The Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is a brew with psychotropic and purgative effects, which has been traditionally consumed by the indigenous populations of the Amazon basin for millennia. This tea is obtained traditionally after decoction of the liana of ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis Caapi) and Chacruna leaves (Psychotria Viridis) which allows access to modified states of consciousness or “shamanic trances”. This traditional medicine, that is much appreciated by Westerners is still the basis of the pharmacopoeia of many indigenous communities in the Amazon. We can mention in particular the Shipibo-conibo people living between Pucallpa and Iquitos on the banks of the Ucayali River in Peru. This medicine is one of the fundamental pillars of their social and cultural organization. Traditionally, only healers (curanderos) consume it to make a diagnosis on patients and perform energetic care using songs called “Icaros“. In the past it was more widely used to find lost items, discover new fishing or hunting areas, or to resolve disputes in the community. Some tribes of the Amazon especially in Brazil still consume collectively the tea of the liana appreciated for its purgative virtues.

Ayahuasca: a Booming Tourism

Iquitos: the Ayahuasca Mecque

In recent decades, Western enthusiasm for Ayahuasca has continued to grow. The number of Ayahuasca centers has multiplied, particularly in Peru, to such an extent that we no longer hesitate to describe this phenomenon as “Ayahuasca-business”. The experience often described as intense even for the most experienced *psychonauts has long conquered the “New Age” public in search of spiritual connection, as well as people suffering from depression or psychological trauma. However, it seems to attract more and more diverse profiles. A growing number of people keen on the topic are going to Ayahuasca centers in Peru today. Finance, marketing and creative professionals already adept at *micro-dosing are now overcoming their limits by attending an Ayahuasca Retreat in Peru. Beyond the motives that drive so many Westerners to brave the taboos to experience this exotic medicine, why is Ayahuasca becoming so popular ? The main reason lies in three letters: DMT.

* What is a Psychonaut ?

A Psychonaut is a person who explores altered states of consciousness for spiritual purposes or the exploration of the human condition, including shamanism, sensory deprivation, and the use of psychedelic substances.

* What is micro-dosing ?

Micro-dosing is a technique aimed at frequent consumption of psychedelic substances at low doses for a given period of time in order to evolve in modified state of consciousness without losing its faculties. Moreover, it can be searched for its physic-cellular activation potential.

« Over the last 25 years ayahuasca has gone global, with thousands of people learning about it, and drinking it too…»

— TheGuardian


DMT molecule

As Peyotl or Datura, Ayahuasca is a visionary plant with *entheogenic properties known to cause mystical and spiritual experiences. However, what distinguishes it from other psychotropic substances is the substance it contains: DMT. DMT (Dymethyltryptamine), described by Dr. Rick STRASSMAN as a “molecule of the mind”. His research shows it is a neurotransmitter that is naturally present throughout our body as well as in living organisms. It is present as well in large quantities in the leaves of Chacruna, which are used in the preparation of the Ayahuasca drink. DMT, a mysterious substance, causes a high dose of alteration of perception that can lead to mystical or psychotic experiences. For those who consume it, Ayahuasca is reputed to be a “teaching” plant that offers clairvoyance, inner dialogue and connection to the spiritual world. Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, all the senses are exhilarated and sometimes even bombarded with information. These can help to resurrect what was buried, to unravel the emotional, psychological, and physical complexes, to free us from the past. Sometimes it can also be experienced as a traumatic event. Ayahuasca means in Quetchua “creeper of the spirit” or “creeper with a spirit” but it is also called the “creeper of death”. A coincidence or not, some say that at the time of birth or death, our body would produce DMT in significant amounts. It is true that Ayahuasca can in some cases cause the sensation of an imminent death (Near Death Experience). Nevertheless, these intense “dramatic states”, as psychiatrist Stanislav GROFF explains, are an excellent way of letting go. They represent a kind of ritual of passage necessary to any rebirth, and can even in certain cases prove to be determining during a process of care.

* What is entheogenic ?

Entheogenic according to the Latin root “theos” – God, means to become a god within, to be possessed by God, to feel God.

A Shamanic Practice Preserved

The other reason for the current craze for Ayahuasca is that this shamanic practice has remained relatively intact. Unlike other cultures that have suffered greatly from the presence of Spaniards, the Amazonians by their geographical isolation have relatively less suffered the presence of invaders. Despite the pressure of the missionaries, their ancestral knowledge continues to be transmitted to this day. This is precisely what modern man is in search of in these communities: an authentic experience. The reason for such a craze is also that the Ayahuasca experience can be considered as a ritual passage where the man becomes an adult and changes his relationship with the world. But this stage common to traditional societies is sorely lacking in our modern world. It represents an opportunity to reconnect with the “self” and the world around us. Traditional Amazonian medicine is a shamanic practice still alive, unlike other traditions that have already fallen into Folklore.

