The Amazing Effects of Ayahuasca
Deep in the Amazon rainforest of South America is a powerful secret that has been kept hidden from the world for thousands of years. Only relatively recently has this secret escaped the jungles and begun to significantly impact the lives of a small but steadily growing number of people all over the planet.
This secret has been having profound, transformational and life changing effects on most of the people who come to experience it, and it’s a secret that some people believe has the potential to change the world.
The name of this secret is Ayahuasca (pronounced aya-waska).
Ayahuasca is the name given to a sacred plant medicine that comes from the Amazon rainforest where it has been used for many thousands of years by the indigenous people of the jungle.
However, this is no ordinary plant medicine. Most plant medicines don’t alter your entire view of reality while they’re healing you!
If you’ve seen the popular science fiction movie The Matrix you may recall a scene where the main protagonist, Neo, is offered a choice of two pills – a red pill and a blue pill. The character Morpheus explains to Neo:
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
For many people, drinking Ayahuasca is like taking the red pill. The experience of ayahuasca can take you on a journey into the deepest depths of your soul and reveal to you the wonderland of spiritual dimensions, and your perception of reality and what it is will most likely be changed forever. Some people might consider that to be a very unpleasant and unwelcome experience, but for others it’s the next step in their personal and spiritual evolution.
It needs to be made very clear that Ayahuasca is not simply an hallucinogenic drug for the purpose of tripping out or getting high, it’s truly a medicine for the soul, and if that sounds impossible to believe right now then you’re probably not ready to experience Ayahuasca. But if you have this nagging feeling in the back of your mind, that something about what you’ve been told about reality isn’t quite right, you might be ready for the experience. In the words of Morpheus again:
“What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. “
If that’s how you feel sometimes, then you may be ready to experience the deeper mysteries that Ayahuasca can reveal to you.
Interested? Well let me tell you a little bit more….
So, what is Ayahuasca?
The word Ayahuasca is derived from two Quechua words (Quechua is an indigenous language of South America). Aya which means spirit, ancestor or deceased person, and Huasca which means vine or rope. Therefore Ayahuasca is sometimes referred to as ‘vine of the soul‘ or ‘vine of the dead‘.
The history of Ayahuasca is relatively unknown because there are no written records from the Amazon region until after the Spaniards invaded. All we have are various myths and oral traditions passed down over generations. However, a ceremonial cup was found in Ecuador, believed to be well over 2500 years old that contains traces of Ayahuasca so we know it’s been used at least that long, and probably much longer.
We also know that Ayahuasca has been used in many South American countries including Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and by at least seventy different indigenous tribes of the Americas.
The Ayahuasca Brew
From a material perspective Ayahuasca is a foul-tasting liquid medicine that is brewed from two plants that grow in the Amazon rainforest. One of the plants is a jungle vine known as Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the other is a green leafy plant called Chacruna (Psychotria viridis).
Shamans consider the vine to be the most important ingredient because it is understood to be the spirit of the vine that heals and teaches you, hence why the vine is also referred to as Ayahuasca. However, both plants are essential to the brew.
One of the things that’s really interesting about Ayahuasca is the complexity of the chemical interactions that are taking place to enable the experience, especially considering that it was discovered by ‘primitive’ jungle people.
The Chacruna plant contains high quantities of DMT (dimethyltryptamine) a powerful psychoactive compound which is what enables the powerful visionary effects common to many ayahuasca experiences. What’s interesting about DMT is that it already naturally exists within the human brain (believed to be created in the pineal gland which is usually associated with the third eye).
American researcher Dr. Rick Strassman investigated the effects of DMT by giving high doses to 60 volunteers over five years. He concluded that the pineal gland releases DMT when a person nears death, and that DMT connects us to the spirit world. You can read about his work in the book DMT:The Spirit Molecule.
However, under normal circumstances DMT cannot have any effect when ingested orally because it is destroyed by enzymes in the stomach known as Monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A).
This is where the chemistry of the vine comes in. The ayahuasca vine contains three primary harmala alkaloids – the β-carboline derivatives harmine, tetrahydroharmine (THH), and harmaline. These three harmala alkaloids are potent inhibitors of MAO-A enzymes. Thus, allowing the DMT to pass through the stomach and into the brain to produce its visionary effects.
There’s quite a bit more to it than that, because it is believed that the chemistry of the vine does far more than just enable the DMT. As stated earlier, shamans believe it is the vine that is actually the most important component, and not the DMT. I saw it written once to imagine that Ayahuasca is a cave, and that DMT is the torch beam illuminating the cave.
Having said all that, don’t let the complex chemistry fool you into believing the Ayahuasca experience is nothing more than chemical interactions in the brain. These chemicals somehow enable the experience, but they are not the experience itself. You could say that it’s like the components of your computer all work together to enable you to experience the internet. However, your computer is not the internet – it just enables you to access it. Likewise, the chemicals of ayahuasca allow you to enter and experience the greater spiritual realities of the universe. You could say they enable you to access the cosmic internet!
The Ayahuasca Ceremony
Ayahuasca is traditionally experienced in a ceremony at night time. The ceremony should be led by an experienced shaman (also known as a Curandero or Ayahuasquero) who has trained for many years and has developed a close, perhaps even symbiotic, relationship with the spirits of the plants.
The place of ceremony is often a large jungle hut known as a maloka which is usually octagonal or decagonal in shape and participants will spread themselves out in a circle around the room, facing towards the center. Traditionally shamans prefer people to sit up during the ceremony, but most retreat centers provide mattresses that participants can lie on.
At the beginning of the ceremony the shaman will protect the space, and participants, from negative energy and bad spirits by blowing sacred tobacco smoke known as Mapacho. Then each person in the circle will take it in turns to come forward and drink a cup of ayahuasca before returning to their place.
