After Ayahuasca the effects on your life can be extreme. Some for the good and some for the bad. It’s really a case by case basis but for me, they have included,
- continuing to get messages from Mother Ayahuasca,
- mental health effects both for the positive and the negative,
- attempting to make behavioral changes in line with the lessons you were taught by Ayahuasca,
- handling a new found world view and spirituality,
- learning to meditate,
- wanting to go back to ceremony straight away, and
- potentially needing to see a psychologist to make sense of the experience.
How long do the immediate effects of Ayahuasca last?
Once consumed the Ayahuasca Brew can have visionary effects for hours. In my experience, I usually have visions for between 4-6 hours and usually, once the ceremony has finished I stop hallucinating.
Interesting fact: I have on one occasion kept hallucinating after the finish of a ceremony which continued until I threw up (a few hours later at the behest of Mother Ayahuasca herself) which stopped it.
Scientists don’t exactly understand how Ayahuasca and other psychedelics work after a certain point however, one theory which Michael Pollen has been promoting is that, once the DMT (Dimethyltryptamine is the hallucinogenic ingredient of Ayahuasca) passes the Blood-Brain Barrier it attaches to Serotonin Receptors within the brain and then works to decrease activity in the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain. This is an interconnected set of regions of the brain which neuroscientists believe is where one’s Ego lives.
I wrote a more detailed explanation of this here but, from this point on let’s assume you go through your Ayahuasca Experience and have a few visions, learn some lessons, maybe deal with some demons (figurative and literal are both possible) and come out the other side. You can read about the actual experiences I’ve had under the influence of Ayahuasca here but for now, let’s look at what are the effects of Ayahuasca from this point on.
What are the effects of Ayahuasca in the days, weeks and months after taking Ayahuasca?
In this section, I am mainly talking from my own experience but I’ll add in more general types of advice if they are known to me.
In the days directly after Ayahuasca, I have a great sense of relaxation. My mind doesn’t race with things to do. It slowly and calmly plots instead with a detached state of observance. I generally feel like I’m floating through the days. I suspect this is because the Ego (aka The Mind) has been subdued for a while and isn’t as active as normal. To a certain degree, this lasts for months, but it fades slightly as well. In the next section, I’ll talk about meditation which can help to extend this feeling.
Directly after the first time I tried Ayahuasca (3 ceremonies over 5 days in August 2019), I went to Cusco and hiked a load of high altitude mountains. This was probably a little too much. In hindsight, I should have gone and sat on a beach someplace with mellow surf and chilled out. You want peace and quiet after ceremonies to digest the messages you received and the lessons you learned.
Here are some recommendations for the days directly after your ceremony(s).
- Start writing or recording what you experienced NOW! If you have already had a few ceremonies or indeed if you have just left a camp I STRONGLY SUGGEST writing down what happened in each of your ceremonies from a ‘What visions did I have?‘ and ‘What did they mean?‘. These experiences are like dreams and they will fade. I find that the specific visions I had fadeed but the lessons I learned last longer but also eventually fade. Not to nothingness but they become harder to access. For me, the stresses and strains of daily life have a way of crowding out the relaxation I felt and the clarity of thought I had. In other words, my Ego started to kick in again it was more difficult to ‘remember’ or put into practice the things I learned. WRITE or RECORD now. You will regret it if you don’t.
- Keeping the Dieta: As I’ve mentioned elsewhere the Dieta is the diet and other things you control (sex, music, people, arguments etc). You should also keep to the dieta after you leave but depending on whom you listen too or how much will power you have then this can vary. I would say do it for at least a week but if you managed 4 like is recommended by Santuario Retreat, you’re a legend.
- You can see some links to a description of the diet requirements and recipes here.
Ayahuasca isn’t considered an addictive substance. Many psychedelics are not either. Really what I’m talking about here is that I had a desire to go and do more Ayahuasca as opposed to an actual addition.
In hindsight, this was because I had unfinished business but I have read that this is common. If this goes on for more than a few weeks then you may want to talk to a psychologist about why you are feeling this way.
Potentially this is the start of a depressive state and could be a sign the environment you are in is incorrect. That is, you are longing for the Ayahuasca experience again because it is an escape from the negative pressures (people, work normal patterns of thinking) of your regular life.
This could be an opportunity to change your environment and thought patterns but if gone unchecked I could see how this situation could lead to a depressive state.
It is not uncommon to have ego dissolution as part of your Ayahuasca experiences. In which case, in the weeks and days after Ayahuasca, you may be ‘putting the dots together’ on a situation or two where you displayed too much ego. Possibly at the expense of someone close to you like a partner, friend, work colleague or family member.
After my last 5 ceremonies in March of 2019, I noticed I am commonly able to spot my ego in action. This also fades but I find that journaling and trying to use it less are ways to help the lessons linger.
Note: When I say ‘use it less’ I don’t mean that an Ego should be completely dissolved permanently. I think the ego is a useful thing it’s just that for many of us it is the dominant part of our brains and this doesn’t often lead to the ‘We are all one’ type message which Ayahuasca preaches.
