Andrew: My sense is that if you’re completely relaxed and your mind is out of the way, there can be very precise muscle movement that can respond with exactly the counterforce needed to neutralize the force. The greater the potential of a treatment to cause harm, the stricter the standards of evidence it should be held to for efficacy. I probably always will continue to get flocked, but if I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be doing my job.
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
Well, I managed to get the bearded Santa Clause of medicine himself on the show, Dr. Andrew Weil. You’ll enjoy this episode. This episode is brought to you by my company, Kion. I founded Kion as a way to take all of the knowledge and the content and the molecules that are just absolutely amazing that I have blended together to create some of the most fantastic supplements in existence for immunity, for fat loss, for recovery. The list goes on and on. Our supplements page is extremely fun to shop around on.
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Hey, folks. My guest on today’s podcast, Dr. Andrew Weil is very well-known as a leader and a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. He has a Harvard education. You’ve probably heard of him or come across his writings or his interviews in other places because he has been around the integrative medicine scene for quite some time. He has a lifetime of practicing natural and preventive medicine. He’s the founder and the director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, where he also serves as a clinical professor of medicine and a professor of public health.
He has written 15 books on healthy living. I will put many of them in the shownotes for you if you’d like to explore his work on everything from healthy food to psychedelics. And all of the shownotes for today’s show will be at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/weil, and it’s W-E-I-L, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/weil. And Dr. Weil also serves the director of drweil.com, which is a very handy online resource for healthy living, wonderful articles, fantastic newsletter. He also has a great column in Prevention Magazine and he is up to quite a bit when it comes to making this world a better place through both integrative medicine, as well as his other teachings. So, Dr. Weil, welcome to the show, man.
Andrew: Thank you, Ben, and thanks for that great introduction.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. My pleasure. Well, with as much experience as you have in this whole world of natural medicine and healthy living, I am very curious what your morning routine looks like. I mean, we’re recording this at about 10:00 a.m. my time. Where are you at in the world, by the way?
Andrew: I am on Cortes Island, British Columbia on the same time zone as you.
Ben: Okay. Alright. So, what did your morning look like today? I’m curious.
Andrew: Okay. I got up at about 4:15. I usually get up somewhere between 4:00 and 4:30, usually when the sky is just beginning to get light. I did some sitting meditation in my bedroom, then I came downstairs and–
Ben: I may interrupt you a few times as you go through this. For you a sitting meditation, what does that look like exactly, aside from sitting, of course?
Andrew: Yeah. I start by doing some simple breathing exercises, including my 4-7-8 breath, which is the most powerful relaxation method I’ve ever discovered. I’ll tell you about that later. And after a period of doing that, I think this morning, I sat for about 15 minutes. Then I came downstairs, and I have two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, male and female, Ajax in Juno, who were just great companions, and I took them out and fed them. Then I made myself some breakfast. I had some–let me see what I had. I had some tempeh that I sautéed and ate with some lettuce and a sort of lettuce wrap.
Ben: Now, some people may not know what tempeh is.
Andrew: Tempeh is a staple food of Indonesia. It’s a fermented soybean product. It’s a very solid meat-like texture. It’s much more digestible than other soy products because it’s a fermented food. You can do all sorts of things with it. So, it’s a good meat alternative.
Ben: Okay. Got it. And is that because you don’t eat meat or is that just the preferred breakfast for you?
Andrew: I’m a pescatarian. I eat fish and vegetables. So, I don’t eat meat or poultry. I eat a few dairy products, mostly good-quality cheese and some yogurt. But otherwise, fish and vegetables.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Andrew: So, I ate that, and then I took my dogs, then took me for a long walk. I live at the edge of a fantastic forest. So, every morning, we take long walks through the forest, fairly risk. Came back to the house and I made myself some matcha green tea, which I would be happy to talk to you about. That’s my preferred morning beverage and my preferred go-to beverage. And then I came upstairs and checked–in my office, I checked email and phone messages. And then I have a wonderful garden here. So, I went out and looked through the garden to see what needed doing. I saw that I had a lot of peas to pick and strawberries to pick. So, I planned on doing that and got some stuff ready to do that. And then I got set up to talk to you.
Ben: Beautiful, peas, strawberries, and matcha. Sounds like a good morning. I actually, until recently, had a Rhodesian Ridgeback. He passed away, actually, about eight months ago. But yes, Blitzen, and they’re wonderful dogs. Apparently, they can hunt lions, but we never get that far.
Andrew: That’s what they were bred for.
Andrew: How old was he?
Ben: He was not that old. He was about seven and a half.
Andrew: And what did he die from?
Ben: He had a tumor. It was like a neck tumor that spread to his lungs and he wound up asphyxiating after we tried for a long time to kind of nurse him along.
Andrew: Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Andrew: You know, I just heard that a phenomenal percentage of dogs, I think it sounds like 60% die of cancer. That’s remarkable. I wonder how much of that is environmental, what’s in food that we’re giving them.
Ben: Well, I mean certainly, our ancestral wolf wasn’t raised on wheat and soy dry dog food or kibbles.
Andrew: Right, exactly.
Ben: We got him on a largely ketogenic raw food diet with a large amount of CBD as well to relieve some of his discomforts, but got that started a little bit late into the game. So, if we’d have really shifted him onto that earlier, it might have made a little bit more of a difference.
Andrew: Do you have any experience with rapamycin?
Ben: Only my familiarity with it as something that seems to be a bit of a darling in the anti-aging sector right now, but why do you ask?
Andrew: Because I found in literature some studies done with old dogs and it appears to have life-extension properties in dogs, possibly because it reduces risks of cancer at any rate. I just started my 11-year-old male Ridgeback who’s in great shape on rapamycin and he’s had his third dose. It’s a 10-week trial and I’ll see what it’ll do for him.
