Ayahuasca has been used for ages in the Amazon but has recently stepped out of her shadows and is now well known globally. However, there still seems to be a lot of unclarity about what Ayahuasca exactly is and where she is used for. To create some clarity in this Amazon forest of ambiguity we will discuss the most important topics in this article.
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a brew which consists of leaves from the Psychotria Viridis and vine from the Banisteriopsis Caapi. This brew or so-called “Ayahuasca Tea” originates from the Amazon region and is often found in countries like Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and more. In this region, the locals have been using Ayahuasca for ages to heal multiple diseases and to connect with the gods. However, in the last decade, Ayahuasca has gained popularity in the west as well and is now often used to help people with depression or addiction problems.
The Psychotria Viridis plant contains DMT or N, N-Dimethyltryptamine. DMT is a strong hallucinogenic tryptamine molecule which is often called “the spirit molecule”. It occurs in many plants and animals and even in the human body. In the human body, DMT is produced in small amounts in the pineal gland and until this day there is still a lot of mystery about the precise role of it in the human brain. However, taken orally DMT is metabolized very fast. The Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) found in the Banisteriopsis Caapi plant inhibit the enzymes that break down DMT. Therefore, the MAOIs will give DMT the chance to arrive in the brain to do her work. So basically, Ayahuasca is a product of nature and the active substances in it are DMT and MAOIs.
How Does Ayahuasca Work?
After drinking the Ayahuasca tea DMT will be absorbed by the gut and travel through the blood-brain barrier. Once it has passed the blood barrier Ayahuasca will activate different regions in the brain. How this exactly works and which regions are activated are best shown and understood in the video below.
Because of the MAOIs present in ayahuasca tea, it is very important to follow a specific diet before participating in an ayahuasca ceremony.
Food and drinks with high levels of tyramine should be avoided for at least 24 hours before taking ayahuasca. Tyramine is an amino acid that will be inhibited by the MAOIs. As a result, these higher levels of tyramine can cause a hypertensive crisis.
In general, all food that is aged, dried, pickled, preserved, cured, outdated, rancid, old or overripe should be avoided when taking MAOIs. Drinks that are in any way caffeinated should also be avoided. What you can eat is everything that is fresh and not processed in any way. If you have any doubts about a certain type of food we advise you to consult a doctor or look for additional information about the specific type of food.
Furthermore, MAOIs also interact with a lot of different drugs and medicines which should also be taken with caution. Illicit drugs, tryptophan supplements, and other psychoactive substances like antidepressants should be avoided. For extended information regarding interactions with medicines, you can have a look here.
The Ayahuasca Experience
Almost all ayahuasca experiences start with finding the right retreat where the ceremony will take place. There is always a shaman present who will guide you through your journey and make sure that you feel safe. The ceremonies usually take place in a ceremony room where you can sit or lay on the ground together with other individuals that will make the trip.
Before the journey starts the shaman will bless the room and will set the right mood with candles and specific sents. After this, the shaman will hand everyone a cup of ayahuasca tea so the trip can start. After 30 till 90 minutes the ayahuasca will start to work and a variety of experiences will manifest itself.
A common thing that happens a lot after drinking the ayahuasca tea is throwing up. In the ancient culture of ayahuasca, this is referred to as purging. The ayahuasca will clean the body of poison that has built up through the years and clean the blood.
Even though every trip is personal and different for everyone there are some aspects that seem to take place with a lot of different individuals who have taken ayahuasca. A lot of people describe an out of body experience when the ayahuasca really kicks in. They describe the feeling of not having a body anymore but being an energy that is present in the universe where time does not seem to exist.
In addition, a lot of people describe certain entities talking to them and showing them their path in life. These entities are described in different forms and shapes but all have the same purpose in these experiences. In line with this, there are also people that describe a feminine voice talking to them as their unconscious mind. This voice then explains to the individual for example why he has a drug problem and the true root of this problem. Experts and shamans often describe this as the plant of the voice and because it often experienced as a female voice they refer to the plant as a feminine energy.
If you would like to do some more in-depth research about the ayahuasca experience we highly recommend you to read this book. This book is a collection of twenty-four different ayahuasca experiences and the life-changing results that have come with it.
For additional information, the video below will give an overview of how an ayahuasca journey is experienced. however, keep in mind that every journey will differ from person to person.
The Benefits of Taking Ayahuasca
Since Ayahuasca has gained popularity about its healing benefits the academic world is increasingly investigating these benefits. As a result, studies now have strong evidence that ayahuasca is definitely effective in the fight against depression. For example, this article, published by the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) shows that in a sample of 29 patients with treatment-resistant depression there are significant improvements in depression in comparison with the placebo group.
May Cure Drug Addiction
Several studies which investigated the effects of ayahuasca on drug addiction found significant results. For example, findings of this study state that: “Statistically significant improvements were demonstrated for scales assessing hopefulness, empowerment, mindfulness, and quality of life meaning and outlook subscales”. In addition, participants also reported lasting positive changes which tell us ayahuasca is not only a temporary relief but could really change your life!
Cleans the Body
Ayahuasca has the power to clean the human body of parasites, microbial organisms, and bacteria like salmonella. By increasing serotonin in the gut ayahuasca induces diarrhea and vomiting(purging) which cleans the body of unwanted guests. In addition, the harmaline and harmine present in the ayahuasca tea clean the blood and function as antiparasitic agents.
Helps the Body to Fight Against Cancer
Although more research needs to be done, there is enough evidence to make the assumption that Ayahuasca may help in the fight against cancer. Ayahuasca may help in the following four ways:
- destroying cancer cells
- blocking glucose in the cancer cells
- increase the number of white blood cells in the blood
- suppressing the growth of cancer cells
Is Ayahuasca Legal?
Unfortunately, like many other natural medicines from the plant kingdom the active ingredient in Ayahuasca (DMT) is classified as a schedule I drug in the United States. However, plants containing DMT are not illegal and therefore can still be bought. Once the plant is processed and the Ayahuasca brew is made it becomes illegal again.
In addition to this, there appears to be another loophole to use ayahuasca completely legal and safe. After several court cases two ayahuasca churches (UDV, Santo Diame) are now allowed to use ayahuasca for religious purposes. Joining this church does bring other lifestyle aspects with it so this is not for the occasional ayahuasca user.
Furthermore, the legality of ayahuasca differs per country and is even legal in a couple of countries. So if you don’t want to take the risk of getting caught and don’t want to join the church community you could also travel to another country. Netherlands, Brazil, and Peru are countries where Ayahuasca in legal and can be safely used in the many different retreats that are found in these countries.
DIY: Ayahuasca Tea
If you are thinking of making your own brew or just curious about how Ayahuasca is made we have a really cool video for you. This video is taken in Peru and in it is shown how the locals have been making Ayahuasca for thousands of years. In addition to this, the host shares his opinion on using Ayahuasca without a shaman which is very interesting.
Hopefully, with this information, we can contribute to the positive side of Ayahuasca as many people are using it for ages as a strong medicine from the plant kingdom. If you have any questions or would like to contribute to this article on Ayahuasca, feel free to send us a message or comment!
Hey there! My name is Jennifer Alger and together with my husband Anthony, we are the herb project. As a rock climbing trainer and nature enthusiast, I just love to show everyone the beauty of nature. I think that society has lost its connection with the earth and by sharing my knowledge I sincerely hope to reconnect people with their own nature again. If you would like to reach out to me you can message me here!