Ayahuasca, a lysergic drink of the traditional Amazonian medicine that is prepared with the mixture of plants, is used more and more in the western world to treat depression and addictions. It has been used for thousands of years by the Amazonian tribes in rituals directed by the shaman, to correct the spiritual imbalance that underlies the disease.
Ayahuasca is a drink that is made with the mixture of two plants native to the Amazon, the ayahuasca or yagé vine (Banisteriopsis caapi), a kind of liana, and the chacruna (Psychotria viridis), a shrub with elongated green leaves that contains a powerful hallucinogen called dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Hence, the effects of its consumption have often been associated with that of some psychedelic drugs.
Our pineal gland naturally secretes small amounts of DMT, but when consuming ayahuasca its levels increase in the brain and an altered or expanded state of consciousness is generated, which favors the perception of visions; something similar to what is experienced in REM sleep, but in waking state.
The infusion resulting from cooking the mixture of both plants with water for hours has been used for thousands of years by the Amazonian tribes as a fundamental ingredient of rituals – directed by the group’s shaman – with the aim that the participants in the act find balance and achieve self-healing, since they considered that diseases had their origin in a spiritual imbalance, which could be corrected with this type of ceremony, which is part of traditional Amazonian medicine.
How to take ayahuasca
This drink should be taken as part of a ritual guided by an expert, who is usually a shaman. It should never be done alone, or in the company of people you don’t trust. It is preferable to have followed a diet based on vegetables and fruits, and even fast on the day the session is to be held, because ayahuasca has a very bitter and acidic taste, and many people experience nausea and vomiting.
It is also advisable to have previously meditated to arrive at the experience with a calm mind. Ayahuasca is considered a powerful relaxant and has been used in the treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress with satisfactory results.
The session guide sings icaros or healing songs, which are repeated like a mantra. Ayahuasca begins to take effect around 20 minutes after ingestion, and alters consciousness, increasing visual, olfactory and tactile sensitivity. Gradually anxiety and fear decrease, and a deep state of relaxation is reached, where the individual experiences tranquility and emotional balance.
Medical applications of ayahuasca and contraindications
Ayahuasca is used in Peru – whose government has recognized it as ‘one of the basic pillars of the identity of the Amazonian peoples’ – to treat addiction to drugs, medications or alcohol, due to its ability to reduce anxiety and fear and balance the nervous system. In addition, it is considered a powerful relaxant and has been used in the treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress with satisfactory results.
An example of this is a study in which the Spanish Jordi Riba, doctor in pharmacology and head of the Neuropsychopharmacology group at the Hospital de Sant Pau Research Institute, has collaborated and which has been published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry.
In this research, ayahuasca was administered to patients who suffered from depression and who had not responded to conventional treatment, and who after a single dose of the drink, and within hours of ingestion, showed a significant improvement that was maintained for three weeks.
Regarding the contraindications of ayahuasca, it is not advisable for those who have heart problems or risk factors to suffer a cardiovascular event to take it. Neither do diabetic patients, nor those who suffer from mental disorders or follow a medical treatment that could interfere with the substance, such as antidepressant drugs. In any case, and as we have already pointed out, this drink should not be consumed without the presence of an expert.