Ayahuasca: the tea that Amazonians have used for centuries to fight depression and anxiety
Time and time again the arrogance of white European culture and science is being proven. When the first European travelers set sail for the New World they took with them a destructive view that all other people they encountered on their travels were primitive. They infected local populations with diseases and mocked their way of life.
Ancient wisdom was ignored, and traditional medicine was considered to be little more than superstition. However, in recent years scientists have increasingly begun to study traditional medicine and discover the healing properties of plants that have been used since they dawn of human civilization.
The latest plant to fall into this category is the Ayahuasca. Found in the rainforests of Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Columbia, the plant is known locally as healing elixir with psychedelic properties. It has been considered by Shamans to be a sacred medicine, which provides the user a portal to the spirit world. Scientists are calling it a potential cure for depression.
Anecdotally there are hundreds of examples of people claiming to have been healed of all manner of physical and mental ailments by Ayahuasca. These claims remain unproven at present, but a study in 2015 gave the first evidence that this ‘miracle elixir’ could be a cure for the fastest growing disease in the Western world – depression.
The study by the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil took six patients who were suffering from depression and had been proven to be unresponsive to at least one commonly used antidepressant drug. All six participants were given a cup of Ayahuasca tea and monitored in a quiet room.
After the psychedelic effects of the drink had worn off (approximately five hours), the patients were asked to answer a standard clinical questionnaire. The results after just a few hours were more significant than the team expected. As each participant’s mental state had gone through a marked improvement. Considering that most medications take weeks to take effect, this was a huge surprise to the researchers.
The patients continued on the daily treatment plan for 21 days, and the phenomenal improvement was maintained for the duration of the study. This trial sparked official interest in the plant and now several other studies are currently underway to provide further evidence about Ayahuasca’s mental benefits.
How does Ayahuasca work?
With its psychedelic properties, there have been certain corners of society that have warned about the dangers of using the natural elixir. However, there is no evidence whatsoever that Ayahuasca causes any damage to your brain.
In fact, Ayahuasca is rich in Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is the strongest vision-inducing chemical known to man. DMT is produced naturally by our bodies and the increased dosage simply acts an extreme stimulator to certain regions of our brain. Our brain’s frontal region is hyperactivated by DMT, which is responsible for memory, awareness and decision making.
By stimulating our frontal lobe, Ayahuasca can give the user the impression that they are travelling through their past experiences. Scientists and psychologists have theorized that this psychedelic ‘trip’ could enable sufferers of PTSD, anxiety and depression come to terms with troubling experiences from their lives. Ayahuasca could have the power to alter our internal narrative of life and give us the power of positive thought.