Storytelling has played a central role in the creation and transmission of ethnobotanical knowledge throughout time. Entheogenic plants have rich histories of social, cultural, and medicinal applications and have tended to feature prominently in the cosmologies, pharmacopeias, and epics of the cultures (and subcultures) that have used them. However, these stories are not static. As psychedelics go mainstream, pharmaceutical executives, financial speculators, and even psychedelic researchers are crafting ethnobotanical narratives to propagate the perspectives they wish to see in the world.
As these narratives compete for dominance in the “marketplace of ideas,” it’s up to members of psychedelic communities to develop, maintain, and disseminate evidence-based ethnobotanical frameworks that enable us to “distinguish shit from shinola.” If our realities are constructed from the stories we tell, how significant are the stories we tell about plants that alter our realities? This talk will examine the implications of some historical and current ethnobotanical narratives in order to examine the broader sociocultural significance of some psychoactive plants and the stories we tell about them.