Jess Janda

Veterans Advocate, Ian Benouis: How to Optimize Your Life W/ Plant Medicine & Psychedelics

The Optimized Life Podcast - Plant Medicine & Psychedelics

Plant medicine and psychedelics have been shown to have many therapeutic benefits with very few side effects.

They are currently being studied in everything from PTSD to depression to anxiety to addiction to healing past trauma.

They are being used at end of life with terminal cancer patient, in smoking cessation programs, and even in eating disorders.

On this episode we are going to be talking to none other that world renowned plant medicine and psychedelics expert Ian Benouis.

Ian Benouis, JD, is the General Counsel of Veterans for Natural Rights (VNR), a 501c3 dedicated to veteran healing and reintegration. He is a West Point graduate, former Blackhawk helicopter pilot, former US Army officer and combat veteran who participated in Operation Just Cause in the Republic of Panama the biggest operation in history directed towards the War on Drugs.

He has been healing himself for over 25 years with natural earth medicines, a spiritual practice, and as a student and practitioner of ethnobotany. He has organized and participated in numerous trips with veterans to Mexico, Peru and other locations for ethnobotanical healing.

His work has been captured in documentaries including From Shock to Awe and Soldiers of the Vine.

Episode 4: Ian Benouis on How to Optimize Your Life W/ Plant Medicine & Psychedelics 

What led you to this work With Plant medicine and Psychedelics? (4:25)


I grew up in Hawaii where cannabis was decriminalized ahead of the dare program and meth epidemic that came in part from the cannabis suppression. 

Went to West Point and flew black hawk helicopters in the army. Went down to Panama for Operation Just Cause which was a drug intervention operation along with regime change.

Go out right before we went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Went to work for Pfizer at the peak of the pharmaceutical industry.  Went to law school. Did the corporate world. Raised a family.

I did a lot of plant medicine work after the Army and while I was in law school where I did enough work on myself to be a good father and husband.

6 years ago I met veterans at a cannabis event in Texas. The 1st event in Texas highlighting how cannabis was being used successfully to treat PTSD in Veterans .

This event moved things in me that I hadn’t been aware of. The connection with veterans at this event made me realize that I hadn’t yet finished my work.

And that’s when I started working with various plant medicines and psychedelics again to continue my own healing and through that support the healing of veterans and of everyone else that could benefit from it.

"Taking care of yourself is the best WAY to have a positive impact on the world" ~ Ian Benouis

Listen to the show:


How have you seen the attitude around plant medicine & psychedelics shift over the past 5 years? (8:38)


In one way, everything old is new again. We have been co-evolving and working with the cannabis plant for tens of thousands of years.

Its a recent phenomenon of the drug war and we are still fighting against it.

Cannabis has a government patent on it. Marinol is an FDA approved drug. And now of course we have hemp with the Farm Bill. All these things are chipping away at the social stigma around this plant.

And psychedelics are right in tow with cannabis. MDMA and psilocybin are in phase III clinical trails with expanded access. Now there is no denying their efficacy. 

The drug wars fed all this misinformation. DARE has really programmed people. Putting all the kids on Ritalin and Adderall. Or you are a high school football player and you get a shoulder injury and 6 months later you are a heroin addict.

These things are right through society and everyone is seeing that’s its not a pharmaceutical paradise out there. 

And these plant medicines are tried and tested.

A high level overview of the most common plant medicines & psychedelics (13:30)


These plant compounds work on the epigenetics level of the dna. They are able to up or down regulate protein synthesis which is how people get that feeling of “defragging their hard drive” in their brain or “scrubbing every cell” effect in their bodies.

They also work on the receptor sites to reset those receptors in the brain taking away the compulsive or addictive behavioral patterning.

  • Cannabis – works on the endocannabinoid system, helps with pain and relaxation
  • MDMA – works to reduce fear and creates heart opening, great for trauma, conflict resolution, PTSD
  • Iboga (root) – good for addiction, trauma and traumatic brain injury.
  • Ego dissolution – good for doing the larger biographical work necessary to be functional in this life time
    1. Psilocybin (mushrooms)
    2. 5MEO DMT (bufo)
    3. DMT (ayahuasca) 

The fine line between self medicating and healing (18:39)


We create these false dichotomies. Why is recreational or re-creational a bad word?

We’ve made into a bad word because if we aren’t working hard, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and then blowing steam off with alcohol after work, we aren’t contributing to the american dream.

All medicine use is self medicating. Whether its almond butter, pornography, TV, religion, sex … its all receptor biology at the physical level.

You are what you eat. Whether that’s good food, good vision, good people. If you are eating poorly that’s going show in your body. Often times people don’t recognize the importance of taking care of their original brain, the microbiome.

The Importance of working with a trained guide when using these medicines (23:20)


Guides traditionally have lineages going back thousands of years working with these plant medicines.

Having a guide provides a safe container to safely go deep, understand and process the experience. 

Its crucial when working with these plant medicines to have the support structure to be able integrate it.

How plant medicine impacts the GUT microbiome and neurotransmitter production (25:23)


80-90% of serotonin is produced in the gut.

There is literally bacteria in there that have the pass codes to serotonin production.

That information is connected to the brain via the longest cranial nerve, the vagus nerve. 

Conclusion: 80-90% of our mood and happiness is coming from our gut.

Until next episode, stay optimized ya’ll!


Amy & Jess

Where to find Ian:


Podcast: Psychedelic Time Share 

Documentaries: Soldiers of the Vine, Shock to Awe 

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