Plants have long been used for a variety of spiritual and medicinal purposes throughout history. In many cultures, plants have been used by healers and are still used to this day in religious practices. Many plants that are used in these practices are psychedelics. They can make a person see, hear, feel, or taste things that may not actually be there. Psychedelics can cause a variety of effects and impact people differently based on individual factors. Although they may be used for therapeutic reasons in many cultures, using psychedelics can have some risks.
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a plant used primarily by Amazonian tribes but can also be found in other parts of North and South America. Also known as the tea, the vine, and la purga, ayahuasca is typically prepared as a tea using the leaves of Psychotria viridis and the stalks of Banisteriopsis caapi in conjunction with other plants and ingredients. Ayahuasca is traditionally prepared by a shaman. The ingredients are cleaned and smashed before being boiled. Water is boiled, removed, and reserved before starting the process over again. This is done multiple times before being left to cool and then it is strained one final time.
The main components of the primary ingredients in this brew have hallucinogenic properties, and when combined, can produce a powerful effect. Those who consume the drink often experience hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and euphoria. Although primarily used by a specific population, ayahuasca has garnered worldwide attention with many people traveling in order to consume it. Those who support the use of ayahuasca for healing purposes often use it because they believe it can help people heal from past traumas. That being said, some simply want to experience what it is like to be under ayahuasca’s influence.
The ceremony in which ayahuasca is consumed usually occurs at night and will last as long as the effects of the brew do. Many experience side effects within the first 20 minutes and they can last anywhere between two to six hours. Those who consume the brew may experience:
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
The side effects vary from person-to-person and it is not uncommon for consumers to experience both the intended psychedelic effects as well as negative side effects. Every experience consuming ayahuasca is different. For this reason, ceremonies may be conducted on back-to-back nights so that a person may experience numerous outcomes.
Are There Risk Associated with Ayahuasca?
Much like any drug, the use of ayahuasca does carry risks regardless of the intention behind the use. Because of the way it is made, it is difficult to determine the potency of the drug as it can range from batch to batch. The risks associated with use increase when taken in combination with other mind-altering substances.
Many studies have begun to explore the effectiveness of ayahuasca as a form of treatment, particularly for addiction. While in controlled studies, participants have reported improved wellbeing and a decline in alcohol and tobacco use, this is when the brew preparation and dosing are carefully controlled.
People who participate in ayahuasca retreats are forced to put their lives in the hands of the shaman. The shaman is in charge of the ingredients and determining proper dosage. Once you take ayahuasca you can have a dangerous reaction and it is important that proper medical attention can be administered if need be.
While some studies findings are positive, there is still more research that must be done. The long-term effects of ayahuasca use are not entirely known and their impact on those with pre-existing mental health conditions may not be the same. Treatment for psychological disorders, such as depression and PTSD which often accompany addiction, should only be offered by medical professionals. Those looking for treatment may look to ayahuasca ceremonies for symptoms relief but it is a dangerous risk to take.
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