August 10

Should You Embark On An Ayahuasca Ceremony?

Ayahuasca is one of the most profound medicines. 

Ayahuasca teaches love, healing, and wisdom. 

She shares with those who listen. 

She serves as a gateway to self-discovery and personal experience, fostering a sense of purpose and providing clarity about our existence.

She is the mother of love, and as you may know, “Love” is the ultimate influence for healing and growth. 

When you’re prepared to listen, surrender, learn, and experience – participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony can be an impactful gift of life. 

However, it’s essential to do your homework before you engage.

What is Ayahuasca?

The word “Ayahuasca” comes from the Quechua language, which is indigenous to the Andean region of South America. The term can be roughly translated as “vine of the soul” or “vine of the spirits.”

It’s also interpreted as “the vine of the dead” or “the vine that allows you to meet your ancestors or spirits.”

Ayahuasca’s origins are lost in the mists of time, and its discovery predates written history, making it difficult to ascertain exactly how it was first discovered. 

However, its use dates back at least to the pre-Columbian era and is deeply woven into the cultural fabric of several indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin. 

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew or tea most commonly derived from Banisteriopsis caapi, a vine that grows in the Amazon Rainforest, prepared in combination with the leaves of various other plants, such as Psychotria viridis or Diplopterys cabrerana.  

Essential science behind Ayahuasca 

Psychotria viridis contains the powerful psychedelic compound N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). 

DMT is capable of inducing profound amplified sensory perception experiences, but it’s generally inactive when taken orally by itself. This is because an enzyme in our bodies, called monoamine oxidase (MAO), quickly breaks down DMT. 

The Banisteriopsis caapi vine contains substances known as harmala alkaloids, including harmine and harmaline, which are MAO inhibitors (MAOIs). These substances temporarily inhibit the MAO enzymes in the brain and body, preventing them from breaking down DMT. 

When these two plants are brewed together, the MAOIs in the B. caapi vine allow the DMT in the P. viridis leaves to bypass the MAO enzymes, reach the bloodstream and eventually the brain, where they exert their psychoactive effects.

A few notes on DMT

DMT has a strong affinity for the serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, perception, and several other cognitive functions. When DMT binds to these receptors, it can significantly alter these functions, leading to psychedelic experiences.  

Research suggests that DMT might increase activity and connectivity in certain areas of the brain like other psychoplastogens such as LSD, MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin. This increased connectivity may contribute to the complex visual amplifcations and profound shifts in thought and perception. 

Some research suggests similarities between DMT experiences and near-death experiences, although the connection between the two is still not well understood. Both can involve experiences of transcending the body, moving through a tunnel, communicating with other entities, and notable shifts in perspective.

My Ayahuasca journey

Before I first began my own Ayahuasca journey in the early 2000s, I knew very little about this special brew.

Many people seeking spiritual growth and healing from unresolved illnesses travel to the Andean region, particularly the Amazon, to participate in Ayahuasca ceremonies. As with any quest for knowledge, when we seek and we open our awareness, we inevitably encounter more instances of the subject in question.

Upon my own quest to understand Ayahuasca more deeply, I was pleasantly surprised during my very first trip to Peru. Our shaman had invited a Quechua shaman to prepare the “vine” and conduct a special ceremony for us. It was an extraordinary gift to participate in an authentic ceremony in the sacred land of the Quechua community.  

We were seated in a circle on cushions laid on the floor, each provided with tissue paper and a bucket for purging. Sacred objects such as crystals, a condor feather, coca leaves, and a selection of local flowers were laid out on a vibrant, traditionally woven textile. A candle illuminated the array of objects, adding a sense of serene ambiance. The shaman held a bottle of a medicinal concoction specifically brewed from vine and medicinal plants.

The ceremony begins…

The ceremony began with blessings and chanting. The shaman started by pouring the ‘vine of the spirits’ mixture into a small cup for the first person. We then proceeded, one by one, to approach the shaman and receive our cup of medicine. The shaman knew precisely how much to give each person, and as a result, not all of us received the same amount.

Once the first round of medicine was distributed, a second round was offered to those who wished to partake. We each returned to our seats in the circle, the shaman among us, who continued to chant and sing in the native language. The rhythmic sound of drums and local musical instruments enveloped the space, its vibrations gradually leading me into an extra-ordinary state of mind.

