Ayahuasca – Health Benefits, Effects, DMT, and Legality

What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca tea is a South American entheogenic brew.

It belongs to the world of sacred plant medicine (psilocybin – though it is a fungi and not considered plant medicine, peyote, San Pedro, iboga, etc). The brew was traditionally drunk by ayahuasca shamans and healers in different indigenous tribes of the Amazon for centuries to expand consciousness, contact primordial world, and perform healing in patients.

In this day and age, it is used by seekers to address psycho-emotional blockages, deepen self-awareness, and access greater wisdom within. Ayahuasca is often referred to as the grandmother medicine given her distinct feminine energy that focuses on shadow work.

How Does Ayahuasca Work?

Properly prepared and used, ayahuasca allows access to layers within the unconscious mind that are usually inaccessible from the waking state of consciousness by lifting the filters of the heavily guarded and conditioned conscious mind, revealing the roots of the participants’ blockages that are manifesting as physical, emotional or mental dis-ease, and integrating those shadow aspects of the self that are deeply buried in the unconscious mind with the conscious self (this is generally referred to as shadow work in Jungian psychology).

The ayahuasca experience produces a highly active and vivid dream state in which all senses are heightened and intensified.

Within this state, the plant brings the unresolved aspects of the unconscious mind that were locked away by ego defense mechanisms to the forefront to be experienced, processed, and integrated. Ayahuasca does so by producing highly convincing, or “real” experiences that involve all senses for deeper understanding, and breakthroughs to occur.

How Long Does Ayahuasca Last?

The effects of one cup of ayahuasca usually last several hours though you will most likely find yourself in a dimension where time and space do not exist.

What Is Ayahuasca Made Of?

The traditional ayahuasca recipe contains the ayahuasca plant, or vine (Banisteriopsis caapi vine which prevents your stomach from destroying the DMT) and the leaf of the chacruna plant (psychotria viridis) which is the psychoactive dimethyletryptamine (DMT) source. In traditional shamanism, making ayahuasca is a sacred and time-consuming process. Shamans of different regions have different recipes, rituals, preparation methods and brewing techniques which result in varied brews, intensity of visions, and experiences. Mimosa hostilis is often times used in place of the chacruna plant as the DMT source.

What are the health benefits of using ayahuasca?

The medicine works differently for each individual. Even for the same individual, no two experiences are alike.

In essence, it works like a highly personalized teacher who knows you better than you know yourself, and offers you a “designer experience” that is exactly and precisely what you need for the next stage of your evolution.

Many use ayahuasca for physical healing and experience deep scanning, cleansing and purging of toxins that were stored in the body.

In energy medicine, it is believed that all physical illnesses are symptoms of unconscious emotional and mental blockages, and sometimes forgotten trauma.

This is the reason conventional medicine often fails to address the root-cause of chronic physical and mental dis-ease, and is limited to managing symptoms without ridding the causes.

Not even the most experienced curandero/curandera can promise a cure though there have been many reports from those suffering from PTSD, addictions and even cancer experience healing miracles after working with plant medicine.

It is important to bear in mind that the medicine primarily helps participants gain a deeper understanding of the existing condition and self; physical healing can be one of the results in this process.

Is Ayahuasca Good for Mental Health?

Ayahuasca is not addictive, and when used correctly with respect and responsibility, it can help transform your perspective in life which leads to greater freedom from past struggle and limitations, deepened self-awareness, and personal growth.

Many report one night of ayahuasca is like sitting through a decade of therapy.

However, you still need to actively do the work afterwards to integrate because ayahuasca is NOT a quick fix, and CANNOT replace inner-work, or life.

In holistic medicine, true healing occurs when one unites the body, mind and spirit (holistic means whole).

Any mental uneasiness or unfulfillment in life is a symptom that a belief within is out of alignment with your True Self.

Often times, the belief is buried somewhere deep in the unconscious mind which is then projected outward, and experienced by your disempowering thoughts, life decisions, actions, and unfavorable circumstances though the person is not consciously aware of this.

