Human beings are naturally curious and prone to experimentation. This is not a flaw, however. In fact, this curiosity and willingness to experiment with theories created by our curiosity have played a critical role in our evolution as the predominant species on this planet. But the world is a system of checks and balances. While our curiosity and intelligence have helped us rise to the top of the food chain, it also has us questioning our creation and doubting our absolute purpose. Most people turn to religion to satisfy this internal longing for an answer to the question, “Why are we here?” Other people turn to spirituality and the risk-laden paths that dwell in the esoteric regions contained therein.
These risk-laden paths through the esoteric might just lead you to a substance called ayahuasca. Sometimes spelled iowaska, or yagé, this substance is said to free your spirit, expand your mind, and lead you on a fantastical journey to discover yourself, discover the unknown worlds around you, and open you up to previously hidden self-truths. The entire experience is meant to heighten your senses, introduce you to a new level of enlightenment, and force you to face the darkest portions of your soul.
1- Ayahuasca Is A Compound of Plants
The name ayahuasca is singular and, therefore, leads you to believe that it is a drug made only of itself. That is misleading and factually untrue. The scientific name of ayahuasca is Banisteriopsis caapi. Ayahuasca is made by using sections of Banisteriopsis caapi vine. These sections are softened and broken down using liquids then boiled with the leaves from other plants to create the final brew known as ayahuasca. These other plants might be Psychotria viridis, also known as chacruna, or Diplopterys cabrerana, also known as chaliponga and chacropanga.
The reason these other plants are boiled with the ayahuasca vines and combined is that by itself, Ayahuasca would not have a psychedelic effect by itself when taken orally. The hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT) present in the ayahuasca vine would be digested in our stomachs and remain inactive, preventing the psychedelic effects from occurring. Brewing the ayahuasca vines with the chacruna will add a chemical called monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). This MAOI will prevent most digestive enzymes from destroying the DMT in our stomachs, allowing it to seep into our systems and take full effect.
2- Ayahuasca Can Awaken Latent Mental Illnesses
This is a very serious and dangerous side-effect of using ayahuasca. Because DMT stimulates our brains and enhances visual and auditory senses, those with currently diagnosed mental illnesses should not use it or risk making your mental illness symptoms worse. Furthermore, those who have a history of mental illnesses in their family but aren’t experiencing symptoms could accidentally trigger those dormant mental illness genes by using ayahuasca. The effects would be irreversible, but treatable with the proper medications.
3- Ayahuasca Is Banned In Some Countries
Although ayahuasca is a natural plant and a natural source of DMT, DMT is considered a very serious drug in most countries. The Netherlands have banned its use, production, and possession entirely. Countries like the US, Russian, New Zealand, France and the UK allow it to be used for scientific purposes only, but civilian use or possession is a punishable offense.
4- South American Tribes Use Ayahuasca As A Rite of Passage
Some tribes in South America see ayahuasca much differently than the rest of the world. They believe that ayahuasca is a rite of passage for those growing into adulthood. They see it as, “one of the basic pillars of the identity of the Amazon peoples.” It is considered the “teacher” or “wisdom” plant. They believe ayahuasca constitutes a gateway into the spiritual world which is why the Amazonian medicine is structured around an ayahuasca ritual.
5- Ayahuasca is a Tourist Attraction
Once the spiritually enlightening properties of ayahuasca had been made popular in other regions of the world, foreigners have been flocking to Columbia and Peru for decades to take the spiritual journey in an ayahuasca ritual. It’s become so popular that now South American tribal shamans take their ayahuasca rituals on the road and travel to other countries to perform it for those who are interested in the shamanistic experience.
As with any drug, natural or manufactured, please proceed with caution. There are real dangers to be found when embarking on the journey of an ayahuasca ritual, both physically and mentally. Always let a family member or loved one know where you’re going. Bring someone to “babysit” you while you experience your hallucinations. Someone who will make sure you don’t run off or do something dangerous. There’s a reason spirituality is considered taboo. The reward of enlightenment and wisdom is great, but so are the risks.