The Science to Support Healing Trauma With Sacred Plant Medicine

The Science to Support Healing Trauma With Sacred Plant Medicine

What follows is a transcript for the podcast Healing Trauma - Dr. Jeff McNairy - Plant Medicine.

Topics within the interview include:

  • The History and Origin of Shamanic Plant Medicine
  • The Neurochemical Effects of Plant Medicine
  • How Rythmia Harvests the Vine
  • What To Expect During A Shamanic Plant Medicine Ceremony
  • Who Shouldn’t Use Plant Medicine?
  • How Rythmia Defines a Miracle
  • How Rythmia Stacks Multiple Modalities for Healing and Connection
  • What’s Next for Rythmia?

Dr. Nick Bitz: Today, we have Dr. Jeff McNairy. Dr. Jeff has been working in the healthcare field for 25 years and is the chief medical officer at Rythmia, an all-inclusive luxury medically licensed plant medicine center in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Dr. Jeff has over 25 years of experience working in a variety of medical environments and has witnessed the struggles of individuals trying to heal. Through Dr. Jeff's intense experiences with the most desperate patient populations, he has seen that true healing comes from within. I want to welcome you to the show.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to talk with you.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Fantastic. You have an incredible story. If we could just start, I would love to get a little bit of background and really just understand how you became involved with Rythmia.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Sounds good. I started off my career studying medical anthropology. I studied Latin American indigenous ethnobotany as an undergrad, then I went and got a master's in public health at UCLA. I studied health policy and program development. In the healthcare field at that time, I learned and saw that symptomology approaches to wellness were not actually helping people overcome their problems, whether that was mental health issues or deep medical issues, both. I became a bit disillusioned, even though I was going to go to medical school and applied to medical school. Got in, but then I just saw that the way the Western model was wasn't resonating with me. Even though I know it's great for lots of things, it wasn't connecting with me.

I wanted to go deeper into what causes disease and what causes anxiety, depression, addiction and trauma, because those were the things I was noticing people were struggling with the most. I got a doctorate in psychology after that and started working with those patient populations at in-patient psychiatric hospitals. I managed a rehab in Los Angeles called Passages Malibu. I was the director of that place for eight years and had a private practice doing my post-doc hours out in Pasadena at a psychiatric hospital. I was seeing that the modalities of, whether it was medication or talk therapy, that was very sporadic because my clients were very high risk. Oftentimes, they wouldn't really trust anybody to go deep and going deep is really important for trauma and other things, or they were just unable to attend sessions because of their psychiatric conditions. I was getting discouraged, basically, by what was happening and what my field looked like. It was bleak, I thought.

While I was running the rehab in LA ... The good thing about that, there's lots of interesting things about that particular rehab. It had a lot of holistic practices that were new to me. Passages had Chinese medicine, it had body work, it had meditation, it had spiritual counseling in addition to the traditional things that we all think about with rehabs, with groups and such, but it opened my eyes a little bit to there's these other Eastern philosophies and just different holistic ways to approach illness. I wasn't really an expert on any of that, but I was becoming more aware of those things.

Then, I met a patient named Jerry Powell. He's our CEO of Rythmia now, so I laugh about it, but he was a very difficult patient. He had a lot of trauma, he had a lot of addiction issues. That's why he was at the rehab. Him and I hit it off, which was interesting because I didn't expect that, but we had a lot in common, which was really funny. I worked with him after he left Passages. He was there for two months, in-patient. I worked with him individually, but he also had a treatment team of therapists and I was more supervising his care while he was there. He did very well. He got rid of his Demerol addiction, which he thought was the only reason he was there. When you think about addiction, you think, "Okay, well, you're drinking too much alcohol. You're doing cocaine. You're doing all kinds of crazy drugs. Demerol and being abusive." He just thought, "Well, I'm only here for Demerol. That's it." When he got out of the rehab, he was still drinking, he was still doing drugs. He wasn't doing Demerol, but he was still unhappy.

Five years of treatment with Jerry, counseling him and coaching him as a life coach, I wasn't really doing therapeutic work with him, I was more of a life coach, he just got suicidal again eventually because he wasn't getting better. I was trying to keep him alive, to be honest. I promised his family that I would make sure he didn't die. That was pretty much the extent of it because he was really struggling. He happened upon plant medicine and that's where everything changed. That's where I started to learn about it.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Amazing. It's a profound story. I heard it today and there's a lot of comedy in it. There's a lot of profound insights, so it's amazing that's been your course. It's really become a lesson in ethnobotany for you. It's become this application of where you started now moving into plant medicine in a retreat center, which is quite amazing.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Yes.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Rythmia is really known as an ayahuasca retreat center.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Correct.

The History and Origin of Shamanic Plant Medicine

Dr. Nick Bitz: Not everybody understands what ayahuasca is. For those folks that are unfamiliar, do you want to talk a little bit about ayahuasca, how it's been used traditionally over the ages by shamans both to cure sickness, to open the mind to different dimensions?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Absolutely. It's a really exciting topic. I love it. Ayahuasca is the blend of two plants that are come natively from the Amazon Basin of South America, mostly in Colombia, Brazil ... there's other parts. Peru ... there's other areas of northern South America that have these plants that grow there. One of them is the vine component and the vine is what they call ... this is the ayahuasca vine. In the vine, they have plant-based alkaloids that are active ingredients called beta-carbolines. Those are harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine. Those are monoamine oxidase inhibitors, which is a lot of complicated medical talk for just saying that turns off the stomach enzymes so that the active ingredient of dimethyltryptamine, which is in the other plant component, can be absorbed into the body.

The beta-carbolines are important to shut down temporarily the parts of the stomach that are going to absorb, break down things and digest things. It turns those off, in a sense. Then, the dimeythltryptamine, which is in a leaf-based plant that's added to the compound that you drink and it's a tea, that is the active ingredient. Now, dimethyltryptamine is already in our bodies. We already have some in us and it's stored behind the eyes, which is interesting. It's stored in the inner layer of the lungs, it's in the cerebral spinal fluid, and they theorize that a lot of it is produced and comes from the pineal gland, but that's just a theory. They've been able to show that it does come from that in rat studies, but not in human studies yet.

People often ask, "Well, what is dimethyltryptamine about anyway?" Well, it's released when we die into our bodies, it's released when we have lucid dreams. It's also something that allows us to have connection with ourselves and others. I like to describe it as it's our intuition, it's those feelings like, also, deja vu, like, "I've been here before and there's something that's familiar about this." A lot of that has to do with DMT because it helps us connect to ourselves, to nature, to others, people say to the universe. It's a really interesting compound that, when you take a little bit extra of it through an ayahuasca ceremony, it enhances all of those things that are happening: the connection with self, the connection with others and with family, ancestors, also, universal things. My favorite part about is with nature, connects you a lot with nature. That's why people that drink ayahuasca often feel very connected to climate change issues. They can see the planet suffering, so they get in line with that, too. It's a theme. Very interesting.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Amazing. DMT ... it's known as the spirit molecule?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Correct.

The Neurochemical Effects of Plant Medicine Compounds

Dr. Nick Bitz: Profound. The monoamine oxidase inhibitor action, does that also raise levels of norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine in the brain as well?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Correct, it does.

Dr. Nick Bitz: You get that almost antidepressant-like effect.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Definitely. It's a 5-HTP agonist. In the neurons in the brain, as you know, the 5-HTP gets hit like a button from the dimethyl or from the MAOI component and the DMT component. It hits it and it starts the chain reaction that releases serotonin into the synaptic cleft. That's where it recalibrates. I like to call it priming the pump. If you have a dry well, you want to add a little water, pump and then the well starts working. It's like that. People that have neurochemical imbalances or certain deficiencies can get balanced with their norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. That's why it's a great mood enhancer.

How Rythmia Harvests the Vine

Dr. Nick Bitz: Amazing, amazing. Ayahuasca ... it's a brew, it's a beverage. Where do you grow the plant medicine for Rythmia? Where does it come from? Where does the vine come from? Where does the leaf come from? How is it harvested? Is it sustainable?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: That's a great question. I love that question. We have various sources of our vine and our leaf. Because of the controversial nature of the legalization of ayahuasca and DMT throughout the world, we keep that confidential only for safety and for proprietary information, but we get it from shamans and from their indigenous villages. They're growing it and harvesting it. They have a certain system that they're using about how they cultivate it but, basically, it grows naturally in those regions that I mentioned. It also grows naturally in Costa Rica. There's regions in the center of the country and the southern part where it's more rainforest and lush, where there's a natural abundance of these plants.