Ben: That’s interesting. It was earlier–it was either in 2018 or earlier this year that there was a research paper that came out on natural mimetics of metformin and rapamycin, and I believe that. Speaking of matcha, EGCG was named as one natural alternative, as well as a genin compound that I believe was somewhat related to quercetin, and also the component you’d find in like a wild strawberry, a fisetin. And so I’d be curious if that might be a more natural route without risking some of the immune system suppression that rapamycin might create.
Andrew: Well, it seems I don’t want to talk to you all about rapamycin, but it seems like the trick is to get the dose right. So, he’s getting it every other day for 10 weeks and it’s a dose that’s recommended for dogs, which is supposed to avoid the immunosuppression and get the beneficial effects.
Ben: Every other day for 10 weeks. Interesting. And that’s something–I think it was Dr. Peter Attia who was mentioning this to me that he’ll use rapamycin–I don’t recall if he uses it himself but with some patients, and he does have a dosing schedule that he said can eliminate some of the issues with immune system suppression. So, he might be doing something similar.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m not ready to recommend it to people, but I think that a trial in the dog is worth doing.
Ben: Yeah. Interesting, interesting. So, back to your morning routine, one thing I wanted to ask you about was your breathwork, this 4-7-8 breath, and breathwork in general. Why 4-7-8? And do you experiment with any other forms of breathwork?
Andrew: Well, first of all, all breathwork really comes from ancient India. This was an experiential science that developed thousands of years ago and has mostly been passed on as an oral tradition. And I think the essential theory of breathwork is that breathing is the only thing you can do completely consciously or completely unconsciously run by two different sets of nerves and muscles. The idea is that by using your voluntary system to impose certain rhythms on the breath, you gradually induce those in the involuntary nervous system. And this is the only way that you can get at the involuntary nervous system and change its tone. And by doing that, you influence many aspects of physiology.
This particular breath that I call the 4-7-8 breath is a yoga breath. It was taught to me by an old osteopathic physician, Dr. Robert Fulford, who was one of the best healers that I’ve ever met. And I’ve taught it to many, many people. It’s basically inhaling quietly through your nose to a count of four, holding your breath for a count of seven, and blowing air out forcefully through your mouth to a count of eight. And you start practicing by doing just four breath cycles like this a minimum of twice a day. You’ve got to do it regularly because the value of this is putting this signal regularly into your nervous system.
I’ve been doing this for–anyway, after a month of practice, you can increase the eight breath cycles, but that’s the absolute maximum. And people ask, “Why can’t you do more?” The answer is that you were really changing brain chemistry and function by this. It’s real stuff. And the effects, the interesting effects begin to appear after about four to six weeks of practice. I have an unusually low pulse rate, which I think I can only attribute to the breathing practice. I’ve done that for about 25 years. For most of my life, my heart rate was around 70. I’m active, I swim every day, I walk, but I’m not a fanatical exerciser. My resting heart rate is usually 42, sometimes 38, and the only thing I can attribute that to is this breathing technique.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That happens a lot with people who will either do heavy amounts of breathwork, or some of these endurance athletes, or sometimes someone with a cardiomegaly, which I actually have from my old days of bodybuilding and all the triathlons I’ve done. I’ve got some left ventricular, muscular hypertrophy going on and my resting heart rate is about 35, 36. But I think that one thing that’s important to point out to people is that longer exhale than the inhale is so important because it’s during the exhale that your, based on the signal via your SA node to your heart, your heart rate slows and your heart rate variability increases, mostly in response to that exhale.
Andrew: Exactly, exactly. But this is so time efficient, this breathing technique. It takes about 30 seconds twice a day, and the effects are remarkable.
Ben: Now, do you mess around with that at all, any type of self-quantification when it comes to measuring your heart rate variability or anything like that?
Andrew: I don’t. I think it’s too much information and I have a really good sense of my internal workings. I just am very tuned in to my body and I don’t really need those kinds of numbers to tell me things.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now in addition to breathwork, you, of course, mentioned tempeh, which you did a great job defining for folks. But when it comes to something like tempeh, does one need to be careful of sourcing? Do you have brands that you like? Do you make your own? Or how does that work exactly?
Andrew: Actually, I have made my own tempeh. It’s not that hard to do. You get a tempeh culture and–anyway, it’s a process but it’s quite good. But I think that with all soy products and with many foods, it’s very important to get organic versions because you want to avoid GMO soy. So, if it has an organic label, it can’t be genetically modified.
Ben: Okay. Alright, got it. So, organic non-GMO tempeh. And then, of course, something I would imagine you may have a bit more to say on, and that would be this practice of drinking matcha. You seem to be quite keen on that. I know you are even the–I think the owner of–is it matcha.com?
Andrew: Matcha.com. The company is called Matcha Kari, and the URL is matcha.com.
Andrew: I first encountered matcha when I was 17. I went as an exchange student to Japan. This was in 1959. By the way, I just turned 77 a few days ago. So, in 1959, I stayed with the Japanese family outside of Tokyo. We had no language in common. And on the second night of my stay, my host mother took me next door to meet her neighbor who was a practitioner of tea ceremony that I knew nothing about. And as she set the utensils and the tea out, two things caught my attention and just fascinated me. One is the bamboo whisk that’s used to whisk matcha in hot water. It’s just a marvel of Japanese craftsmanship.
And the second was the color of this powdered tea. It was the most vibrant green I had ever seen, and the taste and the whole thing just captivated my attention. When I came back to the States, no one had ever heard of matcha and it was unavailable. And then over the years, I would go to Japan. I’d always bring matcha back. I’d turn people onto it. And I was quite amazed to see this explosion of interest in matcha. It’s escaped the tea ceremony and become a very popular drink in many circles.
But unfortunately, in North America, most people have only seen and tasted very inferior matcha. It’s so finely powdered that it oxidizes very quickly and loses its bright green color and gets a bitter taste. Many people have not tasted really good matcha, so I was determined to find a way to make good quality matcha available to people. I made contact with a very good tea producer in Uji, just outside of Kyoto, which is the region that produces the best matcha in Japan, and have been importing this and selling it through the website, matcha.com
Ben: Now, what would be the difference between matcha and green tea aside from the preparatory methods?
