Ayahuasca is a popular but not easily available hallucinating medicinal brew, that is traditionally prepared by shamans in Amazonian retreat ceremonies. The brew is considered to be a purely religious affair, by the Uranina people of the Amazon and is not considered to be a recreational drug. Contrary to this, Ayahuasca tourism is well established in South America with thousands of tourists trying to seek a medicinal trip every year. Such kinds of retreat centers are located in Peru and Colombia. Since the drug contains Dimethyltryptamine, whose use is banned or restricted in most parts of the world, tourists often find the drug in Ayahuasca centers in Peru and Colombia since the their governments recognize it as one of the foundational identities of the Amazon.
How is Ayahuasca prepared?
It is prepared by breaking down and boiling the leaves of Phsychotria Viridis (chacruna) along with the vine of Banisteriopsis caapi, creating a psychedelic mix of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Both, chacruna and the caapi are do not have psychedelic properties on their own. This blend traditionally is to be created by experienced shamans and is served in Peruvian ceremonies. It is the shaman who decides the appropriate potency of the mix that is to be served.
What is DMT?
DMT is a psychedelic drug also known as the spirit molecule, is structurally similar to serotonin neurotransmitters and is found in small quantities in almost all living beings. It can also be found in the human brain but its function is scientifically unknown. While some scientists claim DMT is merely a trippy drug, many spiritual healers claim that DMT is a gateway chemical to experience different dimensions and ultimate realities.
Why do we need to consume DMT through Ayahuasca?
When DMT is consumed orally, the enzymes in the gut muscles deactivate the DMT before it can be released in the blood stream. However, the caapi vine in the brew, consists of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) that inhibit the action of the gut enzymes and allow the DMT to be introduced in the blood stream and eventually reaching your brain.
How long does it take for the Ayahuasca to kick in?
It usually takes 30 minutes for the subject to start tripping on the brew with hallucinations reaching its peak near the 2-hour mark. The effects subside after 5-6 hours.
Effects of Ayahuasca:
It is known that the trip from Ayahuasca is not similar to that of an LSD or Magic mushroom trip. In this kind of trip, the user is fully aware of his trippy state. A few of scientific and spiritual effects of the medicine are as follows:
- During their first experience, people have reported that they begin vomiting, experience nausea and diarrhea.
- The DMT largely affects the brain’s default mode network, an area that is active when we lose focus with the outside world. The default mode is seen to be very active when a person is daydreaming or is in a state of wakeful rest. People who experience hyperactivity in this network are said to be more likely to fall prey to depression and social anxiety. Recent brain scans have shown that the consumption of Ayahuasca causes significant decrease in activity within the default mode network. This could explain why people report to be in a meditative state after its consumption.
- It creates a sense of losing one’s ego and a sense of renewed life purpose and lifts up mood. Deep troubling memories are often dealt with during these ceremonies where the shaman is constantly praying (singing) thus heightening hallucinations of the memories.
- A man called Donald M. Topping1 , was diagnosed with cancer of the colon. His doctors advised that his chances of survival were slim so he tried out Ayahuasca therapy which is known to kill certain cancerous cells. He claims to have gotten cure after 4 sessions of Ayahuasca. Although DMT is scientifically known to kill cancer cells, it is not a replacement for radiation therapy that cancer patients endure.
- Many people experience chaotic thoughts and reach a high level of freight coupled with hallucinations of figures like dragons, angels, different dimensions or just members of their family. What these sessions do is give a person a sense of closure to underlying thoughts.
- The brew does not cause addiction and appears to be equally potent even to experienced drinkers.
Why it cannot be entirely safe:
Since the growing popularity of Ayahuasca, fake shamans have appeared in large numbers and are unqualified to serve the right dosage of the medicine. This has also increased the number of deaths after its consumption, but the actual causes are yet unknown. It is certainly not a good idea to buy the mix from a market or consuming it from the hands of an inexperienced shaman. In 2014, a British student by the name if Henry Miller was found dead in Colombia, after his second session of Ayahuasca went out of control. Another tourist who was a part of the retreat ceremony said that Hendry began to lash out his hands and feet and started making animal sounds.
The spirit molecule documentary:
The documentary focuses on DMT and its effects on the human brain. It evaluates the scientific and cultural significance of DMT and labels it one of the most potent naturally found drugs. The Spirit Molecule documentary also speaks about how DMT is produced in the pineal gland of the brain which is often linked with the third eye. Since the film is based on a government sanctioned research, it is considered to be authentic and the experiences of the shaman and doctors comprising of the test subjects who were introduced to DMT in a monitored facility are worth understanding.
Can we really unlock different dimensions by the consumption of Ayahuasca? Or is it just another drug like LSD? The idea of having an out of body experience by mere consumption of a natural drink is very intriguing. Since DMT is already present within the human brain, people like Wim Hof, claim that no external element is required to tap into the innermost of our consciousness. Which mind sound true considering many of Wim’s subjects have had similar experiences of euphoria, just without the dragons and light sabers and the risk of being drugged by a hoax of a shaman in the forests of the Amazon.