Ayahuasca preparation: how to prepare for Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca preparation: how to prepare for Ayahuasca
Chef at Santuario Huistin Ayahuasca Retreat preparing meals in line with the Ayahuasca Diet

Preparing for Ayahuasca you should restrict your diet, medications and habits between 2 and 8+ weeks prior to drinking Ayahuasca. Let’s look at all of this in detail.

Table of contents:

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is basically a psychedelic brew from 2 main ingredients and can be used for healing of various kinds. Two plants being, the leaves of the Chacruna bush and the Ayahuasca Vine itself, are brewed together in a process not unlike making a tea. Sometimes additional herbs are added like wild tobacco but the main two ingredients are as above. Why these two plants?

The Chacruna leaf contains DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) which is the psychedelic ingredient in Ayahuasca Tea. If you were to have Chacruna by itself you would not have a psychedelic experience. This is because your body has an enzyme (an MAO or Monoamine oxidase) which stops the DMT from passing from your stomach to your brain. As such your body is naturally set up to stop the psychedelic experience from happening.

What is essential and special about the Ayahuasca Vine is that it contains something called an MAOI or Monoamine oxidase inhibitor which inhibits the MAO enzyme and stops it from doing its job. Another way to say this is that the Ayahuasca Vine allows the DMT to pass from your stomach, bypassing the normal action of the MAO, and into your blood stream where it can eventually pass to the brain across the blood-brain barrier.

Once the DMT is in your brain it attaches to your Serotonin Receptors and elicits a psychedelic experience and the kind of experience with which you perhaps have heard about in an Ayahuasca ceremony providing the opportunity to heal in a very unique and not well understood way.

What effects does Ayahuasca have on the brain?

Psychedelics in general have been shown to decrease activity in your brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN) according to the psychedelic research of Robin Carhart-Harris – a neuroscientist from the UK.

The DMN is where neuroscientists believe your ‘sense of self’ or ego ‘lives’ and Robin shows that when this area of the brain is reduced in activity our brain forms new connections between parts of the brain which don’t normally communicate.

From my own experience I think this means that the ego is dialed down for the several hours that we are under the influence of Ayahuasca. This is effectively what is known as ego dissolution or ego death in the psychedelic community and I think its possible that the new connections which are made could be what is at the base of the new behavioral changes which can be associated with Ayahuasca like curing of addictions and depression and anxiety. These are my own opinions not those of Robin. If you’d like to know more about what he says you can learn more about his research from the man himself in the below YouTube video.

Does Ayahuasca change you?

Ayahuasca, can cure addictions such as alcoholism, anxiety and depression. If you suffer from these then yes Ayahuasca would definitely be classified as being able to change you.

Ayahuasca has also been known to help with PTSD and various emotional and psychological traumas as well as spiritual development.

In my own experience I have,

  • felt spiritual development and generally would describe this as understanding how ‘we are all one’ more. Later this has led to picking up and learning Buddhist and Hindu philosophies and practices which mirror the same concept.
  • I have been cured of alcoholism and
  • have had large reductions in anxiety as a direct result of drinking Ayahuasca. Long term I can also ‘step out’ of my anxiety if it does creep up. An after effect of the ego dissolution I experienced akin to ‘becoming the observer’ in meditation where you can observe your thoughts objectively.

Is a plant medicine like Ayahuasca good for anxiety?

Ayahuasca is considered healing for anxiety. Above I hypothesized that this was because under the influence of psychedelics new connections in the brain can be made and that these allow us to literally rewrite our neural pathways creating new ones to use and providing healing as they do. The old ones have the negative patterns of behavior (anxious thinking in my case) engrained in them and the new ones don’t and hence by allowing new paths to be made you can avoid using the old ones with their anxiety.

As I mentioned above I think these new connections allow me to look at my anxious thoughts objectively and from a distance and not feel identified with them. In this way it is similar to the concept of Cognitive Therapy where you go through a process of challenging your anxious thoughts and finding more realistic interpretations of them. The difference being that an Ayahuasca experience is more intense and can can more quickly lead to a healing result.

