Brain Health,

#110: Plant Medicines

January 08, 2016

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

In Episode #110, Jesse is joined by Dr. Jim Adams from the USC School of Pharmacy (and author of Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West) for a far-ranging discussion about traditional plant medicines.  Countless cultures worldwide have surviving folk wisdom, botanical cures and remedies which may offer life-changing value even in the pharmaceutical age.  Dr. Adams balances scientific credentials with his spiritual insights as a Chumash Healer as he explains some of what nature has to offer for health and cognition.

Interested in exploring the healing traditions of plant medicine yourself?  Dr. Adams and his late healer/teacher, Ceclia Garcia, have written a series of Wilderness Articles with recipes for a number of curative tonics and linaments, many of which are mentioned in the main interview – including natural stroke treatments and plant based alternatives to NSAIDS.

In our regular segments, find out the ugly truth about the Illusory Truth Effect — and also how it is next to impossible to catch a dolphin off-guard.

PS:  Before you head out for a nature walk, don’t forget to sign up for the Brain Breakfast – delivered every week from Jesse’s brain to your inbox.  And comfortable shoes.  Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.

Show Notes
  • 00:00:34

    Getting back to nature.

  • 00:01:24

    This Week In Neuroscience: ReaLIES!

  • 00:03:40

    The audience interaction section.

  • 00:05:26

    Jesse introduces Dr. Jim Adams.

  • 00:06:12

    Pharmacology and medical traditions.

  • 00:08:25

    Treating stroke.

  • 00:10:53

    FDA and plant medicines.

  • 00:12:18

    Plant medicines in China.

  • 00:14:04

    Attitude adopted by big pharmaceuticals in the west.

  • 00:15:43

    Bureaucratic roadblocks.

  • 00:16:29

    Medical efficacy of tobacco.

  • 00:18:47

    Chia seeds and how to use them.

  • 00:19:45

    Functional foods and cactus.

  • 00:21:07


  • 00:22:15

    White Sage.

  • 00:23:21

    Peyote and sacred dreams.

  • 00:25:01

    Geographical considerations.

  • 00:27:10

    Dangers of synthetic drugs.

  • 00:28:08

    Pre-pharmaceutical era traditional healing.

  • 00:30:57

    Dr. Adams' book and other resources.

  • 00:32:40

    Dr. Adams' dietary choices.

  • 00:34:13

    Concluding thoughts.

  • 00:37:15

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Vigilant brain.


  1. Noah says:

    Wow, this was bad. This was the first instance in in all the episodes I’ve listened to where my reaction was “seriously?” Jesse, glad you chimed in with what seemed to be a rational counterpoint after the interview, but the interview itself contained, as far as I can tell, zero evidence-based value. We heard no evidence offered for anything, just assertions. And, we heard blatant falsehoods, like the idea that pharmacy accounts for 18% of US GDP (the overall total as of 2014 was $300 billion, 10% of all healthcare spending in US, according to

    Worst of all, we heard that god and teachers are the main sources of truth about medicine. Studies? Psssh, my teacher said it works. I appreciate the general idea of getting “alternative perspectives”, but I think science should be a basic criteria, not magical thinking.

    (Not to be too negative, haved loved the rest of the podcast. Which is why this one is concerning…hopefully a fluke. Overall, keep up the great work.)

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Hey there Noah — Sorry this one was a disappointment to you. And thanks for the counter-statistics, which I’ll check out and see about making an amendment in one of the next two episodes. (I may not be able to get it into #111 due to the tight timeline.)

      I think as a matter of course, I do tend to accept the assertions of many of the guests on the show without much push-back — especially those who are academics speaking about their area of expertise. Dr. Adams does have a PhD in Pharmacy, and teaches Pharmacy to university-level students, so despite a lot of non-scientific phrasings, I felt like giving him the floor for the conversation. As an interview, there’s a correct “line” here that can be difficult to discern… Asking for proof of every statement is a conversation-killer; sometimes I find it’s better to let things slide by and see where the guest takes it. In the case of this episode, perhaps I was too lax. There are some things I wouldn’t have let go unchallenged were it not for the guest’s credentials, and maybe this was a mistake on my part.

      I will definitely think about what you’ve written, and thanks for your candor.


  2. Paul says:

    To Noah and Jesse- I say Wow that was good. One of your better interviews, Jesse.

    When will we wake up and see western medicine as it really is: mostly a scam to make $ for the corporations that just see the health concerns of people as a way to enrich themselves. Cancer is very big business in the west and there is no will to really address the root causes.

    I prefer Chinese medicine and the knowledge of Native American healers when it comes to finding the balance of health.

    Please interview more traditional healers in the future.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Thanks Paul — Glad you enjoyed the episode, although I find myself agreeing with much of what Noah wrote as well. Western Medicine has problems, of course, but I think the problem is largely in the financial incentives with the system as it is set up, not with the scientific rationalism that has built it up over the past 100-200 years, depending on where you set your start-point. I have a hard time finding a satisfying response to the statement “If traditional Chinese medicine is so good, how come they didn’t cure polio in 600 BCE?” But at the same time, I think it’s a crying shame that the financial incentives in the current global “big medicine” system aren’t in alignment with either a) disease prevention or b) careful scientific investigation of traditional medical practices to separate the life-saving wheat from the counterproductive chaff. Very glad you enjoyed the interview though, and I’ll try to continue to bring outside-the-box perspectives, but also possibly be a bit more aggressive in making people justify assertions that don’t seem grounded in sufficient skepticism. Interviewing, it turns out, is very much a learning process — at the “meta” level as well as from the actual interview content. 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top