Psychotria Viridis & Banisteriopsis Caapi
Ayahuasca is a brew made from the leaves of the Psychotria Viridis shrub along with the stalks of the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine, though other plants and ingredients can be added as well. This drink was used for spiritual and religious purposes by ancient Amazonian tribes and is still used as a sacred beverage by some religious communities in Brazil and North America, including the Santo Daime.
Traditionally, a shaman or curandero, an experienced healer who leads Ayahuasca ceremonies, prepares the brew by boiling torn leaves of the Psychotria Viridis shrub and stalks of the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine in water. The Banisteriopsis Caapi vine is cleaned and smashed before being boiled to increase the extraction of its medicinal compounds.
When the brew has reduced to the shaman’s liking, the water is removed and reserved, leaving behind the plant material. This process is repeated until a highly concentrated liquid is produced. Once cooled, the brew is strained to remove impurities.
How does it work?
The main ingredients of Ayahuasca are Banisteriopsis Caapi and Psychotria Viridis, both have hallucinogenic properties.
Psychotria Viridis contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a psychedelic substance that occurs naturally in the plant. DMT is a powerful hallucinogenic chemical. However, it has low bioavailability, as it gets rapidly broken down by enzymes called monoamine oxidases (MAOs) in your liver and gastrointestinal tract. For this reason, DMT must be combined with something containing MAO inhibitors (MAOIs), which allow DMT to take effect. Banisteriopsis Caapi contains potent MAOIs called β-carbolines, which also have psychoactive effects of their own.
When combined, these two plants form a powerful psychedelic brew that affects the central nervous system, leading to an altered state of consciousness that can include hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and euphoria.
Ayahuasca ceremonies are usually held at night and last until the effects of Ayahuasca have worn off. After the space is prepared and blessed by the shaman leading the ceremony, Ayahuasca is offered to participants, sometimes split into several doses. After consuming the Ayahuasca, most people start to feel its effects within 60 minutes. The effects are dose-dependent, and the trip can last 6 hours.
Those who take Ayahuasca can experience symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, feelings of euphoria, strong visual and auditory hallucinations, mind-altering psychedelic effects, fear, and paranoia. It should be noted that some of the adverse effects, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are considered a normal part of the cleansing experience. People react to Ayahuasca differently. Some experience euphoria and a feeling of enlightenment, while others go through severe anxiety and panic. It’s not uncommon for those taking Ayahuasca to experience both positive and negative effects from the brew.
The shaman and others who are experienced in Ayahuasca offer spiritual guidance to participants throughout the Ayahuasca experience and monitor participants for safety. Some retreats have medical staff on hand as well, in case of emergencies. These ceremonies are sometimes conducted consecutively, with participants consuming Ayahuasca a few nights in a row. Every time you take Ayahuasca, it results in a different experience.