When each person has drunk their dose of ayahuasca, the shaman will then turn off any lights in the room and the rest of the ceremony will take place in total darkness.
Ceremonies usually last between 4 and 6 hours and the effects of the Ayahuasca will usually come on between 20 and 45 minutes after drinking.
During the ceremony the shaman will chant sacred songs known as Icaros for the purpose of calling in the spirits which will assist in healing, protection and teaching knowledge.
Each persons experience of ayahuasca is unique, and the spirit of Ayahuasca will work with people in different ways. Some people receive beautiful visions which usually contain symbolic or emotional significance. Others will download information or have communication with spirits.
I don’t want to say too much about the actual effects of Ayahuasca because I think it’s important that people come to the experience with as few expectations as possible.
Gateway to the Spirit World
“We are not talking about passive agents of transformation, we are talking about an intelligence, a consciousness, an alive and other mind, a spirit, which of course we have no place in our society. Nature is alive and is talking to us. This is not a metaphor.” – Terrance McKenna
Spirituality is at the center of the Ayahuasca experience. If you have no belief in the spirit world before taking Ayahuasca then you’ll quite likely have a different opinion afterwards. At the very least you’ll have some difficult questions to answer! Some scientists may try to explain everything away as mere hallucinations in the mind, but there is undoubtedly far more to it than that, and only by experiencing it can you understand that for yourself .
Many people are now waking up to the fact that we live in a multi-dimensional spiritual universe where consciousness is primary and that there are many different levels to what we know as reality. Even many scientists are slowly beginning to understand this. Watch the film What the Bleep Do We Know for some examples of this.
Shamans from indigenous cultures all around the world tell us that everything in the universe is made of spirit, and has consciousness, and that even plants are sentient beings. Some plants are master teachers, and Ayahuasca is one such teacher.
Ayahuasca transports us to the spirit world where everything is pure imagination and objectivity is almost meaningless. This can not be understood from a rational western mindset. One of the lessons that Ayahuasca teaches us is that its the rational western mindset that seeks to separate everything that is the cause of many of our problems and ailments.
The Benefits of Drinking Ayahuasca
Having your doors of perception blown wide open is not the main benefit of drinking Ayahuasca. For many people, drinking ayahuasca is the beginning of a process of profound personal and spiritual discovery and transformation.
Everyone’s experience of the medicine is unique, and her gifts are many and diverse. Here are a few of the most commonly reported benefits of drinking Ayahuasca.
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 most likely 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, emotional or sexual abuse, ayahuasca is often incredibly effective at helping them get over whatever issues that still remain.
It’s not uncommon to hear people claim that just one ayahuasca ceremony was far more effective and beneficial to them than 10 years of psychotherapy!
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.
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.
Is Ayahuasca Miracle Medicine?
While there’s no doubt that Ayahuasca is having some seemingly miraculous affects on some people, it’s important to stress that Ayahuasca is definitely not a panacea or miracle cure-all. Not everybody gets healed by Ayahuasca, and not everybody gets what they want. In fact if you decide to work with ayahuasca it’s essential that you keep your wants and your expectations to an absolute minimum. People with high expectations usually do not find what they are looking for.
Sometimes our illnesses are there to serve a powerful lesson in our lives and in order to cure the illness we have to understand the lesson first. I believe that ayahuasca will not get in the way of our most important lessons, or allow us to cheat! She may provide many hints and clues, but sometimes it’s necessary to figure out the lesson for ourselves.
Is Ayahuasca Right for You?
It is sometimes said that you don’t choose Ayahuasca, Ayahuasca chooses you. After reading this article you probably already feel some sense of whether the experience might be right for you or not.
It’s important to stress that there is no right or wrong, should or should not. It’s a very personal decision that only you can make. Drinking ayahuasca is definitely not a walk in the park. It’s usually a very powerful spiritual experience that can literally blast open your doors of perception – and not everybody is ready for that kind of experience.
Many times I’ve heard people say “I really want to try Ayahuasca, but I don’t feel ready yet”. That’s perfectly okay. Trust your intuition. If you really feel you should wait, then wait. However, if it’s only fear that’s getting in the way then you should look more deeply at those fears. It’s perfectly normal to enter an ayahuasca ceremony feeling a great deal of fear. Sometimes it takes ten ceremonies or more for that initial fear to subside. Heck, I’ve drunk ayahuasca over 70 times and I still sometimes start to feel a little bit of fear or trepidation when the initial effects of ayahuasca begin to take hold.
There are some health issues you need to be aware of before drinking ayahuasca. Providing those issues don’t effect you then drinking ayahuasca should be entirely safe. In the words of the late, great Terrance McKenna “the only thing you’re likely to die of is astonishment.”
Having said that, it is extremely important that you take Ayahuasca with an experienced shaman. Taking it on your own is definitely not recommended, not initially anyway. You’ll be entering some very unfamiliar territory and it’s important to have an experienced guide to help you should any problems arise.
If you’re feeling the call then it might be time to book yourself on to an Ayahuasca retreat. In my opinion a retreat is the best way to experience Ayahuasca for the first time. This is because you’ll get to do several ceremonies over the course of the retreat. I always recommend that people do at least three ceremonies within a short period time when they first drink ayahuasca. Also, you’ll get looked after better on a retreat because there will be facilitators you can talk with if you’re having a difficult time, as well as plenty of other people who are likely also drinking for the first time as well.
I’d love to invite you to attend one of our retreats in Iquitos, Peru. If you’re interested then please spend some time exploring this website so that you can find out more about us and what we’re about.
But do some internet research as well. There are many retreat centers and perhaps you’ll find another that you feel is more suited to you. Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best on your journey.