There's certain plants, depending on the shamans, where they live, that are DMT rich. Now, all plants have DMT in them, but there's certain ones chacruna, mimosa tenuiflora ... Syrian rue actually is an MAOI. There's other plants that have these same substances that are prevalent. A big topic now is how do we not let ayahuasca become endangered? How do we protect it? There's ways to harvest it, cycle it and grow it in a way that is responsible. The shamans that we work with are engaged in that.

Dr. Nick Bitz: How long does it take for a vine to become fully mature?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Six to eight years on the high end and four to five on the low end, if it's in the right environment.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Amazing. Every region, then, there's slight differences. Obviously, there's chemical differences, there probably is physiologic differences, too, and the user has different experiences using from, let's say, Colombia versus Brazil.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Absolutely. Yes, there is. Those differences are seen in the intentions also of the people making the brew. There's icaros, which are chants and songs that they'll sing. There's intention setting that goes into the making of the medicine, and the shamanic intention is really important in this. They're cultivating the medicine while they're working with it spiritually and energetically, too, which is really interesting.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Really interesting. How is it prepared, then? You have the vine, you use the stems, you use the leaf of various plants. Then, how do you put them together to create that brew? It becomes this almost thick, sludgy red material, right?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Correct, correct. With the vine, they cut it into sections, then they boil it, then they reduce it. The MAOI comes out into this thicker gelatinous slime. Then, just through boiling, adding water and reducing it, you get the first component. With the leaf plant, you dry them, you dry the plants, the leaf DMT component, then you do the same thing, you boil and reduce. Then, you add those together with certain ratios and that's how you get the substance. It's actually pretty simple, as far as lab work is concerned. I've been in much more complicated lab procedures than that one at UCLA, but that's a very simple, reduction combination process.

What To Expect During a Plant Medicine Ceremony

Dr. Nick Bitz: Awesome. The ceremony to me is the most fascinating aspect here. We've entered a new season of psychedelic research in the US in particular. There's a lot of mainstream interest, but it's all grounded in indigenous use, shamanic guidance, ceremonies. In that setting, can you walk us through what is an ayahuasca ceremony, especially as it relates to Rythmia? How does that look here in terms of what is the preparation? How is the medicine consumed? Are there shamans involved? How quickly does it take effect and then, how long does the experience typically last?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Great. All good questions. I've only met a few shamans in my lifetime. The shamans are indigenous-based people or multi-year, multi-generational trained people that are living, working and existing in the plant field. We have a couple shamans associated and affiliated with our facility and they train plant medicine providers. What are out in the world are mostly plant medicine providers, people that are trained, people that are skilled, people that can handle what it takes to serve medicine, to safeguard it and to kind of take care of the guests, the people receiving. At Rythmia, we have a couple head shamans who are top trained people. One of them is an indigenous person from Colombia, Taita Juanito. He is part of a tribe that's ... lineage goes all the way back to the beginnings of ayahuasca 5,000 plus years, whatever it is. We have him as our overseeing shaman. He trains the rest of our ... We have a couple other shamans, and then we have a lot of plant medicine providers. There's a hierarchy of skill and abilities within that.

The preparation is interesting because, even though the sessions in the evening start around 5:30, the prep goes into ... around noon. They're clearing the space, they're getting it set up with the mattresses and all, everybody has a comfortable area with pillows, blankets and stuff. They're clearing it out with palo santo and sage, and a lot of different smoky, energetic clearings. I'm not an expert on that stuff as a science guy, but they're getting the space energetically prepared.

The guests show up, they walk in, they get an opening talk on what to expect. They've already been in classes before that. A couple days before that, they've had some trainings, some orientation and some preparation on how to set intention. They get up there and they're all ready, they have their intentions, they've been preparing physically for this with a dieta, which is a way of eating and living as long as they can before here, usually a couple months. It's a clean diet and it's a certain way of living that helps them prepare for receiving ayahuasca. Then, they'll drink about two ounces. That is considered, I would say, a small amount in the ayahuasca world. The reason we give them about two ounces is because we want to see how people do because most of our guests are first-time ayahuasca drinkers. We don't want to give them a coconut shell full of ayahuasca the first time they do it because we're a medical facility, we're licensed by the Ministry of Health of Costa Rica. We have certain protocols to help people have this work for them medicinally, but also spiritually and psychologically. We want to ease them in a little bit.

