In detail

Ayahuasca or yagé, drug or medicine?

Ayahuasca or yagé, drug or medicine?

Ayahuasca or yagé


  • 1 What is ayahuasca?
  • 2 Studies on the effects of Ayahuasca
  • 3 Side effects of Ayahuasca
  • 4 What makes ayahuasca so interesting?
  • 5 The dangers of Ayahuasca

What is ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is an herbal drink that grows in the Amazon rainforest. It is a mixture of several plants that is capable of inducing altered states of consciousness, which usually lasts between 4 to 8 hours after ingestion.

For centuries, this tea has been used as a medicine and as a means of shamanic communication in the jungle, mainly in healing ceremonies under the guidance of an experienced drinker.. The drink causes hallucinations and is said to have spiritual and therapeutic benefits. In recent years, it has attracted the attention of Western medicine as a possible treatment for depression.

The main ingredient of this jungle tea is the vine or vine Banisteriopsis caapi, which, like tea itself, is also called ayahuasca (which means 'the vine of the soul' or 'vine with soul'). The secondary ingredient is either chacruna (Psychotria viridis) or chagropanga (Diplopterys cabrerana), these plants that contain a relatively high amount of DMT, a potent psychedelic substance.

No one knows for sure how long this drink has been used. The first Western contact recorded with ayahuasca was in 1851 by Richard Spruce, a famous ethnobotanist from England. But it seems likely that its use dates back to at least two thousand years ago.

Studies on the effects of Ayahuasca

Although Western medicine has known about the existence of ayahuasca for more than 100 years, little is known about how it really works. Currently, there is some evidence that ayahuasca can help improve depression Y posttraumatic stress disorders, although most studies on the subject have been conducted with very few test subjects, so they are inconclusive.

Ayahuasca contains Dimethyltryptamine (DMT or N, N-DMT), which is a neurotransmitter which is found in all human beings and plays a key role in all kinds of extraordinary states of consciousness. This psychedelic compound causes intense hallucinations. There is strong evidence that points to the Pineal gland (or "the third eye" in esoteric traditions), located in the center of the brain, as the main factory of the human DMT. Apart from humans, DMT can be found in all mammals and in a variety of plants.

Julius Axelrod, a researcher at the National Institute of health, discovered DMT in human brain tissue, which led to speculation that the compound plays a role in the psychosis. But there is no further investigation.

In 1990, Richard Strassman, a psychiatrist at the University of Mexico, obtained permission from the US government to inject DMT into human volunteers. Their study, which was conducted between 1990 and 1995, involved 60 subjects who received DMT injections in more than 400 sessions. Most of the subjects affirmed that they detect the presence of a powerful being, like a god, others who "dissolved in a radiant light". However, about 25 subjects saw images of alien robots, insects or reptiles, and after the "trip" they could not be convinced that they were hallucinations. These adverse effects led Strassman to interrupt his investigation. He wrote about the experience in his book, "DMT: The Spirit Molecule"(Park Street Press, 2001).

Ayahuasca side effects

The physical effects of drinking ayahuasca include vomiting, diarrhea, high blood pressure, high heart rate, higher rectal temperature and pupil dilation. It can also raise blood levels of certain naturally occurring hormones that relieve pain, such as beta-endorphin, corticotropin, cortisol and prolactin, and it can also increase growth hormone levels, according to a study by the University of New Mexico. However, it is a study in which there were only 11 test subjects, so their results are not reliable enough.

Since some of the effects of ayahuasca is that it causes vomiting and diarrhea, there is a tribe that calls it 'Kamarampi', which is derived from 'kamarank': barf. It is also called 'the purge', since it purges the body through this physical effect, and as claimed by its consumers, purifies the mind through psychological experiences or visions. As usual, who takes it says that he feels totally renewed and thinks he is reborn after such a strong experience.

What makes ayahuasca so interesting?

Ayahuasca is not a miracle cure, in the sense that drinking the concoction will not make all your problems disappear in a couple of hours. Nevertheless, has a strong impact on unconscious processes of the person, which allows him to work with them while the effects last.

Musicians like Sting and Paul Simon, independent artists Klaxons and The Bees have talked about its use. In August 2010, Paul Butler of The Bees told The Guardian: "Ayahuasca is definitely not a drug, it's plant medicine." Even Lindsay Lohan once said that ayahuasca helped her cope with an abortion. involuntary.

The dangers of Ayahuasca

But as in all psychoactive plants, there is a dark side to ayahuasca. Although it is not common, some ayahuasca consumers have even died after drinking it, and others have reported being abused and violated under its influence.

Some experts blame the mixing of the plants for the risks that this entails, and the reports of the deaths confirm this. According to Alan Shoemaker, who organizes conferences with shamans of the Amazon "Ayahuasca is one of the sacred power plants and is completely addictive, it has been used for thousands of years for healing and divination purposes ..."

But science is still far from knowing how ayahuasca affects the mental and physical health of users.