The Wonderful World of Ayahuasca

Deep in the hart of the Amazon rainforest grows a sacred vine known for it’s magical powers. The vine is locally known as Ayahuasca, a Quechua word which means ‘vine of the soul’ or ‘rope of death’ (‘world of joy’ would be more attractive, if you ask us)

The use of Ayahuasca is closely intertwined with religious experiences and is known to be life changing. What’s so special about this brew?

A short lecture

Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic drink made from the stem of the Ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi.
Sections of vine are boiled with leaves from a large number of other plants (such as Psychotria viridis, Jurema preta or Chaliponga) yielding a brew containing the powerful hallucinogenic alkaloid DMT combined with an MAO, such as harmaline, harmine or d-tetrahydroharmine from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (or from seeds as Peganum harmala). So the species may vary, but the alkaloids are always consistent.

Are you still with me? Yeah? Cool.

DMT, in any quantity, is not orally active unless used in combination with a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor. This principle is precisely what makes Ayahuasca effective; the harmala alkaloids in the Banisteriopsis caapi vine are potent short term MAO inhibitors, which synergize with DMT-containing plant material to produce what has been described as one of the most profound of all psychedelic experiences.

Old traditionjurema preta
Now you know more about the active substances, it’s time for a short history lesson. Ayahuasca had been used for thousand of years as an old tradition of healing people in the Peruvian rainforest.

The vine, once given to the shaman, becomes an entrance into a mystical realm where the plant spirits and visions of the jungle reveal to him how to heal, diagnose and council others. The drink of Ayahuasca, and all the other plants, is done as a ritual by people with knowledge of these plants with previous work and many years of experience.

It started quite fun right? Ayahuasca isn’t something that you take just to leave with the fairies for a little while. It’s more than just a trip; it can become a lifetime experience.

Space of introspection
Shamans or medicine men take Ayahuasca to communicate with nature or to see what’s causing a patient’s illness on a spiritual level. They intend that the patient has a space of introspection so they can look within themselves to see what their problems are, where they came from and how they overcome their difficulties. There are many opinions from healers and patients about Ayahuasca, each one with an own perspective.

Permission in spiritual context
Over the past 30 years, several denominations got official permission to use Ayahuasca in spiritual context. One of these dominations, the Santo Daime church, is authorized and officially active in the Netherlands. The Santo Daime is a religion that came early 20th century, and that harks back to ancient traditions from Brazil, Africa and Europe. Central to the religion is an Ayahuasca ritual, the Sacrament Santo Daime.

jurema preta

Ayahuasca in the 20th century
Ayahuasca is gaining interest from Western society. Academic researchers in the field of psychotherapy have shown an increased interest, and also psychonauts use Ayahuasca to confront themselves with their deepest fears, the beauty of the mind and the overwhelming universe.

Modern usage of Ayahuasca is highly debated. Many people approach Ayahuasca as just another hallucinogenic drug to trip. Most of those people will never try it again. A more accepted use is the entheogenic in nature. People seek answers from the plants of Ayahuasca. But even then the reverence and sacredness of Ayahuasca is often forgotten. It’s important to emphasize that the more one puts into the experience the more one will get out of it. In other words, it’s all about how much you want to know, and how well you can deal with your own personality. Because this is not easily done it is important to have an experienced user there, most preferably a shaman.

More information

For more information on Ayahuasca, read the Azarius encyclopedia. To purchase this sacred vine and ingredients, check out the Ayahuasca category.