Is Drinking Ayahuasca Safe?

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With the knowledge that drinking Ayahuasca can be a very powerful and mind-altering experience, the number one question most people will have is:

“Is it safe?”

Obviously, nobody with a reasonable amount of sanity wants to risk losing it!

So it’s a perfectly rational concern to have, indeed it was a huge concern of my own before I started drinking it. The following is my perspective on the safety of Ayahuasca.

In my opinion, drinking Ayahuasca with a good and experienced shaman is entirely safe for the majority of people. I could not, in good conscience, invite people to an Ayahuasca retreat if I felt I was putting them at risk. I know from over 9 years of experience that Ayahuasca is truly a medicine that heals on all levels, and the risk of any harm is almost nil.

However, like with most powerful medicines, there are a few issues you should be aware of, and there are certainly a few circumstances when you should not consider drinking Ayahuasca. First of all there are some contraindications you need to be aware of.

Firstly, You should not drink Ayahuasca if you are currently taking antidepressants/SSRIs drugs like Prozac, Seroxat, Zoloft, Effexor, Paxil, Welbutrin (bupropion), or other similar drugs that are MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors). This is because Ayahuasca also contains MAOIs and it could be harmful for you to have too many in your system. If you want to drink Ayahuasca and you’re currently taking these drugs then you should stop taking them at least 5-7 weeks before drinking Ayahuasca. You should also not drink Ayahuasca if you are currently on, or have recently finished an antibiotic treatment. In my opinion it’s better to not take any kind of pharmacuetical medicines or pills when you take Ayahausca, but if you are, you should at least consult with your doctor first.

It’s also recommended to avoid certain foods for at least 24 hours before and after you take part in an Ayahuasca ceremony. These are foods that are high in a substance known as tyramine which is a monoamine, derived from the amino acid tyrosine. Foods high in tyramine have been known to cause a hypertensive reaction in patients receiving MAOI therapy. To my knowledge, nobody has ever died from eating the wrong foods and taking Ayahuasca, and it’s extremely unlikely that eating foods high in tyramine will do any serious damage, but they could cause you to feel unwell so are best avoided.

You can find a full list of foods and drugs that you should avoid taking before and after an Ayahuasca ceremony at Ayahuasca.com

You should also not drink Ayahuasca if you have a chronic heart condition. severe blood pressure, or diabetes. This is because the effects of Ayahuasca can sometimes increase your blood pressure and heart rate, so if they’re already at a really high level then it could prove dangerous to your health.

So long as none of the above applies to you then there should certainly be no physical health risks in drinking Ayahuasca. Well known medical doctor and natural health expert Andrew Weil MD wrote a brief article about the safety of Ayahuasca and concluded:

“I think ayahuasca is quite safe medically, but because it’s a powerful psychoactive drug, it should be used only under the supervision of someone familiar with its effects. I do not advise using it casually or recreationally, nor should it be used in jurisdictions where it is illegal or its legality is in question. It can be psychologically risky if taken under wrong circumstances.” Read the full page here

That takes care of the physical, but what about the mental? I know from talking to many people that it’s usually the mental effects that most people are more concerned about, and as Andrew Weil wrote “It can be psychologically risky if taken under wrong circumstances.”

So what are the wrong circumstances?

First of all, you should be very careful about drinking Ayahuasca  if you suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other psychiatric/dissociative conditions. That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider drinking Ayahuasca at all, because I’m aware that some severe psychological conditions have been effectively treated with Ayahuasca. However, if you suffer from a serious mental condition then it’s essential you drink Ayahuasca with someone who understands your illness and already has experience in treating it. Most people don’t, and most people working at retreat centres will not have the necessary skills to take care of you should any problems arise.

Secondly, if you don’t already have a lot of experience with Ayahuasca then drinking without an Ayahuasca shaman present, whether on your own, or with a few friends is also putting yourself at risk.  I’ve heard a few bad stories about people who have bought the ingredients through the internet, cooked their own Ayahuasca brew, and then drunk it alone. A friend of a person I know did this and had a really terrifying experience that left him a bit traumatised for a while afterwards (although no serious harm was done).

