This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, a world-leading addictions specialist.
Image source: Wikipedia
Ayahuasca is generally associated with spiritual ceremonies in South American and Central American communities. In Brazil and Peru, religious leaders known as Shamans prepare Ayahuasca tea for religious rituals and spiritual healing. The tea is brewed from the bark of the banisteriopsis caapi vine and leaves of chacruna (Psychotria Viridis).
The use of Ayahuasca can be traced back several thousand years in the Amazon region. Traditional and ritualistic usage continues among the people of the Amazon, and its popularity continues to grow.
As a psychoactive brew, Ayahuasca contains hallucinogenic properties. It contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors which provide a hallucinogenic effect to the users.
Originally it was used by indigenous South Americans of the Amazon for spiritual rituals. However, over time the use of Ayahuasca has gained traction in Europe and America.
Ayahuasca is prepared by a Shaman. The native Shaman is considered a powerful spiritual healer who uses plant-based medicine. The plants are sourced from the Amazon rain forest, and the Ayahuasca tea is prepared to satisfy the Shaman, who administers the treatment.
Ayahuasca treatment process
The treatment process or the ceremony differs slightly depending on the country or community holding the ceremony. The ceremony is stored in a sacred place by the Shaman.
The preparation of the participants starts in weeks preceding the actual ceremony. The participants are required to abstain from drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and sex. In some cases, one is required to follow a vegan diet strictly.
Having prepared the brewed tea, the ceremony is mainly conducted at night. Shamans require the participants to state their wishes on what they would like to be healed from. As the tea is consumed, the Shaman performs rituals such as songs to enhance the therapeutic healing facilitated by the hallucinogenic effect among people.
Effects of Ayahuasca
The effects start to be felt within 30- 60 minutes after the consumption of the ayahuasca tea and last anywhere between 3 to 8 hours.
The immediate physical effects can include diarrhoea and vomiting, which is considered as part of cleansing. Other notable results include:
- Intense fear
- Panic attacks and anxiety
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Feeling of euphoria
- Gastrointestinal effects
- High body temperature
- Increased heartbeats
Psychological effects are a result of hallucination. The effects may vary from one person to the other. They include the following:
- Intense fear
- Scary experiences
- Intense anxiety
As the effects continue, participants experience spiritual feelings of oneness in the world and profound peace, and a sense of timelessness.
Note: There has been no evidence of long-term effects of Ayahuasca. As the studies continue, some researchers have argued that the use of Ayahuasca is unlikely to cause significant impairment.
Benefits of Ayahuasca
According to the available research, Ayahuasca has many potential benefits, including:
1. Cleansing and purification
Participants taking part in Ayahuasca treatment must first abstain from harmful substances such as drugs and alcohol. Keeping away from drugs’ toxic substances goes a long way in purifying the body since a body free of harmful substances is a healthy body. Further, one is supposed to keep away from sexual activities and be a vegan. Medically, a vegetable diet has been proven to have medical benefits. People with insatiable sexual appetites are forced to tame their desires. The body is cleansed and purified from harmful substances and activities.
2. Mental health and emotional healing
Though not scientifically verified, many people who have undergone Ayahuasca treatment have testified of receiving mental and emotional healing. Initially, like spiritual healing, Ayahuasca aims to link people to the spiritual world they receive healing. They receive peace and calmness in the process. Most people suffering from trauma such as sexual abuse, emotional torture, and the death of loved ones have claimed to have received peace and healing from the Ayahuasca experience.
3. Recovery from bad habits and addiction.
Among many requirements, those taking part in Ayahuasca must drop all manner of bad habits, ranging from substance abuse, immoral activities, and bad eating habits. Importantly, healing from addiction is a significant reason that makes people seek Ayahuasca treatment.
4. Overcoming depression and anxiety
As a side effect of Ayahuasca treatment, one experiences calmness and ecstatic peace. There is a profound relaxation of the mind and body. The components of Ayahuasca tea contain antidepressant compounds which improve moods and emotions by reducing stress and depression.
5. Overcoming Suicidal thoughts
Studies have shown Ayahuasca treatment assists, participants in overcoming suicidal thoughts. The calming and relaxing effect goes a long way in enhancing mental health. With a healthy mind, one can overcome suicidal thoughts.
6. A greater understanding of yourself
Many people have a conflicted awareness of themselves. Ayahuasca treatment assists users in understanding themselves and finding their purpose. It is aimed at helping participants in dropping negative attitudes and focusing on positivity about their lives. Ayahuasca tends to enhance people have a clear judgment thus can know their true selves.
7. Dealing with fear
At one time, we experience the anticipation of something about to happen that is called fear. Sometimes fear may be healthy, while at times, it tends to inhabit our lives. They are several fears, including fear of the unknown, fear of failing, fear of death of loved ones, and fear of loneliness. Ayahuasca treatment enables the participants to overcome undue fear. This, in turn, gives
8. Post-traumatic stress disorder
Individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder have attested finding help from Ayahuasca treatment. The mind is reprogrammed, and the traumatic thoughts are extinguished hence relieving individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, more research needs to be undertaken in this area to provide more information.
