There are many circulating stories about people traveling to faraway lands to experience the magical brew known as Ayahuasca. The majority of these stories tend to circulate around the immediate benefits realized during the Ayahuasca "trip." One of the most popularly known benefits is a sense of enlightenment.
However, research has revealed that Ayahuasca has longer-term health benefits. For example, it has been shown that taking Ayahuasca is associated with neuroprotective and regenerative effects. These are effects that stick around long after you have taken the brew, which is probably why the treatment is becoming more popular now. Here's what you may want to know about Ayahuasca, including its effects on health.
What is Ayahuasca, and Where Did it Originate From?
Ayahuasca is a brew or tea made from Psychotria Viridis leaves mixed with Banisteriopsis Caapi vine stalks. These two plants are native to South America, and they mainly grow in the Amazon rainforest. However, with modernization, you can also find them in several places.
Ayahuasca — also known as the vine, tea, and la purga — consists of these two main ingredients, although other ingredients and plants can be added as well. The ingredients contained in Ayahuasca tea have been used by people from countries like Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela for centuries. They are believed to be quite effective when it comes to the treatment of physical and spiritual ailments.
Ayahuasca is one of the most potent psychedelic brews. Once consumed, it will bring about strong visual and auditory hallucinations. The tea was traditionally used only during ayahuasca ceremonies for healing past traumas.
How Does it Work?
The major ingredients in Ayahuasca tea are both potent hallucinogens. The substance responsible for most of the effects is known as DMT, which is short for N, N-dimethyltryptamine. The psychedelic naturally occurs in Psychotria viridis.
DMT is a very potent hallucinogenic compound. However, its bioavailability is quite low. The moment it enters the gastrointestinal tract, it gets attacked by a group of enzymes known as monoamine oxidases. It's also not safe in the bloodstream. The same enzymes will break it down in the liver, rendering it ineffective.
Because of this characteristic, DMT needs to be combined with something that prolongs its half-life. This can be easily achieved by coupling it with material that contains MAO inhibitors. Once the enzymes that break it down are inhibited, DMT can exert its effects more profoundly.
Banisteriopsis caapi is packed with highly potent MAO inhibitors. The most effective ones are known as called β-carbolines. These also have some psychoactive effects of their own. Combining these two plants creates an extremely potent psychedelic brew that targets the central nervous system. Taking it leads to an altered state of consciousness characterized by out-of-body experiences, hallucinations, and euphoria.
How is Ayahuasca Used?
In the past, Ayahuasca was reserved for specific populations, purposes, and events. However, all that has changed now. It's now quite popular worldwide among individuals who are looking for ways to access their minds and heal from trauma. However, others who take it just want to experience the Ayahuasca journey.
You must avoid taking Ayahuasca unless you are under the supervision of an experienced shaman or in a controlled environment. Once you take it, you need to be properly looked after. The altered state created by the brew can last for several hours, during which you won't really be in touch with reality.
Many individuals visit countries like Costa Rica, Peru, and Brazil for Ayahuasca retreats. These retreats are supervised and regulated by experienced shamans. Their role is mainly to prepare the brew and monitor participants.
Before you partake in an Ayahuasca ceremony, you should abstain from sex, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine. This is recommended to purify your body. Participants are also encouraged to follow certain diets, like veganism and vegetarianism or veganism. This is usually done two to four weeks before the retreat. According to shamans, these kinds of preparations free the body of toxins.
The Ayahuasca Ceremony and Experience
Ayahuasca ceremonies usually start at night. Once the ceremony starts, it will only stop when the effects of the psychedelics have worn off. Before the ceremony, the leading shaman will prepare and bless the space. They will then offer the brew to participants. In most instances, it's split into a number of doses.
Once you consume the tea, you will start feeling the effect after about 20 minutes. Sometimes it can take an hour for the Ayahuasca to fully kick in. Please note that the effects are dose-dependent. After kicking in, they will last for about two to six hours, depending on how much you took.