A good shaman can often influence your experience, so if things get a little too intense he will be able to support you and lessen the effects somewhat. Also, if you’re on a retreat and have people to support you who  have a great deal of understanding about how the medicine works, then it’s always very helpful to be able to talk things through after, or even during a ceremony, if things are particularly challenging. Often just having someone to hold your hand or reassure you that everything will be back to normal in a couple of hours is enough to help you through a difficult experience.

I always use the words ‘difficult’ or ‘challenging’ because I don’t believe that Ayahuasca experiences are ever bad, negative or harmful. But sometimes, for the purposes of healing and conscious growth, Ayahuasca can force you to face your darkest demons, your deepest fears and/or your shadow-self. These kinds of experiences are certainly never fun and they can be extremely hard for many people; however, the healing and realisations that take place during these kinds of experiences often border on the miraculous! I’ve heard a few people say that a couple of Ayahuasca ceremonies were more helpful to them than a decade of psychotherapy! I’ve seen people who have suffered from years of depression have it finally lift after just one ceremony.

So don’t be scared of ever having a difficult experience because it’s the difficult experiences that usually do you the most good. They are challenging to be sure, but the rewards are immense.

To summarise, if you’re in fairly reasonable health (mentally, emotionally and physically), and you’re not taking any drugs, then Ayahuasca is definitely safe. It isn’t going to make you go crazy or give you any unpleasant physical effects (apart from making you puke of course).

However, that doesn’t mean to say there are absolutely no risks whatsoever. They’re probably just ‘risks’ you might not have considered. I’m going to write about the most common problem I’ve seen in my next article “Ayahuasca Integration – Avoiding the Feelings of Alienation After an Ayahuasca Experience”.

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Is Ayahuasca a Drug?

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Do you think of Ayahuasca as being some kind of drug? Are you concerned that drinking Ayahuasca may be the start of some slippery slope into becoming a drug user? Not likely! In fact Ayahuasca has been found to be an incredibly effective cure for healing drug addictions, and it certainly doesn’t lead people into wanting to try other drugs.

A common misconception about Ayahuasca is that because it can cause visions or hallucinations then it must be a recreational drug like LSD, and that’s probably the main reason why most people will overlook the idea of taking it, despite all the profound benefits that are being reported. Being considered a drug-user is still a huge stigma in many areas of western society, and many people use their anti-drugs stance as a sort of badge of honour they wear with pride, and woe be to anyone who disagrees with them.

The ironic thing is that virtually everyone is a drug user in some way or another. Every culture in human history, including today has used some kind of mind-altering substance either for pleasure, for healing, or for accessing spiritual realms. Unfortunately most of the socially acceptable drugs of today, such as alcohol, have no medicinal or spiritual benefits whatsoever and actually do a huge amount of harm to society. But hey, it’s legal and it’s socially acceptable, so that makes it perfectly okay, right?

If you look in a modern dictionary you will find several definitions for drug, and one such definition is:

“A chemical substance used in the treatment,cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being.”

Under that very broad definition, any type of medicine, whether natural & herbal remedies or man-made pharmaceuticals can be classified as a drug. At its most fundamental level a drug is simply any substance (natural or otherwise) that causes a chemical reaction within the body.

Therefore, under that broad definition it would not be completely inaccurate to call Ayahuasca a drug, because Ayahuasca should in fact be classified as a medicine, and all medicines can be considered drugs.

Here in the Amazon, Ayahuasca is often referred to as ‘La Medicina’ (Spanish for ‘The Medicine’) and that’s exactly what it is.

One thing for sure is that taking Ayahausca is not usually fun and definitely not a recreational experience. It frequently causes drinkers to vomit and sometimes shit a great deal during a ceremony (does that sound fun and recreational to you?). This is because Ayahuasca is a purgative (another common name for Ayahuasca is “La Purga”) and one of the ways it heals you is by causing the body to expel all the nasty toxins that have accumulated over a long period. These toxins are often energetic toxins as well as physical and they are all purged out during a ceremony if necessary.

After an Ayahuasca ceremony is finished most people report feeling an incredible sense of well-being, like they’ve just been handed a brand new body. Unlike with most western street drugs, there’s no hangover or comedown the next day, in fact it’s totally the opposite, although you may feel a little tired perhaps, because sleeping is often difficult straight after a ceremony.

