An ancient plant of the Amazon lands, ayahuasca has been used for thousands of years for healing and divination purposes in the countries of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil by indigenous shamans and mestizos. The intricate rituals of preparing and using ayahuasca have been passed down from generation to generation by local healers. During healing ceremonies, the plant is used as a diagnostic tool to discover the causes of the patient’s illness.
The detailed history of ayahuasca is relatively unknown, as the first records of the plant did not appear until the 16th century with the advent of the Spanish conquistadors. However, a ceremonial bowl with traces of ayahuasca found in Ecuador is believed to date back more than 2500 years. Ayahuasca is the basis of traditional medicine for at least 75 indigenous tribes throughout the Lower and Upper Amazon.
Shamanism is the oldest spiritual practice of mankind, which, according to archaeological data, has been practiced for 70 years. This is not a religion, but a way to establish a transpersonal connection with the spiritual inner world (astral). Shamans view illness as disharmony in a person on the energy and spiritual levels. Left unresolved, the imbalance can lead to physical or emotional illness. The shaman “appeals” to the energy aspect of the disease, making the way to the astral world or the world of spirits – a reality parallel to the physical.
Unlike other sacred medicines, ayahuasca is a mixture of two plants – ayahuasca wine (Banisteriopsis caapi) и chacruna leaves (Psychotria viridis). Both plants are harvested in the jungle, from which they make a potion that opens access to the world of spirits. How the Amazonian shamans came up with such a combination remains a mystery, because there are about 80 deciduous plants in the Amazon forests.
Chemically speaking, chacruna leaves contain the powerful psychotropic dimethyltryptamine. By itself, the substance taken orally is not active, since it is digested in the stomach by the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO). However, some of the chemicals in ayahuasca have harmine-like MAO inhibitors, causing the enzyme to not metabolize the psychoactive compound. Thus, harmine – chemically identical to the organic tryptamines in our brain – circulates through the bloodstream to the brain, where it induces vivid visions and allows access to other worlds and our hidden, subconscious selves.
Traditionally, the use of ayahuasca in Amazonian practices has been limited to healers. Interestingly, the drink was not offered to any sick person who came to the ceremony to be diagnosed and treated. With the help of ayahuasca, healers recognized the destructive force that affects not only the person himself, but also the tribe as a whole. The plant was also used for other purposes: to help make important decisions; ask the spirits for advice; resolve personal conflicts (between families and tribes); explain the mystical phenomenon or theft that has occurred; find out if a person has enemies; find out if the spouse is faithful.
Over the past 20 years, many foreigners and Amazonians have taken part in ceremonies led by skilled healers to uncover the causes of disease and imbalance. In fact, this means that healing becomes between the healer, the plant spirits, the patient and his inner “doctor”. The alcoholic takes personal responsibility for the problems that were hidden in the unconscious and led to energy blocks – often the primary source of illness and psycho-emotional imbalance. Ayahuasca drink actively cleanses the body of worms and other tropical parasites. Worms are destroyed by alkaloids of the harmala group. During the reception it is necessary for some time (the longer the better) to refrain from the following points: Any contacts with the opposite sex, including simple touches, are not allowed in the preparatory period for taking the medicine. This is a prerequisite for the healing effect of ayahuasca. One of the main difficulties in integrating ayahuasca into medical treatment in the West is the alienation from wholeness with the nature of the latter. Self-medication with ayahuasca without the presence and supervision of an experienced healer is not recommended. Safety, degree of healing, as well as overall effectiveness in this case is not guaranteed.