In recent times, the term “Ayahuasca” has gained prominence, especially in the world of alternative healing and wellness.
Celebrities like Megan Fox and two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers have openly shared their transformative experiences with Ayahuasca. But what is Ayahuasca, and why is it gaining so much attention?
In this comprehensive blog, we will delve into Ayahuasca, its origins, benefits, risks, and its legal status.
- Ayahuasca is a brew from the Amazon originating from two plants, the Banisteriopsis Caapi (often referred to as Caapi) and Psychotria viridis (commonly known as Chacruna).
- Ayahuasca induces an extraordinary state of consciousness through the DMT in the Chacruna plant. The MAO Inhibitors in the Caapi prevent the body from rapidly breaking down the DMT.
- Ayahuasca is always taken in a ceremonial context and is considered a medicine for the indigenous of the amazon to help heal our thinking, emotions and our spirit.
Table of Contents
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a brew originating from the Amazon, created from two plants: Banisteriopsis Caapi (often referred to as Caapi) and Psychotria viridis (commonly known as Chacruna).
It induces an extraordinary state of consciousness through the presence of DMT in the Chacruna plant. The MAO inhibitors in Caapi prevent the rapid breakdown of DMT. For indigenous Amazonians, Ayahuasca is considered a medicinal plant used to heal the mind, emotions, and spirit.
How does Ayahuasca look like?
Ayahuasca is a thick, concentrated liquid that ranges in color from a deep reddish-brown to nearly black.
What does Ayahuasca taste like?
Ayahuasca has a bitter, earth like taste. Many people on the internet describe it as a horrible taste, but that has more to do with the sensational nature of the internet. Different Ayahuasca brews have different tastes as well.
Many of the participants at our retreat were pleasantly surprised by the taste, some even mentioning that it reminded them of dark chocolate.
I would not go that far, it does not taste great, but it is also not as horrible as many people on the internet describe it to be.
How is Ayahuasca used?
Traditionally, Ayahuasca has always been used within a ceremonial context. For the indigenous people of the Amazon, it's more than just a plant; it's a medicine.
A medicine for the body, the mind, emotions and even in some ways for the soul Its use is deeply part in their culture and community structure.
The indigenous also do not just see Ayahuasca as a brew, but something that has its own spirit that one can connect with by drinking it.
This sounds a bit “woo- woo” but this is their belief system and once you experience it for yourself you will understand it.
Now, Ayahuasca is extending its reach beyond the borders of the Amazon and into a global context.
Ayahuasca is being explored in spiritual and therapeutic settings around the world, providing individuals from all walks of life a unique opportunity to dive into their subconscious and help them on a transformative journey of self-discovery.
Some indigenous tribes are against this expansion however the majority view this as important. Because Ayahausca can create a shift in consciousness and priority that the world in many ways needs. More on that in another blog.
What plants is Ayahuasca made of?
Ayahuasca is a brew made of two different plants – Banisteriopsis caapi (often referred to as Caapi) and Psychotria viridis (commonly known as Chacruna) – this is the short answer to “what is Ayahuasca”
How does Ayahuasca work?
Ayahuasca works by inducing a state of extraordinary consciousness through the Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which is in in the Chacruna leaves. However, DMT on its own is rapidly broken down in the stomach and neutralized due to the presence of enzymes known as monoamine oxidases (MAOs).
This is where the Caapi vine plays its crucial role. It contains harmala alkaloids, which are MAO inhibitors (MAOIs).
When ingested, these MAOIs prevent the body from breaking down DMT, allowing it to enter the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier. This makes the effects of the DMT last longer, usually for about 6-8 hours.
The ingestion of Ayahuasca often leads to physical purging through vomiting or diarrhea. These are an essential part of the cleansing process, not just physical but also energetically.
Must read blog: Ayahuasca ceremony – what to expect
What are Ayahuasca Retreats?
Ayahuasca Retreats are a common ways for people to experience Ayahuasca. It usually involves a longer stay 2 – 7 nights with multiple ceremonies (2 – 4).
Ayahuasca retreats represent a unique opportunity for individuals, particularly those from Western cultures, to immerse themselves in the spiritual and healing traditions of Ayahuasca in a supportive and guided setting.
Typically located in environments in nature that foster introspection and healing. These retreats are not only about the Ayahuasca ceremonies themselves but encompass a wider range of holistic experiences like yoga, meditation, breathwork, diet, and integration coaching .
This structure allows participants to progressively peel back layers of their consciousness, delving deeper into their psyche with each subsequent ceremony. Also, through additional modalities and practices the participants can connect with different tools that they can use in their day to day life.
