If you boil the two plants Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis long enough, you’ll end up with the powerful brew ayahuasca. But, I don’t recommend you make it yourself, nor drink it along, unless you really known what you’re doing. It’s not something to approach lightly. When consumed, it usually creates extraordinary experiences of visions, intense emotions and possibly vomiting.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why people drink ayahuasca.
- What are the risks and benefits of drinking the brew.
- Why preparing for an ayahuasca retreat is so important.
- Why the period after a retreat is also so important.
Who Is Drinking Ayahuasca?
The brew has been used in special ways by many native peoples of the Amazon Rainforest for healing, magic and social welfare for at least a few centuries, possibly much longer. In recent decades, it has become an increasingly popular choice of alternative healing for people in Western societies. They travel to the Amazon Rainforest for a healing retreat or attend ayahuasca retreats in other parts of the world. The tea is also at the centre of two large religious organizations that began in the 20th century in Brazil and now exist in many parts of the world.
Shamanism, spirituality, religion and psychotherapy are all interested in ayahuasca. Its profound visionary effects have also attracted video animators and painters who seek inspiration from the spectacular visions it creates. It has expanded from the Amazon rainforest into societies in which similar psychoactive plants and chemicals are illegal. The brew is currently illegal in many parts of the world.
Risks and Benefits of Ayahuasca
In recent years, an explosion of books and high-quality scientific research into ayahuasca has emerged. Research has examined the benefits, risks, and cultural traditions of drinking the brew.
The science of ayahuasca is still young. Preliminary studies suggest that the brew can yield astounding benefits for treating common mental health problems, when it’s consumed in proper settings and with a proper approach. It has helped many people alleviate depression, kick addiction, and overcome trauma. Ayahuasca’s fascinating effects upon the brain also indicate a possible therapeutic role for common mental illnesses.
The profound experience of drinking the tea often leaves people feeling at peace. Kahpi professor of neuroscience Dr. Draulio de Araujo has been researching the potential benefits of using the tea for treating depression. His team gave the brew to 80 people. The group included many clinically depressed people. He noted:
"If one word comes up, it is ‘tranquillity’. A lot of our individuals, whether they are depressed or not, have a sense of peace after the experience." – Dr. Araujo
There are also many people drinking ayahuasca that are not suffering from mental health conditions. The brew can assist spiritual paths and personal growth for healthy individuals. It can provide deep insights and perspectives on difficult to answer questions, such as life-choices and creativity blocks.
There are several risks associated with the brew which should not be minimized. They include biological risks associated with mixing the beverage with other drugs or even certain foods. SSRI anti-depressant medications can pose serious health risks when consumed with ayahuasca. The brew can be psychologically challenging. People with serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar, are often advised to avoid the tea.
The Path of Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca is not a typical “medicine.” It’s more like a path which benefits greatly from a combined contemplative practice or spiritual tradition. The psychological preparation of the individual and the context or tradition in which the brew is consumed are fundamental to the positive health outcomes that many people report, as discussed in the academic book The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca.
People sometimes say that “ayahuasca knows if you’ve not been putting an effort into your personal development.” This idea stems from the fact that without proper “inner” or psychological preparation, the effects of the tea can be overwhelming or even without effect. People new to the brew who are interested in consuming it should begin by learning about basic harm minimization and experience maximization recommendations.
Drinking ayahuasca for the first time often catapults people way outside their comfort zone. This happens on several levels. People typically follow a very basic diet before attending a ceremony (the diet has scientific research and spiritual beliefs associated with it). Along with changing your diet for several days or longer, which can be more challenging than a lot of people may realize, the “dieta” period often includes an absence of most technology and social life for several days.
The effects of ayahuasca are certainly not always fun, easy or blissful. It can be extremely pleasurable and exhilarating, yet it can also be very challenging. Confronting the cobwebbed-closets of our past or our deep mind is not always blissful. Ayahuasca drinking is often referred to as “work” in the different traditions that have developed around it.
Not everyone drinking ayahuasca has a “tradition” or way of approaching the experience that will maximize the benefits. This can be limiting to their outcomes. Wise education, contemplation and self-inquiry are incredibly rewarding to the ayahuasca path. Put simply, the more you put in, the more you benefit.
Ayahuasca and the Importance of Integration
The period after the ceremony is called the “integration” phase. This is the time for coming to terms with the insights or changes in perception gained from the inner experiences. It’s the period for weaving the new perspectives or positive outlook into daily life. Similar to the pre-ceremony preparation phase, the more you put in to integration, the more you benefit and heal or grow spiritually.
Integration practices include 1) simply talking about your experience and process with trusted people 2) creating art or writing in a journal 3) meditating 4) walking in nature 5) psychotherapy, and 6) bodywork, such as massage. Ayahuasca can help guide you, show you incredible things about yourself and the world, but only you can take the fruits of the experiences into your daily life.
This is why we created Kahpi. It’s an education hub that offers ayahuasca video courses and articles to help you on your path of healing, learning, self-discovery and personal growth. You can learn from renowned teachers in courses about ayahuasca healing, shamanism, safety, preparation, integration, neuroscience, psychology, and more.