Psychoanalysis, energy healing, coaching, hypnosis and many other modalities aim to work with the unconscious mind, and that is because our reality is constructed in our mind. As Carl Jung stated,

““There is no coming to consciousness without pain…One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

If done in the proper setting with the right intentions, ayahuasca is the master healer and teacher in shining a spotlight on deep-seated unconscious beliefs that are causing you to feel stuck in different areas in life. The medicine also can offer direction and tools for you to overcome challenges in life, and continue your inner-work afterwards.

Is Ayahuasca Legal?

The psychoactive nature of ayahuasca has earned it a classification of Schedule I drug in the US. It is also illegal in many other countries.

Some religious groups such as the Santo Daime Church in the US are legally allowed to use ayahuasca in their ceremonies, but you must join the church if you wish to be a participant and work with ayahuasca in the US without breaking the law. Most European countries do not allow the legal use of ayahuasca.

Is ayahuasca a drug? It depends on your definition of a drug.

It is, first and foremost a plant medicine that is grown and given by the soil of mother earth, and not a synthetic chemical produced in a laboratory (though the bigger picture is, everything in this universe and all universes is manifested from One formless substance, but that’s a discussion for another time).

The word drug also has a certain stigma attached to it due to government’s War on Drugs. If you wish to explore this topic further, Terence Mckenna, Timothy Leary, Albert Hofmann, Aldous Huxley and James Fadiman are but some who have provided insights on the power of psychedelics, and why they pose a threat to the culture.

If you are willing to venture out, traveling to Central or South America will give you a lot more options to legally, and safely work with ayahuasca given that you do the due diligence of finding the proper setting and facilitators that you can trust and feel safe to do this work with.

Effects of Using Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca effects occur within the first hour of drinking the medicine though most feel them after about 30 minutes.

It is also common to experience nothing with the first cup, and by the time second cup is taken, you suddenly feel like you are Alice in Wonderland.

The effects usually include a feeling of loss of control over the body and mind, feeling hot or cold, discomfort in the stomach or other areas in the body, the need to purge or use the bathroom, and altered and heightened consciousness.

Many experience the medicine scanning their bodies for imbalances and stagnant energy which can lead to purging or reprogramming of internal channels/patterns.

Ayahuasca visions are common, but they are not a necessary ingredient for the miracles the medicine delivers.

The visions are usually highly symbolic and for the most part, are not to be taken literally as they offer layers of meanings and messages.

You can also hear, feel, or just know the “downloads” the medicine offers that are meant for you. All senses are engaged in each experience ayahuasca provides, and you will most likely experience waves in which some are more powerful than the others.

I also want to add that ayahuasca is a master trickster. She will outsmart your ego in every way, and that’s a good thing.

In fact, there are no “bad trips” just like there are no bad experiences in life, only opportunities for us to dive deep in and shift.

Emotions are intensified combined with deeper processing and understanding of the layers behind past memories, repressed emotions, energy from ancestral lineages, current challenges, soul purpose and journey, your connections with self, others, plants, animals, nature, earth, the universe, and Creation (God, Divinity, Source Energy, Oneness, Universal Consciousness, or Presence, whatever you prefer to call It).

The end results are usually transformed mindset, shifted perspective and often times spiritual awakening. Lights, colors, sacred geometry, spirit animals, and light beings can also be part of the ayahuasca experience.

Each ayahuasca experience is highly tailored to who you are, where you are in life, and the specific energy, intentions and circumstances you bring into the ceremony. It is impossible for even the most experienced shaman to predict what your next experience will be like whether you are a beginner, or seasoned. However, a few of the many common themes are:

  • Experiencing Oneness and connection with, or experiencing the self as everyone, and everything in the universe. Ayahuasca is excellent at melting the illusion of separation!
  • Coming to the truth of our existence as an eternal multidimensional being of energy, a soul with a body and mind, a God particle, or a “nothing” and “no one” in the field of Nothingness.
  • Experiencing the universe, or self as a hologram where past, future, and even the idea of self cease to exist. There is only one eternal moment of Now, and all possibilities exist in the Now, and in the idea of the self.
  • Receiving profound insights, understanding and knowledge of an existing condition, issue, circumstance, or people in your life in which love, compassion, and forgiveness are usually the key elements.
  • Having access to all secrets, keys and knowledge of Creation.
  • Accessing past lives, parallel lives, future possibilities (not to be taken literally, ayahuasca is not a fortuneteller), and experiences with other beings and dimensions.
  • Awakening in this dream state called life, and seeing through the many illusions, or codes and programming within the Matrix.
  • Experiencing indescribable joy, universal, inner peace, empowerment and transformation after each ceremony.

