Ayahuasca is a psychoactive Amazonian brew made with the Ayahuasca vine, banisteriopsis caapi, and leaves from the chakruna plant. The word 'Ayahuasca' is a Quechua word, which comes from the words 'aya',' meaning 'soul' and 'huasca,' meaning 'vine.' It is often referred to as 'the vine of the soul' or 'the vine of death,' due to many users reporting experiences of deeply connecting to their 'souls' or 'higher selves', or vivid experiences of dying or confronting their mortality in some way upon consumption. Ayahuasca's psychoactive chemical is dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, which is contained in the chakruna leaves. The vine itself does not have psychoactive properties, but it does contain enzymes called MAO Inhibitors,which allow the body to absorb and use the DMT from the chakruna leaves. Drinking Ayahuasca can induce an extremely strong and powerful psychedelic experience which lasts for around four hours. It is usually taken at night in a ceremonial setting. Ayahuasca is often referred to as 'The Mother' of the Master Plant Spirits, as the spirit of Ayahuasca is often perceived as a feminine, maternal presence. The range of possible experiences one may have when drinking Ayahuasca is extremely diverse and can range from purely physical expereinces to intense psychedelic visions and spiritual journeys. One of the most commonly experienced effects of Ayahuasca, though, is the 'purging': an expereience of deep cleansing and release, not just in the physical body but also emotionally, mentally and/or spirtually. Purging often happens through vomiting, and it is also common to experience diarrhoea, body shakes and yawns as ways of releasing energy. A sesnse of emotional or mental relief, or a profound understanding of what has been let go of, often accompanies the purge.
Common experiences with Ayahuasca include a communication with an intelligent spiriutal entity, or 'Mother Ayahuasca;' release of deep set-trauma, suppresed emotions and illnesses through purging; insights, understanding and new perspectives on one's self, life, health, and personal circumstances; understanding of the root causes of illness, disease and personal problems; a deeper understanding of one's life path and purpose; connection and communication with spiritual entities; and enhanced emotional and energetic awareness. Ayahuasca allows us to see things which we don't usually see: suppressed emotions and forgotten trauma may arise for healing, or we may become aware of previously unacknowledged parts of ourselves. Ayahuasca can open us up to the spirit world, and it is possible to see and communicate with spiritual entities, to connect to the sprits of plants and ancestors, and to connect more deeply with and understand our spiritual selves.
What Can Ayahuasca Help With?
Drinking Ayahuasca can offer a diverse range of healing benefits. The medicine undoubtedly has an intelligence and meets each participant where they are, bringing them the experience and bealing that they most need at the time. In the Shipibo Amazonian tradition, the healing potential of the ceremony is also influenced by the Curandero leading the ceremony and the plant spirits they work with. Each plant has its own powers and properties, and so a Curandero who has formed a relationship with a plant with a specific healing power will be able to bring a great potential for the healing of a condition that that plant has the power to heal into their ceremonies.
Some of the most commonly experienced, more general benefits from drinking Ayahuasca include:
Detoxification: Physical, mental and emotional detoxification, through 'purging' can have a range of benefits from improved physical health, feeling 'lighter' and experiencing more mental clarity, to the realease of toxins on any level that are contributing to pain and disease in the body. This relesae can lead to profound levels of physical, mental and emotional healing.
Emotional Release Release of suppressed emotions can lead to greater levels of mental clarity, better decision making, increased self-awareness and an improved overall level of wellbeing. As suppressed emotions stored in the body can be great contributors towards illness and disease, releasing these emotions can lead to profound levels of physical healing.
Trauma Release Release of traumatic memories and suppressed emotions related to those events can lead to healing on every level, and to self-understanding and understanding of ones behavioural patterns, and provides the opportunity to heal from the event, develop new perspectives around the event, and embrace new, healthier, mental and behavioural patterns.
