Ayahuasca (“rope of the dead” or “enredadera de los alma” in Quechua) is a typically dark and dense brew prepared from two plants. One of these must be the source of the psychoactive compound (DMT or N, N-dimethyltryptamine), and the second contains several substances called MAOIs (MonoAmino Oxidase Inhibitors). Within the first group of plants we find the chacruna (Psychotria viridis), the jurema (Mimosa hostilis) or the acacia (Acacia confusa). As for the second group, the most common plant is the liana of yagé or ayahuasca (so this plant gives its own name to the brew) (Banisteriopsis caapi), even so it is possible to use others such as the harmal (Peganum harmala). Both DMT and MAOIs work synergistically to produce a long-lasting hallucinogenic experience.
This way of consuming it has a long tradition of hundreds (or thousands) of years within the Amazonian cultures. In the last hundred years, its consumption has expanded due, in the first place, to the proliferation of ayahuasca-related religions and, on the other hand, to the import and use of its use in Western culture for psychotherapeutic and/or spiritual purposes.
Ayahuasca has some characteristic side effects, since this brew has emetic properties that produce vomiting and diarrhea, which means that this substance cannot be used in a playful way. These effects are considered very useful, since they are understood as a process of corporal and emotional cleansing.
Various studies have shown that ayahuasca therapy may be effective in the treatment of modern ailments such as addiction and depression, and as this ancient brew comes more into the spotlight, we may see it become an accepted and widespread form of psychedelic therapy.
Ayahuasca alters serotonin hormone activity in brain areas that are implicated in emotional and introspection processing.
Ayahuasca intake affects both serotonin and monoamine oxidase levels. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a form of antidepressants, must be avoided before a ceremony to avoid any possible dangerous adverse reactions.
Likewise, MAOIs found in the brew can cause severe reactions when combined with foods such as cheese, beer, wine, yogurt, coffee and chocolate and with amphetamine-like compounds such as ephedrine and MDMA. The best way to avoid side-effects associated with these substances is fasting for twelve or more hours before the ceremony.
These medications / substances should also be avoided during / before an ayahuasca ceremony:
appetite suppressants (diet pills)
antihypertensives (high blood pressure medicine)
medicine for bronchitis, asthma, and other breathing problems; antihistamines, hay fever, sinus problems, medicines for colds, or allergies (any drug containing dextromethorphan/DXM or or Tuss in its name.)
CNS (central nervous system) depressants
The use of ayahuasca as a tool for enlightenment and spiritual growth among Westerners has surged in recent years alongside other psychedelics.
Many who seek experiences of personal growth with ayahuasca report a sense of connectedness and compassion with others around them. Some report spiritual awakenings that lead to long-term, stable perspective shifts. This is likely a result of achieving a level of particularly intense introspection that leads to profound self-awareness and clarity regarding personal issues and belief systems. Dennis McKenna also cites ayahuasca’s ability to make users feel more interconnected with the natural world as one possible avenue by which the discussion around environmental conservation efforts can be elevated and expanded.