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia
  • Benjamin De Loenen, MS, founder and Executive Director of ICEERS

“A sweeping overview of the history and state-of-the-art of the scientific search for ethnopharmacological agents used as entheogens, capturing the initiation of the field in the psychedelic 60s’ —and now, 50 years later. From the history of origins of the field to the contemporary cutting-edge concerns of novel treatments for addictions, the 2 volumes of Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs lay out a panoramic view of a field that has exploded over the last half century.”

Dr. Michael James Winkelman, MPH, Ph.D., author of Shamanism: A Biopsychosocial Paradigm of Consciousness and Healing and co-editor of Advances in Psychedelic Medicine

“Sampling a broad range of the expertise of the time, these books assemble a rich cornucopia of interdisciplinary learning on the study of plant psychoactive medicines from different cultures, the go to ethnopsychopharmacopoeia of our times.”

David Luke, Co-editor of DMT Dialogues: Encounters with the Spirit Molecule


eBook is of Volume 2 only.


Publication Date: July 6, 2018 ISBN: N/A Categories: , , , , , Tag:

Dennis McKenna, Ph.D.


Dennis McKenna is an American ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer and author. Dennis McKenna’s professional and personal interests are focused on the interdisciplinary study of ethnopharmacology and natural hallucinogens. He received his doctorate in 1984 from the University of British Columbia, where his research focused on ethnopharmacological investigations of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, two indigenous Amazonian psychedelic medicines. He completed post-doctoral studies at the Helicon Foundation in San Diego (1984-86), the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology at NIMH (1986-88) and the Department of Neurology at Stanford University (1988-1990). He worked at Shaman Pharmaceuticals as Director of Ethnopharmacology from 1990-93, and relocated to Minnesota in 1993 to join the Aveda Corporation as Senior Research Pharmacognosist.

Dr. McKenna taught courses in Ethnopharmacology, Botanical Medicines and Plants in Human Affairs in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota from 2001 to 2017. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute and serves on the advisory board of non-profit organizations in the fields of ethnobotany and botanical medicines. He was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, an international biomedical study of ayahuasca used as a sacrament by the UDV, a syncretic religious group in Brazil. He is the younger brother of Terence McKenna. From 2004 to 2008, he was the Principal Investigator on a project funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute to investigate Amazonian ethnomedicines for the treatment of schizophrenia and cognitive deficits.

In 2017, with the collaboration of many colleagues, he organized and presented a landmark symposium, the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: 50 years of Research. The conference commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original conference held in San Francisco in 1967. Synergetic Press published a limited edition of the Proceedings of both the 1967 and 2017 symposia as a double volume set in 2018.

In the spring of 2019, in collaboration with colleagues in Canada and the U.S., he incorporated a new non-profit, the McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy – A 21st Century Mystery School, He emigrated to Canada in the spring of 2019 together with his wife Sheila, and now resides in Abbotsford, B.C.

Related: Dennis McKenna on ‘Metamorphosis, Symbiosis, and How Ayahuasca Acts as a Natural Antidepressant’ a podcast with The Psychedelic Leadership Podcast™


Sir Ghillean Prance


Professor Sir Ghillean Prance is Director (emeritus) of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, UK, and a leading figure in the ecology, taxonomy and ethnobotany of the Amazon Basin. From 1981 to 1988, he served as the Vice-President for Science at the New York Botanical Garden and as Founding-Director of the New York Botanical Garden’s Institute of Economic Botany. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and the Explorers Club, a Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters, and a Corresponding Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. He is currently Scientific Director of the Eden Project, in Cornwall, England.


A defining scholarly publication on the past and current state of research with psychedelic plant substances for medicine, therapeutics, and spiritual uses.

Additional information

Weight 5.375 lbs
Dimensions 10.3 × 6.7 × 2.3 in

Hardback, eBook

Pages 832


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“These two volumes of work house the incredible journey of 50 years of ethnopharmacologic research exploring the medicinal potential of plants, by dedicated researchers and intrepid explorers. It showcases knowledge that can push the frontiers of our current medicinal frameworks, from the secular, fragmented and mundane to models of enquiry that are more integrated by bridging scientific research with tribal indigenous wisdom. The knowledge held by this book offers the potential for healing and medicine to become re-animated and return into relationship with the sustaining energies of the natural world we have all emerged from and we are part of. As ailments of the body and the mind are steadily on the increase, firmly in line with the environmental devastation us humans have presided over, this book is a timely reminder of the restorative potency of bringing the two together and allowing humanity to be informed by the greater wisdom held in nature herself.” — Maria Papaspyrou, co-editor of Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine

“As an amateur ethnobotanist I highly recommend the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs (ESPD50) book to anyone interested in ethnobotany and psychoactive plants, especially in the context of indigenous cultures. The book is in-depth and scientific, while at the same time being an enjoyable read. Harking back to a time when books were works of art, the cover features botanical drawings exquisitely illustrated by Donna Torres. Including articles from some of ethnobotany’s greatest practitioners such as Dennis Mckenna, Glenn Shepard and Wade Davis, it is an indispensable reference for amateurs and professionals alike. ESPD50 puts the last 50 years of entheogenic and ethnobotanical research into perspective! Along with Voogelbreinder’s “Garden of Eden” this book is the 21st century’s premier tome for ethnopharmacological plant-drugs.” — Scott Lite, Ethnobotanist, Founder & Administrator of the Ethnobotanical Conservation Organization

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