Andrew: So, matcha is finely powdered green tea that’s made from leaves of tea plants that are shaded for three weeks before harvest and it’s, I think, a 95% shade cloth. So, in response to this drastic cutting of sunlight, the leaves become larger and thinner and produce higher quantities of chlorophyll, which accounts for the bright green color, and also higher quantities of antioxidants and the flavor compounds and an amino acid called L-theanine that you’ve heard of, which is calming, and modifies the effect of caffeine in matcha. Although matcha is stimulating, it produces an alert relaxation state rather than the jangle of coffee stimulation. So, that’s one difference. And also, matcha is the only form of tea in which you consume the entire leaf, which is powdered up. So, you’re getting a–it’s a good delivery system for all of the beneficial compounds in tea. And as you know, there’s been a great deal of research on health benefits of tea.
Ben: Now, I absolutely love matcha and really dig the taste and the flavor of it. However, my wife gets nauseous when she drinks both green tea and matcha. Why would some people have a stomach that doesn’t seem to quite agree with matcha or green tea?
Andrew: Well, I don’t know, and I think–first of all, I would suggest that she try some of our matcha, some of the really good quality stuff and see if she has the same reaction. I drink it unsweetened. I like also cold matcha. I put some in room temperature water, whisk it with an electric whisk and then put ice in it. And in warm weather, I like that very much. So, I’d like her to try some of our matcha and see what she thinks of it.
Ben: Yeah. I’ve always just wondered if some people are more sensitive to tannins or something like that.
Andrew: I haven’t seen that. I think that’s much more of a problem with coffee, which has a lot of irritant substances in it. I don’t see that very often with tea.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That’s interesting. She drinks coffee like it’s going out of style. Now, with matcha, is the preparation method important? And the reason I ask is because I’ve received matcha packages before. I mean, you know how it goes being a podcaster or blogger, you’re always getting these little packages of random items. And they typically come with like fancy whisks and little sieves or filters. I don’t quite have my head wrapped around how to make a good cup of matcha. Do you have a specific method that you think is just gold standard for making killer matcha?
Andrew: I do, but there’s more than one way of doing it. Our website has a number of videos showing how to prepare matcha. One thing is that you do need to put the powder through it because if you don’t do that, it forms lumps when you try to dissolve it. So, I sieve enough to last me for a few days and keep that. Another thing is you want to keep matcha in the freezer or refrigerator once it’s open to avoid oxidation. You want to get the proportions right of matcha powder to water. As I say, you can do it in cold water or hot water, or you can make a latte with it. And then you don’t have to use a traditional whisk as these electric whisks work very well. Just experiment with it. There’s also a matcha that can be used in cooking. You can make desserts from it. You can sprinkle it on things. There are lots of uses of matcha. No one way of doing it, and it doesn’t have to be part of any sort of ceremony.
Ben: Now, are you using, in the morning when it comes to like supplements or whatever, to off-label medications like metformin or–like we were talking about rapamycin. Do you have any go-to supplements that you specifically think are really beneficial part of your daily routine?
Andrew: I do but before I mention them, can I just say that I can offer your listeners a discount code on matcha through matcha.com? It’s GREEN15, 1-5, and if they put that in, they’ll get a 15% discount on products.
Ben: I am noting that and I will put that in my shownotes for folks. You go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/weil, or just go to matcha.com. GREEN15, okay, got it.
Andrew: And supplements. So, I take a basic antioxidant formula. I’ve done that for a long time of mixed carotenoids and vitamin C, vitamin E. I take a multi-nutrient supplement that has trace minerals in it. I take CoQ10, which I assume you do, too.
Andrew: Good. Well, that’s good for heart muscle as you know.
Andrew: And then I take several mushroom supplements. I’m very interested in medicinal mushrooms, especially Asian mushrooms. So, I take several too mixed mushroom formulas that have about seven or eight different species, mostly of Asian mushrooms in them. And I do that for immune support and protection against cancer and resistant to infections.
Ben: And not to get into the weeds too much, but back to that antioxidant formula, obviously, there’s a bit of controversy in the whole realm of antioxidants, probably twofold at this point. There are two things I see most talked about right now, one more well-known, and that’s the fact that some of the studies on vitamin C and vitamin E supplementation, for example, especially in synthetic forms have shown them to blunt the hormetic response to exercise, or potentially not offer any benefit. And then the other, and this was recently brought to my attention, Dr. Barrie Tan is someone I interviewed on the episode. He was talking about annatto and how he felt quite strongly that tocotrienol forms of vitamin E were far superior to those of like a mixed tocopherol blend. He even went so far as to say that mixed tocopherols might actually be causing more harm than good. And I’m curious if you have any comments on either of those considerations when it comes to antioxidants.
Andrew: Well, I agree with both of them. First of all, it is preferable to get antioxidants from your diet, mainly from fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, beverages like matcha green tea. Nature produces complexes of molecules, often related molecules, and I think it’s much better to take the whole complex rather than any isolated forms of them. And we’ve seen that with beta-carotene, which years ago, I and other physicians were recommending that, especially to smokers to prevent lung cancer. And then it turned out that it actually increases cancer risk, whereas, we know that carotenoids in fruits and vegetables are protected. So, that’s an example of the problem of taking one element out. I also agree with that about vitamin E. Nature produces vitamin E as a complex of eight molecules; four tocopherols, four tocotrienols. And if you’re going to take a supplement, I think you want that whole complex. But still to keep in mind that that’s not a substitute for the natural products that contain them.
Ben: So, if someone’s getting a multivitamin or an antioxidant formula, is there something one could look for on the label to ensure they’re not getting high amounts of the synthetic carotenoids or vitamin C or vitamin E, or that they’re getting all eight of the forms of vitamin E?
