Hamilton Morris and Dr. Mark Plotkin — Exploring the History of Psychoactive Substances, Synthetic vs. Natural Options, Microdosing, 5-MeO-DMT, The “Drunken Monkey” Hypothesis, Timothy Leary’s Legacy, and More (#605)

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“Almost everything that we call a poison, under some circumstances—at least conceivably—could have a therapeutic effect.”

— Hamilton Morris

Welcome to The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is usually my job to deconstruct world-class performers, to tease out their routines, habits, et cetera that you can apply to your own life. 

This time around, we have a very special edition featuring two of your favorite guests: Dr. Mark Plotkin and Hamilton Morris

Mark takes over my duties as host and interviews Hamilton for an episode of the Plants of the Gods podcast. You, my dear listeners, are hearing the audio before anyone else, so this is a Tim Ferriss Show exclusive. I’ve previously featured some of my favorite episodes from that show at tim.blog/plantsofthegods. These episodes cover a lot of fascinating ground.

Who is Mark? Mark (@DocMarkPlotkin) is an ethnobotanist who serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team, which has partnered with ~80 tribes to map and improve management and protection of ~100 million acres of ancestral rainforests. He is best known to the general public as the author of the book Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, one of the most popular books ever written about the rainforest. His most recent book is The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know. You can find my interview with Mark at tim.blog/markplotkin. 

And the guest today is Hamilton Morris. Hamilton (@HamiltonMorris) is a chemist, filmmaker, and science journalist. A graduate of The New School, he conducts chemistry research at Saint Joseph’s University. Hamilton is the writer and director of the documentary series Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, in which he explores the chemistry and traditions surrounding psychoactive drugs. You can find my most recent interview with him at tim.blog/hamilton.  

This is a tightly packed 60-minute interview. Mark and Hamilton cover the history of different psychoactive substances, Timothy Leary’s legacy, the “drunken monkey” hypothesis, conservation, microdosing, the differences between 5-MeO-DMT and DMT, a disease that afflicts people who smoke enormous quantities of cannabis, causing them to vomit continuously and only find relief from their nausea by taking a hot shower (yes, really), the impact of the placebo effect, a synthetic vs. a natural product, the role of ritual, and much, much more. 

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement and 5-Bullet Friday, my very own email newsletter. More on both below.

#605: Hamilton Morris and Dr. Mark Plotkin — Exploring the History of Psychoactive Substances, Synthetic vs. Natural Options, Microdosing, 5-MeO-DMT, The “Drunken Monkey” Hypothesis, Timothy Leary’s Legacy, and More

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could use only one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually AG1 by Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and five free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.

This episode is brought to you by 5-Bullet Friday, my very own email newsletter that every Friday features five bullet points highlighting cool things I’ve found that week, including apps, books, documentaries, gadgets, albums, articles, TV shows, new hacks or tricks, and—of course—all sorts of weird stuff I’ve dug up from around the world.

It’s free, it’s always going to be free, and you can subscribe now at tim.blog/friday.

Do you want to hear the last time Hamilton Morris was on the show? Listen here to our conversation in which we discussed Alexander Shulgin’s alchemy, keeping the psychedelic renaissance honest, concerns about accelerated research of psychedelics in the for-profit sector, conscientious chemistry, sustainable alternatives to popularly used compounds, fly-by-night rent-a-shamans, and much more.

#511: Hamilton Morris on Iboga, 5-MeO-DMT, the Power of Ritual, New Frontiers in Psychedelics, Excellent Problems to Solve, and More

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Hamilton Morris:

Patreon | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

  • Connect with Mark Plotkin:

Website | Plants of the Gods Podcast | Amazon Conservation Team | Twitter | Facebook

