Ayahuasca and Creative Thinking: Possible Benefits of this Amazonian Tradition

    To "heal the body and soul" of physical ailments and alleged illnesses of spiritual origin

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    More than a botanical resource for the treatment of health complications, ayahuasca has been and continues to be an important part of the cosmovision of many ethnic groups dispersed in the Amazon rainforest and its use has gradually spread to rural and urban communities of all the world.

    Ayahuasca or yagé is a mixture of medicinal plants used thousands of years ago by the shamans and indigenous people of the Amazon region as a natural remedy to “heal the body and soul” of physical ailments and alleged illnesses of spiritual origin.

    According to the ICEERS International Foundation for Ethnobotanical Education and Research, the use of ayahuasca is carried out mainly in three areas:

    a) The religious: as an important element within the Ayahuasque churches (which are a mixture of currents such as Christianity, shamanism and Afro-Brazilian practices).

    b) The curative: where it is used in sessions guided by healers and whose supposed result is to improve openness to self-knowledge and personal development.

    c)The psychotherapeutic: as a companion resource used by some therapists for the treatment of depression, to carry out a grieving process or to overcome an addiction.

    Currently, ayahuasca is not under international control and is not considered a drug from the legal perspective. The limitations on its use depend exclusively on the laws in force in the territory where it is consumed.

    Relationship between ayahuasca and divergent thinking

    Ayahuasca is consumed orally in the form of tea and its effect is perceived in a period of 15 to 60 minutes. Consumers tend to report an intense flavor, generally unpleasant, that “marks the beginning of a physical change” that lasts from 2 to 4 hours, although it can be lengthened if more intakes are made.”

    For hundreds of years, anthropologists, botanists and consumers of ayahuasca have known that its ingestion induces altered states of consciousness where it is common to have visions and memories of the past. However, the psychological effects of this medicinal mixture could go beyond the obvious, being necessary to speak of an auxiliary therapeutic resource that helps to bring to light repressed memories and face uncomfortable emotional experiences.

    According to a study published in the scientific journal Psychopharmacology, the psychological benefits of ayahuasca are summarized in its ability to “reduce judgment-based thinking and internal reactivity, which are the goals that mindfulness psychotherapy usually seeks.”

    According to Kuypers, Riba and De La Fuente Revenga, authors of the research, ayahuasca “enhances divergent creative thinking, a way of thinking that improves and strengthens psychological flexibility, since it allows individuals to generate new cognitive and emotional schemes and strategies”.

    To carry out the study, the researchers visited two spiritual ayahuasca workshops and asked the participants to perform creativity tests before and after taking action on the effects of the ingestion.

    The results of the tests, which were presented by 26 individuals, showed significant variations in the Concept Image Test (PCT) that indicate a measurable influence on creative thinking, a modification of the predominant convergent thinking prior to ingestion and a greater tendency to divergent post-consumer thinking.

    The study exclusion criteria included any individual diagnosed with some type of psychiatric disorder or addicted to the consumption of alcohol and other toxic substances.

    For the researchers, the results confirm that the effects of ayahuasca could facilitate therapeutic interventions and serve as clinical support, however, it is necessary to carry out studies using an experimental controlled placebo and additional creativity measurement mechanisms before that the results can be applied in a general context.

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