What diet should I follow before working with plant medicines?
There is both physical and mental preparation to be done ahead of a healing retreat. The following dietary advice is designed to ensure you get the best from your experience, and that you turn up in a motivated, healthy frame of mind.
When working with plant medicines, some have more preparation requirements than others. I do recommend you do a pre-ceremony diet in order to detox your body as much as possible. This gives the plants the best chance of working, but huachuma and mushrooms are not as demanding as some medicines, like Mother Ayahuasca. When working with the Mother, we recommend that you follow this diet for 7 to 10 days to get the best possible results from the medicine.
Huachuma generally only wants a day of cleansing beforehand, and on retreat we'll be giving you the cleanest food anyway. There is no food consumption after 8pm so that you fast until the morning's ceremony; mushrooms generally only require around five hours of fasting, so you'll have lunch, later a snack, and then nothing until the evening.
I am vegan, so I can only recommend vegan food, but if you must consume animal products, stick with line caught white fish, genuine free range eggs, and raw honey from a cruelty-free bee farm.
Here’s what we feel brings the best results:
No salt, sugar or alcohol. This is important. If you can manage this for ten days ahead of the retreat, this is optimal for cleansing. If you can drop caffeine in enough time to not experience withdrawal on retreat, this is a good idea (although not imperative).
Carbs: You can go for potatoes, sweet potatoes, gram flour, lentils, peas and beans, but don't eat broad beans.
Proteins: Fill up on vegetables all you want - but organic is always best, or you're also filling up on chemicals.
Grains: Basmati rice and quinoa are good! Try to avoid the wheat-based ones.
Herbs and spices: Lay off the chili and garlic, but indulge in others, in moderation. You'll be fine with coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron and fenugreek. Thyme is good, as is rosemary, and basil is helpful with digestion. Oregano is wonderful healing herb, but be careful with the oil (same goes for black cumin seed oil) in the days before a retreat - best avoided.
Oils: Coconut oil is amazing. Make sure it's extra virgin, cold pressed and raw. Unrefined sunflower oil is also good. Hemp oil is full of benefits and is great on salads.
Fruit: Fresh fruit is good. Pineapple is very good for the liver, which supports plant medicine work. Berries are very useful too as they're full of anti-oxidants, which have many health benefits. Anything coconut goes.
Snacks: People's hearts sink when we tell them to stay away from nuts, seeds and dried fruit, but it's only for a short time! Coconut based yoghurts are great. Raw chocolate is also a great idea, but make sure it's sugar-free. Make your own with a natural sweetener using the recipe on this page. Don't eat high-street stuff, it's very toxic.
Drinks: Ideally you'll stick to pure water, or filtered water if you don't have access to that. Herbal teas are fine. Stay hydrated, especially as you may be detoxing while following the above diet. Drink at least 2 litres of pure water per day if you can. Sugar-free nut and rice milks are good, as are fruit and vegetable smoothies and juices.
Sweeteners: Stay away from refined sugar, and toxic chemicals aspartame, saccharine, etc. There are many healthy alternatives, some of which are listed on the raw vegan recipes and cooked vegan recipes pages.
You can get lots more information on food, diet and supplements from my health article library.
How many participants will be on retreat?
The retreat centres we use allow for between ten and fifteen participants, which I feel is optimal anyway. I am not a fan of packed ceremonies, preferring intimate settings that encourage bonding and sharing. You can find out more about the venues here.
What information will MM want from me?
When you sign up, there will be a questionnaire on your dietary requirements, allergies and intolerances, and anything that may contraindicate with the plants, such as certain pharmaceuticals. I like to get a picture of medicine experiences you've had, so I know what you're used to.
Which plant medicines do you work with?
On retreat we will use various plants, but the main plants are ayahuasca, huachuma (San Pedro) and medicinal mushrooms. Sometimes we will use pusanga, rapeh, sananga and mugwort. There will also be cacao ceremonies.
What will I eat while on retreat?