  • Sonoran Desert Toad (Bufo Alvarius) | Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • Demand for This Toad’s Psychedelic Toxin Is Booming. Some Warn That’s Bad for the Toad. | The New York Times
  • The Pied Piper of Psychedelic Toads | The New Yorker
  • The Desert Smells Like Rain: A Naturalist in O’odham Country by Gary Paul Nabhan | Amazon
  • Native Peoples of the Sonoran Desert: The O’odham | US National Park Service
  • The Legacy of Ibogaine Therapy Pioneer Howard Lotsof | Psychedelic Times
  • 5-MeO-DMT (Bufo): Everything You Need to Know | Drug Science
  • 5-Methoxytryptamine | PubChem
  • Ibogaine | PubChem
  • The Bwiti Tradition | Bwiti Living & Learning Center
  • Inside Ibogaine: A Promising and Perilous Drug for Addiction | Time
  • What is Microdosing, and Does it Work? | The New York Times
  • August 1981 | Omni Magazine
  • 5-MeO-DMT: The Story Behind The ‘”God Molecule” | Double Blind
  • What Are the True Risks of Taking Cannabis? | The Guardian
  • Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome | Cleveland Clinic
  • Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature’s Healing Secrets by Mark J. Plotkin | Amazon
  • Epibatidine | Wikipedia
  • 7-Oxanorbornene Dicarboxylic Anhydride | PubChem
  • First Known Venomous Frogs Use Their Heads as Weapons | Sci-News.com
  • Editorial: Placebo and Nocebo Effects in Psychiatry and Beyond | Frontiers In Psychiatry
  • Nauclea Latifolia | Useful Tropical Plants
  • Tramadol | Wikipedia
  • Traditional Bwiti Ritual Gabon | ICEERS
  • Niños Santos, Psilocybin Mushrooms, and the Psychedelic Renaissance | Chacruna
  • Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants | Reality Sandwich
  • Phyllomedusa Bicolor | Wikipedia
  • Undiscovering Huautla: City of the Magic Mushrooms | Chacruna
  • Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers by Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hofmann, and Christian Rätsch | Amazon
  • Huichol Tribe of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains | Dance of the Deer Foundation
  • How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan | Amazon
  • The Wild Story Of William Leonard Pickard, The ‘Acid King’ Who Once Made 90 Percent Of The World’s LSD | All That’s Interesting
  • Ayahuasquero vs. Curandero: A Western Misunderstanding of Shamanism | Ayahuasca Life
  • Where Do Magic Mushrooms Grow? | Double Blind
  • Giuliana Furci on the Wonders of Mycology, Wisdom from Jane Goodall, Favorite Books, and the World’s Largest Fungarium | The Tim Ferriss Show #525
  • The Wizard of Oz | Prime Video
  • 5-Bromo-DMT | Wikipedia
  • Psilocybe Congolensis | Wikipedia
  • Ethnomycological Conspectus of West African Mushrooms | Advances in Microbiology
  • The Ghost Dance: The Origins of Religion by Weston La Barre | Amazon
  • Finasteride: Side Effects, Dosage, Uses, and More | Healthline
  • Strychnos | The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants
  • Salvia Divinorum (Ska Pastora) | The Vaults of Erowid
  • Ergoline | Wikipedia
  • Salvia Divinorum: A Psychopharmacological Riddle and a Mind-Body Prospect | Current Drug Abuse Reviews
  • Bryan Roth
  • Daniel Siebert
  • Salvia Divinorum and Ecological Awareness: An Interview with Daniel Siebert | MAPS
  • How the Drunken Monkey Hypothesis Explains Our Taste for Liquor | The Atlantic
  • In ‘Stoned Ape’ Theory, Consciousness Has Roots in Psilocybin | Inverse
  • Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain by Nicolas Langlitz | Amazon
  • Timothy Leary’s Transformation from Scientist to Psychedelic Celebrity | Wired


Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.

  • The Sonoran desert toad’s celebrity star is rising
  • The role of the chemist in preserving plants, animals, and fungi from which compounds are traditionally derived
  • Who is Howard Lotsof?
  • Microdosing
  • Ken Nelson and the celebrated Bufo Alvarius: The Psychedelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert pamphlet
  • God molecule vs. just plain old DMT
  • There are potential downsides to these compounds (even cannabis)
  • Undiscovered compounds
  • Lessons learned and questions pondered from Alexander Shulgin’s thumb surgery
  • Synthetic vs. natural
  • The role of ritual
  • Combining traditions
  • Mark’s account of Huautla in the early 2000s.
  • Downsides of psychedelic tourism
  • Effectiveness of fungi vs. frogs
  • Where do we go in search of new substances?
  • How far back do shamanic traditions go?
  • Poisons as medicines and vice versa
  • Salvia, and stoned vs. drunk apes
  • Nicolas Langlitz and the primatology of primatologists
  • Timothy Leary’s legacy


“I think there’s something to be said for maybe just not being stoned all the time. And I say this as somebody that likes cannabis, personally.”
— Hamilton Morris

“I love frogs and they are amazing chemists.”
— Hamilton Morris

“There is no provision for the use of medicines by healthy people.”
— Hamilton Morris

“It wasn’t … until Dennis McKenna adapted laboratory techniques for the cultivation of psilocybin-containing mushrooms and published it in an underground, non-scientific guide intended for lay readers that not only did people recognize that these things grew naturally in the United States, but that they could cultivate them themselves.”
— Hamilton Morris

“Almost everything that we call a poison, under some circumstances — at least conceivably — could have a therapeutic effect.”
— Hamilton Morris

“I think that the history of psychedelics had been profoundly elitist and Timothy Leary was somebody who wanted to break with that tradition of elitism.”
— Hamilton Morris


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 700 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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