What are the negative effects of Ayahuasca?

The negative effects of Ayahuasca can be avoided for most people by preparing with an Ayahuasca Dieta but if someone goes into Ayahuasca unprepared then the negative can be,

  • If you drink Ayahuasca while on certain medications (like SSRI’s for depression but there are more) then it’s possible to have Serotonin Syndrome which is potentially deadly but if it isn’t is not pleasant at all as you are basically incapacitated for a period of days or weeks.
  • It’s also possible that you could have a psychotic break if you drink Ayahuasca and also have a personal or direct family history with psychotic disorders like Bi-polar or Schizophrenia. Those without these mental health histories are not considered vulnerable to this.
  • If you have high blood pressure and drink Ayahuasca this can cause a medical emergency. Ayahuasca contains what is known as an MOAI and this can raise blood pressure. Also, one of the points of the Ayahuasca dietary requirements are restricting certain foods and drinks to reduce Tyramine which can exacerbate an already high blood pressure.

Ayahuasca Preparations

There are quite a few recommendations when understanding how to prepare for Ayahuasca but they can be grouped into recommendations relating to medications, changes in behavior, diet alterations, spiritual and physical preparations and lastly by starting to think about ‘integrating’ the lessons from Ayahuasca after your ceremonies. Let’s go into each of these in detail.

Ayahuasca Dieta before and after drinking Ayahuasca

You should be preparing to drink Ayahuasca before drinking with the kinds of guidelines discussed in this post but also continue to follow those guidelines for a similar time after your last ceremony.

Generally speaking in this article I say try to prepare 2-4 weeks prior to drinking but in some cases have said that if this length or preparation is not possible then do 3 days before.

The same lengths of time on the Ayahuasca Dieta should be followed after your last ceremony also. This is because the Ayahuasca is still in your system after you drink and acting subtly on your system. Keeping the Dieta allows the beneficial effects of Ayahuasca to be realized more effectively.

** These times might not apply to certain medications like SSRI’s which could take as much as 6-8+ weeks to remove from your system and as such you would need to start removing these before the generally recommended 2-4 week timeline. **

Creating intentions for your Ayahuasca Ceremony

For Ayahuasca Ceremonies it is a great idea to set an ‘intention’ or even multiple to guide your ceremonies. Going to an Ayahuasca ceremony without an intention is a little like going to the gym without an idea of the things you’d like to work on specifically. You will get more out of your ceremonies if you have an intention to guide you and something to work on.

You can ask Mother Ayahuasca direct questions if you like and she can help you to work on something quite specific like healing from various psychological traumas. You can read more about how to create an intention for your ceremony in this specific guide I wrote on the topic.

Medications to stop and to promote in preparation for Ayahuasca?

** This is not an exhaustive list. If you are taking a medication and not sure about its ramifications with Ayahuasca then consult your doctor as I am not medically trained. **

What not to mix with Ayahuasca?

According to the MAPS website which outlines drugs which are contraindicated (not to be combined with) with Ayahuasca. The below is a partial list of drugs to avoid when drinking Ayahuasca,

  • amphetamines,
  • cocaine,
  • MDMA,
  • opiates,
  • barbiturates,
  • deconjestants & allergy medications,
  • cold medications,
  • diet pills,
  • methylphenidate,
  • asthma inhalers,
  • meperidine,
  • levodopa,
  • dopamine,
  • carbamazapine,
  • certain antihypertensive medications,
  • sympathomimetic amines (direct & indirect acting) including psuedoephedrine & ephidrine.

What medications can you continue to take in preparation for Ayahuasca?

Gaia Sagrada, a well respected Ayahuasca Retreat in Ecuador, recommends that you continue to take medications for the below conditions in case you need them,

  • diabetes
  • blood pressure
  • heart
  • thyroid
  • or any other condition that your physical well being and health depends on but does not contraindicate as shown in the partial list above. Again, consult your doctor if you have questions about specific medications.