Scientifically Proven Results

Many Westerners therefore do not hesitate to spend weeks or even months in centers of Ayahuasca in Peru to get to know each other better, to heal psychological and emotional disorders such as depression, problems of addiction to cocaine, marijuana, alcohol or tobacco, … but also to cure parasitic diseases, joint diseases and even degenerative diseases. Isolated cases of people who have been treated were reported, particularly in the case of cancer, but the discrepancy in follow-up between the medical records does not allow us to affirm that Ayahuasca has treated them or even to refute the role of the “placebo effect”. It should be emphasized, however, that treatment of diseases in Amazonian traditional medicine is not limited to Ayahuasca, but uses others medicinal plants (cf master plants), and we must admit that we lack of information on this subject. Despite all of this and the climate of prohibition prevailing on the scientific study of psychotropic plants, researchers have recently been able to highlight the effectiveness of Ayahuasca in the treatment of degenerative diseases, demonstrating its strong therapeutic potential. (See the chapter on the effects of Ayahuasca and the chemistry of the Ayahuasca Plant Diet Mistresses). It is also recognized as a very effective way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Jessica NIELSON, a researcher at the Brain Injury Center at the University of California, San Francisco, observed the healing of war veterans in Ayahuasca centers in Peru. Other neurological research carried out in Spain by Dr. RIBA corroborates this fact. Ayahuasca has the particularity of activating an area of the brain called the amygdala where are stored all our old emotional memories such as traumatic events, mourning, etc … You will find more information on the neurological effects of the Ayahuasca by following the previous link.

From Prohibition to Rehabilitation

Ayahuasca, however, has had dark hours … In the early 2000s the growing phenomenon of “Ayahuasca- business” and the death of Westerners who had consumed Ayahuasca almost convinced the Peruvian government to forbid its use. It is thanks to the combined efforts of representatives of various Amazonian communities and practitioners such as Dr. Jacques Mabit, head of the Takiwasi center (a center of traditional medicine specializing in the treatment of addictions) that Ayahuasca was saved. Its traditional use has been inscribed in the cultural heritage of Peru since 2008 and in Brazil since 2011. It is also tolerated in the Amazonian communities of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, … as well as other countries of Central / South America like Mexico or Costa Rica. However, the lack of legislation and the relative tolerance that can be seen in these countries as well as in some European countries (Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, etc.) do not prevent ad hoc arrests. Paradoxically, the use of Ayahuasca has been recently tolerated in the United States ! But under certain conditions … After many administrative detours, rare syncretic and religious movements were allowed to use Ayahuasca as part of their rituals, such as the *Santo Daime born in Brazil, which largely contributed to public awareness Ayahuasca on the American continent.

* What is Santo Daime ?

Santo Daime is a syncretic religion founded in the 1930s in the Brazilian state of Acre by Raimundo Irineu Serra, known as Mestre Irineu. Santo Daime incorporates elements of several religious or spiritual traditions, including popular Catholicism, Kardecist spiritism, African animism and South American indigenous shamanism, using psychedelic substances during its ceremonies.

…Towards Legalization ?

There is still a long way to go before Ayahuasca can be practiced legally. This is due, among other things, to the lack of supervision of this medicine. Currently there are no or few certifications of healers supposed to guarantee patients the quality of care they are entitled to expect. Every year, tourists find themselves in trouble with “shamans”, and the risks of seeing this practice newly threatened are real. It should be noted that a quality and ethics charter is currently being put in place between the ASA (Ayahuasca Safety Association) and some Ayahuasca centers in Peru. Similarly, there are certifications issued by recognized healers, guaranteeing that the practitioner has done a “learning diet” in a traditional way (see the diet of master plants) and / or that he himself is a “Maestro” (able to handle a ceremony and care at an Ayahuasca ceremony). But this does not reflect its degree of practice and has no official value. Let’s hope that, like marijuana, the use of Ayahuasca for medicinal purposes can be exercised within a legal framework.

Ayahuasca Victim of its Success

The other direct consequence of the Ayahuasca boom is its overexploitation. Like *Iboga in Africa, Ayahuasca is tending to become scarce due to rising demand. As the supply of quality liana becomes more difficult, it is necessary to go further and further into the forest to find a mature liana ayahuasca (about 15 years). The direct consequence is, of course, the increase in the price of Ayahuasca, the increase in the price of ceremonies and retreats of Ayahuasca, gradually making this medicine less accessible … Initiatives are slowly seeing the day as is the case with the association Isa Weni in the community of Santa Rosa de Dinamarca in Ucayali. This medium-scale ayahuasca plantation project is currently being carried out in the forest without uprooting existing trees.. This remains an isolated case. Major resettlement projects are being carried out, but with their main motivation being financial, these settlements are done to the detriment of the surrounding forest and are practiced by resorting to deforestation, as underlines the following article of the Guardian.

* What is Iboga ?

Perennial rainforest shrub with psychedelic power, native to western central Africa. Iboga stimulates the central nervous system when taken in small doses and induces visions at higher doses. In areas of Africa where the plant grows, the bark of the root is chewed for various pharmacological or ritual purposes.
Ayahuasca History
Ayahuasca: the Magic Potion
Amazonian Medicine
Ayahuasca Ceremony
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