Ayahuasca may display some side effects. The most common include strong auditory and visual hallucinations, vomiting, diarrhea, and feelings of euphoria. Participants may also experience mind-altering psychedelic effects, paranoia, and fear. However, even the side effects are considered part of the process. In fact, the vomit and diarrhea are said to have cleansing effects.
The effects of Ayahuasca vary by individual. Some people may experience a feeling of enlightenment, while others experience serious panic attacks. In some instances, an individual may experience both negative and positive effects.
The shaman offers spiritual guidance to participants throughout the experience and ensures that everyone is safe as well. Some retreats are also manned by medical staff in case there's an emergency. It's not uncommon for these ceremonies to be conducted several nights in a row. This means you may take Ayahuasca for more than one or two days. People who have gone to the ceremonies report having a different experience each day. It's not known exactly why the brew may have different effects on different days. Some think it's probably because the body will be getting used to it.
Potential Benefits of Ayahuasca
The majority of people who receive the Ayahuasca experience claim to have witnessed long-term life-changing effects. This is probably due to how Ayahuasca impacts the nervous system. Here are some benefits of this treatment that you may be interested in.
Potentially Benefits Brain Health
Recent scientific studies indicate that Ayahuasca potentially benefits brain health. The primary ingredients in the brew — DMT and β-carbolines — display neurorestorative and protective effects. DMT triggers the sigma-1 receptor. One of the most notable effects of this protein is to block neurodegeneration. It also regulates the synthesis and release of antioxidant compounds. As you may know, antioxidants are quite effective when it comes to combating free radicals and protecting the brain.
Observations made in several test tube studies indicate that DMT is capable of protecting brain cells from anoxia. The primary β-carboline in Ayahuasca, Harimine, has been shown to display some anti-inflammatory, memory boosting, and neuroprotective effects in the laboratory.
The same compound has also been shown to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels. This protein plays a crucial role in the growth of nerve cells. It also promotes nerve cell survival. Other studies also indicate that exposing central nervous tissue to Harimine boosts the proliferation of neural progenitor cells by more than 70% in 4 days. These are the cells that grow into new brain cells.
May Improve Psychological Well-Being
Research shows that consuming Ayahuasca can increase your brain's mindfulness capacity. A 20-people study indicated that consumption of Ayahuasca once weekly for four weeks has the same effects as taking an eight-week mindfulness program at boosting acceptance. Acceptance plays a crucial role in psychological health.
Other studies have also found that Ayahuasca is capable of improving mood, mindfulness, and emotional regulation. People who take the brew become less stressed and depressed. These effects linger on and can still be observed for four weeks following consumption.
It may Help With Addiction, PTSD, Treatment-Resistant Depression, and Anxiety.
Some research indicates that Ayahuasca may benefit individuals with depression, addiction disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among other things. In a study with 29 people, the administration of Ayahuasca resulted in significant improvements for those with treatment-resistant depression. It also results in significant improvements in the severity of depression. Other studies also indicate rapid antidepressant effects.
Risks to Consider
People take Ayahuasca for its beneficial effects. However, the brew may also cause some negative effects. Fortunately, the negative reactions observed are just temporary. In fact, according to the practitioners, the side effects are part of the experience.
Here are some of the temporary reactions to expect:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Dilated pupils
Overdosing in Ayahuasca is quite rare. This is because this brew is administered in a highly controlled environment by an experienced shaman. When you go for an Ayahuasca retreat, you will also find that there will be doctors in place to intervene if anything goes wrong. This ensures a safe trip.
Interested in Ayahuasca?
Are you curious about trying psychedelic therapy? You can participate in clinical trials. The National Institute of Health is constantly looking up clinical trials accepting volunteers. You can also find several trials and research studies that are sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Please note that it's not advisable to use Ayahuasca and related similar psychedelics for self-treatment. The dose needs to be controlled, and you should take it in a clinical setting so that doctors can intervene should things go wrong.
Sascha Mayr · 10/26/2022