DMT vs. Ayahuasca- How Are They Different?

Ayahuasca contains a DMT source which is often times the chacruna plant.

DMT is dubbed as the spirit molecule by Dr. Rick Strassman, and is a tryptamine alkaloid – a chemical that is produced, and found in the human body as well as animals and plants.

Some believe the pineal gland, or the third eye releases DMT which is responsible for the vivid imagery during our dreamtime.

When taken alone, DMT is metabolized by the stomach enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO) and cannot induce the powerful psychedelic experiences unless mixed with the chemicals within the ayahuasca vine that contain MAO inhibitors.

Some ingest DMT in the crystal form which produces a short-lived, but powerfully intense mind-altering experience. Such experiences are often sought after for those who seek expansion and the dissolution of the self, but generally do not bring about healing the way ayahuasca does.

Is Ayahuasca Safe?

There is no shortage of reported ayahuasca dangers on the internet. All plant medicine is to be treated with respect and caution.

The powerful nature of a psychedelics can loosen up your current paradigm, dive deep into your consciousness, and bring up what you may have long forgotten, or are not fully prepared to see though it can also be the most gentle and loving (the type of divine universal love that goes way beyond what a human mind can conceive) experience.

Some form of struggle, confusion, and most often, the death of the ego (not an actual physical death, but a transformation of the old ego) can occur. In fact, it is not uncommon to experience both divine love and ego death within one ceremony.

Many things should be taken into consideration if you are planning on working with ayahuasca in the near future: your intentions, expectations (best to release them and trust the medicine will give you exactly what you need), physical and mental condition, medical or psychological evaluation if needed, medications you are currently taking, ayahuasca diet, the facility and facilitators you choose to work with, proper integration, etc.

It is also important to work with heart-centered and compassionate shamans, facilitators or healers who can guide you through the process, help you release and surrender, and hold sacred space as you are going through the most intimate and powerful inner journey.

It is not a good idea to “try” ayahuasca out of curiosity, wanting to have an “ayahuasca trip” to get high, or because it seems cool and different without a proper understanding of what the medicine is and how it works. To work with the medicine the way it is meant to work and to maximize the gifts you receive, it’s best to follow the calling, and do research to find retreats and facilitators with integrity.

Unfortunately, anything that is abused, or not used responsibly whether it is plant medicine or coconut water can lead to undesirable results in life.

Sadly, the plant usually gets the blame. It also does not help that we live in a culture where the law makers demonize psychoactive plants, and result in cases where seekers who desire to work with ayahausca for healing end up working with inexperienced facilitators in unsafe settings, or brewing it at home; both can cause unnecessary risks that should not be there if done properly.

Ayahuasca Retreats and Ceremonies

Different retreats offer different healing options and add-ons. In addition to ayahuasca ceremonies, there are usually icaros (healing songs), vapor or floral baths, temazcal (sweat lodges), a light vegetarian diet, lots of quiet and integration time, and/or private consultations with the main facilitator.

Some retreats offer yoga, meditation, energy healing or massage sessions while others have the option of doing master plant dietas. All are meant to help you realign and release lower frequency energies stored in the body, navigate the process with more ease and comfort, open up more channels within you for deeper healing and support, bridge the unconscious, conscious and superconscious, and integrate the gifts of ayahuasca.

Traditionally, ayahausca ceremonies are held at night in a comfortable space where each participant has a mat to lay on, some pillows, a blanket and most importantly, a vomit bucket. Having a bottle of water, and sometimes a flashlight is also recommended. I’d like to add knowing your way to the bathroom is a plus.