Healing Conditions At Their Root Ayahuasca can often reveal to us the root cause of an illness, addicition or problem, giving us the opportunity to understand it, release it and heal from the event. Profound, positive changes in health, behaviour and thought patterns can naturally occur following such deep healing, and, with an understanding and release of the cause, we are able to make changes and move forward in life in a way that prevents its re-occurrance.
Self-Understanding Through showing us the nature of our problems, and giving us an insight into our subconscious and unconscious mind, Ayuahuasca can assist us to reach greater levels of self-understanding. Understanding out thoughts, emotions and actions, and learning to love and act compassionately towards ourselves can lead us towards a better understanding of our choices and establishing more fulfilling relationships and a healthier relationship with our bodies, thoughts and emotions.
Energetic/Spiritual Healing It is understood in the Shipibo tradition, and in many Shamanic traditions, that illnesses can be caused by the presence of malicious energy and/or spiritual entities. Where this may be a more difficult concept to understand with our Western minds and culture, Ayahausca often brings healing when other modalities have not worked, becuase the issue is being approached from this different angle. Energies and entities that may be present can be cleared away with the assistance of an experienced Curandero, and an improvement in physical and mental health follows very naturally in the absence of these energies.
Spiritual Connection Ayahuasca can connect us with our 'higher' or 'spiritual' selves, giving us a wider perspective on life and our place in the Universe and a heightened understanding and expereince of emotions like love, compassion and forgiveness. We may also connect with the spirtual world, communicate with spiritual entitties, and receive spiritual teachings and messages. For those who have been experiencing spiritual disconnection, Ayahuasca can facilitate a re-connection with ones own spirit, the spiritual world, and with the Divine inside oneself, and in the exterior world.
Finding Purpose And Meaning Through the spiritual connection that Ayahuasca often facilitates, and through the wider and different perspectives of life that may be experienced, new levels of purpose and meaning can understood around ones life. Ayahuasca often reveals a life purpose or highlights what brings meaning to one's life, and can reveal the best or most beneficial path for one to take.
Creativity Enhanced creativity can be inspired by the visions and insights experienced in ceremonies, and Ayahuasca can help us to work through creative or mental blocks, allowing for new inspiration around creative projects or inspiring a heightened level of creativity within our lives. We can be reminded that we are, in essence, creative beings, and can be opened up to expressing our creativity in many areas of life.
The Shipibo Tradition
There are many different traditions surrounding the use of Ayahuasca for healing, and many different formats that an Ayahuasca ceremony can take. Each location, tribe and lineage has its own way of working with the plant spirit. In the Shipibo culture, the healers (or 'Curanderos in Spanish), form deep relationships with the spirits of many medicinal plants and trees from the Amazon, which are then called upon to bring their healing properties into Ayahuasca ceremonies. These relationships are formed through undergoing 'dietas' with these trees and plants. During a dieta, a restricted diet is followed along with a simple and secluded lifestyle, and the Curandero forms a deep connection with the plant, which then allows for the spirit of that plant to be called upon in ceremony for the protection of the space and for the healing of the participants. It is not just the Ayahuasca but all of the plants that the Curandero works with that are essential for the power of the ceremony. Shipibo Ayahuasca ceremonies include extensive use of healing songs, called 'Icaros', which are channeled from the plant spirits to bring protection and healing into the space, and which are sang throughout the ceremony. Each participant also receives a personal icaro from the Curandero, directed towards his or her specific healing needs. Alongside Ayahuasca ceremonies, medicinal plant baths, massage and plant dietas may be recommended or given to participants to encourange healing to the maximum potential. Ayahuasca and plant spirit medicines are deeply embedded within the Shipibo culture and the traditional Shipbio arts and crafts include designs inspired by patterns and visions commonly seen during ceremonies.
Jess helped me with integration during and after a 2-week Ayahuasca retreat in 2018. I was healing from a severe burnout and Jess supported me in creating a healthier relationship with my body and my work. She has a lovely way of holding a space for you in a very gentle and accepting way but she is also firm and communicates with integrity and honesty when needed. This really helped me to recover from burnout and create a better work-life balance as well as overall wellbeing."