We give them about two ounces, maybe ounce and a half, see how they're doing. There might be some purging. They might throw up a bit which, again, is normal. That's an emotional release. It's a psychosomatic release of what's happening for them, which I can get into if you like, also, about that. Then, maybe three hours in, we'll give them another option to drink again. Sometimes, it's the same amount, sometimes, a little less, depending on how they're doing. Every night, we'll give them two or three, maybe four opportunities to drink the medicine like that.

By the end of the night, they're in a space where they've realized a lot about themselves personally, they've worked on trauma, they have breakthroughs from inner child work. They resolve addiction issues, if they have a history of addiction. Anxiety and depression, those kind of things do very well. The whole time, there's a ratio here of anywhere from five to one or, at the very most, seven to one, meaning for every seven guests or every five guests, we have one staff member watching them. There's a ton of medical people that work here. We have nurses, doctors, paramedics. They're actually quite bored, to be honest, because this is a really safe environment. Everybody's medically cleared before they get here. They have to go through a lot of checks and balances before they can actually drink the medicine. We have a really safe space for them to get their intentions met.

Dr. Nick Bitz: It's amazing. That's a unique opportunity. It takes it out of the rainforest, puts it into more of a controlled environment that still is native, traditional.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Correct. We're a bridge between the Western medical world and the indigenous plant medicine jungle. We're the middle ground.

Dr. Nick Bitz: I love it, I love it. Where do guests come from? Are most of them coming from America? Do you get a lot of foreigners from Europe, say, even South America? Where's everybody coming from? How do you look at guests and put them through medical evaluations to know that they're physically and mentally fit?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: We get guests from all over the world. Most of them come from the US and Canada. We have people from all over Europe. We have people from Africa, Asia, every continent. We haven't had anybody from Antarctica. Not yet.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yet.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Not yet, but we've had people from every part of the world come here. A lot of Europeans come here. In order to come here, they have to go through a medical screening over the phone with our intake department. They ask them all different questions about meds they might be on or have a history of being on, heart conditions, if they have any heart-related issues, emotional situations, psychological diagnoses, all kinds of different stuff. If they are cleared by our medical director, Dr. Arturo, he's our Costa Rican MD, we email and talk with him on the phone a lot, he's here on property at Rythmia in Costa Rica, our medical department will screen and go through these potential guests and then they'll get cleared tentatively until they arrive.

Then, when they get here, we know who's coming, we're prepared for them. They're prepared for us. We give them another quick screening. We do a nursing triage, check their blood pressure, go over nursing notes. We do a mental status exam, which is a quick ... seeing how they're doing, what their intentions might be for the week, also see if they're appropriate to drink the plant medicine and most of them are. By the time they get here, they've been checked and screened. Occasionally, one or two here and there forgot about a med they were taking and didn't disclose it. It's more rare, but we try to prevent that because they're traveling from far away to usually come here, so there's a lot of checks and balances going into play before they actually arrive.

Who Shouldn’t Use Plant Medicine?

Dr. Nick Bitz: From a safety angle, are there any safety concerns that people need to know of? Are there any major contraindications? Who shouldn't use ayahuasca?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: People that are currently using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications. Those are antidepressants. Those are contraindicated with ayahuasca because of the monoamine oxidase inhibitor component. SSRIs and MAOIs together cause serotonin syndrome, which is very dangerous. People have to be off of those meds for 30 to 45 days, depending on the med. They have to be tapered with their help of their physician, stop and then be clear of that.

Also are benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium and Klonopin. Those are about 15 days off, depending on the person, but they have to taper with those as well. They taper with their medical doctor prescribing physician. Opiates, same thing, but if somebody has an opiate addiction, we look at that as maybe a longer time. Also, heart-related issues. If they have a AFib, if they have stints in their heart, any sort of heart surgery or different aortic valve issues, that's a contraindication as well.

Psychiatrically, bipolar I is contraindicated, and the reason for that is because it can cause too much of a serotonin release, which can cause a manic psychosis in some people. Bipolar I is often not recommended, but the problem is, well, there's lots of people with undiagnosed bipolar I. How do you know? Different parts of the world also diagnose bipolar I very differently. The Asian countries look at bipolar I very differently. In the Confucius philosophy of those nations, also very different than a Western model. Whereas Western's more individual, Confucius-based societies are more family- or community-oriented. If it's not good for the community, you better get it in check. People often are not diagnosed with things, or it's pushed under the rug or not addressed. People from that part of the world have shown up before with a bipolar I diagnosis but they're not showing it in the intake. We just monitor people closely. I get involved with Dr. Arturo to just supervise the guests. We've been really good about having people be in a safe place.

