What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca, which is also called “yage” or “iowaska” is a plant-based mixture that is usually brewed to give users a hallucinatory ‘journey’. Ayahuasca is an entheogenic brew that is used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the Indigenous peoples of Amazonia. Some of them say that they get instructions of preparing ayahuasca right from the plants and the spirits of the plants.

Amazonian tribes have been using ayahuasca as a medical and religious aid for centuries. Nobody really knows for sure how long it has been used, but the first Western contact on record was made in 1851 by Richard Spruce — a famous ethnobotanist from England. When taking into account archaeological evidence of comparable native plant use, it seems likely that its use dates back to at least two millennia ago.

Ayahuasca’s effects mostly rely on two plants, these are: Banisteriopsis caapi which is called ayahuasca as the tea itself and means “vine of the soul”. The other ingredient is chacruna-Psychotria Viridis (or chagropanga, depending on the region). These plants contain a high concentration of Dimethyltriptamine or DMT for short. DMT is called the “Spirit Molecule”, and according to a 2012 study, DMT gives an ‘extreme hallucinatory experience’ and users cite a ‘bad trip’ as a potential risk, with side-effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, profuse sweating, tremors, increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as death. These side-effects are most likely due to DMT intoxication, which is also known to cause hypertension, agitation, dilated pupils, dizziness and muscular incoordination. This is the reason why some shamans and experienced users of ayahuasca advise not to consume the brew when not in the presence of one or several well-trained shamans. We don’t know the exact history of combining those basic ingredients but most of the tribes and shamans have some mythical tales explaining this event.

The majority of users have rated the effect of DMT as stronger than ketamine, magic mushrooms and LSD. People report feeling as if they gain access to higher spiritual dimensions and even make contact with various spiritual or extra-dimensional beings who can act as guides or healers.

The most important aspect while talking about the ayahuasca mixture, is its ‘magic power’ or in other words: why people are using ayahuasca? Ayahuasca induces a psychedelic visionary state of mind and this effect is employed by different people for different reasons. Preliminary work suggests that ayahuasca can help treat depression, chronic addiction and fear of mortality. Ayahuasca induces altered states of consciousness, usually lasting between 4 to 8 hours.

It is believed that ayahuasca is the ‘medicine of our time’, especially for chronic depression, severe anxiety and drug addictions.

One of the most important purpose of ayahuasca is that it can be used as a treatment for addiction to heroin, cocaine and alcohol. You may ask how ayahuasca can help us heal from addiction? Here are some of the alleged factors and reasons:

1) Ayahuasca apparently “opens the door to another world that is normally invisible to humans”. Once this door opens, information from this other world becomes available through dream-like visions.

2) The drug provides a non verbal experience, where information is transferred through all senses. This can help those having issues with verbal communication or language to reach a strong awareness of their own mind.

3) The problems of life become images and visionary scenes for viewing in the subconscious.

4) The drug affects our deep selves, and is equally relevant to anyone, no matter what cultural or religious framework they choose to interpret it through.

5) The visions brought by ayahuasca use can reduce the power and influence of some traumatic memories which lie buried and hidden in our subconscious.

6) Ayahuasca aids mental health. It decreases anxiety, improves self-esteem and helps users to resolve and relinquish past conflicts. The ayahuasca experience opens people up to much more productive psychotherapy.

Ayahuasca is actually used legally as an addiction treatment medication in Peru.

Ayahuasca is said to be divine, sacred, magical — teaching a deep respect for life through it’s near-death experience. Indeed, it is believed that a single Ayahuasca session could potentially be as effective as 10 years of psychotherapy or meditation. But still, as some of its ingredients are Schedule I substances, using ayahuasca is considered to be illegal by United Nations.

About Mariam Nebieridze

Mariam is from Georgia (the country), she is 18 years old and studies law at Tbilisi State University. She spends most of her time studying, reading and writing. Mariam loves reading and researching so if anything interests me, she does her best to get more and more information about that subject. Most of all, she loves art and history, and she's also interested in modern political issues and international relations. Reading, writing and listening to music — these are what shape her personality.

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