5 important considerations in planning for Ayahuasca

The available food in an ayahuasca retreat
The available food in an ayahuasca retreat

There is more than a diet involved in planning for Ayahuasca. In this post, I look at how to identify issues which may come up for you, how to find a safe shaman, clarifying intentions, medications to avoid as well as the normal diet considerations.

Note: The structure and to a large extent, the content of this post is based on the chapter ‘Preparation for the Journey’ from the book ‘Inner paths to Outer Space’ by R. Strassman et al.

Long term considerations:

Personal psychological issues:

Several months or more before your Ayahuasca experience it’s not a bad idea to consider what kind of behavioral or psychological issues may come up for you potentially. Why you ask?

Ayahuasca has a way of focussing on behaviors which aren’t very good for you in some way or perhaps focussing on particular features of your psychology. For example, you may have ‘shadow work’ to do or have some past traumas which play on your mind still.

Ayahuasca has a particular affinity for sorting these issues out and if they are present then an Ayahuasca ceremony(s) may focus on this. You should be prepared just in case these come up.

So how can you prepare for these types of issues?

Meditation can be a good way to start to get a look at what things are on the horizon of your psychological landscape. As you meditate, take note of patterns which emerge and topics that come up. These may well get addressed in a ceremony too.

Another way is to speak with a psychologist (ideally who has experience with psychedelics themselves or has previously worked with ‘psychedelic’ clients) about your personal history and themes which may come up in your particular case.

Mostly, undertaking this kind of process is so you are aware of your particular issues and being aware that Ayahuasca has a way of focusing on them with a view to helping you to overcome them.

Ayahuasca isn’t always sweetness and light and sometimes (especially if its your first time in my experience) a ceremony can be unpleasant, difficult or potentially harrowing for some people. Being prepared for any potential difficulties via meditation or talking to a psychologist will mean you will have a better experience or at least not be surprised when a particular issue comes up.

Finding the right setting:

With Ayahuasca it’s important to find a good Shaman. There are a few different points to mention here.


Drinking or even preparing Ayahuasca to drink is illegal in some places. Find out if the country your in has made Ayahuasca illegal. This will influence your search for a Shaman if you need to break the law in order to find one.

I don’t recommend this but, the only thing more I would say here is to do your homework on this person. As it’s illegal, you have some things to think about, for example, if you experience difficulties is your Shaman ready to call an ambulance to an illegal ceremony? Do they ‘filter’ their clients to take care of their safety? Do you know what things to even ask in order to see if they are appropriate?

I did all of my Ayahuasca Ceremonies in Peru where it is legal and indeed this may be what you decide to do. This doesn’t mean you should be any less cautious as this option also has its downfalls.

Some things you might want to know or think about when choosing a Shaman or retreat:

  • How experienced are the Shamans? Some say it takes 10 years for a Shaman to become experienced enough to deal with many of the difficult situations which could come up.
  • Have they dealt with someone who has had severe reactions (mental or physical) based on Ayahuasca or other plant medicines that are sometimes also used in Amazonian medicine? If so, how have they dealt with this? Is there a plan in place for if something like this happens?
  • Do they screen or warn people of the dangers of Ayahuasca before accepting your booking? For example, do they talk about what medications to avoid, ask about your history of psychosis, and particular diet restrictions etc?
  • Have you read some reviews from others who have had a ceremony with this Shaman or perhaps know people who have whom you can ask?
  • I wrote 2 other articles which may be considered related. One comparing the costs of several retreats in Peru and another comparing the risks and rewards.

Medium term considerations:

Your intentions:

In the months and weeks leading up to your Ayahuasca experience, you should start to think about your intentions or in other words what are your reasons for wanting to try Ayahuasca?

Some people are just curious, others want a psychedelic light show, yet others may be seeking a profound or spiritual experience. Whatever your reasons you should know two things,

  1. Ayahuasca can often take its lead, in terms of what it shows you, from your intention and in this way you can focus your ceremony on a particular intention. This is useful if you want to focus on one particular thing.
    • Each ceremony could deal with more than one intention but you get the picture – to a certain extent, it’s possible to control the experience.
  2. In saying the above there are also times when Ayahuasca does not listen to your intentions at all and just shows you what she thinks you need. In this case, you may have gone for a profound experience but, when you arrive you actually go through an ‘anxiety ridden’ ego dissolution like me in my 5th ceremony.
    • Be aware that you may not always be able to control what contents and topics your trip touches on. Ayahuasca will give you what you need not necessarily what you want. I should note that after my 5th ceremony I felt like that experience was something I needed. I gained insight from it and don’t regret it.

I wrote a specific blog post you can read to learn about examples of intentions and what to focus on. It also talks about what your intentions could be if you do not have specific intentions. In my 8 ceremonies, I found this can actually lead to better insights sometimes.


There are several pharmaceuticals which you should avoid when preparing for an Ayahuasca ceremony. For example, some medications for depression and psychosis are very much something you should cut out in the weeks and perhaps months before you attempt to take Ayahuasca. You should talk to your doctor about this specifically but here is a table (#2) from MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) which gives you a starting point for your research.

Short term considerations:

The famous Ayahuasca diet is the last area I’ll cover in this post. It’s hard to put your finger on a specific and consensus diet but, at a high level it’s attempting to clean your body so that,

  1. You decrease and risk of the Ayahuasca and your diet conflicting with potential health risks. You can read more detail about exactly how that is possible here in another post I wrote but also the diet aims to give you,
  2. A cleaner body which should mean a deeper experience as well as less purging – always a bonus.

If I was to give you some advice on what to eat then it would be this,

  • Ideally, you want to diet between 2-4 weeks before your Ayahuasca diet but, if that is difficult then at least do 3 days.
  • In terms of what you should eat, then the more simple the better. You can take this as far as you can handle. Those that are hardcore can stick to plain rice, potatoes, and some plantains as well as water. This is what you might eat in some retreats and is what Shaman may eat themselves when they go on dieta. Dieta is more than just a diet and also includes refraining from other things as well like sex, loud music and more depending on how you approach it.
  • If a really strict diet is difficult then following an Alkaline Diet has been said to be similar to an Ayahuasca diet and is similar to what I have been served at Ayahuasca Retreats in Peru. This would still obviously rule out most dairy, meat, and alcohol. I wrote this post with Alkaline recipes while preparing for my most recent trip to Ayahuasca retreat.
  • In lines with the ‘Dieta’ as opposed to just ‘diet’, it should be said also that sex, harsh or intense music, books or thoughts should be minimized as well. Some of these might seem strange but, trust me they can make a difference in your ability to hear and understand what Ayahuasca is saying.
    • After one of my ceremonies, Mother Ayahuasca interrupted me listening to music and told me that it’s not appropriate. She also made it understood that she and her messages to me can also be subtle and easily overshadowed by sex or even thoughts about sex, loud or harsh music and even exposing yourself to inappropriate topics through books.
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