Ayahuasca: What Happens To Your Body And Brain When You Drink This ‘Shaman Drink’
Whether you grew up in a quite suburb, the wide open country, or in a big, booming city, chances are you’ve heard or been taught about psychedelic drugs. You probably covered them in health class, or perhaps you’ve even encountered people on them while at a concert or college party.
Most of us associate hallucinogenic drugs as bad compounds that can put you in dangerous situations and cause harm to your body. While for many drugs this is true, not all hallucinogens, especially when taken in a protected and controlled environment, are inherently bad. In fact, some, as in the case with ayahuasca, may actually have a number of physical and mental health benefits.
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a powerful hallucinogenic that has been used by Amazonian communities for centuries to treat a variety of physical and psychological ailments. They make it into a brew that is used in their shamanic healing rituals and initiation rites. (1, 3, 5)
This brew is made by boiling the leaves of the chacruna plant (Psychotria viridis) with the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriospsis caapi). The active ingredient which causes the hallucinations or psychedelic trip is the DMT in the leaves. DMT actually exists in almost all plants and animals that we eat, but it never reaches our brains thanks to the enzyme monoamine oxidase which prevents it from getting there. (1, 3, 5)
How Does DMT Get to the Brain then? < this heading feels unnecessary
This is where the ayahuasca root comes in: the B. caapi has monoamine oxidase inhibitors that block the enzyme from working and allow the DMT from the chacruna leaves to actually reach your brain. A typical ayahuasca trip lasts anywhere from four to six hours. (1, 3)
The Benefits of Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca has been shown to have therapeutic value for those who use it, allowing them to gain insight into painful personal problems.(1, 2, 4) It has three main psychological conditions it is used to treat: (1, 2, 4)
Psychological Trauma (such as PTSD)
Ayahuasca causes a change in your brain’s connectivity in the twenty-four hours following a session in the parts associated with creating and maintaining your sense of self. When people use ayahuasca, their brains become more connected with the areas that process emotions and autobiographical memories, which they report increases mindfulness. (1, 2, 4)
Long-term use of ayahuasca results in a shrinkage of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), the major center in the brain which censors and represses the perceptions that lead to the thought patterns and cognition involved with depression, addiction, and PTSD. The overall whole brain connectivity increases, which resets your psyche and allows sufferers to break away from their negative thought patterns and behaviors. (1, 2, 4)
Some people have been able to overcome serious cocaine and opiate addictions using ayahuasca, and others have turned to the hallucinogen to treat their depression when other treatments haven’t worked. (1, 4)
Is Ayahuasca Legal?
In North America, ayahuasca has been marked as a narcotic and is not legal to use or sell.
To better understand the legality and policies surrounding ayahuasca in your country, visit here.
Is Ayahuasca Dangerous?
The active compounds in ayahuasca are cleared from the body after just a few hours, so the chances of overdosing or reaching toxic levels is highly unlikely. This is, however, why it is extremely important to only purchase and partake in countries where it is legal, to ensure its purity and safety. (1, 5)
Without proper preparation, an ayahuasca trip can be psychologically damaging. Children born into Amazonian communities are prepped from birth to be able to handle the hallucinations they’ll have during their sessions. Travelers who are often already in an unfamiliar setting often experience intense anxiety when they try ayahuasca. (1, 5)
It is very important for anyone who wishes to try this drug while traveling to participate in a guided trip, where an experienced person will walk them through it and be there to help them through the more difficult moments. (1, 5)
We do not support the use of illegal and illicit drugs. If ayahuasca is not legal in your country, do not use it. Ayahuasca should not be used as the only form of treatment for depression, addictions, or PTSD. If you currently suffer from any of these health problems, seek the help of a qualified professional.
Ayahuasca still has to be studied for its short and long-term effects on the body, and should be used with discretion and extreme caution. If you are traveling in a country where it is legal and you choose to partake, only do so with an experienced guide.
To learn more about ayahuasca and what to expect when on a trip, visit here.