If things aren't looking right, we'll have them do breath work during the week. we have an ayahuasca tincture that's really safe for anybody to use. We'll have them use that and still be a part of the ceremonies. It's a homeopathic dose of ayahuasca. It's six parts per million ayahuasca. We had it tested in the SUNY lab in Harlem, New York. My buddy was the dean of that school at the time, so he took a sample and put it through the gas chromatography, the IR spec and everything. It's six parts per million. The feds only care about anything seven parts per million and up, so it's considered a non-issue. It's a tincture. We'll give people that sometimes, too, and they can participate.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Wow, that's amazing. You get a taste of the medicine, more of the energy rather than the active constituent that could move you in the wrong direction.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Correct.

How Rythmia Defines a Miracle

Dr. Nick Bitz: I love it. That's amazing. Regarding efficacy, are you running any studies here presently? Are you guys doing any brain scans? I know looking at your website, you guys claimed 10,000 plus souls healed with a 97.65% miracle rate. In part, I want to understand, too: there's a lot of conversations around miracles here. How do you define a miracle and how do people try to achieve that here at Rythmia?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: What we consider a miracle is a soul merger and a healing of your heart. That's what we consider a miracle. We have three broad intentions that we teach the guests when they get here, because everybody shows up with a list of things they want to work on, which is great. We love that but, sometimes, that can confuse things if they haven't gone through a certain process to get those realized. Our first intention is, "Show me who I've become." That is a way to look at the ego and what are we showing the world that isn't authentically our true self? This is done because of trauma, fear or issues of abandonment from childhood that we're showing the world something that's not really us. That leads to a dissociative experience in life that we all go through to some degree or another, some more than others. The goal is to come back and merge with your true self and be connected.

That leads to our second intention, which is, "Merge me back with my soul at all costs." That's where we stop being in a dissociated state and we come back to ourselves. We're grounded, we're empowered, we have clarity. We know who we are. We have confidence and sovereignty. That's the goal. Then, the next part that comes at the same time as that is a healing of the trauma and a healing of the confusion that led to the separation in the first place, which mostly happens between the ages of two and seven years old for most people. We consider that process what we call a miracle and that leads to all these different intentions that people have for themselves. When they leave here, they get an exit survey and they write, did they achieve this? 97 point whatever percent you said there has said yes. That's what we look at as a success in our program is we're able to have this re-merging of soul to themselves.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Amazing. The dissociated split ... can you elaborate on that a little bit more?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Yeah. As a psychology person with that background at UCLA and in Los Angeles in general, most of my patients were dissociated. What that means is they were unplugged from who they really were. It was leading to addiction, causes anxiety, it definitely has a lot to do with depression. There's more extreme things that I dealt with like dissociative identity disorder, which was multiple personality disorder. That was an extreme case I dealt with at the psych hospital at times but, most generally speaking, the dissociation is something that all disease, all illness, all unrest and anything that's problematic can be linked back to an unplugged, dissociative state that we we're in. That's what it leads to unhappiness, lack of focus, relationship problems, personal problems, addictions, whatever, because we're trying to navigate our lives without having a compass because our compass ... we threw it out because we're dissociated. Getting back to yourself and connecting with who you are gives you your compass back.

The problem with that for people is it's a scary process to connect again. They split because of fear and trauma. That's usually how it happens. The analogy I give are veterans of the military. A soldier in war dissociates to go into battle because, in a battle, if your emotions are present, that's a scary place to be. You have fear, you have empathy, you have confusion. Those things get in the way and get you killed. In a battle, a soldier removes their emotions and acts behaviorally only in fights. Then, the battle ends and what they're supposed to do is release, come back to their emotions and feel. We all know that's not what happens. Veterans hold those emotions in the amygdala part of the brain. Then, the battle's over, they go home and then they're traumatized. Their amygdala is ruling them subconsciously with fear, trauma, anger and confusion. They just don't even know what's going on. That leads to the suicide rate and the addiction rate that's very high in veterans.