At the retreat centres, the food is high quality, organic vegan dishes, lovingly cooked by the MM team or sometimes the resident chefs. Much of it is grown on site, but some is sourced from local farms.
Breakfast is typically a tasty chia porridge and/or fruit medley, smoothies and nut milks. We use many superfoods to complement the detox and energise participants.
Salads are a common one, as would be expected, and there are lots of delicious hot dishes; we think it's unlikely you'll have tasted food like it before! There will be rice and grain based dishes, as well as organic black rice noodles, plenty of vegetables, spices and mouthwatering sauces. We even have healthy desserts.
We are big on raw cacao, so you'll get hot and cold chocolate drinks, and chunks of raw chocolate at timely intervals. There's also the cacao ceremony. For hydration we have a constant supply of fresh spring water direct from the mountain. I don't believe bottled water is good for you and the packaging is not sustainable.
What does the accommodation consist of?
We use three retreat centres, in Italy, Spain and Portugal. In Italy it's all about dance, yoga and cacao. In Spain and Portugal it's about plant medicines. At all of our centres, you'll be in a remote setting, so you'll be comfortable and peaceful. There are areas for rest, relaxation, yoga, sunbathing, meditation.... whatever you desire.
As always, all aspects of your physical experience have been considered and taken care of so that your attention can be placed on your personal healing process. The retreat accommodation varies from private rooms to shared accommodation and even camping, if required. Each retreat is different, but you'll always be comfortable and get plenty of chance to rest and recuperate.
Who are the facilitators?
I feel that experience, integrity, compassion, common sense and wisdom are the key factors in holding a healing ceremony. I won't work with anyone who doesn't have these qualities, so you're in safe hands. Find out more about the retreat team here. Team members vary from time to time dependent on location and availability!
What is the cost and what is included?
The 5 day plant medicine retreats are 595 GBP. This includes absolutely everything on the schedule, except flights and transfers (transfers are inexpensive and can be done in groups).
You can pay in either two or three instalments, but we require a 200 GBP deposit in order to guarantee your place. The full amount must be paid before the start of the retreat. Cash in GBP on the day is fine and we can accept a certain amount in Euros, by prior arrangement. You can pay by card when booking, but if you can do so by Bank Transfer or Paypal, we appreciate this. Please contact us for details.
Is the deposit refundable?
Deposits are non-refundable. In some instances, dependent on circumstances, we may transfer your deposit to a future retreat. If we need to cancel the retreat for reasons other than those listed in the cancellation policy, we will return any payments you have made to us.
Please note that in order to hold your place, even after a deposit is paid, we require you to return your post-booking questionnaire and signed Terms & Conditions at least one month before the start of the retreat. This is because we need information about your experience and medical conditions before we can accept you on retreat. If we do not receive this information within this time frame, we reserve the right to cancel your place. We will remind you before we do this so that you have ample opportunity to return your forms to us. If this is still not done, we reserve the right to cancel your place and the deposit will be non-refundable.
In instances where your place is only booked in the seven days before the retreat, we require your forms to be returned to us immediately. If we find that there are health contraindications on this form at this time, we will need to cancel your place but will return your deposit. However, if you do not return your forms to us within 5 days from date of booking, the deposit will be non-refundable.
These conditions protect both us and yourself from possible health issues on retreat, and as you can imagine, it is very difficult for us to run a business effectively without these terms in place. Thank you for your understanding.
Please see our retreat cancellation policy for full details on cancellation conditions.
How do I get to the retreat centres?
First of all, I recommend booking flights as early as you can so as to be able to organise your ongoing travel easily, and obviously to keep flight costs to a minimum.
This location is a secret one. It's close to Donana National Park, so the nearest airport is Seville. Otherwise, you can get to Huelva and we can collect you from there, or arrange a shared taxi. You'll be given full details upon booking.
