The fourth annual Cannabis Science Conference West in September will feature a celebrity plenary address from “Amazon” John Easterling and Olivia Newton-John. Here, they discuss the cannabis industry and offer a preview of their plenary address titled “Plant Medicine—A Personal Healing Journey.”
I recently sat down with “Amazon” John Easterling and Olivia Newton-John and learned how the universe intervened and brought together two souls on seemingly separate paths into one beautiful union. In 2008, Easterling and Newton-John married, and together they are spreading the word about the importance of preserving the rainforest and the health values found in the botanicals of the Amazon. They currently serve on the board of the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) organization to help the indigenous people of the Amazon gain ownership and title to their land.
Amazon John, can you please share your amazing story of the transformation from a treasure hunter into a plant medicine researcher?
Amazon John Easterling: My boyhood dream since the third grade had been to explore in Peru and find lost cities of gold and Inca treasure. It was a dream deferred for many years until I was done with school at the university of North Carolina in 1976, at which time I sold my car and bought a ticket to Ecuador. After roaming through Ecuador and Peru for a few weeks and not finding any lost cities, I returned with some highland Peruvian sweaters and handicrafts. I was fortunate to sell those and have enough money for a return trip, and so began a career of entrepreneurial endeavors in South America. The next couple of decades saw an evolution of treasure from handicrafts to pre-Columbian textiles from Chimu and Moche civilizations and continued to expand to leather goods in Brazil and Argentina then gemstones and mineral specimens.
Ultimately, I responded to the siren call of the rainforest and was drawn into the jungles of Peru and up the tributaries of the Amazon and began trading with indigenous groups in blowguns and tribal artifacts. I must insert here that in 1972 I had a near death experience with hepatitis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Coming out of that my health was compromised and I felt like I recovered 70% but just couldn’t get 100% back. The doctors told me I was lucky to be alive and so not knowing any better then, I just accepted it as the way it was to be.
Occasionally, I would get a bit of fever and run out of energy and just have to rest for a couple of days before I could continue. It was happening to me again in the rainforest and that’s when some Indians shared some local botanicals with me that changed my life forever. Just looking at me they went into the forest and came back with Una de Gato vine bark, Chanca Piedra leaf and stem, and some sap from the Sangre de Drago tree. They boiled the vine, simmered the Chanca Piedra into it, and added a few drops of the sap into a healing drink for me. I had no expectations of anything happening, but after three days on this I noticed a significant feeling of being really grounded with a new energy flow coming through and a return of mental acuity.
After another couple of days, I was feeling as good as I was before my hepatitis and spotted fever. A week more into it and it took me to a new level of life experience better than at any time of my life.
This was quite shocking to me as I realized that for years I had been chopping this stuff down looking for treasure, when the “real” treasure of the rainforest is the extraordinary inventory of healing chemistry, nutrition, and energetics that reside in more than a thousand species of Amazonian botanicals. This awakening led me to a closer relationship with the curanderos (medicine men) in the rainforest and a new passion for plants as medicinal treasure.
I started Amazon Herb Co. and for the next 22 years I researched, formulated, and commercialized rainforest medicinal botanicals. Now it is fascinating to see new research on the three-original botanicals that were given to me: Una de Gato as a stimulating macrophage and phagocytosis activity (kick starting the immune system), Chanca Piedra as a reverse transcriptase inhibitor (interfering with a virus’s ability to replicate), and Sangre de Drago sap as having 90% proanthocyanin content by dry weight (a powerful anti-oxidant). That turns out to be the perfect prescription for someone with hepatitis. How did they know? So that’s how the transition happened and it’s the extraordinary healing results I’ve witnessed over the last 20 years that keeps me driven and inspired.
Since I merged Amazon Herb Co. seven years ago, cannabis has been my focus as a medicinal plant. As my plant medicine teachers were rainforest curanderos, I approach cannabis in the same way as I do other medicinal plants—with respect and gratitude. Curanderos would sing to the wild plants in the jungle songs of gratitude before harvesting. With cannabis we have the opportunity to develop a relationship with the plant from seed through the entire grow cycle. There are techniques and methodologies we can use to create a harmonic field and relationship with the plant that influences the therapeutic expression and healing value of cannabis (see video at www.happytreemicrobes.com).
I have a deep passion and appreciation for this plant whose time has come.