Furthermore, retreats commonly include sharing circles before and after the ceremonies. These communal gatherings serve as spaces for individuals to articulate their intentions, share their experiences, express their feelings, get clarity on parts that confuse them, have their questions answered and receive insights from others' journeys.
This group dynamic can contribute significantly to an individual's transformative process, reinforcing a sense of mutual support and shared experience.
We offer Ayahuasca Retreats in Colombia for 3,5 days of 7 days.
Preparing for Ayahuasca
Before drinking Ayahuasca it is important to prepare yourself on multiple levels – body, mind, and spirit.
- Body: Proper physical preparation often entails adhering to a clean diet, free from red meat, lactose, and garlic. It's also recommended to abstain from alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and sexual activities for a week period before the ceremony. These practices help detoxify the body and prepare it for the profound journey ahead.
- Mind: Mental preparation includes activities that promote relaxation, focus, and inner balance. Practices such as yoga, breathwork, and media cleanse (including social mediat) can assist in calming the mind and fostering a state of mindfulness and presence. It is also recommended to stop whatever coping mechanism you are using to not having to deal with the anger, irritation, frustration, loneliness, lazyness, boredom etc. that you are most likely suppressing. You know for yourself what this coping mechanism is (scrolling, over-eating etc.)
- Spirit: Preparing the spirit involves practices aimed at deepening one's connection to their inner self. Mindfulness exercises, meditation, and becoming clear on your intention for the Ayahuasca ceremony can help align the spirit with the transformative journey that lies ahead.
Must read blog: Ayahuasca intention – find your intention for Ayahuasca
In sum, proper preparation is crucial to fully experience and benefit from the healing potential that Ayahuasca has to offer.
Being intentional and respectful of this process can make the journey smoother and more profound.
Must read Blog: Ayahuasca Preparation – How to prepare for Ayahuasca
Benefits of Ayahuasca:
There are many benefits to Ayahuasca, from processing emotional trauma, combating addiction and depression, shifting ones emotional default state, to gaining clarity and seeing things from a different perspective.
Let’s dive deeper into that. Also, the benefits of Ayahuasca describe well what is Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca is really helpful with processing the things that still haunt us from the past.
Things that we have not found resolution on and still affects us on our present and with our decision making.
During the experience, participants may revisit past traumatic events, this time equipped with a different perspective and the support needed to process and integrate these experiences.
However, revisiting is not the only way in which traumas can be processed in Ayahuasca.
It can also be about sitting with the feeling instead of having to reexperience everything all over again.
Ayahuasca has many ways of teaching us (check out more about this topic in this video) and it can help us process trauma that we still carry in our subconscious and our body.
Resolving past traumas can result in significant emotional releases and a greater sense of healing and peace.
Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that Ayahuasca can be effective in combating various forms of addiction.
It can help individuals understand the root causes of their addictive behaviors, confront their fears and traumas, and gain the inner strength necessary to overcome their dependencies.
You can look deeper into how Ayahuasca can help with addiction in this blog
There are also scientific studies about Ayahausca and its impact on addiction.
Depression has become part of life in the west, and many of the current western modalities are not sufficient.
There is a reason why you have depression, even though it might not be clear to you.
Ayahuasca can show you that reason, help you make an emotional shift and give you the homework you need to do to start overcoming your depression.
Of course it is not as simple as drinking Ayahuasca and resolving your depression, but it has proved numerous times as a great catalyst for change and to help overcome depression.
I talk more about in depth in this blog article: Ayahuasca depression – Is Ayahuasca the solution for your depression
There are also scientific studies that back up this claim for Ayahausca being beneficial again depression.
Several studies suggest that Ayahuasca may be effective in alleviating depression.
It appears to do so by rerouting established neural pathways associated with depressive thoughts and behaviors, creating an emotional release, and promoting a more positive outlook on life.
However, it's crucial that anyone with depression considering Ayahuasca first consult with a healthcare provider to assess potential risks and benefits.
Seeing things from a different perspective / Gaining clarity in life
The way we see the world influences with the way we interact with the world. And maybe certain perspectives have not been conducive to your mental health.
By accessing an “altered state of consciousness” through Ayahuasca you will be able to see things from a different perspective.
Things that have been unclear to you, will start to make sense. It can give you clarity on the next steps in your life or show you the reason for certain (unwanted) results in your life. This knowledge allows you to change what is causing the suffering.
Participants can gain profound insights into their life situations, relationships, career choices, and personal aspirations.