Andrew: Well, first of all, with a multivitamin, multi-mineral product, I would first look–you don’t want it to contain iron unless you have a need for iron, such as a woman who’s having regular periods or someone who’s had blood loss or documented anemia. Iron is a pro-oxidant that can increase cardiovascular and cancer risks. You don’t want to take any preformed vitamin A. It’s okay to take precursors of vitamin A like beta-carotene, but not preformed vitamin A. You should look for as many carotenoids as possible, so in addition to beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, so forth. And with vitamin E, as I said, preferably, certainly not just alpha-tocopherol, but hopefully, all the tocopherols and tocotrienols as well.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Any brands that you prefer? And if you’re not able to name them, I’m fine with that, but I’m just curious if–
Andrew: You know what, well, I personally am taking one called MegaFood, which has a lower dose formulation for older people. I come to feel that lower doses of these things are better because–to avoid that response that you talked about.
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Yeah, yeah. I’m not even really taking a multi right now. I mainline it straight into my blood. I have a doc who sends me these push IVs. So, a couple times a week, I just do a quick push IV and chase that with some glutathione and call it good. It’s quite profound the difference you feel when you just mainline it into your bloodstream versus popping a pill. This is Dr. Craig Koniver down in Charleston, South Carolina. He works with a lot of athletes and he’ll just ship them IVs called FastVitaminIV. It works pretty well.
You mentioned mushrooms, and of course this mushroom blend, but of course there are also psychedelic forms of mushrooms, and you have quite a history of interest in the use of psychedelics. There’s a book. I forget who wrote it, but it’s called “The Harvard Psychedelic Club,” and it gets into the story of you, and Timothy Leary, and Richard Alpert, Ram Dass, and Huston Smith at Harvard in the ’60s. And you even have another book called “From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs.” So, I’d love to hear a little bit more about the story and the history of your use with psychedelics and any, kind of back to your routine, any personal protocols that you implement when it comes to that.
Andrew: Well, I got into this very long ago. I first took mescaline in 1960 when I was–I guess I was 28 at that time. Is that right, 19–no, I was 18 at the time in 1960. And I took mescaline a number of times. This was before I had ever tried cannabis. And later, some years later, I was doing my medical internship in San Francisco in 1968. And that was a period of a lot of experimentation, so I had many psychedelic experiences at that time and afterwards. The first book that I wrote is called “The Natural Mind,” which is an exploration of altered states of consciousness and relations to drugs.
So, I really wrote about all of this stuff that was published in 1972. I then traveled for several years in South America and Central America. And part of what I was looking at was hallucinogenic plants, and I wrote articles about that that became a book called “The Marriage of the Sun and Moon.” And then I wrote that book that you mentioned, the “From Chocolate to Morphine.” All of these books are still in print and have been very popular, and it’s interesting to see now, this sudden explosion of interest in psychedelics.
I will say that without those experiences that I had on psychedelics, I don’t think I would have developed the philosophy of integrative medicine that has become really the focus of my life’s work. For one thing, in those psychedelic states, I just saw so clearly that what’s inside our heads influences what’s outside our heads, and that there’s a very deep connection between how we think, how we visualize, and what we experience. That led me to place a great deal of emphasis on mind-body interactions and mind-body therapies, for example.
I think also those experiences deeply connected me with nature. And there’s one reason that I became so fascinated with using medicinal plants, which I much prefer to isolated chemicals for some of the reasons we just talked about with supplements. So, I would just say that those experiences have been invaluable to me and have shown me potentials that I would never have believed possible. They showed me possibilities that I found just amazing.
Ben: Now, currently, do you do anything–like, for example, I know many people are using microdoses of psilocybin with lion’s mane and niacin, the Paul Stamets’ stack. Others are microdosing with 10 to 20 micrograms of LSD to enhance creativity or analytical and creative thinking patterns simultaneously. I mean, are you still kind of on the psychedelic bandwagon as far as either microdosing or any type of trip dosing?
Andrew: Well, personally, I haven’t taken trip doses in a long time. I feel like I’ve explored that world. I don’t need to do that again, although I won’t say that I would never do it. But I did become interested in microdosing, and I first tried 10 micrograms of LSD. I did it on two occasions. I did not like how that made me feel. The energy in my body, just I didn’t feel synchronized with it. I wanted to go away. And then I experimented with low doses, 100 milligrams of psilocybin mushrooms, and I found that interesting and pleasant. I like the energy and I like the after-effect. I have been doing that not on a regular schedule, but maybe once a month or so for the past year.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. One that was recently brought to my attention, and I actually tried some after microdosing with LSD, a different form of it called 1P-LSD. There actually seem to be a surprising number of companies now popping up on the internet, selling this kind of semi-synthetic version in the lysergamide class called 1P-LSD. And it seems to be closely related to LSD, a little bit more available. I’m just curious. Have you ever heard of that variant of LSD?
Andrew: I have not. I know nothing about it. Did you try it?
Ben: I did. And as a matter of fact, it’s typically sold in these very small tablets you place under your tongue. They’re typically about 10 micrograms per dose. And I noticed almost no perceptual difference between that and the microdose of LSD. It’s simply far more available and it seems easier to get one’s hands on. It’s interesting.
Andrew: One class of experiences I had with psychedelics that impressed me greatly and shaped my philosophy is seeing possibilities of my body that I had never known. For instance, I found that in those states, I could walk barefoot over sharp stones, and not only not feel pain, but there were no impressions left on my foot. And that second part is what fascinates me. What’s happening there? And my sense is that if you’re completely relaxed and your mind is out of the way, there can be very precise muscle movement that can respond with exactly the counterforce needed to neutralize the force coming at you on your foot. So, I find that fascinating. Some of these things that I’ve experienced I’ve learned to be able to do without the drugs, and I think that’s just terrific. I’d love to see these available for medical use.
Ben: Yeah. I wonder if part of it too is influenced by the time perception that seems to change in response to LSD. Meaning, they’ve done some studies and shown that temporal intervals in the brain seem to be much more responsive. I mean, it seems to make just a brief moment in time go by a little bit more slowly, or you’re more responsive to that brief moment in time. So, I’m wondering if it actually upregulates, for example, like proprioception in your foot soles to where you’re just simply able to respond to little micro changes in the texture into your feet a little bit better.
