Ayahuasca is a decoction, prepared blending at least two different plants: the Amazonian liana Banisteriopsis caapi (Ayahuasca), which contains betacarboline (among which harmine and harmaline, two MAO-inhibitors) and the leaves of the Psychotria viridis (Chacruna), or of the Diplopterys cabrerana liana (Chacropanga), plants containing DMT, a substance forbidden internationally, and which is responsible for themain psychoactive effects of the Ayahuasca.Yet, in other also traditional preparations, many other plants can be used, including Tobacco, some types of Brugmansia, Brunfelsia among other. Across centuries, Amazon’s indigenous communities have used ayahuasca as part of their ceremonies in order to ensure the well-being of both the single person and the whole community’s. Today, ayahuasca is widely used in many places for therapeutic, religious and spiritual purposes, even though its therapeutic and medical properties have not been officially recognized in any place. Ayahuasca’s use for religious ends is still legally recognized, protected and regulated by some churches in Brasil, Canada, the Netherlands and the US. Furthermore, ayahuasca is considered a cultural heritage in Peru. On a fiscal level, ayahuasca is not tax liable according to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2010 declaration, even if DMT, a substance contained in ayahuasca, is tax liable. On the other hand, ayahuasca is explicitly tax liable in certain countries such as Canada, France and the US. The presence of DMT has created some uncertainties regarding the legal regulation of the ayahuasca and it has been subject to contrasting legal interpretations. At the moment, there are still some pending decisions where the courts have been called to decide whether importing and using ayahuasca is legal or not.
Ayahuasca effects may include: alteration in perception of reality, visions or sharp images with abstract motifs clearly identifiable, intensification of senses, access to forgotten memories, paranormal phenomena, sudden manifestations of fears or complex emotions that may cause body blockages (aches, tension, etc.), introspection, transpersonal or perinatal experiences (during which one may experience death and re-birth on an symbolic or abstract level). Physically, the use of ayahuasca can cause nausea, vomiting, tingling, chills, tremors, diarrhea, ataxia, sweating and in some rare cases also fainting. Visionary effects may not occur during first experiences. In these cases, it is important to accept it. The experience is stronger with eyes shut. The best thing to do in a difficult situation is to breathe deeply and slowly, keep calm and trust the person in charge ofthe session. Ayahuasca’s experience is never linear, nor predictable, and it is normal going through different stages during the same experience (some can pleasant while other difficult). One may incur in other psychological symptoms such as suspicion, paranoia, or self-referential thoughts. These effects are normal and short-term.Very important: Do not hesitate to ask for help to the person in charge of the session or to a member of the team whenever it is felt to be necessary.Those who have been through a curative effect using ayahuasca have experienced: release of emotions and a deep feeling of having come to terms with his/her own pastmental and emotional clarityhealing from different diseasesclarity regarding one’s own life and how to live itan increased spiritual openness an improvement of one’s own relational skill.
Ceremonies, or sessions, are sacred ritual spaces, where the healer (or Amazonian shaman) administers the medicine to the participants according to their necessities. Generally, ceremonies take place at night, but in special occasions can also be held during at daylight. Yet, night sessions act on a deeper emotional and spiritual level and allow a more profound integration with the surrounding nature. An ayahuasca session can last from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the length of the experience of each participant, as each experience is unique. The number of participants is usually between 1 and 20, depending on the ability of the curandero to manage the experience of each. Note that each session is different from the previous one. The ayahuasca acts one step at the time, like a scanner that detects blockages, bad feelings and emotions, helping in this way to get rid of them. Under ayahuasca’s effect one does not lose the notion of consciousness. On the contrary, it leads to a higher level of consciousness where one experiences not only the material world, but also the energetic and spiritual dimension of reality. Almost all the emotions, visions, thoughts and feelings that are experienced in a session are already within us. Processes with ayahuasca are amazing, yet not easy. It’s very important during a ceremony to give up the illusory notion of control. Never put one self in the role of victim in relations to what is seen or perceived during a session, but just as an observer who learns from his /her own inner reality.