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What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a brew that is created by native shamans. Its magic arises from combining the Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria Viridis plants with ritual and chanting.

Drinking Ayahuasca leads to an altered level of consciousness. This is due to psychoactive substances in the ingredients. Ayahuasca has powerful hallucinogenic properties and has positive and negative health effects.


Ayahuasca was used for spiritual and religious purposes by ancient Amazonian tribes. It is still used as a sacred beverage by some religious communities in Brazil and North America, including the Santo Daime.

An Ayahuasca ceremony is led by an experienced shaman who specialised in healing through the use of plant medicine. They prepare the brew by boiling the torn leaves of the Psychotria Viridis shrub together with stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine mixed in water.

To increase the extraction of its medicinal compounds the Banisteriopsis caapi vine is cleaned and smashed before it is boiled. When the shaman is happy, the water is removed leaving behind the plant material. The process is repeated until a highly concentrated liquid is produced. Once cooled, the brew is strained to remove impurities.


Psychotria Viridis contains N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). This is a psychedelic substance that occurs naturally in the plant.

DMT is a powerful hallucinogenic chemical. However, it has low bioavailability because it is rapidly broken down in your liver and gastrointestinal tract by enzymes called monoamine oxidases (MAOs).

As a result, DMT must be combined with something containing MAO inhibitors (MAOIs). These allow DMT to take effect. Banisteriopsis caapi contains β-carbolines which are potent MAOIs and which have psychoactive effects of their own.

These two plants combine wonderfully to form a powerful Ayahuasca psychedelic brew. This affects the central nervous system leading to an altered state of consciousness that can include hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, and euphoria.


Ayahuasca was traditionally used for religious and spiritual purposes in South and Central America. Ayahuasca has become popular worldwide among those who seek a way to open their minds and heal from past traumas, or as a psychedelic journey.

Many people travel to countries like Peru, Costa Rica, and Brazil to join Ayahuasca retreats. Ayahuasca retreats last many days and are led by experienced shamans, who prepare the brew and monitor participants for safety.

Ayahuasca should only be taken when supervised by an experienced plant medicine healer. An Ayahuasca trip leads to intense altered consciousness. This lasts for many hours and you may need to be looked after carefully.

Before an Ayahuasca ceremony, it is important to be as clean and pure as possible. Purify your body abstain from cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sex, and caffeine. Also, it is advised that you free the body of toxins by following detox regimes and vegetarian or vegan diets for two to four weeks before the experience.


Ayahuasca ceremonies are typically led by an experienced shaman. Ceremonies are held usually at night and last until the effects of Ayahuasca have worn off. After the space is prepared and blessed by the shaman, Ayahuasca is offered to participants. It is common for Ayahuasca to be split into several doses.

The dose is between 35 to 75 mg when Ayahuasca is consumed as a brew. After consuming Ayahuasca most people start to feel its effects within 20–60 minutes and peak for 2 to 3 hours. The effects are dose-dependent, and the trip can last 2–6 hours.

Those who take Ayahuasca may experience vomiting, diarrhoea, strong visual and auditory hallucinations, feelings of euphoria, mind-altering psychedelic effects, fear, and paranoia. It is also possible that taking Ayahuasca can result in serious side effects, as it can interact with many medications and may worsen some medical conditions.

People react to Ayahuasca differently. Some experience euphoria and a feeling of enlightenment, while others go through severe anxiety and panic. It’s not uncommon for those taking Ayahuasca to experience both positive and negative effects from the brew.

Spiritual guidance is offered to participants throughout the Ayahuasca experience and the shaman and their team will monitor them for safety. Some retreats have medical staff on hand in case of emergencies.

Ayahuasca ceremonies are sometimes conducted consecutively with participants consuming Ayahuasca a few nights in a row. Every time you take Ayahuasca it results in a different experience.

Participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony means that you put your life in the shaman’s hands. They are in charge of the ingredients added to the brew, as well as determining proper dosing and monitoring you for potentially life-threatening side effects.


Many people claim that their experiences have led to positive, long-term, life-altering changes. They have experienced significant improvements in mindfulness, empowerment, love and connection, and an overall improvement in the quality of life.

Recent scientific research has shown that Ayahuasca may benefit your health in the following ways:

  • DMT and β-carbolines exhibit neuroprotective and neuro-restorative qualities in the brain. They boost memory, protect your brain cells from damage from lack of oxygen, and increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that promotes nerve cell survival and growth.
  • Taking Ayahuasca increases the mindfulness capacity of your brain. It improves your overall psychological well-being, mood and emotional balance. This is chiefly the effect of the DMT and β-carbolines that are in the Ayahuasca brew.
  • Ayahuasca helps with addiction, anxiety, depression and PTSD. In medical studies, a single dose of Ayahuasca has led to significant improvements in reducing the severity of depression when compared with a placebo. Other studies report rapid antidepressant effects of Ayahuasca. There is also a reduction or cessation of addictive substances like cocaine, tobacco and alcohol.

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