Now, all of us have a similar state, maybe not as extreme as a vet, but that model works for us, too. I grew up in a part of Los Angeles that was pretty sketchy at the time, to say the least. I had a lot of trauma from my childhood about fear, confusion, anger and loss. It ruled my life, even though I thought it wasn't present anymore because I had moved out of there, I went to grad school and I live in Costa Rica. Those emotions that I didn't have resolved were still dictating my life, guiding me and protecting me, I thought. It caused me to have a buffer between me and the world. I never really connected with people. I never really was intimate in an emotional way. I was going through life on cruise control, thinking everything was fine but, really, I was guarded and I was in a fear state. Plant medicine allowed me to connect with that, learn that about myself and drop my guard because that was something that served me when I was five, six, seven, eight years old. Wasn't something serving me now.

I understood it. I felt it. My amygdala connected with my prefrontal cortex. New patterns of neuro neurological lineage were created, synaptic plasticity and all the things I know that your listeners really are into. The brain evolved and shifted into a new state of self-awareness that was now authentically me at my age now as opposed to operating from a five-year old childhood mind.

How Rythmia Stacks Multiple Modalities for Healing and Connection

Dr. Nick Bitz: Wow, that's powerful. The plant can heal that divide very effectively, which is profound. Are there other things here at Rythmia that help to bridge that gap? Can you speak to the yoga, the breath work, the food and everything else around the plant medicine, too, that's that's helping to facilitate that?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Every single modality we offer has the same intention behind it, which is to cause an emotional release and a self connection. We have hydrocolonic gravity-fed ozonated cleanses that people do. That's the same sort of intention behind that, an emotional release. The food ... super organic, healthy, farm to table, really, really high vibration food. Same thing with that. We have meditation class. We have yoga every morning. We have Reverend Michael Beckwith's Agape curriculum here, called The Answer Is You. That's also the same sort of intentions behind that. We do plant integration classes which help people understand the context of what went on the night before. Every single thing we do, whether it's body work, the sauna, the hot-cold plunge, the volcanic mud ... all of those events and things that we have on the property are all to help people ground into themselves, release emotion and to connect with their authentic self, breath work included. We have breath work that's done on Friday, Saturday, Sunday evenings, which is a powerful modality.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Absolutely. The land is amazing. When you're here, you're just transported to another place. Just being here is really healing in and of itself. It's such a beautiful facility. The paths that walk around, the fauna, the flora, the sights, the sounds-

Dr. Jeff McNairy: The people.

Dr. Nick Bitz: ... the people.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Costa Ricans.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Everybody that works here is just so smiley, so friendly and they work so hard. It's a real blessing, honestly, to be here.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: That's great. I appreciate that compliment. That's really nice of you to say. This is a blue zone.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Right.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: A blue zone, as I'm sure you guys know, is ... it meets certain criteria for wellbeing and wellness. It's not only just clean air, clean water, clean food, it has to do with social structure, it has to do with how elderly are treated, how children are treated, how women are treated. What's the politics of the family culture? What's going on around here? Is there a lot of cars? Is there a lot of pollution? There isn't. What are animal rights like? There's no hunting allowed in Costa Rica. It's illegal. Everything in this area is super connected in this ecological way that humans are involved in that's, I believe, the way that it's supposed to be globally.

Costa Rica itself is a model for how the world can be with solar power and all kinds of amazing, energetic things. If you ask the Costa Rican staff, "How old are your grandparents?" You could ask any of them. They're in the hundreds. All of them have grandparents that are 112, 106 ... "Oh, my grandma just turned 102." It's wild.

Dr. Nick Bitz: That's amazing.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: It is. They're happy, they're healthy, they're active and they're eating high vibrational foods all the time. The animals are hilarious because the monkeys ... Have you seen monkeys yet?

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yep.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: They're just chilling. They're not afraid of anything because nobody's hurting them. Nobody's feeding them, but nobody's hurting them. Everything's existing together in this same space. It's incredible. There's a lot of big cats around here. Jaguars and there's a black panther, a black Jaguar that we saw the other day. And there's ocelots and all kinds of big cats. It's amazing.

Dr. Nick Bitz: It's amazing. But it's nice because the whole retreat center is enclosed.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Yes.