Changes in habits and behaviors to stop preparing Ayahuasca?

There are also some behavioral changes which are recommended in preparation for Ayahuasca and chief among these are reduction in sexual activity.

Ayahuasca and Sex:

Between 2-4 weeks prior to drinking stop having sex or masturbating. This can be a difficult to understand and follow. The reason why this is a recommendation is that Ayahuasca works subtly on your body and the depletion of your sexual energy during sex and masturbation reduces the ability of Ayahuasca to act upon you in the various beneficial ways like ego dissolution, curing/reduction of addictions, spiritual development etc.

If 2-4 weeks is not doable try to do this at least 3 days prior to the drinking Ayahuasca or to significantly reduce the amount of sex and masturbation (no more than 2 times per week) in the 2-4 length period.

For more details you can read more about this aspect in this guide to the Ayahuasca Dieta.

Other hobbies to reduce:

If you really want to go the extra step then from 2-4 weeks out stop listening and watching the shows, podcasts and music you consume. Or drastically reduce it if it’s not possible to go cold turkey. Instead replace these with meditative practices like a sitting meditation practice or light physical exercise like walking in nature or Yin Yoga.

TIP: Psychedelics make meditation and ‘contemplative’ activities more graspable for many people. If you aren’t quite there yet in your preparations aim to do something that is relatively ‘contemplative’ for you. For example, if you work in the music industry and like to party it’s likely developing a sitting meditation is biting off more than you can chew. Instead opt for a slow walk on a nature trail or a yoga class. The point here is to do something that is considered slow for you. In time you can develop a sitting meditation practice and that is often easier after psychedelic work as in some sense they are just a different side of the same coin.

What foods and drinks to stop before Ayahuasca?

According to Gaia Sagrada preparation guidelines you should remove foods like,

  • Garlic
  • Hot spices
  • Fat from meat
  • No pork, red meat, chicken, ONLY fish is ok
  • Fermented foods
  • Wine, beer or hard alcohol
  • Processed foods (Nothing in a box or can with ingredients you can’t pronounce)

What foods to promote on an Ayahuasca preparation Diet:

Instead you should promote other kinds of foods like,

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Honey
  • Stevia
  • A little dairy but not a lot of dairy: yogurt, small amount of milk
  • Rice, quinoa, amaranth
  • Fish
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Eggs

Eating the day of your Ayahuasca Ceremony:

The day of an Ayahuasca Ceremony, assuming you are having an evening ceremony, you would want to eat breakfast and a light lunch as per the Ayahuasca Diet and then stop eating prior to your evening ceremony.

If you are hungry during this time snack on fruit and drink herbal tea but don’t have a large amount of foods. You will purge less if you stop eating after lunch. Instead start to focus on your intentions for ceremony and perhaps mediate, do Yin Yoga or walk lightly in nature.

Ayahuasca Diet Recipes:

You can read several articles I’ve written where I either give you ‘base recipes’ (ones that still need tweaking but are close to Ayahuasca friendly) or Ayahuasca friendly recipes themselves. You can see these at,

Spiritual preparation for Ayahuasca

As I have written about elsewhere Ayahuasca leads to ego dissolution and I suspect that a spiritual experience is as ‘simple’ as temporarily reducing the effect of the ego to allow the other aspects of our mind and consciousness to flourish.

In my own Ayahuasca experience I have felt a ‘one ness’ to others and visually seen this in psychedelic visions during ceremony and I attribute this to my ego being reduced in activity for a time. It might be that the possibility of a spiritual experience are all around us and available all the time but our ego is limiting our experience to those able to be sensed by the 5 main senses of sight (especially) but also touch, feel, auditory etc.

I think there is some neuro-scientific basis for this also as the work and research of Robin Carhart-Harris has shown that the Default Mode Network (which is the network of brain areas which support the ego) is reduced in its activity allowing new connections in the brain to be formed between areas of the brain which do not normally communicate with each other.

