Hallucinogenic Plant May Help Treat Depression

With the destigmatization of mental illness in a digital playing field, many are turning to the Internet for treatment. Apps like Koko allow patients to seek help virtually, and now many can use DIY kits to self-diagnose. More alarming cases may call for medication, but a U.K. research team thinks the psychedelic ayahuasca plant may be able to treat depression.

“The psychedelic state induced by ayahuasca often makes users reflect on personal concerns and memories and produces intense emotions,” note Dr. [Will] Lawn and colleagues. “These effects are highly valued by ayahuasca users who characterize the drug experience as similar to a psychotherapeutic intervention.”

The brew does contain addictive compounds but proved in last year’s Global Drug Survey to be psychologically beneficial. Furthermore, users tended not to gravitate towards alcohol.

“Recent research has demonstrated ayahuasca’s potential as a psychiatric medicine,” [Lawn] adds, “and our current study provides further evidence that it may be a safe and promising treatment.”

As a purely observational study, Lawn and his team will have to commit to (possibly years) of additional research about the plant’s potential to treat depression. While their analysis has been the most in-depth to date, controlled trials make for a safe bet. The world could use another upper.

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Last Known Nepalese Performing Bears Are Rescued

From banning their inclusion in recreational hunting and circus shows, bears are off to a great start in the new year. While those in the wild are frolicking in undisturbed freedom, those kept illegally are still waiting for rescue. For two of Nepal’s last known dancing bears, the delay has come to an end with the help of the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal.

“We know that Rangila and Sridevi were suffering in captivity since they [were] poached from the wild and their muzzles were pierced with hot iron rods,” [said] Neil D’Cruze of World Animal Protection.

Despite the 1973 ban, bear dancing has permeated throughout Nepal. Many handlers turned to violent training methods, even removing the bears’ teeth. While rescue doesn’t liberate an animal from psychological trauma, extensive rehabilitation usually gets the job done.

“They will need long-term, specialized care, but many bears rescued from bear dancing and baiting have been able to live out the rest of their lives peacefully in sanctuaries,” [D’Cruze] said.

Both middle-aged, it’s about time Rangila and Sridevi received a hard-earned break!

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Kazakhstan Reintroducing Wild Tigers After 70 Years

Wildlife rehabilitation is now going beyond the animal-loving circle. From grand endeavors by Chile to save endangered penguins to household efforts sheltering bats, everyone seems to be in on the action. Latest to join the party is Kazakhstan, which is reintroducing wild tigers back into the country after 70 years.

“Thanks to years of close collaboration between Kazakhstan and Russian conservation experts, we have now identified the best possible territory in Ili-Balkhash for the restoration of a thriving wild tiger population.” [said WWF-Russia director Igor Chestin]

The project will erect a nature preserve and restore forests that initially hosted the wild tigers. If all go according to plan, Kazakhstan will be the first country in the world to restore an extinct population of wild tigers.

“Kazakhstan is moving along the path of green development. We are honoured to be the first country in central Asia to implement such an important and large-scale project, that not only will bring wild tigers back to their ancestral home but also protect the unique ecosystem of the Ili-Balkhash region.”

Kazakhstan saw the end of its tiger community in the 1940s. Worldwide, wild tigers have lost some 90% of their historical range. Now, the country has poachers on their toes. As an animal enthusiast myself, I’m looking forward to anticipating the success of such an ambitious project.

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This Solar-Powered Village Is For The Homeless

We have seen the likes of solar-powered cellphones and commuter trains become a reality. But an entire community of energy-neutral homes seems slightly out of our reach. Maybe not for the Dutch. Studio Elmo Vemijs has erected a solar-powered village for the homeless.

The architects designed the tiny homes specifically for individuals suffering from mental illness, drug addiction, and anyone that simply has trouble living in a traditional home environment.

Skaeve Huses or “special homes” in the Netherlands are mostly intended for transients. However, the village hopes to be a more permanent solution for those who need it.

All of the structures are made out of a corrugated steel facade with protruding window frames, but each has a unique color scheme. The interior layouts include an entrance hall, living room, kitchen, bathroom along with large windows that provide optimal natural light on the interior.

While halfway houses focus on recovery, designers at Studio Elmo Vemijs believe a home must also have a relaxing aesthetic. Each villa is designed to ensure privacy but avoid isolation. I’ve got to hand it to the Dutch. They sure know how to give back in more ways than one.

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