Andrew: Certainly, a possibility should be studied. Another thing that I’ve seen often is a complete disappearance of allergies in these states, which sometimes persists afterwards. There’s a story that I’ve told on other podcast that I grew up having–I’ve had fair skin. I could never get tanned. My experience of being in the sun was that I get really bad sunburn sheets of skin coming off, clothed it with Noxzema. I just accepted this is how I was. And one day, when I was 28, in the period of actively experimenting with stuff, I took LSD. I think it was with some friends. I was in a beautiful rural setting in Virginia. It’s a sunny spring day and I was running around with no clothes and lay down in the grass with the sun overhead. I thought, “This is really stupid. I’ve always been trying to defend myself against the sun.” So, I just lay there, and the next day, I got tanned and I have ever since. So, that’s fascinating to me.
Ben: You mean through the use of LSD, you upregulated melanin production or your tanning response somehow?
Andrew: Spontaneous change, and has been persistent all my life. So, if something happened, it has to be regulated through some connection between the mind and the immune system, which connects to nervous system, which regulates how melanocytes behave.
Ben: That’s very interesting. The only time I’ve experienced some kind of unique tanning response to an ingested or an injected molecule is–I messed around for a brief period of time with the peptide that was made popular by bodybuilders or grew in popularity amongst bodybuilders called melanotan. It’s an injectable peptide that upregulates your melanin response. The problem is that it also produces priapismic like erections that last for so–so it was quite disruptive to sleep, but it works as advertised for tanning. It’s very strange. You simply eject it and [00:41:16] ______.
Andrew: I haven’t heard of that.
Ben: Yeah. Back when I was a bodybuilder, I wish I would have known about it because it would have saved my wife a lot of times smearing gold flake tanning lotion on me before competitions. So, do you still use cannabis much?
Andrew: I don’t. I had a period in my 20s and 30s when I was a very regular user of cannabis. When I look back my history with it, it’s interesting. When I first started to–first occasions when I smoked it, I felt nothing. And then when I began getting high on it, this was in, probably in my early 20s, the highs were fabulous. A lot of hilarity, laughter, conviviality, social stuff, of course eating, just very joyful. So, for a couple of years, those were my main experiences with it.
Then slowly, that began to change. And when I smoked cannabis, it was much more of an introspective, high–simulated my imagination. I found it very useful for creativity as a writer. It facilitated my getting into meditation. And that lasted for a number of years. I still used it socially, but I really like to go inward with it. And then again slowly in my 30s, that’s changed, and I began to lose those effects and found mostly that it made me groggy and sleepy and sluggish. And although it continued to do that, I kept using it and it took me quite a while to separate myself from it.
And now, I really don’t use it at all. It was just sort of funny because everyone expects me to be very involved with it since I did the first double-blind human experiments with cannabis, and when I was a senior medical student, that was in 1968, and have been active in the early days of cannabis research, and I still am. I’m the head of the scientific advisory board of the Maui Wellness Group, which got the first dispensary license in the State of Hawaii. I still follow all that, but I personally don’t use it. I just was fascinated by what changed there. I don’t think it was the pot, it was my body changed as I got older and my response to it changed.
Ben: Yeah. Well, I mean, we certainly know the endocannabinoid system can change remarkably in states of cancer or in states of chronic pain. We know that the cannabinoid ligands that are mediated by some of the cb1 and cb2 receptors can dynamically change, as can many of the receptors for the endocrine system. So, I’m sure that whether it was a change in receptor availability or something else in response to chronic use, yeah, I mean it’s kind of like with anything. Even caffeine, I switched to decaf about once a month for around seven to ten days just to downregulate my adenosine or upregulate my adenosine receptors [00:44:19] ______.
Andrew: Yeah, good idea.
Andrew: By the way, a cannabis, like most plants that have physiological effects, is a very complex source of compounds. And it’s not just the cannabinoids, there are terpenes. There’s a whole range of interesting chemicals in cannabis that probably has physiological effects. I think many of these other things other than THC and CBD really influence how that plant affects us, and also should be looked at when we’re looking at using these things medicinally.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. I do a little bit of investing in the cannabis space and I’m right now primarily paying attention to companies that are isolating, like the CBN and the CBC and the CBG, and some of these components that go beyond THC and CBD, or combining them in specific ratios with THC and CBD, or even combining them with things that upregulate the so-called entourage effect, like chamomile and turmeric and some of these other compounds.
Andrew: Exactly. Cannabis, let me just say, I’m trained as a botanist, as well as a physician. Before I went to medical school, my academic work was in botany. And I find cannabis just fascinating as a plant. It is exactly the analog of the dog in the plant world. Dogs, years and years ago, made an evolutionary decision to co-evolve with us. And cannabis has done exactly the same thing. We can’t find examples of truly wild cannabis that’s never been influenced by human interaction because as far back in history as we look, it’s always been associated with human settlements. And that plant wants nothing more than to serve us. It lets us modify its genome. It just wants to be with us and do things that provide an edible seed, an edible oil, a medicine, a nontoxic and a superior fiber. That’s a lot of ways from one plant to be useful.
Sativa, the species name of cannabis, is useful, the useful hemp. And I think we’ve been very stupid in our relationship with that plant. We have let a multibillion-dollar industry in hemp textiles slip away to China, a multimillion-dollar industry in edible hemp products go to Canada. We have not ignored it as a potential medicine. I’m delighted to see all this now changing.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. There’s even that concept. I believe it’s an Ayurvedic medicine of some ancient plant that was the highest up on the totem pole when it comes to the range of benefits that one can derive from. And then I think that most people will suspect that that was likely cannabis.
Andrew: Could well be.
Ben: I believe in “Food of the Gods.” That’s what Terence McKenna postulates that in that book.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Or no, you know what, he says, food of the gods, he actually–I think he thinks it’s psilocybin. I think it’s someone else that named it as cannabis, but regardless, those are pretty high up there. And I would say that when it comes to the range of benefits, it seems a cannabis might even be more broad than psilocybin.
Andrew: And also, it’s so free of toxicity. It’s one of the least toxic medicines we know. So, we certainly should be finding ways to use it.
Ben: Yeah. Any concerns with the growing use of everything from ketamine, NMDA to microdosing, et cetera? Do you get any concerns about any type of neurotransmitter imbalances? Do you think that there are certain things that should be co-administered along with those compounds to stave off any type of issues like 5-HTP or something like that? Do you ever think about that?
Andrew: I do, but I think one of the built-in safeguards of the psychedelics is that you can’t take them frequently enough to get that effect because if you try to take them with any regularity, you lose the interesting effects, and tolerance develops very quickly. So, you don’t find, I mean, maybe very unusual individuals who take these things every day. And I think with microdosing, that doesn’t happen. So, yes, sure, it’s probably a good idea to do things that are going to protect your serotonin and dopamine levels, but I don’t think it’s a major concern if you’re not using in regularity.
Ben: Okay. Got it, got it. Now, we briefly mentioned self-quantification. Do you measure heart rate variability, et cetera? But of course this term biohacking has become increasingly popular, and there are many people using all sorts of devices, like headsets for cranial electrical stimulation, or tDCS, or hyperbaric oxygen therapy, infrared and red light. Do you mess around with any of that stuff?
Andrew: Well, first of all, I think all of these techniques and therapies are very useful and have their place. Hyperbaric oxygen has standard medical uses for decompression sickness, for example, for treatment of burns. And I have sent many patients to it. I had a man, middle-aged man who had a very severe systemic infection that was unresponsive to antibiotic treatment. He was in the hospital and it was a strange organism. And I suggested that he try hyperbaric oxygen, and that really turned the tide around for him.
I don’t do these things myself because I have no need of them. I’m fascinated by things like the transcranial magnetic stimulation and pulsed light therapy. So, I think these are going to turn out to be extremely useful for mental health conditions, but I don’t have a need for them right now, so I don’t do them myself.
Ben: Yeah. Some of them are interesting. Like I’ll use a little bit of cranial electrical stimulation before I’ll settle down for a nap. I have a vagal nerve stimulator called NuCalm that seems to really help. In the middle of the afternoon when I’m working and I just need to duck away and check out for a little while, that’s one that I’ll use. Another very interesting one that, speaking of the hyperbaric oxygen therapy, of course, it can be time-consuming and the big chambers can also be a little bit large and [00:50:27] ______ and difficult to squeeze into your basement.
When I train a couple of times a week, just to kind of upregulate mitochondrial density and get the same response of almost that hormetic response to high doses of oxygen, I have this thing called a LiveO2 in it. It’s like an air scrubber. It concentrates the oxygen in large bag, and then you breathe in this oxygen while you’re riding, in my case, a stationary bicycle. There’s a little switch on it. You can switch from hypoxia to hyperoxia, so you get like this vasodilation, vasoconstriction effect. I find that one to be pretty useful when it comes to the use of almost like an HBOT like stimulus.
Andrew: I will check it out. My inclination is to find natural ways of doing these things. I told you, I live near a big wonderful forest. So, I spend a lot of time in the forest where the oxygen levels are much higher than out of it, and I live right on the ocean here. The ocean is fairly cold most of the time. I have an 80-step staircase down to the beach. So, I go down and every day jump into the cold ocean and spend as much time as I can then come back up. And I find that kind of stimulation I think probably achieves some of the same results that you’re getting.
Ben: Oh, absolutely, yeah. Anytime, you can get your infrared from the sunlight or your grounding and earthing from the actual earth versus a pulsed electromagnetic field mat or anything like that. I think it’s far superior, more natural, and also relatively free compared to some of these spendy biohacks.
Ben: Yeah. Now, some of this stuff though, different practices like 4-7-8 breathing or supplements or dietary protocols, I think some of this stuff still is not that respected in terms of Western allopathic medicine because of a lack of double-blind placebo-controlled studies or human clinical research, et cetera. How do you navigate the process for yourself of being a traditionally trained MD physician and then also having such a heavy foot planted in the natural medicine world?
Andrew: First of all, I not only have to navigate that for myself, but I have to navigate it in my recommendations to patients and people who follow my work. I have developed a very good intuitive sense about things, and I check out a lot of information. Our Center at the University of Arizona has graduated over 1,800 physicians from very intensive trainings and integrative medicine. So, I have a large network of people who are out there spying for me and getting information, and I usually don’t miss anything.
One rule that I practice and teach is that we should get in the habit of using a sliding scale of evidence in medicine that works like this. The greater the potential of a treatment to cause harm, the stricter the standards of evidence it should be held to for efficacy. For example, with breathwork, there has not been much research on it because researchers don’t take it seriously. How could anything so simple that doesn’t involve a drug or a device do anything? So, it’s very hard to get the attention of researchers to look at it. But I’m not bothered by the lack of controlled studies on it, there are a few, because the potential for harm of the 4-7-8 breath or other things is so low. And my experience of its benefits is so robust that I feel quite confident in recommending that to people.
Ben: Yeah. And do you do find yourself catching much flak in the allopathic medicine community, or are you well enough established now or it doesn’t matter?
Andrew: Well, first of all, I’ve never practiced allopathic medicine. I dropped out after my basic clinical training because I didn’t want to do that. I saw it caused too much harm. And over the years, I developed my own philosophy. I first called it natural and preventive medicine, and then integrative medicine. At first, for a number of years, I had a growing following in the general public, but none of my medical colleagues paid any attention to me. That did not change until the early 1990s. The reason it changed was that that was when the economics of healthcare began to go south. And it was only when the pocketbooks of institutions began to be squeezed that they began to pay attention to what consumers had been demanding.
