Hacking Consciousness Podcast #3: Healing Trauma with Ayahuasca and other Plant Medicines

Ian Benouis is a graduate of the prestigious West Point Military Academy who flew Blackhawk Helicopters for the US Army. Upon exiting the army after 21 years of service, Ian worked as a sales representative in the pharmaceutical industry. Eventually, he bumped up against the limitations of what the Western medical model had to offer.

Finding healing for his own traumas through working with plant medicines, such as Cannabis, Ayahuasca, Ibogaine, and 5MEO-DMT, Ian now spends much of his time advocating for the rights of veterans to heal from PTSD through the use of these natural remedies.

Ian explains why these plant medicines, including cannabis, are literally providing a lifeline for some veterans returning home from war, many of whom find the predictable, pharmaceutical solutions to PTSD and depression ineffective and fraught with too many undesirable side effects.

If you’re interested by what you hear you in this conversation I would strongly encourage you to consider how you can support this cause, which is quite simply, the reasonable demand of people who have put their lives on the line for this country to heal from the psychological and emotional wounds of warfare in a way that’s most appropriate and effective for them and their families.

I’ll be sharing some additional thoughts on my conversation with Ian in subsequent blog posts. In the meantime, here are some excellent individuals and organizations advocating for the rights of veterans to use plant medicines:

I’d strongly suggest watching the free documentary, “Soldiers of the Vine.”  This movie follows Ian and a group of veterans as they travel down to Peru to participate in a series of Ayahuasca ceremonies. Hearing the stories of these veterans at the end of the film is extremely moving.

“Ask the plants of the earth and they will teach you.” Book of Job, 12:8-10

“If you see the day of judgment coming finish planting a tree.” Muhammad


0:00-3:00: Welcome and Opening Remarks

3:00-6:30: Introducing to working with plant medicines for trauma

6:30-10:50: How cannabis helps veterans with PTSD

10:50-13:11: Ian’s personal background with plant medicines and his own trauma

13:11-18:50: Overview of plant medicines & how they help with trauma

18:50-25:45: Reframing the discussion of psychedelics/entheogens as medicinal, therapeutic

25:45-29:30: History of how psychedelics were socially constructed in the US

29:30-39:00: Limitations of pharmaceuticals for dealing with depression and trauma

39:00-45:00: Cannabis as a tool for reintegration into society; Ayahuasca as a heart opening  experience

45:00-51:28: Plant medicines as a catalyst for a larger social and cultural awakening

51:28-1:0:03:15 Prospects for Political Reform


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About Ian Benouis

Ian is a West Point graduate, former US Army officer, Blackhawk helicopter pilot and combat veteran. He is Patient Number One for the Mission Within which treats special operators with PTSD, TBI and addiction using iboga and toad in Mexico. Ian has been helping wounded veterans for over 7 years. Ian has moderated numerous veteran’s panels including the MAPS Psychedelic Science conference in 2018 in Austin and the Bufo Congress in 2019 in Mexico City. He has founded an ONAC church chapter which was later returned to the parent church. He is a founder of a Santo Daime church which is the US chapter of a Brazilian government approved church and has founded a number of other medicine churches in the US with his law partner Greg Lake. Ian participated in Operation Just Cause in the Republic of Panama. This operation was the largest combat operation in US history focused directly on the War on Drugs and was the largest special operations deployment ever conducted. He was a pilot-in-command and his aviation brigade flew more night vision goggle hours than any unit in the military except for the Task Force 160 Special Operations which his unit was ultimately rolled up into when the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California military base was shut down. Ian grew up in Hawaii in the 1970’s where cannabis was decriminalized and fully integrated in to the culture. He has been healing himself for over 30 years with sacred plants, a spiritual practice, and being a student and practitioner of ethnobotany. Ian was a pharmaceutical representative for Pfizer after he got out of the Army witnessing firsthand the meteoric rise of the SSRI’s and synthetic opioids in the early 1990’s. He is a casualty of the drug war having been arrested for cannabis while in law school. Ian is an intellectual property attorney who has been working in the corporate world for over 20 years in the primary roles of VP of Sales and Marketing and General Counsel. He is a political activist in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space nationally and locally in Texas. Ian was previously the Chairman of the Board for a public policy foundation in Texas for over seven years. Ian was featured in the Spike Jonze produced episode Stoned Vets on Weediquette the cannabis focused series on Viceland on HBO with a number of other veterans protesting the VA’s policy on medical cannabis and trying to end the veteran suicide epidemic. In 2016 Ian organized a trip for six veterans with PTSD to Peru in May for a 10-day plant diet including ayahuasca and other plant medicines with three Shipibo trained shaman brothers that are third generation plant medicine healers. Ian also took some of the same veterans to Mexico for treatment with iboga and 5-Meo-DMT. This experience was captured on video and was released as a documentary in March 2017 entitled Soldiers of the Vine. He is member of the team supporting the movie From Shock to Awe a feature-length documentary that chronicles the journeys of military veterans as they seek relief from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with the help of ayahuasca, MDMA and cannabis. This movie premiered at the Illuminate Film Festival in Sedona, AZ on June 2, 2018 where it captured the inaugural Mangurama Award for Conscious Documentary Storytelling. Ian Benouis’ Drug War Story as part of Psymposia’s Drug War Stories – Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing the Drug War. This was part of the Drug Policy Reform Conference November 20, 2016 in Washington, DC.