Ayahuasca is a South American psychoactive brew used both socially and as ceremonial spiritual medicine among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin. It is a psychedelic and entheogenic brew commonly made out of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, and the Psychotria viridis shrub or a substitute, and possibly other ingredients; although, a chemically similar preparation, sometimes called “pharmahuasca”, can be prepared using N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and a pharmaceutical monoamine oxidase inhibitor such as isocarboxazid.
How is Ayahuasca used?
Ayahuasca was traditionally used for religious and spiritual purposes by specific populations, it has become popular worldwide among those who seek a way to open their minds, heal from past traumas, or simply experience an Ayahuasca journey. It’s strongly recommended that Ayahuasca only be taken when supervised by an experienced shaman, as those who take it need to be looked after carefully, as an Ayahuasca trip leads to an altered state of consciousness that lasts for many hours.
Many people travel to countries like Peru, Costa Rica, and Brazil, where multi-day it retreats are offered. They’re led by experienced shamans, who prepare the brew and monitor participants for safety. DMT and β-carbolines have been shown to exhibit neuroprotective and neurorestorative qualities in some studies. DMT activates the sigma-1 receptor, a protein that blocks neurodegeneration and regulates the production of antioxidant compounds that help protect your brain cells A test-tube study indicated that DMT protected human brain cells from damage caused by lack of oxygen and increased cell survival
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug. It affects everyone differently, based on:
- the person’s size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the decoction.
The effects of ayahuasca are subjective, but may include:
- nausea and vomiting (induced by drinking the decoction)*
- feelings of connection and unity
- intense visual and auditory hallucinations
- experiencing powerful emotions
- moderate increase in blood pressure and heart rate
- increased body temperature.
When ayahuasca is taken in a traditional or ritual setting, these effects may be perceived as cleansing or purging and a part of the spiritual or healing journey