I think integrative medicine is now very firmly established. The center that I founded and directed at the University of Arizona is the center of excellence in the College of Medicine. I think very well-established. I probably always will continue to get flacked, but if I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be doing my job. So, it doesn’t bother me, and I think I have a great respect of my colleagues and many people in professional medicine. I don’t reject allopathic medicine. Obviously, there are some things it does very well. It’s very good at dealing with trauma and medical crises. And I think it’s important for people to know when and when not to use that system. We’re trying now to use it for everything, including chronic degenerative diseases that are rooted in the lifestyle choices, and its methods just are not very good for that.
Ben: Yeah. Alright. Well, fair enough. It seems like you’re making a pretty big difference with the work that you’re doing, even if everything does some kind of a double-blind placebo-controlled study behind it. Now, in terms of, speaking of your patients, are there any other best practices? You obviously have gone over a lot breathwork and meditation and some of these supplements, et cetera. Anything else that just across the board, you find yourself repeatedly recommending to your patients or in your clinic, and are just must-do lifestyle or health or nutrition or exercise tactics?
Andrew: Sure. I’ll give you a quick list. First of all, nutrition. I think it’s very important to learn the basics about nutrition. It’s not all confusion up there. We know a lot of things. And the basic rule is to avoid eating processed, refined, and manufactured foods. That’s simple. It’s that stuff that’s doing us in. And try to eat as many whole natural foods as possible. Secondly, I think it’s very important to be physically active throughout life. That also I think may mean changing the forms of your activity as your body changes with age, but you want to keep moving. Third, I would say it’s very important to get good rest and sleep. It is astonishing how many people in our population don’t sleep well, either they’re not getting enough or not sleep of good quality or don’t get rest. Fourth, I think it’s very important to learn and practice some method of neutralizing harmful effects of stress on the mind and body. My personal preference is that 4-7-8 breath, but there are many other things you can do.
Beyond that, I think it’s important to connect with nature, whether you do that by spending time outdoors. For me, my companion animals are a very key part of my life. I think it’s important to have fun and to have strong social connections and social support, and to keep intellectually active as you go through life. The MacArthur Foundation, some years ago, did a study of what they called successful aging. They collected a population of people. They felt had aged successfully to see what they had in common. And there were two factors that stood out that dwarfed everything else. One was maintenance of physical activity throughout life, and the second was maintenance of social and intellectual connectedness. And that overshadowed whether people took supplements and what kind of diet they ate and so forth. So, I think that’s a good thing to keep in mind.
Ben: Now, how about yourself when it comes to your evening routine? We began this podcast talking about how you begin your morning, but of course, winding down at the end of the day is also something that many people have difficulty with, some people struggle with getting to sleep, some people struggle with deep sleep percentages. Are their habits and routines that you implement in the evening that you think are just must-haves in your own life?
Andrew: Well, first of all, I’m a morning person. That’s when I’m mentally most active. So, I try to do my desk work or any writing in the early part of the day. I tried to disconnect from devices in early afternoon if possible. And that means not looking at the computer, not looking at my mobile phone. I don’t always succeed with that, but I try to do that. In the afternoons, I like to swim, work in the garden, and then I usually cook with friends in the evening. I love cooking together. I like making food. I’m a good cook. I like food.
And then after dinner, often I may read, I may take another walk in the forest, I may watch a movie. I usually go to bed around nine o’clock, I would say, and I fall asleep quite easily. I do the 4-7-8 breath. I sleep well. I take melatonin every night, which I like, and I get wonderful dreams from it. But I’m a good sleeper and I get about usually seven hours of sleep a night, which feels right for me.
Ben: How much melatonin do you use?
Andrew: Well, I got 2.5 milligrams sublingual tablet for sleep.
Andrew: I have taken higher doses for immune–or cancer protection then immune support.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. I find myself recommending melatonin repeatedly to my older clients just because your production decreases as you age. I personally take a very small dose, about 0.3 milligrams or so prior to bed, but I anticipate needing to increase that as I age. And the other thing, kind of like yourself, that I’ve found more and more after getting caught in that vicious cycle of almost relying too heavily on all these, so-called biohacks before bed, needing to make sure that I take my chamomile and my CBD and my melatonin and all the different sleep enhancing supplements. And then put on the blue light blockers and lay there in bed waiting for my brain to conk out from all the supplements I’ve taken.
Like you, I’ve found that breathwork is the most powerful thing that you can do. It shocks me the number of people who will just take adaptogenic herbs and phosphatidylserine and whatnot until the cows come home, but they refuse to just spend five to ten simple minutes in bed laying there, or even sitting cross-legged on the floor next to the bed doing some form of breathwork or meditation prior to bed. And I really do think that that is the biggest game-changer of all. I really do.
Andrew: Well, we’re in total agreement on that. The beauty of breathwork is it’s something you have right under your nose. It’s free. It takes very little time. It’s efficient. And it is just amazing that researchers in this part of the world have been so blind to it. It can produce the most dramatic physiological effects that I’ve seen if it’s practiced regularly, such as dramatically lowering heart rate, for example, or changing circulation. I’ve had patients that have chronic GI problems that have gone away just from doing that breathwork.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. It’s amazing what we can do endogenously without the use of any crazy biohacks or medications or supplements.
Andrew: And can I just say that I think the basic–get us one last thing. The basic philosophical premise of integrative medicine is that the body can heal itself. And I just want to tell your listeners to try to develop more confidence in the intrinsic healing potential of your body because it’s tremendous.
Ben: Sage advice, and you’re doing great work. So, thank you for all the information you’re putting out there. And for those of you listening in, everything that we’ve mentioned, the books mentioned on this show, previous podcasts, et cetera, I’ll link to over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/weil, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/W-E-I-L. And in the meantime, I need to probably go upstairs to my kitchen and hunt down some matcha. I know that this is all fresh on my mind. Get out the whisk and figure out how to make it the right way. Dr. Weil, thank you so much for coming on the show, man.