The Ayahuasca experience usually takes people deep into their own psyche where they often have no choice but to confront their shadow self and see all the different ways they are not living honest, authentic, compassionate and charitable lives. This often proves to be a revelation for most people and leads to people making some profound changes in their lives. Many people say that drinking Ayahuasca has made them into a much better, nicer and more conscious person.

Of course, it doesn’t matter what I say, some people will never be convinced that Ayahuasca is not a drug on the same level as say LSD. Ayahuasca is certainly not for everyone, and if the idea of taking some thing that is mind-altering or even life-altering is freaking you out then this medicine is probably not for you.

But if you’re undecided about what it is, I would say to you, please don’t look at Ayahuasca as a drug (except of the medicinal kind, but even then it’s soooooo much more!). Ayahuasca is a natural medicine for the body and soul. It has profound healing benefits that are beyond explanation and it will more than likely change your life in a variety of positive ways.

Do you agree or disagree? Please share your thoughts below.

Are you feeling called to drink “La Medicina”? Then consider one of our Ayahuasca Retreats.

 

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The Incredible Benefits of Drinking Ayahuasca

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If you’re new to the subject of Ayahuasca and shamanism then you may wonder what is the point of it all. Why on earth should you even consider coming all the way to the Peruvian Amazon to drink some strange jungle juice that might have some crazy effects on your mind?

In other words, what’s in it for you?

It’s unfortunate that the primary motivation for most people to do almost anything is a selfish one. But that’s just the way our western society moulds most of us as we grow up. It’s also a mindset that Ayahuasca will help to heal you from. The more selfish you are, the more reasons you have to drink Ayahuasca 😉

So why should you consider it?

Below I’ve compiled a fairly comprehensive list of benefits that I know many people have received in some way or another from working with the medicine. Of course it can not be guaranteed that you will receive most of these benefits yourself, particularly if you only do a few ceremonies. However, if you come to the medicine with respect, reverence and good intentions, I virtually guarantee that you will come away feeling much better better for it.

Cleansing and purification

Most people who take part in several Ayahuasca ceremonies will experience at least one ayahuasca purge. You could say an ayahuasca purge is a bit like a car service for a human being. An ayahuasca purge usually involves a lot of vomiting (and sometimes a lot of shitting) but you’re not just ejecting physical stuff. The purge clears you of all the toxic energy and emotions that have clogged up your system, usually with you unawares.

I know that sounds a little bit gross, and it’s true that purging is never fun or pleasant, however, it’s ALWAYS extremely worth it. Often after purging you feel like you’ve been given a brand new body and you feel a profound sense of well being that often lasts for many days, weeks of even months afterwards.

Just like your car feels like new after a good service, your whole being can often feel new after a good ayahuasca purge!

Physical and Emotional Healing

Unlike with most plant medicines, the chemistry of ayahuasca has no known healing properties, however there are countless numbers of people who have experienced incredible healings from drinking ayahuasca. These healings broadly fit into three categories – physical, mental and emotional healing, although they are all usually interconnected in some way.

People have successfully used ayahuasca to cure all kinds of physical ailments including chronic and terminal illness such as tumours and cancer. There is not much in the way of hard scientific data to verify this claim, but if you speak to absolutely anyone who has been working with ayahuasca for a long time, they will probably tell you that they’ve personally witnessed a high number of incredible healings take place.

Ayahuasca is probably even more effective at healing mental and emotional issues. Often if people have experienced trauma in their lives such as physical or sexual abuse, ayahuasca is often incredibly effective at helping them get over whatever issues that still remain.

It is very common to hear people claim that just one ayahuasca ceremony was far more effective and beneficial to them than 10 years of psychotherapy!

Ending Depression

One of the most common conditions that ayahuasca is very effective at healing is depression. I’ve personally spoken to several people who had suffered from severe depression (often for many years) until they experienced Ayahuasca. It’s not uncommon for people to have their depression lift (and never return), after just one or two ayahuasca ceremonies.

In my opinion, most depression is ultimately caused by a lack of spiritual connection, a problem that is sadly so prevalent in western society. By reconnecting us with the spirit world, our true home, Ayahuasca helps to heal us of the sadness and despair that afflict so many of our lives.

