October 27th, 2021

Episode #38 of the psychedelic leadership podcast

Dennis McKenna: Improve Creative Thinking with Psychedelics as Tools for Learning


Join Laura Dawn as she drops in with world renowned ethnobotanist Dr. Dennis McKenna, exploring the power of psychedelics to enhance creative thinking.

Dr. Dennis Mckenna calls psychedelics “tools for learning how to think.” In this episode, Laura Dawn speaks with Dennis Mckenna about how psychedelics can help us think more creatively. As Chase Jarvis says: “Our species and our planet face a new set of challenges that only creativity can solve.”

We are living through a time of rapid change where creative thinking and creative problem solving are now being called the most important skillsets for the 21st century.

Many of us weren’t taught creative thinking skills in school and need to find new ways to tap into our creative potential. As it turns out, psychedelics might be able to offer us the kind of help and support we need to adapt to these times of increasing uncertainty and unprecedented challenges.

As Dennis explains in this episode: “psychedelics allow you to see connections that you usually don’t see. Then you have an opportunity to come up with not only funny ideas, but great ideas.”

Dennis McKenna has a Master’s in Botany and a PhD in Botanical Sciences and has been conducting research in ethnopharmacology for over 40 years. Dennis believes that “the entire biospheric community of species is conscious, and seeks to advance the evolution of consciousness through collaboration and symbiosis.”

One might argue that they are collaborating with us by teaching us how to expand the boundaries of what we believe is possible by teaching us how to think outside the box.


Transcript Coming Soon.

Transcript Coming Soon.

Dennis McKenna Biography​

Dennis McKenna is an American ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer and author. Dennis McKenna’s professional and personal interests are focused on the interdisciplinary study of ethnopharmacology and natural hallucinogens. He received his doctorate in 1984 from the University of British Columbia, where his research focused on ethnopharmacological investigations of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, two indigenous Amazonian psychedelic medicines. He completed post-doctoral studies at the Helicon Foundation in San Diego (1984-86), the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology at NIMH (1986-88) and the Department of Neurology at Stanford University (1988-1990). He worked at Shaman Pharmaceuticals as Director of Ethnopharmacology from 1990-93, and relocated to Minnesota in 1993 to join the Aveda Corporation as Senior Research Pharmacognosist.

Dr. McKenna taught courses in Ethnopharmacology, Botanical Medicines and Plants in Human Affairs in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota from 2001 to 2017. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute and serves on the advisory board of non-profit organizations in the fields of ethnobotany and botanical medicines. He was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, an international biomedical study of ayahuasca used as a sacrament by the UDV, a syncretic religious group in Brazil. He is the younger brother of Terence McKenna. From 2004 to 2008, he was the Principal Investigator on a project funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute to investigate Amazonian ethnomedicines for the treatment of schizophrenia and cognitive deficits.

In 2017, with the collaboration of many colleagues, he organized and presented a landmark symposium, the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: 50 years of Research. The conference commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original conference held in San Francisco in 1967. Synergetic Press published a limited edition of the Proceedings of both the 1967 and 2017 symposia as a double volume set in 2018.

In the spring of 2019, in collaboration with colleagues in Canada and the U.S., he incorporated a new non-profit, the McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy – A 21st Century Mystery School, www.mckenna.academy. He emigrated to Canada in the spring of 2019 together with his wife Sheila, and now resides in Abbotsford, B.C.


Featured Music

This episode features a song called Heal This Land by Tina Malia.

Useful Resources

Resources Mentioned

Books Mentioned

Honorable Mentions

Unlimited Sciences is a psychedelic research nonprofit that combines the power of data and lived experiences to serve the community, educate the public, and inform common-sense practices and policies. 

Please support them in raising funds to conduct psychedelic research in partnership collaboration with Johns Hopkins University. 

For over 35 years, Synergetic Press has published unique and paradigm-shifting ideas in subjects such as ecology, sustainability, cultural anthropology, consciousness, and psychedelics that inspire both individual and social change. 

Use coupon code LAURADAWN30 for 30% off any books from Synergetic Press

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