Ayahuasca, also commonly called yagé, is an entheogenic brew made out of Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the Psychotria viridis leaf. The brew is used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the Indigenous peoples of Amazonia.
[Chris Kilham believes that] True healing puts into order the body, mind and spirit with the past, present and future. Ayahuasca, a psychoactive potion indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, and the only combinatory vision-inducing agent in the world. Made from the vine Banisteriopsis caapi (often called caapi) and the leaf [of] Psychotria viridis, (known as chakruna) ayahuasca is both a portal to the spirit world, and an enigma that has baffled scientists and anthropologists for centuries.25
Ayahuasca, traditionally administered in special healing ceremonies by highly trained shamans known as ayahuasceros, is sometimes referred to as a hallucinogen.
While ayahuasca ceremonies vary from one shaman to another and from one tribal tradition to the next, certain features remain constant. A true ayahuasca ceremony brings together the ayahuasca brew, the shaman(s), and the plant spirits. This triune force engages in ceremony to effect healing, and to open up the doors of the spirit world to the participant. Typically an ounce or two of the brew is drunk. The ayahuasca brew is intensely bitter, and the taste is unpleasant, even for those who are experienced drinkers.
In some ceremonies, the shaman(s) sit quietly with the participants in the dark for about forty-five minutes or so, as the effects of the ayahuasca start to come on. However, some shamans begin to sing and make ethereal whistling sounds as soon as the brew has been drunk. Some shamans wave chacapas - noisy leaf fans – and others do not. It is typical and common for the shaman to blow smoke of potent Amazonian tobacco (called mapacho) on participants, to cleanse the atmosphere and to establish an aura of protection. Within about an hour after drinking the brew, visions usually commence. There is a geometry common to the ayahuasca experience, and this geometry is beautifully represented in the textiles and ceramics of the Shipibo native people of Peru. Most people who journey with ayahuasca see that geometry. As the visions increase, the shaman(s) sing healing spirit songs known as icaros.25
“Ayahuasca is the greatest of enigmas. How, in a forest of at least eighty-thousand plants, did anybody figure out to use one particular species of vine and one leaf, cooked down into a concentrated psychoactive potion? The very notion of trial and error falls apart. Shamans uniformly insist that the plants communicate their uses directly.” - Chris Kilham, Ode Magazine25
There are many thousands of cases in which people have been healed of physical, mental and emotional disorders, and many curious cases of recovery from grave and even fatal disorders. There is much to investigate about the healing properties of ayahuasca. A large number of people have been cured of addictions through a few ayahuasca ceremonies, and the cases of post-ayahuasca cancer remission are too numerous to ignore.25
Purging is typical and common in the ayahuasca ceremony. Most participants throw up at some point in ceremony. Some also get diarrhea. The cleansing effects of ayahuasca are well known, and are just part of the ceremony. For most participants, purging is a relief. Typically the purging does not last long, and the ayahuasca experience becomes stronger afterward.25
People see and experience all kinds of phenomena while on an ayahuasca journey. You may see deceased relatives, spirits of every kind, vast landscapes of natural or manufactured forms, animals, insects, serpents, birds, and various creatures of nature. And as you engage in ceremonies over time, you start to learn to negotiate the spirit landscape, and to enlist the aid of certain spirits for your own healing and spiritual awakening.
DMT is not orally active. You can eat a handful of DMT, and nothing will happen. But if you consume an MAO inhibitor, then the DMT will in fact be orally active. So the enigma of ayahuasca is that somehow, by some means, some native person(s) a long time ago figured out to combine harmala alkaloid-rich caapi vine with DMT-rich chacruna.25