Is Ayahuasca safe?
Most people wonder if Ayahuasca is safe. Some of the immediate physical effects of Ayahuasca are vomiting and diarrhoea. While proponents of Ayahuasca argue those effects are necessary for releasing harmful elements, some people find the impact disturbing and challenging.
Health-wise, Ayahuasca is a psychedelic drug, and there is no safe way to use psychedelic drugs. It is likely to be harmful when:
- Judgment and coordination are required, such as when one is driving.
- Taken with other substances and drugs
- One has existing mental problems
- One is solitary
- Operating heavy machinery
Further, the participant ought to consider that it is not possible to predict the strength of effects of Ayahuasca on an individual. Different people react differently. Some people may experience a mild reaction to Ayahuasca, while others experience a severe reaction.
Also, some drugs which don’t have Ayahuasca may be sold in the name of Ayahuasca. Because the use of Ayahuasca is not adequately regulated, some unscrupulous people may pose as shamans and dupe users with the fake concoction. Fake products may lead to serious health problems. For this reason, those willing to take part in the usage of Ayahuasca ought to take adequate caution to avoid falling into the hands of fraudulent sellers.
People with preexisting mental problems like schizophrenia can experience severe side effects. They, therefore, should not use Ayahuasca.
Another side effect is increased heart rate and blood pressure. People with existing health problems such as heart problems and diabetes could seriously suffer.
Is Ayahuasca legal?
Ayahuasca contains a component known as DMT. Like in many countries such as the UK and the USA, DMT is considered a schedule one drug, and it is illegal. However, the plant’s source of it is not unlawful. Significantly, under international and human rights conventions, everyone has a right to worship. Since Ayahuasca is a religious ritual, it is allowed for religious purposes.
Is Ayahuasca addictive?
To date, there has been no reviewed research to show that Ayahuasca is addictive. Therefore, it would be safe to say the risks of addiction are relatively low. The drug component in Ayahuasca, which is the DMT, does not lead to addiction. Despite Ayahuasca not having an addictive element, users have mentioned the psychological craving of the experience.
Why are people embracing Ayahuasca?
Traditionally, Ayahuasca treatment was only used by indigenous natives of the Amazon regions in religious ritual, as a sacrament, and was valued as a powerful medicine. The indigenous use Ayahuasca for spiritual healing, physical treatment, and mental healing.
In recent years, the interest in Ayahuasca among Western society has massively increased. The use of DMT, which is a mind-altering substance to overcome depression and anxiety, is intriguing. After hearing stories and testaments of people claiming to have healed from various problems, including addiction and depression, many people have gained interest in Ayahuasca.
In Amazon countries like Peru, tourism has boomed with tourists as they head to have Ayahuasca treatment. Also, due to the growing popularity of Ayahuasca, Shamans are taking trips to European countries to administer Ayahuasca treatment to the increasing demand for the treatment. However, it is worth noting that this enterprise is highly unregulated due to inadequate research.
Controversially, the other reason why people use Ayahuasca is for recreation for the high DMT it produces. The DMT is responsible for the hallucinations experienced by the users. In their justification, users of Ayahuasca argue the highness is more spiritual and emotional as opposed to recreational.
For the past two decades, Ayahuasca has gained popularity in western society. People are increasingly finding Ayahuasca treatment as an alternative to physical, emotional, and spiritual therapy. Many people have resorted to trips to Amazon region countries to try the Ayahuasca treatment. Similarly, Shamans have also made trips to European countries to treat people.
The DMT component in Ayahuasca is considered a drug, and therefore it is illegal. However, there is an exception to the religious use of Ayahuasca. For that reason, its legal status is vague in a country like the UK and the USA. The potent hallucinogenic property in it causes both positive and negative side effects.
Due to inadequate research and information, it is impossible to verify the effectiveness of the treatment conclusively. It, therefore, follows those willing to use this treatment should take extra caution. More research needs to be employed in this area to establish scientific facts and information. If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, contemplating the treatment can be hard, we at help4addiction are there for help. You can contact us to book a medical assessment and know the severity of the addiction or underlying risks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Ayahuasca?
Is Ayahuasca legal?
Is Ayahuasca addictive?
Does Ayahuasca cure depression?
Does Ayahuasca have adverse side effects?
Why are people embracing Ayahuasca?
- Ancient ayahuasca found in a 1,000-year-old shamanic pouch
- Why do people take ayahuasca?
- What an ayahuasca retreat showed me about my life
- Peru’s ayahuasca industry booms as westerners search for alternative healing
- Ayahuasca: Psychological and Physiologic Effects, Pharmacology and Potential Uses in Addiction and Mental Illness
- The Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca: Possible Effects against Various Diseases of Civilization