As I mentioned in the previous section the dieta should be kept for a time (1 – 4 weeks) afterward.
Meditation can help you continue to quiet the mind. There is research to suggest that while meditating you can decrease the activity in the Default Mode Network. This is the same areas of the brain which psychedelics also decrease activity in and is considered by neuroscientists to the be the home of the ego. If you have ever felt the serene calm and refreshing feeling of being able to quiet your mind for a moment or two then I’m sure you’ll agree with this.
In my experience, meditation with other people can be more powerful. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to find a mindfulness group or perhaps a Buddhist Meditation group near you. I’ve been attending a group run by Diamond Way Buddhism which has over 600 locations around the world. Maybe there is one near you can seek out.
The teachings of Buddhism I feel are very very similar in many ways to the teachings of Ayahuasca. Which shouldn’t be a surprise to me really as it was Mother Ayahuasca who told me to go learn to meditate in the first place. As Kokyo Henkel who is a Buddhist monk says, Buddhism is in part about,
… warmth and compassion and non-separation.Kokyo Henkel – 2012.
And I would say that this is bang on for what Ayahuasca is about, in part, as well. I know I definitely got messages of ‘we are all one’ during Ayahuasca and non-separation sounds a lot like a comment on the separation that the ego can create in us. You can hear more about what Kokyo says below. Note there are two more of these on YouTube as well as it is a really long talk.
Integrating the lessons:
Paying attention to your ego and developing a meditation practice would be considered integrating the lessons I had learned in Ayahuasca however, if there are other things you were inclined to action based on your Ayahuasca ceremonies then now could be a great time.
For example, during one of my ceremonies I was shown that I had all these people in my life that want to love me, but I somehow find ways to not be with them or not communicate with them as much as I should. In the weeks after my last few Ayahuasca Ceremonies I started to Skype with my family a lot more often. Especially one of my brothers who I was really close with when I was young.
It’s possible that for some the lessons learned via Ayahuasca are not as clear and simple as they are for me. You may not feel like you are confident about the lessons you learned. I can see how this could be really confusing. It’s also possible you didn’t get what you expected and are now left pondering things you didn’t want to be pondering.
If you are having trouble making sense of the experience then find a therapist, preferably one with experience in Psychedelics, but if not then find the best one you can. The book Listening to Ayahuasca by Dr. Rachel Harris (who is a practicing psychologist and ayahuasca user) could be an amazing resource as she writes a lot about how to use a psychologist to help them understand psychedelics.
World View Change:
Something that I myself am struggling with is that my world view has changed. I never used to believe in spirits much less telepathically speaking to them in the jungle. Now I have it has made me rethink what I believed. More or less I’ve become spiritual. This is sort of a head fuck to say the least.
While I haven’t found the need to go and see someone yet I do find that I feel a uncomfortable talking about my experiences with people that haven’t done Ayahuasca before. I can tell they think I’m crazy and that doesn’t always feel nice.
On top of that I am still in communication with Mother Ayahuasca. She comes to me sometimes when I am drifting off to sleep or in my dreams and sends me really succinct messages. The reason why this blog exists in because I had the message ‘share it’ after dreaming of Ayahuasca on a long overnight bus ride in Peru months after I had first tried Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca, as with other psychedelics, should not be taken, or at least taken with extreme caution if you or your family line are prone to psychosis. The use of Ayahuasca and other psychedelics can set off a psychotic episode if you are prone. Keep an eye on yourself or your friends who you think may be subject to this and go and see a psychologist if this is you.
I have read of some of the Ayahuasca churches who do allow those with a history of psychosis to take Ayahuasca but they are closely monitored afterwards. If you are not in one of these churches and you are prone to psychosis I suggest seeing a psychologist could mimic the monitoring done by some of these churches.
Scientific Studies on long term effects of Ayahuasca:
I found it hard to actually find many studies on the long term effects of Ayahuasca but I managed to find one here which,
…aimed to assess sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on well-being and cognitive thinking style. The second objective was to assess whether sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca depend on the degree of ego dissolution that was experienced after consumption of ayahuasca.M. V. Uthaug et al., August 2018, University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Their results found that,
Relative to baseline, ratings of depression and stress significantly decreased after the ayahuasca ceremony and these changes persisted for 4 weeks. Likewise, convergent thinking improved post-ayahuasca ceremony up until the 4 weeks follow-up. Satisfaction with life and several aspects of mindfulness increased the day after the ceremony, but these changes failed to reach significance 4 weeks after. Changes in affect, satisfaction with life, and mindfulness were significantly correlated to the level of ego dissolution experienced during the ayahuasca ceremony and were unrelated to previous experience with ayahuasca.
and concluded that,
…ayahuasca produces sub-acute and long-term improvements in affect and cognitive thinking style in non-pathological users. These data highlight the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in the treatment of mental health disorders, such as depression.
In conclusion, Ayahuasca is a very powerful psychedelic and can have a wide range of effects. I have tried to give you my experience but as it is such an individual experience there may well be different effects for yourself.