The plant

AYAHUASCA is the name of a brew which has been used in the Amazonian rainforest for thousands of years. The indigenous people ingest it for healing purposes and to induce visions. Other names for it include Yagé and Nantem. Often it is referred to as Abuelita (grandmother), Mother Ayahuasca or simply the Medicine.

The brew consists of two plants: Banisteriopsis Caapi (Ayahuasca) and Psychotria viridis (Chacruna). Interestingly, taking either of these two plants by themselves wouldn’t have any effect whatsoever. The main substance which provokes the hallucinogenic visions is called dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a neurotransmitter which is also known as the Spirit molecule. The leaves of the Chacruna plant contain DMT. However, if you ingested only Chacruna, the monoamine oxidase (MAO) which is present in the stomach lining would block the action of the DMT. Here’s where the Ayahuasca plant comes in – it contains harmala alkaloids which act as an MAO inhibitor. Only when DMT is combined with an MAO inhibitor will visions occur. So the two plants have to work together to unfold their psychoactive powers. Considering the vast diversity of flora in the Amazonian jungle, it is astonishing that the local people managed to combine exactly these two plants. Nobody really knows how they found out about it. The people from the Amazon say that the spirits told them what to do. From a scientific point of view it remains puzzling.

To make the brew, leaves from the Chacruna bush and sections from the Ayahuasca vine are put in a big pot with water and boiled for up to 24 hours. During this process a Shaman usually prays and sings to feed the brew with good intentions. Once the original ten litres have been reduced to a small bottle, the liquid can be drunk while still warm or stored to be taken at a later time.

What are the likely effects if you take it? On a physical level, a deep cleansing takes place which often results in severe vomiting, diarrhoea and general nausea. On a mental level, pretty much anything can happen – visions of past and future events, out-of-body experiences, hallucinations of all senses, you name it! The emotional state can range from extreme panic to extreme happiness. Deep healing processes can be triggered and many people report extraordinary spiritual experiences. One common description is that an Ayahuasca journey equals ten years of psychotherapy boiled down to a few hours…

(excerpt taken from A CALL FROM THE UNKNOWN)

The Ayahuasca vine – photo taken from
flickr.com/photos/ayahuascafoundation

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