From time immemorial, man has sought to transcend the limitations of his body and his senses. There are thousands of reasons for this, but most of them can be grouped into categories such as curiosity, fun, healing, and intellectual and spiritual enlightenment. To achieve this much sought after transcendence we have relied on multiple resources, from religious and physical disciplines to the use of animal, plant or mineral substances and even combinations of all of them. As part of this quest for transcendence there is also a increasing interest, by consumers with different levels of experience, in vegetable agents with psychoactive effects. Usually, these agents are part of very complex, culturally relevant ceremonies. Fungi, cannabis, peyote, ayahuasca, tobacco, yopo, coca, are examples of a very long list of the agents we have tried in order to achieve the goal of expanding consciousness.
Ancient Roots, Ancient Tribes
Present in several South American cultures, ayahuasca is a drink made from two plants found in the Amazon region (Bolivia, Venezuela, nothwestern Brasil, Perú and Ecuador): a shrub called chacruna (Psychotria viridis), which contains the hallucinogen N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi). Ayahusca has been in use for approximately 5000 years. It is a fundamental part of rituals in traditional Amazonian medicine.
In these rituals, led by a shaman, the goal is for the participants to find their inner balance and achieve self-healing. This is based on the belief that illnesses are caused by a spiritual imbalance, which can be improved through this ceremony.
The indigenous communities that traditionally use ayahuasca have created other worldviews, where in many cases, plants play an extremely important role in their social evolution. Several years ago the Peruvian government recognized the importance of ayahuasca as “one of the basic pillars of the identity of the Amazonian peoples”.
No Fun and Games
Ayahuasca has been gaining popularity in the Western world, where it has attracted the attention of people interested in spirituality. Ayahuasca based ceremonies are appearing in United States and Europe. It has been used to treat depression, PSTD and substance addictions, among other illneses. However it is important to point out that the use of ayahuasca poses important health risks. They must be taken into account before ingesting it, even in properly supervised situations.
Some Important Caveats
~ Temporary episodes of vomiting and diarrhea during the ceremony are not uncommon.
~ Ayahuasca therapy is not advisable for those with heart problems or conditions coadyuvant to them.
~ The same warnings apply for diabetic patients, persons who suffer from mental disorders or with a medical treatment with antidepressants, as those could interfere with the drink’s active components.
~ The use of DMT is illegal in many countries. The substance is on the list of the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Studies suggest that it could trigger serious adverse reactions, even to induce severe mental problems, such as paranoia, in people who are predisposed to it.
~ Ayahuasca abuse can trigger serotonin syndrome, characterized by the appearance of tremors, spasms, hyperthermia and sweating and in some cases can even cause death.
Body and Soul
According to her comment in *Plant
Medicine Community* by author *Angela K*, in addition to any psychological effect, ayahuasca use imposes important demands on our physical health. She points out that she took up Kundalini yoga as a means to strengthen the weak spots that the plant medicine ceremony revealed in her body.
Angela says: “This has been key for me. It has been fundamental. I cannot ignore or bypass my body.”
She recommends “Please take care of your bodies. Nourish yourself with proper foods, herbs, and supplements. And train your body so it can handle the energies we may be pushing too hard to achieve.” “We can only level up energetically as far as our bodies are capable of handling. We have to take care of our vessels.”
A weak body becomes an obstacle in the journey with plant medicines. Why? Because “We can only go as far as our bodies are prepared for… or we will break down. Foundation is key. Let’s do the ground work too.”