This clarity can serve as a valuable guide in making life decisions and navigating personal growth.
Shifting one's emotional state
Ayahuasca can catalyze a profound shift in one's emotional state. It is one thing to understand something with your head, it is a different thing to feel it.
Ayahuasca can deliver that emotional shift so you don’t have to convince yourself of certain things (“affirmations of self – love, gratitude etc.) but actually feeling that way.
Participants often report emerging from the experience with a heightened sense of inner peace, joy, and self-compassion. This emotional transformation can lead to improved mental health, greater resilience, and a more optimistic outlook on life.
Connecting with Oneself
I believe we all have the answers we are looking for within. There are just many levels of conditioning put on top of it.
Conditioning from our parents, school, university, society etc on how we should be living our life or acting in certain situations.
By peeling away those layers through Ayahuasca you can start to feel what it is that you actually want and need in certain situations or generally from life.
Ayahuasca can be a powerful tool for cultivating forgiveness, be it towards others or oneself. During the experience, individuals often gain deeper insights into past conflicts, misunderstandings, or hurts, enabling them to view these situations with compassion and understanding.
This newfound perspective can facilitate forgiveness and reconciliation, leading to healing and liberation from past resentments.
This leads back to making the emotional shifts necessary to actually move on from life events that are still affecting us today.
People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may find Ayahuasca beneficial.
The plant medicine can help uncover and process deeply rooted traumatic experiences, enabling individuals to integrate and heal these past traumas.
Many military veterans are drawn to Ayahuasca because it has helped them (and their peers) where other healing modalities might not be able to provide the level of shift they are looking for. You can find more about the research here.
Becoming the best version of yourself
Yes, Ayahuasca can help a lot with processing things from the past. However, Ayahuasca is not just about the past and the wounds and emotional pain.
Ayahuasca can also help you become the best version of yourself. To create a vision for the life you want to live, to be clear on the values you want to embody and in general to become a better human.
Of course, where there are benefits, there are also risks. Let’s take a deeper look.
Psychological Risks of drinking Ayahuasca
While Ayahuasca can have profound therapeutic effects, it's essential to understand the potential psychological risks.
The experience, often intense and deeply introspective, can unearth disturbing memories or emotions that may be difficult for some individuals to process.
It's vital that the decision to participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony be the individual's own and that they are aware that it is a journey and there willingness to go on this path.
Moreover, the integration process—making sense of the insights gained during the experience and incorporating them into daily life—can take time and can be challenging.
Support from experienced facilitators who know what is Ayahuasca, mental health professionals, or a supportive community can significantly aid this process.
Physical Risks of drinking Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca also presents certain physical risks. It's usually not recommended for those with serious cardiovascular conditions, such as a weak heart or high blood pressure, due to its potential to increase heart rate and blood pressure.
People who have recently undergone surgeries or have specific health conditions should consult with a medical professional before participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony.
Contraindications with Medications and Drugs
Certain medications and substances can dangerously interact with Ayahuasca. Antidepressants, particularly those in the class of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can cause a potentially lethal condition known as serotonin syndrome when mixed with Ayahuasca.
Recreational drugs, including cocaine, MDMA and LSD (and others), can also have dangerous interactions with Ayahuasca.
It's crucial to cease use of these substances for a significant period before participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony.
Consult with a Medical Professional
Ayahuasca is not a joke and when there are health concerns it is important that those are taken very seriously. If in doubt, ask a medical professional and it is better to not drink Ayahuasca than it is to risk your physical or mental health.
Here in Colombia we work with medical professionals who know what is Ayahuasca and also drink themselves.
Write as an E-Mail if you have questions about your personal medical situation and you want some professional consultation around that matter.
Side Effects of Ayahuasca
It is important to be aware of the side effects of Ayahuasca.
One of the most common side effects of Ayahuasca is purging, which can involve vomiting or diarrhea.
This physical purge is seen by many traditional cultures and practitioners as an essential part of the healing process, a way of releasing negative energies, emotions, or past traumas.
It's so integral to the Ayahuasca experience that it's often referred to as ‘la purga' – the purge.
Must read Blog: Ayahuasca vomit explained – why you vomit on Ayahuasca
While it may be unpleasant, vomiting is usually short-lived and subsides as the effect of the Ayahuasca wears off.
The combination of sweating, vomiting, and possible diarrhea during an Ayahuasca ceremony can lead to dehydration.
Participants may experience symptoms of dehydration like dizziness, dry mouth, and fatigue.
