The Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council

The Guardians of the Teacher Plants

the path of the sun


We humans cannot boast that we have done the best to preserve Mother Nature and her “resources”. Teacher Plants such as Ayahuasca, Iboga, San Pedro and others are no exception. More and more people are seeking healing using these plants, which has resulted in a huge need for a greater focus on issues such as sustainability and safety.  Luckily, people are out there keeping a watchful eye on protecting the future of both the Teacher Plants and all of us who are seeking healing with these plants. Those are, amongst others, the people behind the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC).


joshuaBack when Open Mind Trips was still just an idea which we were trying to mold into reality, I was lucky to be contacted by Joshua Wickerham, the Founder of the ESC. At that time I was reaching out to different Retreat Centers, to research whether there was a need for a site like Open Mind Trips, a site which intends to be the connecting link between shamans/retreat centers and seekers of entheogens. I wrote several people trying to spread my message in order to create a focus on Knowledge, Safety, Sustainability and Transparency around the work with the teacher plants through this future platform. One of the people I contacted was Dr. Jacques Mabit from the Takiwasi Center in Peru. Dr. Mabit quickly spotted the common mission Joshua and I intended to share with the people and did not hesitate to connect us.

Joshua and I quickly found out that we were working towards the same goal, although we were both working to manifest it in different ways, and we agreed to remain in contact.

Since then Joshua and the ESC team have all done an amazing job collecting knowledge about entheogens and creating more awareness around the need for a sustainable future for the plants. Now they are also working on something called “The Ayahuasca Dialogues”. The Ayahuasca Dialogues intend to establish best practices on the safe use and sustainability of this plant medicine, and it is created by involving both shamans and facilitators, retreat centers and seekers of Ayahuasca and asking them to share their ideas as how to practice safe and sustainable use of this amazing medicine.

ayahuasca-dialoguesHere at Open Mind Trips we were lucky to set up an interview with Ellen Percival, Research and Outreach Coordinator at the ESC, asking her about the work of the ESC and their Ayahuasca Dialogues.

-Ellen, can you explain to us how the ESC was created and why?


"The ESC staellenrted to come into being in spring 2013, in particular as a result of a meeting at the Psychedelic Science conference in Oakland, where hundreds of people crammed into a room to speak about safety and sustainability issues affecting Ayahuasca, especially the recent death of an American teenager at an Ayahuasca center in Peru. Joshua Wickerham, who ended up founding the ESC, was one of the people there, and it was from this meeting that the first elements of what is now the ESC began to coalesce.

Another important moment in the early history of the ESC happened at Breaking Convention in July 2013, when Rick Doblin from MAPS suggested that the ESC focus not only on Ayahuasca, but on other plants as well. Peyote and Iboga, for instance, are also affected by safety and sustainability issues, but of course in their own ways. For instance, elephants play a significant role in the spread of Iboga plants, meaning ivory poaching is not only terrible for elephants, but iboga too.

Of course, the Ayahuasca world has long been quite organised, thanks to various international conferences, mailing lists, and some history of curanderos self-organising, but there has been a growing consensus that there needs to be a specific initiative to help promote safety and sustainability, and that's where the ESC comes in."

- Ellen, even though Open Mind Trips and the ESC share the same values, and work towards reaching the same goal of a sustainable future for the teacher plants such as Ayahuasca, we work on two different paths.

At Open Mind Trips we are trying to get the retreat centers and shaman/facilitators of the world listed at our site. By doing so, we can help create more Transparency around the work of each center and person. But we have also added an extra focus on the Safety and Sustainability factors by enabling each listing owner to add information about safety precautions like e.g. if they have someone to watch over people during a ceremony. We also ask them to add information about how they ensure sustainability of the plants, so that this information is visible to all.

Can you tell us more about the ESC’s overall vision and of how are you going to accomplish it?

"The ESC's vision is for a world where plants, their traditions, and the people who work with them are respected and empowered culturally, legally, economically, and religiously. We take a community-leayadialogod approach to safety and sustainability, and we want everyone's voice to be heard and included. We also want to share best practices, and to help people by increasing their knowledge and connecting them to others.

How we're going about this is by holding Plant Dialogues. For Ayahuasca this is the Ayahuasca Dialogues. So far our team of researchers have spoken to over 200 people in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil and hundreds more have contacted us online. We're interested in what everyone has to say about what we're doing, and the eventual outcome of the Ayahuasca Dialogues - the Ayahuasca Agreement - will be based on the recommendations of the community itself. The Ayahuasca Agreement will outline the best practices when it comes to the safety and sustainability of Ayahuasca, and its approval requires consensus within the community. There's more information in the report available here


If people want to get involved they're more than welcome, and there are lots of ways to do so. For instance, they can send us feedback at, or get in touch with us via our website. We're currently crowdsourcing the money to enable our researchers to carry out a second round of research in South America, and we're seeking comments on our draft Ayahuasca Health Guide which should eventually form the safety elements of the Ayahuasca Agreement."

- It is really wonderful to see how you are collecting knowledge while forming a community of people who wish to protect the future of these plants. I am very curious to learn what drives you, as part of the ESC, to work on this mission to protect the plants?

"It's hard to pinpoint exactly what drives me to work on this mission, as there are so many things. I spent the last two years studying and working in sustainable horticulture and seeing first-hand the positive changes in people when they get to have a closer relationship with plants, which is not something that modern society often allows. I feel that ayahuasca in particular has an incredible capacity not only to heal people but to help them to see the natural world, and their place in it, in a different way, and to open them up to the idea that nature is constantly communicating and that it's possible for it to communicate with you too, because you are a part of it.

So, coming from there, of course the sustainability of the plants that help to facilitate this is hugely important, and integral to what's happening as a whole. Although nothing is perfect and every job has its stresses, I love getting to do my work as I can't think of another time when I would have the opportunity to try to do something positive that affects so many areas that I feel passionately about, from sustainability to drug policy, inter-cultural relations, the lot!

In terms of what drives the ESC as a whole, I would say that it's a commitment to seeing ayahuasca live up to its potential in a way that truly benefits the cultures and ecosystems that it has originated from."

Please, for the sake of all of us, humans and plants, we kindly urge you to be part of this community, which I have chosen to call the Guardians of the Teacher Plants.

Please help the Teacher Plants by sharing your knowledge and experience with entheogens in our Forum or add your review of a Shaman/Facilitator or Retreat Center.

Help the ESC on their mission to Protect Ayahuasca by donating to their crowfunding campaign at and have your say on how the Ayahuasca Guide is formed at

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts