Ayahuasca therapy is an ancient and sacred plant medicine practice originating from the Amazon rainforest. It has been used for thousands of years by the indigenous tribes of the Amazon Basin and, in recent years, has found its way into modern culture by way of its powerful psychedelic effects.
Ayahuasca Therapy, or Ayahuasca Healing, involves consuming a brew made primarily from the Ayahuasca vine and the shrub known as Psychotria viridis. The leaves of this shrub contain the psychedelic compound N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT, for short), which induces powerful visionary experiences and profound introspection. DMT is not bioavailable by drinking, however, which is where the vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, comes in. The Caapi vine is filled with reversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), including harmaline, harmine, and tetrahydroharmine. Together, these MAOIs allow the DMT to be absorbed by the body, thus inducing a psychedelic experience.
Benefits of Ayahuasca Therapy
While the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca vary among individuals, there are several potential benefits associated with this practice. One of the main advantages of ayahuasca therapy is its potential to facilitate deep emotional and psychological healing. Many individuals report experiencing increased self-awareness, introspection, and insight during their ayahuasca journeys. The ayahuasca journey is reported by many as being a pivotal life moment in which major decisions are made, addictions are overcome, and identity challenges are resolved. The ayahuasca medicine leads many to a better understanding of past traumas, unresolved emotional issues, and negative thought patterns, allowing for profound healing and personal growth.
Ayahuasca has also been found to promote spiritual exploration and connection. Participants often report transcendent experiences, feelings of interconnectedness, and a sense of unity with the universe or higher consciousness. This fosters a greater sense of purpose, meaning, and spiritual well-being in the lives of those who partake in “grandmother ayahuasca.”
Ayahuasca is one of the most powerful forms of psychedelic healing in existence. Participants report out-of-body experiences, connection with other realms, and dissociation as part of the ayahuasca journey. This is not a medicine to be taken lightly, which is why we place it in our Level 3 Healing Modality category.
Those who have experienced ayahuasca recommend that one should wait until they feel called to partake in the “grandmother” medicine, ayahuasca. Having prior experience in deep psychedelic states is highly recommended.
Due to ayahuasca’s chemical makeup, those who are on antidepressants, especially MAOIs, should NOT, under any circumstances, ingest ayahuasca while they are still taking their prescription. There should be a weaning-off period of several weeks in order to ensure none of the prescription medication is in your system when you ingest ayahuasca. The combination of the prescription and the MAOIs already in the ayahuasca brew can lead to serious harm.
Although there are only two main ingredients to the ayahuasca “brew,” indigenous tribes in the Amazon and now around the world have passed on slightly different recipes from generation to generation. Some recipes include cacao while others include the poisonous Toé, or Brugmansia. If you are seeking an ayahuascero (one who runs an ayahuasca ceremony) or curandero (one who has a lifetime of healing experience using ayahuasca), be sure you ask if there are any ingredients other than the caapi vine and Psychotria viridis leaves.
For more information on the brewing of ayahuasca, please refer to the Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook. It is an excellent guide for those just getting started in exploring ayahuasca therapy, and it contains invaluable information, both inspiring and cautionary, to guide your way.
Ayahuasca therapy has shown promise in treating certain mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. A 2019 study in the Cambridge Journal of Psychological Medicine featured the “rapid antidepressant effects” of ayahuasca, stating in their conclusion that ” this study brings new evidence supporting the safety and therapeutic value of ayahuasca, dosed within an appropriate setting, to help treat depression.”
Ayahuasca’s psychoactive properties can help individuals gain new perspectives, break free from negative patterns, and foster lasting behavioral changes. But it is important to note that ayahuasca therapy should be approached with caution and conducted under the guidance of experienced facilitators in a safe and supportive environment. Integration of the experiences and ongoing support are crucial for maximizing the potential benefits of an ayahuasca journey.
Palhano-Fontes F, Barreto D, Onias H, Andrade KC, Novaes MM, Pessoa JA, Mota-Rolim SA, Osório FL, Sanches R, Dos Santos RG, Tófoli LF, de Oliveira Silveira G, Yonamine M, Riba J, Santos FR, Silva-Junior AA, Alchieri JC, Galvão-Coelho NL, Lobão-Soares B, Hallak JEC, Arcoverde E, Maia-de-Oliveira JP, Araújo DB. Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Psychol Med. 2019 Mar;49(4):655-663. doi: 10.1017/S0033291718001356. Epub 2018 Jun 15. PMID: 29903051; PMCID: PMC6378413.