If you're coming from the South of England, you can take the Stansted to Perugia 7.30am flight landing into Perugia at 11.05am. Once landed you can get a bus or taxi to Perugia Ponte san Giovanni train station, where you can take a direct train to Spoleto, which will take around 40 minutes and costs around 9 euros. We will arrange for you to be collected from Spoleto to bring you to the Villa.
If you would like to travel from a different airport in the UK then you will need to fly into Rome Fiumicino. You can get a train from there straight to Spoleto, which will take around 2 hours and 30 minutes. We will arrange for you to be collected from Spoleto to bring you to the Villa.
The nearest airport is Lisbon and budget flights land there regularly from many locations. There are options to travel onward by bus or train, which cost around16 euros return. We recommend the train for the beautiful scenic views but it may be easier to get one of the regular buses from Lisbon to the nearest town of Fundao, depending on your flight times. We can give you a bus timetable and booking link.
The train is comfortable and spacious and offers a good opportunity to relax. The train you will need to get (in order to arrive in time for the retreat start time) departs from Lisbon Oriente station at around 1:20pm. The same train leaves from Lisbon Santa Apolonia station a few minutes before, so you can choose where to catch it. That train will get you to the nearest town to the retreat around 4:30pm. It is important to get this train, as the next one will mean you miss the start of the retreat by two hours. There is also one at around 8.15am, but this will get you to Fundao very early and probably mean you'll be tired at the start of the retreat - your prerogative, of course. We also arrange for shared taxis from the town to the retreat centre, so if we can organise people to travel on the same train (or bus) it is much more convenient and cost effective. For this reason we recommend you aim for the 13:20 train.
Consider that you'll need a little time to get from the airport to Oriente (which is only 2 stops on the underground), and to buy a ticket. Everything is very straightforward and very cheap. An underground trip costs around 1euro 50 cents and a return to Lisbon is around 16euros. We will arrange for guests to meet and travel together if they wish to.
On the last day of the retreat the train back to Lisbon gets there for just after 6pm. It is not possible to get back any earlier than this by train, so when booking a flight please take this into consideration - the earliest you could fly out would be 8.30pm. The bus timetable is more regular and should be checked if you want to take an earlier flight. We will share the exact train details (and advance booking links if anyone prefers so) with those who book on retreat, at the time of booking.
IMPORTANT - PLEASE NOTE:
In some instances, your flight times may clash with the train or bus times. If your flights mean you won't make the train or bus in time for the retreat start, or the return time to Lisbon makes it too difficult to catch a flight home, we recommend you do the following. Many of our previous guests have embraced the opportunity to spend a bit of time in the beautiful city of Lisbon. Some people prefer to do this regardless of their flight times even, and as Lisbon is easy to navigate, and beautiful with it's beach and plenty of vegan restaurants, we recommend you do!
Guesthouses, hostels and airbnb
We can recommend a couple of guesthouses and vegan restaurants, but as Lisbon has more hostels and guesthouses than any other city, you won't find it a problem to get one for around 10euros (dorm) or 15euros+ for a private room. You might want to share with other retreat guests if anyone else plans to arrive early or stay late - guests inevitably form close bonds on retreats and find it hard to say goodbye, so this might be welcome on the return leg.
It can be arranged for the group to meet and travel together for both journeys. You may prefer to make your own way to us; this is no problem. We will help you as much as we can, and we'll be in regular contact to make sure all is well.
Airbnb is another reasonably priced alternative to hostels and hotels. For Airbnb, if you're new to it I can send you a referral code to get a sum of money off your first booking. Again, contact me for this. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about traveling in Portugal. Lisbon's underground is very simple to navigate, but I have instructions for anyone who needs them.
Dependent on available space at the eco-community, you may be able to arrive a day or two early or stay on afterwards (for a pre-arranged accommodation fee), but you'll need to travel alone to and from Lisbon if so. A lot of people fall in love with the place and arrange to stay on. If you think you might want to do that, please factor it in before booking your flights.
Please contact me with any questions you have on travel and I'll do my best to help you figure it out. It's all part of the adventure!