Published: January 10th, 2017
Categories: Plants and Seeds
Ayahuasca is used through centuries for spiritual healing and divination among the peoples of Amazonia. The Ayahuasca brew amplifies our inner feelings and sensorial perceptions, making them more vivid and intense. Many people consider this effect as a kind of spiritual awakening and a rebirth. For others, Ayahuasca sessions are somewhat comparable to intense psycho-therapy.
The most powerful active principles in the Ayahuasca mix are alkaloids and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). These chemicals have a long history of use for the treatment of depression and other psychopathologies. In the Ayahuasca ritual drink, many other plants are mixed together and heated in different ways, according to each shaman’s recipe. Although recipes can vary, there are common ingredients used in most. There are parts of plants such as Banisteriopsis caapi, Diplopterys cabrerana, Psychotria viridis, which are sources of dimethyltryptamine or DMT. This potent psychedelic compound is illegal in most countries.
Ayahuasca alkaloids and MAOIs exert their action by binding to specific biochemical receptors in the areas of our brain where emotions and memories are stored. The result might be temporarily overriding our old perceptive and behavioural patterns. As an example, old fears may no longer be so scary because our memories are worked out again. This herbal mixture has a broad spectrum of effects on our body and mind, which may feel different in every single Ayahuasca ceremony.
Ayahuasca brew triggers its effects in about 20-60 minutes after ingestion. The experience can last for up to 8 hours, with lower doses making it last shorter. After its ingestion, Ayahuasca can cause some nausea. There is no way to fight it. Thus it must be considered as the first purifying part of the trip, as shamans claim. When the nausea phase is finished, the user starts experiencing more accentuated hearing, vision, and feelings.
Apart from dosage, individual tolerance, and the possibility to have the trip guided by a shaman or an expert, Ayahuasca is not a substance with a consistent effect. Its botanical compounds interact differently with each individual’s personality, mood, attitude, experience, physical and mental health. It is commonly believed that the person who legitimately guides the Ayahuasca ritual does play a fundamental role in the Ayahuasca effects evolution on participants’ minds.
A sense of floating and inner peace is normal in an Ayahuasca trip, just like an altered sense of space and time, with visions and auditory hallucinations or sound distortions. The mood can vary from mild to extreme euphoria, or sedation. The feeling of love and empathy increases both the spiritual experience and the likelihood of embracing paranormal ideation. The visionary experiences with Ayahuasca can help sketching a map to explore hidden or forgotten aspects of our psychological, or maybe spiritual, identity.
Ayahuasca causes some side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, alternating sweating and shivering. Heart rate and blood pressure also tend to rise. The DMT contained in the botanicals causes hypertension, dizziness and a partial loss of muscular control, with difficulty in walking. Paranoia or other psychotic behaviour can take place as Ayahuasca modifies the emotional states, allowing the user to face psychological traumas that are usually kept out of the conscious. In this mental state, conditions like fear, paranoia, and anxiety can temporarily increase. Just like any strong psychedelic substance, Ayahuasca can cause changes in personality or facilitate psychotic episodes. These side effects tend to ease after multiple experiences with these herbs.
Since the long and powerful inner experience provided by Ayahuasca can get very scary, and it is possible to have severe negative reactions, it is wise to get well documented before starting a trip. When combined with some legal or black market drugs, Ayahuasca can have extremely negative side effects, and the results can be very harmful. As an example, simply avoid Ayahuasca if you are using anti-depressants.
During the visionary Ayahuasca experience, the psychonaut faces his or her extreme emotional reactions and behaviors, together with the revelation of different facets of the conscious and subconscious mind. These visions also allow the processing of the visual imprints we accumulate during our everyday life or during extraordinary events.
Ayahuasca may initiate physical and mental changes, spiritual improvements, and change of habits. Some people release their addictive patterns and quit the use of dangerous drugs. Others just gain more personal insight and self-esteem. That being said, Ayahuasca is not a medicine that solves problems in our mind, and it is not a recreational drug to enjoy at a concert or a party.