A powerful buzzing energy…

I started to feel a sense of heaviness creeping up from my feet, slowly rising through my body. It felt as though every single cell was dancing in synchrony with the vine, or perhaps, the divine. My cells were buzzing vibrantly as I consciously relaxed, mindfully observing the sensations and feelings arising within me. 

I focused on noticing what was happening until all that remained was a powerful buzzing energy, moving up from my toes to the crown of my head. A part of me wanted to keep my eyes closed to fully immerse myself in these sensations, while another part was curious about how others were faring in their own journeys.  

Between the overwhelming buzzing throughout my physical body and the occasional peeks to gauge my surroundings, my visual perception changed. 

Everything I saw with my physical eyes seemed blurry and out of focus. This altered in visual sensory perception offered a new way of seeing, where people’s faces seemed distorted in proportion, and candle lights behaved as if they were in time-lapse mode on a modern smartphone camera.  

Despite my wish to keep my eyes closed to fully experience the internal process, I couldn’t resist the temptation to glimpse the fascinating distortions in the shapes of objects and space around me. 

Amidst all this, I remained calm and simply allowed myself to be present in the moment. Unlike many others, I didn’t feel the need to purge. Moment by moment, my body felt exceedingly heavy, tense, and uncomfortable. The experience was akin to being in a liminal state, caught between dreaming and waking – it was difficult to discern whether I was awake and dreaming, or asleep but conscious.

At times, it felt as though my physical form was on the verge of exploding, filled with a potent tension. The sensation was comparable to the inflammation experienced during the formation of an abscess: warmth, redness, swelling, and pain. Pain that seems to reach a peak when the abscess ruptures, releasing pus and residual inflammatory substances. Once that explosion occurred, the pain of inflammation would abate. 

This is a typical process of wound healing. The experience also resembled the process of detoxification. The initial phase of detoxification is always marked by discomfort when toxins are being expelled, and with them, uncomfortable sensations. 

Ayahuasca could follow a similar process of detoxification, or perhaps detoxification might be the first process that the medicine initiates within us. 

This cleansing could involve the removal of physical toxins from the body and mental toxins from the mind, paving the way for spiritual or energetic communication with different realms, or different spaces and times. For some people, it might take several sessions to fully undergo this detoxification phase before the passage for healing becomes clear.  

Continued exploration…

Each of us had a unique experience from the ceremony. Our shaman never ceased to surprise us with gifts and kindness. 

We had the opportunity to participate in a second ceremony three days later. 

My experience during this second session was equally profound yet somewhat different. The intense sensations in my body had considerably lessened, and it brought me back to my earlier experience of spending 21 days in darkness when my brain was flooded with natural DMT.

I continued to explore Ayahuasca each year for the following five years, and each experience was somewhat different in terms of the levels of cleansing and detoxification. It felt like these effects lessened with each subsequent session. 

Later, my experiences evolved into deeply profound states of meditation with a clear mind and a light heart. Each moment in life began to fill me with gratitude and unconditional joy.

Precautions with Ayahuasca 

Ayahuasca is a powerful experience that requires precautions, especially for people with certain medical or mental conditions, or people taking certain types of medication.

Ayahuasca contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which slows your body from breaking down neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. 

When inhibiting this enzyme, our brain will have more of these neurotransmitters. For people who have certain medical or mental conditions, especially when they are taking certain medications related to these neural pathways, it could cancel out the effects of Ayahuasca or create undesirable effects. 

People who have cardiovascular conditions, such as heart and lung conditions or certain neurological or mental conditions, need to proceed with caution. 

Evidence shows how Ayahuasca-related fatalities come down to a lack of due diligence regarding our own physical and mental conditions and most important the integrity of the providers, shamans, and source of the vine, preparation, and many other conditions. 

Set and setting are also key. It is vital that you mentally prepare to go through the process which often includes several hours of discomfort. 

The Ayahuasca experience is a process which could take several sessions to achieve your goals.

However, if you’re prepared, if you’re in a safe place with a credible guide – Ayahuasca is an experience that will change your life forever.


ayahuasca, dopamine, plant medicine, serotonin

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