Depending on the tradition, some ceremonies are held in complete darkness whereas some light a fire, or candles. The length of the ceremony can also vary from several hours to the entire night. The Santo Daime tradition incorporates singing and dancing into ceremonies. Personally, one of my favorite aspects of any ceremony is live music with singing and dancing, but I’ve had beautiful experiences with music playing out of a stereo.

A shaman, curandero/curandera or main facilitator along with a team of healers and helpers are responsible for staying with you and all participants until the ceremony closes; some are available for after the ceremony as needed. They are in charge of cleansing the physical space, administering the medicine, helping participants with the process of purging and releasing, playing instruments and chanting icaros to guide the medicine, keeping unwanted energies at bay, and performing healing work.

Trust your intuition, follow what feels right and good, and know that no matter how powerful the shamans are, they are facilitators to hold the space for you to commune with your inner divine power.

Ayahuasca Preparation

Prior to your journey, the retreat, or facilitator of your choice should provide a list of medications to avoid, as well as guidelines to prepare including what foods to eat and not eat for an ayahuasca dieta that usually lasts between 3-14 days, depending on the place you are going to.

If there are underlying medical conditions, it is best to get a medical evaluation to see whether working with the medicine is safe for you.

Finding time to meditate on your intentions leading to the journey is an excellent way to prepare, and don’t forget to bring a notebook and pen to where you are going.

During the ceremony, the key is to surrender and not fight the medicine (I know it is easier said than done). From personal experience, I feel some type of meditation, or mindfulness practice (if you have one or several Vipassana experiences under your belt, even better), some knowledge on consciousness, ego structure and energy, and basic techniques of breath work can all come in handy during any plant medicine ceremony (not just ayahuasca), but none are required for you to have an amazing journey other than a sincere intention to grow.

Show up for yourself, be open, and allow your higher self to fully participate as the medicine guides.

Do I Need Ayahuasca to Tap Into My Inner Wisdom?

The answer is no. All psychedelics (aya, mushroom, san pedro, etc) open the doorway making it much easier to access Universal Consciousness, especially in the beginning.

But meditation, being in nature, being immersed in something you love, and an infinite number of ways also allow you to bypass the ego and work as permission slips for you to commune with spirit’s wisdom.

At the core, you are, and everything else is Nothing but pure Awareness/Consciousness. The only thing Awareness can do is to be aware just as Consciousness can only be conscious. Everything is within.

Ayahuasca Integration

Your life will most likely go through a ton of changes after your first plant medicine ceremony.

The relationship you had with yourself, others, and your environment (job, the world, and the universe) will shift as a result of your internal transformation.

For some people, it can be drastic changes. For many, it’s more subtle. I’ve witnessed friends relocating to other countries, selling their businesses, or living like a nomads traveling the world doing work exchange at different consciousness communities. For most, they begin to take charge of their creations, and notice how their thoughts truly create their realities.

If you experienced an ego death and awakening, chances are, you will never look at anything in life the same way again, and that’s fantastic!

Integration is a crucial component of any ceremony. 50% of the work is done within the ceremony, yet the other 50% is up to you.

Many face the question “now what” after returning to “real life,” and find it difficult to hold onto the bliss as time goes on. This is the true gift of aya, plant medicine, and life – it is an invitation for you to exercise your free will to mindfully and intentionally realign, implement the necessary changes, and reprogram all the old limiting patterns to tap into a new space of Being, and continue the transformation.

To learn more about how you can integrate all her gifts, and have the focused support and expert guidance to continue shifting, stepping into your awakened leadership, and creating more joy, fulfillment, love, abundance and alignment in all areas in your life, go HERE. Please note I do not offer recommendations to ayahuasca retreats or facilitate ceremonies at this time.


Ayahuasca is no fairy godmother in the sense that she is going to wave a magic wand and make all your problems disappear, you still have to do the work. But the plant does offer powerful ways for you to dive deep within, expand your consciousness, come to the truth of who you are, and take charge of your destiny.

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