It's also important not to overconsume water during the ceremony itself to avoid diluting the stomach's contents too much. After the ceremony is over it is essential to hydrate after the ceremony, electrolytes are also recommended for that.
Remember, these experiences can vary greatly among individuals, and while some people may experience these side effects, others may not.
The key is to approach the ceremony with an open mind, a prepared body, and under the guidance of experienced facilitators.
Is Ayahuasca legal?
When it comes to the legality of Ayahuasca, the answer is complex and varies greatly depending on the jurisdiction.
Ayahuasca is illegal in most parts of the world
In most parts of the world, Ayahuasca is not explicitly legal. It contains DMT, which is classified as a Schedule I drug under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, meaning it is illegal in countries that have ratified this convention. This includes many countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Ayahuasca is legal in certain countries in Latin America as part of the indigenous heritage
However, there are countries where Ayahuasca is used as part of indigenous traditions and is therefore legal.
This includes places like Peru and Colombia, where Ayahuasca has been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years for spiritual and healing purposes.
Grey zones and legal cases to what is Ayahuasca and its legality
In some countries, the laws are ambiguous or enforcement is inconsistent. For example, in Brazil, the use of Ayahuasca is legal for religious purposes.
In other places, the legality is more of a grey area where the substance isn't necessarily legal but enforcement might be lax.
Is Ayahuasca legal in the United States?
In the United States, the legal status of Ayahuasca is complex, however in most cases it is illegal.
While DMT is a controlled substance, certain religious groups have won legal battles allowing them to use Ayahuasca as part of their religious ceremonies.
The most notable of these is the Santo Daime church, which have established legal precedent for the religious use of Ayahuasca under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Despite these exceptions, it's essential to remember that in many places, possession or use of Ayahuasca can lead to legal penalties.
Always consult the legal guidelines in your respective country or region before considering partaking in an Ayahuasca ceremony.
What does Research and Science say about Ayahuasca:
Research into Ayahuasca and its potential benefits is still in its early stages.
Given the legal status in many parts of the world, conducting large-scale, controlled studies can be challenging.
Most studies done so far have involved relatively small control groups. Despite these limitations, the existing body of research has yielded some intriguing and largely positive results.
Preliminary research has suggested that Ayahuasca could have therapeutic benefits in the treatment of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety and addiction.
These studies often report significant reductions in symptoms following Ayahuasca ceremonies.
There's also a growing body of research suggesting that Ayahuasca could promote personal growth, enhance emotional regulation, and improve overall psychological well-being.
These studies often rely on self-reported outcomes from participants who describe feelings of improved mood, increased self-acceptance, and personal transformation following their experiences with Ayahuasca.
One fascinating area of research is the potential neurobiological effects of Ayahuasca.
Some studies suggest that the substance might promote neuroplasticity, helping the brain to form new neural connections.
This could potentially explain some of the profound psychological changes reported by participants.
Is Ayahuasca right for you?
Only you can answer if Ayahuasca is right for you. It is important that you are medically cleared to drink Ayahuasca, that you drink Ayahuasca for the right reasons and that you are ready to go on this journey with Ayahuasca.
It is helpful to talk with different facilitators and see if the messages and the way the facilitators do their retreat / ceremonies resonate with you and that you feel safe throughout the whole process.
Listen to what your body is telling you, feel into it if it feels like something that you can benefit from.
In the future I will write a blog article specifically about this topic.
It is important to remember that Ayahuasca is considered a medicine for the indigenous of the amazon and approach it with that level of humility and respect when deciding to drink Ayahuasca.
This should always be done in a ceremonial context with people who have a deep knowledge about Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca can help you create significant changes in your life and help you in those areas where you are struggling. However, you have to remember that it is a tool and not a magic pill.
All of your problems will not go away. In a way you will be aware of them, it will put you on a path of healing.
And if you follow the homework it can be a transformational experience and a catalyst in your life.
People drink Ayahuasca for various reasons, generally to process trauma, shifting one’s emotional state, gaining clarity, overcome depression or to become the best version of themselves.
There are religions in the US that use Ayahuasca, however Ayahuasca in itself is not about religion. There can be religious elements in a ceremony in certain tribes and countries. Ayahuasca is not about dogma and telling people how they should live their lives but about helping people find the answer within themselves.
Ayahuasca is always drunk in a ceremonial context because it is part of the indigenous culture. It is not something that people drink out of diversion or to “have a trip” but because there is a deeper intention behind it. Having the understanding that you are about to enter a ceremony gives the whole process more meaning.