Recovery from Addictions

It’s not uncommon for people to recover from all kinds of different addictions after experiencing Ayahuasca. Drug and alcohol addictions have been very effectively treated with Ayahuasca and there are even some centers such as Taki Wasi that specialise in helping people heal their addictions using Ayahuasca and other plant medicines.

Deeper Appreciation of Life and More Gratitude

I believe that one of the greatest gifts from Ayahuasca is a deeper appreciation of life. The connection that ayahuasca often helps you to feel makes you far more deeply appreciative of nature, life and the universe and how it’s all interconnected. I nearly always finish each ayahuasca ceremony with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my life, and for all the people who are in my life.

Greater Understanding of Yourself

The question of “Who Am I?” has probably been asked by every spiritual seeker who has ever walked the Earth. You can spend an entire lifetime trying to answer that question and still feel like you’re not getting any answers. I can’t say that Ayahuasca will answer the question for you, but it will almost certainly reveal many things about you that you may not have been consciously aware of. Ayahuasca often helps to strip away all the many layers of bullshit that often cloud our judgement and prevent us from knowing our true selves.

Experience Expanded Awareness and Higher Levels of Consciousness

One of the great benefits of drinking ayahuasca is the expanded awareness you’ll almost certainly experience during a ceremony and sometimes you may even experience much higher levels of consciousness.

I believe that ultimately all the problems of our world are caused by a lack of consciousness. When you’re operating from higher levels of consciousness then you don’t need to be told the right way to live. You don’t need to be told not to pollute, not to steal, not to be selfish, not to be arrogant, not to be a complete asshole etc. Those things become naturally abhorrent to you. Once you experience higher levels of awareness and consciousness then you will unlikely ever be quite the same person again.

Many people that I’ve spoken to have claimed that drinking Ayahuasca has helped them become much better people.

Enhanced Creativity

Many creative people (or even people who didn’t previously consider themselves creative) have found their creativity to be greatly enhanced after experiencing ayahuasca. Often musicians write better music, artists paint better, and writers write better.

If you feel that somewhere deep inside you there’s a creative spark that needs re-igniting you will probably find that ayahuasca will help with that.

Finding Your Life Purpose

From my experience of talking to people after ceremonies, I’ve seen that Ayahuasca seems to help many people get a lot clearer about their life purpose. It is extremely common to see people make some very radical changes in their lives after they’ve experienced Ayahuasca. Quite often people leave careers or jobs they’ve always disliked because suddenly they become crystal clear about what they need to do next that will add more meaning or more joy to their lives.

Deeper Connection to Nature

If you’ve seen the movie Avatar and were moved by the way the N’avi people were deeply connected to their natural environment then you may be interested to know that this connection does not just exist in movies. While under the influence of Ayahuasca many people report experiencing a profound connection with nature that often changes their lives and the way they see the world. And this connection does not necessarily disappear when the effects of the medicine wear off.

Break Free of Social Conditioning

We are all products of our social conditioning. As we grow up, our friends, family and society has a huge influence on the type of people we grow up to be, and in many ways our social conditioning is what moulds our perception of reality. Overcoming social conditioning is a huge challenge for many people, who often aren’t even aware it’s a problem. Ayahuasca often allows us to see how we’ve been conditioned, particularly the aspects of our conditioning that are harmful to our spiritual growth. Only through knowledge and awareness can we then start to break the conditioning that is holding us back from being all we can truly be.


That’s quite an amazing list of benefits isn’t it? – so much so, that I think the question should not be ‘Why should you do it?’, but instead ‘Why on earth would you not want to do it!?’ 😉

However, I do have one last point that is important to keep in mind if you decide to work with Ayahuasca. While the benefits of working with Ayahuasca can be immense and often life changing, it’s very important that you come to the medicine with no big expectations. The people who have the most disappointing experiences are usually the people who take high expectations into the ceremony with them. Each benefit that Ayahuasca can give you is a gift from her and therefore should not be expected, but only accepted – with love and gratitude.

Have you experienced Ayahuasca? If so, please leave a comment below about what benefits you have received from working with the medicine.

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