You can read more about this research and some of my thoughts on it in an article I wrote on Ego Dissolution.


To aid your preparation you can create intentions to guide your ceremonies. These are things that you’d like to specifically work on and one example might be ‘spiritual development’. Equally these intentions could be other things like helping with anxiety or depression or addictions.

You can read more about how to create and use your own intentions for ceremony in my guide on intentions for Ayahuasca ceremonies but basically intentions help us focus and have our ceremonies be more effective and goal orientated.


Meditation can also reduce activity in the Default Mode Network just like psychedelics and I think of them as the same effect but with very different intensities. Meditation in preparation for Ayahuasca Ceremonies and even directly before can help you along in your ceremony a little like having a tail wind while riding your bike. Every little bit helps!

I would also add that your ability to meditate will probably be greater after drinking Ayahuasca and so continuing this practice post ceremony would also be a very good idea for spiritual development and continuing reduction in anxiety and negative thought patterns.

Other preparation

I think it might help also to read various spiritual texts that appeal to you. I don’t mean zealot style religious texts I mean texts which marry well with the themes in Ayahuasca of ‘we are all one’ for example. In my opinion these are Buddhist and Hindu philosophical texts but you may have your own favorites.

Physical preparation for an Ayahuasca Experience

Generally speaking you should try to reduce very strenuous activities for 2-4 weeks prior to drinking Ayahuasca. Instead try to replace thee with more gently activities like walking or yoga or simply doing your other sports either less or less intensely. If you practice power yoga or surf then perhaps start doing Yin Yoga (more slow, meditative and gentle) and with surfing perhaps you could surf twice per week instead of everyday. Instead replace the days you would normally be surfing with Yin Yoga or something less strenuous.

Generally speaking we are trying to bring our focus more internal and be less excited by our activities which bring us to focus on the more external world. If you are used to exercising a lot this can be a hard transition so even a reduction in activities is ok.

Allow planning and time for integration post Ayahuasca

After your ceremony it is highly recommended to continue your dieta as I mentioned above. In addition it is also recommended to spend some time integrating and reflecting on the lessons from ceremony and relaxing in a non stressful environment. If you could do 2-4 weeks that is excellent but often 3 days to do this is more realistic.

Integration of the lessons you have learned (based on your intentions like I suggested above) is an integral part of the Ayahuasca Experience(s) and starts with you planning for it in your preparation.

To extrapolate this theme of psychedelic integration medium to long term you can start to work in a sitting meditation practice and or Yin Yoga as ways to continue to integrate long term. Integration often is a process of concreting in new behaviors and habits which will support our long term health going forward.

Ayahuasca is not a magical pill and won’t solve your problems in one fell swoop. Instead if shines a light on our sub-conscious mind where we may have developed patterns and behaviors that don’t support and serve our good health. After Ayahuasca it is up to us to create a routine which supports our physical and mental health.

Here is a great video from Dr. Tanya Mate on integration. It’s not a simple topic to cover easily but she does a good job. This particular video should be mandatory for all preparing for drinking Ayahuasca in my opinion.

Next steps: finding an Ayahuasca retreat

Once you feel prepared the next step is to find an authentic and well regarded Ayahuasca retreat near you with shaman which are well versed in Ayahuasca and other plant medicines.

Based on a survey of experienced Ayahuasca users a good ayahuasca retreat should,

  • Take days off in between each ayahuasca experience or ceremony,
  • should use experienced shaman ideally from or who follow a traditional South America tradition like Shipibo.
  • Medically screen participants for various medical instructions such as recreational drugs,
  • and operate on small group sizes of no more than 12. This last one is very difficult to find outside of a retreat centers in Peru including Santuario Huistin retreat in Pucallpa, Peru. They offer both 5 day retreats and 12 day retreats but can also accommodate any length of time you want to book for. Sometimes people want to stay for one month or more.
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