Dr. Nick Bitz: So you could have a fence up, and I feel totally safe and I think all the guests here feel really safe throughout the day, during ceremony, at night, walking around with all the lights. It's incredibly safe.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: That's the goal. Because if you don't feel safe, you can't go deep. Everybody that comes here has some sort of issue that's fear based or trauma based to some degree, and they've got to feel safe to go deep to resolve it. So that's our main purpose is the safety, emotional and physical.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah. So given the rise of plant medicine right now, it seems like it might be a viable option to just traditional psychotherapy. I mean, do you think that it can be supportive of that? Do you think it can be more effective than that? Can it replace that in time? There's a lot more conversation. There's a lot more research right now in this area, again, as I mentioned, especially in the US. But really it's starting to bring science into the conversation. So it's validating safety. It's validating efficacy. And I think you're going to start changing some people's minds around that.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: I agree. Yeah. And what I've noticed here is that as the years have gone that we've been open, we're getting more and more clinical based guests, psychologists, MFTs, psychiatrists, lots of people that do counseling, LCSWs. A lot of those people are coming here as guests because they're seeing in their practice back wherever they're from, in LA or US or Canada, wherever, that a lot of their patients are reaching a plateau in therapy. And the patients are coming down to Rhythmia or other places and drinking Ayahuasca and coming back and stopping therapy because they're healed. Or they've made these huge strides. And so there's definitely a shift happening in the clinical practices that are going on with therapy.

And I think that with maps, for example, maps is starting to, they've had it for a while now, a lot of clinical based people that are helpful on integration with people that have been through plant medicine ceremonies that are now familiar with the process and are integrating people after they get home.

So I think that therapy and plant medicine can go hand in hand and it's starting to. And I do believe there's a role for both, because people can have this amazing experience in their week here. But if they go home and don't implement the tools they've learned, they can quickly regress back to the same old stuff. So they have to really be able to start to have confidence to use the tools and to use the clarity that they've achieved in a practical sense. And I think the clinical people will play a big role in that. So those that are the clinical people that are taking this on and looking at it are the ones that are going to be at the forefront of this move forward.

Dr. Nick Bitz: And moving forward, do you think that there's a place for what I call pharmauaska pills?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Absolutely.

Dr. Nick Bitz: So bringing together the DMT, either a purified format or a freeze dried extract, with the alkaloids, putting that together into a tincture, a pill. So you do think there's a place outside of traditional indigenous ceremonies in more of a clinical setting.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: I do, definitely. I think there's a range of environments that this can happen. I think the pharmauaska example is, and I've used that same word myself, because I think it's a great word, and I do believe that's going to be happening and effective. And people say, "Okay, what about that shamanic side and all that sort of stuff?" Well, yes, there is a place for that. That is important. However, not everyone can go do that. Should we hold this practice back and not allow people that really need it but maybe can't come to the jungle or come to Costa Rica or whatever? No, this should be available to people that can access it in Manhattan, New York and they need it to help with their mood or help stabilize their trauma. It's a very powerful medicine.

And I do believe set and setting are key, but there's going to be a role for a more pharmaceutical based, organic, respectful, obviously, medicine that can be used in those settings. I really do.

What’s Next for Rythmia?

Dr. Nick Bitz: I love it. I love it. So just to wrap things up here, what's next on the horizon for Rhythmia? What are you guys putting your intention to? What's your focus here moving forward over the course of the next several years?

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Well, our CEO, Jerry Powell, is really big on perfecting what we're currently doing. And so that's why we collect so much data from the guests about who got their miracle. What classes did they attend? How many massages did they get? Did they eat all their food or do they attend all the meals? Do they attend all the ceremonies? And we're constantly fine tuning to get Rhythmia to be as efficient and successful as we possibly can. So that's a big part of what we're doing.

But the other thing that's new is we're doing a housing project with about 800 homes in a community nearby that is for people to live. And it's a conscious community where there'll be plant medicine served, breath work, and it's a place where people, they can own a house there and vacation there or they could live there. And it's going to be a really cool environment where they can be around like-minded people. So that's a big part of what we're doing as well.

And there's likely going to be an expansion of Rhythmia to other countries where it's legal, other parts of the world where people can access this modality in a closer way instead of taking three flights and traveling 20 hours. So we'll probably have more Rhythmias around the globe at some point soon here.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Amazing. Well, thank you for your time, Jeff. It's super enlightening. It's a pleasure to be here.

Dr. Jeff McNairy: Nice having you. Thanks so much for talking. This was a great interview. I appreciate it. You're a great interviewer. Thank you.

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