This can be the experience of a lifetime, but it could turn into a disaster in split seconds. Ayahuasca, mainly found in the Amazon is a psychedelic plant and once used by Indigenous people in the Amazon tribes as part of religious ceremonies. The purpose of this was to align themselves with the element of Earth. Those who are curious and strong enough to venture themselves in the Amazon are blessed with its benefits and returned with a different perspective of life.
In the 16th century, christians missionaries from Spain and Portugal first encountered indigenous people in South America using Ayahuasca and called it “the work of the devil”. Jeremy Narby, a Canadian anthropologist who wrote about ayahuasca stated, “it belongs to the indigenous people of Western Amazonia, who hold the keys to a way of knowing that they have practiced without interruption for at least five thousand years.”. Another anthropologist, Peter Furst suggested that this drink can be as old as 3000 years BC or even older. In Brazil, many religions used Ayahuasca for shamanistic teaching. “Vine of the souls” is another way of interpretating the Ayahuasca in Quechua terms.
The 20th century is when Peru experienced an influx of tourists seeking the ayahuasca brew. The ingredients are boiled for hours to allow the psychoactive substances to be released into the brew. The hallucinogenic property of the plant gives us the ability to voyage into our own mind. Before the purging, a diet must be followed to allow the substance to intergrade into the body. Sasya, who has experienced Ayahuasca explained how she did her diet, “You have to do a diet before you do it like two weeks. No alcohol, no meat, no milk products, no chemicals stuffs, no medicines also. And there, when you are doing it, you must drink volcanic water.” this is meant to develop self-control and self-awareness of the body. The ceremonies are held at night until the effects of the ayahuasca have worn off which takes around 2-6 hours. The symptoms after drinking it are vomiting, diarrhea, feeling of euphoria, strong visuals, etc. During the ceremony, the shamans provide spiritual guidelines to those having signs of distress and anxiety. The benefit of the brew is positive long-term changes, life altering changes. It may also improve the brain health, psychological well-being and most importantly, help treat anxiety, addiction, treatment resistant depression and PTSD. Monique, who is a healer, said, “For me, it’s like this transitional medicinal experience; where I really connected to, it’s like I connected to parts of my soul that I’ve never been able to access before”.
During an Ayahuasca trip, you experience some unpleasant side effects such as vomiting, etc; you never know that you will react well to the concoction. The brew reacts dangerously with medication and can lead to death. There have been several deaths associated with ayahuasca and they may be part of the ingredients or dosing issues. When you accept to participate in those ceremonies, you accept to put your life in the shaman’s hand. People who have history of seizures, and psychiatric disorders are told to not try Ayahuasca as this could put their life in danger. Moreover, many people in Peru, Brazil, Columbia, and parts of Central America have turned this once religious ceremony into a business. Tourists from all over the world are rushing to these centers to cleanse their body and find the other side of themselves. We cannot forget that with an increase in tourists that rush to the Amazon, this can have some environmental issues on the long-term.
Ayahuasca can be very useful for some and dangerous for others. The selection of the retreat centers is crucial in terms of having more experienced shamans on site to guide you in this spiritual journey. Let yourself go and enjoy the trippy part of it as it will allow you to see and discover new sides of yourself. You must understand that you will have a completely different vision your surroundings. More in-depth studies must be done to determine if it is a good alternative for health treatments.