Ayahuasca high blood pressure – when does it get dangerous?

Medical article on Ayahuasca and high blood pressure

Because Ayahuasca is a medicine of indigenous traditional use, like any other substance, it has its indications, contraindications, precautions, and warnings. One of the most frequent enquiries is whether someone diagnosed with high blood pressure (arterial hypertension) can participate in an Ayahuasca/Yagé ceremony.

Key takeaways

  • Various studies have shown a transient increase in blood pressure values after the ingestion of Ayahuasca, which return to normal ranges after approximately 90 minutes.
  • Individuals with uncontrolled (high blood pressure) arterial hypertension are not recommended to take ayahuasca.
  • Arterial hypertension may be associated with other serious cardiovascular diseases.
  • If you have well-controlled arterial hypertension, are taking medications consistently, and do not have other serious heart-compromising conditions, it may be possible to take Ayahuasca.

Table of Contents

heart in the centre

Ayahuasca high blood pressure (Arterial Hypertension)

Does Ayahuasca affect blood pressure?

Various studies have documented changes in blood pressure patterns, with moderate increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure observed, as well as a moderate increase in heart rate meeting criteria for tachycardia, following acute ingestion of Ayahuasca. (1) 

Overall, it has been found that ayahuasca can induce moderate increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. These increases peak between one hour and one and a half hours after administration, averaging around 10 mmHg. The effects on heart rate are minimal, with increases of about 4-10 beats per minute, also observed around one hour after administration and not reaching statistical significance.(2)

On the other hand, a study conducted in hypertensive rats in 2013, to which ayahuasca was administered in different doses, demonstrated that chronic use did not cause significant changes in blood pressure, systolic and diastolic patterns, and there appeared to be no relevant histopathological changes. (3)

In another study conducted by Dos Santos, Grasa et al., 2012 it was found that despite a significant increase in blood pressure and heart rate values in patients who received an initial dose of Ayahuasca compared to placebo, these increases were transient and lasted between 15 and 30 minutes, and were not replicated after receiving a second dose of Ayahuasca. In fact, they showed decreases in these variables after repeated ayahuasca administration, which the author related to some level of desensitization, decreased signaling, or downregulation of the 5-HT2A receptor. (1)

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Can Ayahuasca cause high blood pressure?

To date, there is not enough evidence that proves that drinking ayahuasca can produce high blood pressure permanently. Studies have shown that, in healthy individuals, the administration of single doses of ayahuasca within the normal dosage range does not appear to entail a particular cardiovascular risk. (2)

What does occur in some individuals are transient elevations in blood pressure values, which can be measured between 30- and 60-minutes post-ingestion before returning to previous normal values between minutes 90 and 180. (1)

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Is Ayahuasca safe for the heart?

Ayahuasca is safe for the heart in individuals without pre-existing cardiovascular diseases; however, in those with any cardiac condition, the case should be evaluated on an individual basis.

I have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (arterial hypertension) and I want to take Ayahuasca. Could I do it?

In the case of patients with arterial hypertension disorders and heart pathologies, caution is advised, as the inhibition of intraneural MAO (monoamine oxidases: substances present in the brew) can increase levels of noradrenaline, which could lead to producing intense sympathomimetic effects (elevation of blood pressure values, increase in cardiac output, and heart rate) that may be a risk factor for individuals with these disorders.

In these cases, the best recommendation is to have proper control of blood pressure values in the weeks leading up to taking Ayahuasca; generally, it is not recommended to stop antihypertensive pill therapies before the ayahuasca ceremony, and it is important to inform the team or facilitators about the medications you are taking to provide accurate recommendations and care.

The normal blood pressure values according to the American Heart Association for a healthy adult should be below 120/80 mmHg, and the normal heart rate values should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute; however, many factors can alter these values, such as caffeine, anxiety, and stress. Therefore, if you have any doubts about your blood pressure and whether you can take ayahuasca, it is always advisable to have a medical check-up beforehand.

