Ethnopharmacologic Search For Psychoactive Drugs

Symposium Livestream

23 - 26 May 2022

Livestream Symposium23-26 May 202223-26 MayATTEND

Major Projects & Other Initiatives

In early 2020, the McKenna Academy lept into the virtual space, shifting “A Tribute to Terence McKenna” from a physical event in San Francisco, to a globally accessible online event. More than 10K registered and continue to register. With little indication that we would be able to do any physical retreats or conferences as before, we continued to organize virtual gatherings to continue our mission of educating the public on timely subjects.


The McKenna Academy embarks on a long term project, “BioGnosis” to be a catalyst in bridging ancestral wisdom, ethnobotany and innovation, for a thriving planet. 

In 2021, filming will begin in and around Iquitos to create a short documentary — the launching point for a longer documentary series, learning modules, and the digitization of a significant herbarium in the Peruvian Amazon. Beyond this, Project BioGnosis has great potential to further illuminate the “gnosis” (knowledge) of all “bio” (life) on Earth that may bring us back to a more harmonic existence with all of Nature.

Brief Abstract

The use of plants in traditional ethnomedicine serves as a primary source of healthcare in most human societies worldwide (Hart et al., 2017). As such, globalization and the erosion of knowledge, habitat loss, climate change, cultural assimilation and language loss are primary factors that threaten biocultural diversity and traditional healing systems (Davis, 2007; Maffi, 2002; Pilgrim et al., 2009; Vandebroek & Balick, 2012). While it has been estimated the Amazon rainforest is home to approximately 80,000  species of plants, as few as 14,000 species have been taxonomically verified (Cardoso et al., 2017) to date. Juan Ruiz Macedo, curator of the Herbarium Amazonense at  the Universidad Nacional de Amazonica Peruana (UNAP), is a local expert and repository for Amazonian ethnomedical information. He has aided the research of scientific investigators and botanical collectors for over 45 years, but little of his knowledge has been extensively documented. He is considered a living example of the adage: ‘when a medicine man dies, it’s as though a library has burned down.’

Juan’s repository of unique, richly diverse ethnobotanical knowledge combines scientific knowledge with deep appreciation of ethnomedical practices that bridges the less intuitive, reductionist mind, to traditional ways of knowing. This  connection can help to illuminate the critical importance of a deeper biocultural understanding of the plant medicine renaissance occuring in Iquitos — a microcosm of a larger global movement that is bringing back the value of traditional ethnomedicine and our dependency on biocultural diversity — and a thriving planet Earth.


The Film

In collaboration with Hemmings House Pictures.

The "BioGnosis" film shares stories of people who study, use, protect, and ethically commercialize the healing plants that surround the Amazonian community of Iquitos, Peru at a time when the traditional knowledge is being lost as rapidly as the Amazon Rainforest itself.

We are contributing to the renaissance of the current transition in humanity — to LISTEN to the teachings of nature, our own nature as well as nature around us where the wisdom of wellness is abundant, particularly during a time when humanity is dumbfounded in the uncertainty of modern medicine. We learn that doubt does not exist in the system of traditional medicine. It is TRUST in the power of nature — a power that exists within all of us. But we are disconnected — lost. It is time to bridge the virtues of both traditional and modern medicine systems and embrace this potent synergy.

Through the micro lens, we have Juan Ruiz, a simple, humble and enthusiastic ethnobotanist who has had the opportunity throughout his life to learn from traditional practitioners as well as scientists. As the curator of the UNAP herbarium in the heart of the Amazon, he has exchanged knowledge with these vast and complementary  repositories of knowledge.

Through the macro lens, he is the bridge connecting these repositories of knowledge to this renaissance that is currently discovering the power of the symbiotic relationship amongst all life on earth.

Through the film series, we look through the micro lens of Juan’s knowledge, to the macro lens of this renaissance led by local luminaries and discover the global message that the Amazon shares for the future of humanity.

During this Discovery Phase, we will explore  this emerging renaissance and how it reflects  the deepest of Nature’s teachings, the ‘Biognosis’ of symbiosis that defines Humanity’s ideal relationship to the planetary community of sentient species. 

BioGnosis Project 2022

The launching of the short documentary will raise awareness of the importance of the digitization of Peru’s major Amazonian herbarium, the Herbarium Amazonense at UNAP. The Digital Herbarium has potential to serve as an online resource for anyone with an interest in the Amazonian flora, whether focused on medicinal resources, agroforestry, sustainable development of new crops, protection of habitats, etc. The short documentary will also serve to propose a longer documentary series that allows a deeper dive into the themes presented. And, for further learning on the subjects presented, each of the episodes is proposed to offer an associated learning module.


Click here to visit the BioGnosis Biologue webpage.

For more information, email



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