Ayahuasca is a South American psychoactive brew used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin. It is an entheogenic brew commonly made out of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, and the Psychotria viridis shrub or a substitute, and possibly other ingredients; although, a chemically similar preparation, sometimes called “pharmahuasca”, can be prepared using N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and a pharmaceutical monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) such as isocarboxazid. B. caapi contains several alkaloids that act as MAOIs, which are required for DMT to be orally active.
- It was traditionally used for religious and spiritual purposes by specific populations, it has become popular worldwide among those who seek a way to open their minds, heal from past traumas, or simply experience an Ayahuasca journey.
- It’s strongly recommended that it only be taken when supervised by an experienced shaman, as those who take it need to be looked after carefully, as an it trip leads to an altered state of consciousness that lasts for many hours.
- Many people travel to countries like Peru, Costa Rica, and Brazil, where multi-day Ayahuasca retreats are offered. They’re led by experienced shamans, who prepare the brew and monitor participants for safety.
- Before partaking in an Ayahuasca ceremony, it’s recommended that participants abstain from cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sex, and caffeine to purify their bodies.
- It’s also often suggested to follow various diets, such as vegetarianism or veganism, for 2–4 weeks prior to the experience. This is claimed to free the body of toxins.
- While both ayahuasca and magic mushrooms have hallucinogenic properties, there are differences between the two substances.
- Perhaps most crucially, the psychoactive ingredients are different. Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin rather than the DMT and beta-carbolines in ayahuasca brews.
- Many people describe the effects of both substances as similar but not the same. Each person will react differently, however.
- In one survey Trusted Source, users indicated that it had a stronger effect than magic mushrooms but also that its negative effects were higher. However, users rated the comedown of it as less than that of magic mushrooms. Ayahuasca users also reported less of an urge for repeat use in comparison with magic mushroom users.DV
- It is important to note that the potential health benefits of it result from the effects of its active ingredients. As mushrooms have a different active ingredient, they may not have the same outcomes in terms of brain health and well-being.
Risk and effects of Ayahuasca
While some research highlights the potential benefits of ayahuasca, it is important to note that most of these studies were small scale, and some took place in animals or test tubes.Researchers also carefully prepare and control the brews of ayahuasca that they use, but this is not always the case outside of clinical trials. There are some serious side effects of ayahuasca use, including death. People may experience temporary symptoms shortly after drinking the brew, including:
It can also interact with several medications, herbs, and medical conditions, and these effects can sometimes be severe. People should not use ayahuasca if they are taking:
- antidepressants, including serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants
- cough medications, such as dextromethorphan
- lithium or other psychiatric drugs
- medications for Parkinson’s disease
- St. John’s wort
- weight loss pills
People with schizophrenia or other mental health disorders should also avoid taking ayahuasca. The brew may increase heart rate and blood pressure, which could be problematic for individuals with heart problems.