Andrew: Pleasure to talk to you.
Ben: Alright, folks. I’m Ben Greenfield and Dr. Andrew Weil signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
Andrew Weil, M.D., is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine.
Combining a Harvard education and a lifetime of practicing natural and preventive medicine, Dr. Weil is the founder and director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he also serves as a Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health as well as the Lovell-Jones Professor of Integrative Rheumatology.
He is a best-selling author of 15 books on healthy living, including:
Oxford University Press is currently producing the Weil Integrative Medicine Library, a series of volumes for clinicians in various medical specialties, including…
More volumes are in progress.
Dr. Weil also serves as the editorial director of drweil.com, the leading online resource for healthy living based on the philosophy of integrative medicine, and pens the popular Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing monthly newsletter as well as a regular column in Prevention magazine. He is the founder and Chairman of the Weil Foundation, and the founder and co-Chairman of Healthy Lifestyle Brands. He is also a founder and partner of the growing group of True Food Kitchen restaurants. In 2017, he joined Seabourn and The Onboard Spa by Steiner in their “Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil” mindful-living program, offered on all of its cruise ships.
During our discussion, you’ll hear:
-Dr. Weil’s morning routine…6:30
- Wake up between 4-4:30
- Sitting meditation
- Breathing exercises (4-7-8 breathing)
- Sit for 15 minutes
- Breakfast: Sauteed tempeh(Dr. Weil is a pescatarian)
- Matcha green tea
- Tend to the garden
-Dr. Weil and I discussing the health of our dogs…9:40
- Weil owns two Rhodesian Ridgebacks
- Ben’s Rhodesian ridgeback recently passed away
- What’s causing cancer in dogs? Environment, food, etc.
- Rapamycin has been correlated with longevity for dogs
- Weil gives it to his dogs every day for 10 weeks
-The breathwork Dr. Weil prefers and why…13:12
- Comes from ancient India; passed on as oral tradition
- By using voluntary system to breathe, it influences the involuntary system of breathing
- 4-7-8 breathing
- Inhale 4 counts, hold 7 counts, exhale 8 counts
- Do minimum twice daily
- You’re changing your brain’s chemistry; exercise with caution
- Weil’s resting heart rate is 38-42
- Heart rate slows, HRV increases in response to the exhale
-Why Dr. Weil thinks matcha green tea is the bee’s knees…17:30
- He owns Matcha Kari(Use discount code: GREEN15 and get a 15% discount on any order)
- First found it in 1959 when he was 17 in Japan
- Two things stood out:
- Bamboo whisk
- Vibrant color green
- The matcha found in N. America is of inferior quality
- Differences between matcha and green tea:
- Matcha is finely powdered, made from tea plants shaded for 3 weeks
- Produce higher quantities of chlorophylls and antioxidants
- L-theanine modifies the effect of caffeine (alert relaxation)
- You consume the entire leaf which is powdered up
- Why some people’s stomachs don’t agree with matcha:
- Perhaps inferior quality
- More sensitive to tannins?
- The best way to prepare matcha:
- Put the powder through a sifter or it will form lumps
- Keep it in the freezer once opened
- Don’t need a traditional whisk
- Can be used for cooking, sprinkling, etc.
-Supplements and medications Dr. Weil likes to use…24:00
-Dr. Weil’s interest in the use of psychedelics…32:00
- Books on the topic by Dr. Weil:
- First took mescaline at age 18
- Experimented throughout the 60s
- Weil believes these experiences have been instrumental in his work
- Emphasis on mind/body interactions and therapies
- Led to interest in medicinal plants
-Dr. Weil’s history with and thoughts on the cannabisindustry…41:30
- At first, felt nothing
- The highs were full of hilarity, eating, conviviality
- Began to be an introspective high, useful for creativity as a writer and meditation
- Then it began to make him groggy and sluggish
- Doesn’t use it at all these days (due to body change, not the make up cannabis)
- Cannabis is a very complex source of compounds
- They are the “dog” of the plant world in that they have co-evolved with human interaction
- “We’ve been very stupid in our interactions with cannabis”
- Concerns about neurotransmitter imbalances associated with cannabis?
- You can’t take them frequently enough to be concerned about it
-Dr. Weil’s thoughts on self-quantification and biohacking…48:30
-How Dr. Weil “coexists” in the natural medicine and mainstream medicine worlds…52:10
- The greater potential of a treatment to cause harm, the more stringent the standards of evidence
- Study in allopathic medicine developed into “integrative” medicine (along with his corresponding library)
- Center of Excellence in College of Medicine at University of Arizona
-“Best practices” Dr. Weil recommends to his patients…56:00
- Learn the basics of nutrition: avoid processed and manufactured foods
- Be physically active throughout your life
- Get good rest and adequate sleep
- Learn and practice means of neutralizing forces on your mind and body
- Spend time outdoors
- Enjoy your life and have strong social connections
-Evening routines and habits Dr. Weil engages in…58:35
- Disconnect from devices in the afternoon
- Swim, work in the garden
- Cook with friends
- Read, walk in the forest, watch a movie
- In bed by 9 pm; do a 4-7-8 breath
- Take melatoninbefore sleeping (2.5 mg sublingual tablet)
-And much more.
Resources from this episode:
– Matcha.com (code: GREEN15)
– Almsbio Glutathione with CoQ10 Ben mentioned (code: BENGREENFIELD10)
– FourSigmatic 10 Mushroom Blend (use code: BENGREENFIELD for 15% off)
– Book: The Harvard Psychedelic Club
– Book: The Natural Mind
–Kion: My personal playground for new supplement formulations, Kion blends ancestral wisdom with modern science. Ben Greenfield Fitness listeners receive a 10% discount off your entire order when you use discount code: BGF10.
–Pura Thrive: Combines pure ingredients in targeted dosages through a superior delivery mechanism that is unrivaled by any other supplement on the market today. Get 15% off a bottle of the Keto Balance when you go to this link.