Ayahuasca high blood pressure – Can I drink if I am taking medications to treat it?

To date, there are no studies that evaluate the risks of taking Ayahuasca in people who are on antihypertensive medications. As previously mentioned, there may be a transient increase in systolic blood pressure values by about 10 mmHg; for these cases, it is advisable to conduct an individual assessment of the patient considering the mechanisms of action of the antihypertensive medications being taken, their elimination pathway, and the control of blood pressure values in this person; generally, there are no contraindications to taking ayahuasca in combination with any antihypertensive medication; in fact, the recommendation is not to stop them.

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Why do some places advise against taking Ayahuasca if I have high blood pressure? 

Having high blood pressure values does suggest one should not take Ayahuasca because it has been shown to increase blood pressure values by up to 10 mmHg (2), which can pose risks for individuals with uncontrolled hypertension. Additionally, some people with high blood pressure also have other associated cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure, a history of myocardial infarction, ventricular hypertrophy, cardiac arrhythmias, in which cases and for these individuals, the ingestion of Ayahuasca is not recommended.

Can Ayahuasca cure me of high blood pressure (arterial hypertension)? 

Arterial hypertension is an increasingly common disease in the Western population, and its exact causes have not been fully elucidated, with multiple factors involved in causing this condition. These factors include hereditary causes, endocrine tumors, and a wide variety of risk factors such as overweight or obesity, sedentary lifestyle, poor nutritional habits, high sodium consumption, chronic stress, among others.

Ayahuasca is known as the medicine of the soul, allowing individuals to connect with deeper levels of consciousness to work on emotional, psychological, and personal growth aspects. 

From a holistic perspective, in alternative medicine, high blood pressure has been associated with pent-up resentment and suppressed anger, so from this perspective, it could help people suffering from high blood pressure to find key points within themselves to work on in their daily lives, leading to fuller lives with greater awareness, happiness, tranquility, and acceptance, however, there is not direct scientific correlation that ayahuasca can help with that. 

Must Read Blog: Ayahuasca healing

Conclusions

Uncontrolled arterial hypertension and Ayahuasca is a combination that is not recommended. 

Individuals interested in participating in a ceremony need to have a level of responsibility and knowledge about the possible adverse effects that may occur from ingesting the brew. 

In general, Ayahuasca can be taken by hypertensive individuals, but it should be noted that blood pressure values must be controlled, and always inform beforehand about the medications you are taking to provide relevant recommendations. 

For those individuals with arterial hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases, a much more careful evaluation should be conducted, considering the severity of these other diseases, and keeping in mind that the recommendation may be not to take Ayahuasca to protect their health.

References

  1. Dos Santos, R. G., Grasa, E., Valle, M., Ballester, M. R., Bouso, J. C., Nomdedéu, J. F., … & Riba, J. (2012). Pharmacology of ayahuasca administered in two repeated doses. Psychopharmacology, 219, 1039-1053
  2. Riba, J., & Barbanoj, M. J. (2003). Farmacología de la ayahuasca: investigaciones con voluntarios mediante ensayos clínicos. Ayahuasca y salud, 315.
  3. Santos AC, Azevedo BR de MS, Pereira NK, Irulegui R de SC, Baracho NC do V. Efectos cardiovasculares, renales y hepáticos producidos por la administración crónica de Ayahuasca en ratas hipertensas/Efectos cardiovasculares, renales y hepáticos producidos por la administración crónica de Ayahuasca en Ratas hipertensas. Ciencias de la Salud J
  4. Dos Santos, R. G., Grasa, E., Valle, M., Ballester, M. R., Bouso, J. C., Nomdedéu, J. F., … & Riba, J. (2012). Pharmacology of ayahuasca administered in two repeated doses. Psychopharmacology, 219, 1039-1053.
  5. Escobar Cornejo, Guillermo Saúl. (2015). Las propiedades farmacocinéticas del ayahuasca. Liberabit, 21(2), 313-319.

 

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