What is the point of Ayahuasca?

What is the point of Ayahuasca?

The point of Ayahuasca can be multiple depending on you. It has mental, physical and spiritual benefits which draw people towards it. Many western people use it for psychological release of various life trauma but some people also use it for physical healing.

Table of Contents:

What is the function of Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a multi-purpose psychedelic Tea and it’s function can be understood on a material, neuroscience or indeed a spiritual and experiential level depending on your view of the world.

Before we get into the neuro science view let’s discuss how Ayahuasca functions as a psychedelic in your body.

  1. Ayahuasca Tea is a combination of The Ayahuasca Vine (containing MAOI’s or Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) and usually but not always the leaves of the Chacruna Bush (containing DMT or Dimethyltryptamine). These two ingredients are boiled over several hours to produce a thick dark liquid which you drink an in Ayahuasca ceremony.
  2. After taking Ayahuasca Tea, your body digests it and allows the DMT to pass from your stomach, into your blood stream and eventually into the brain.
  3. The presence of the MAOI’s allow the DMT to pass from your stomach into your bloodstream as in normal bodily function the DMT would be neutralized by your bodies natural enzymes (MAO). This is because your body has a natural mechanism to stop you tripping from psychoactive agents found naturally in plants that historically humans may have eaten in their evolution.
  4. The deliberate addition of the MAOI’s stop these natural enzymes from neutralizing the DMT and as such the Ayahuasca brew becomes a psychedelic drink.
  5. Once the DMT has been allowed to pass through to the brain from the stomach it attaches to your Serotonin Receptors and at that point causes a psychedelic experience which can include personal insights, spiritual experiences and hallucinations.
  6. DMT is chemically similar to Serotonin, an important chemical for a humans brain health, and as such your body knows exactly how to deal with DMT when it is introduced to the brain.

How do Neuroscientists view psychedelics?

The neuroscience view of Ayahuasca is quite useful in understanding it I find. Through the research of Robin Carhart-Harris we can see that Psychedelics, in essence, promote neurogenesis (the creation of new neural connections) between parts of the brain which do not normally have connections.

What part of the brain does Ayahuasca affect?

Robins’ research, which I will link to below, describes how certain connected areas of the brain are reduced in activity under the influence of psychedelics. These areas are called the ‘Default Mode Network’ or DMN and it is suspected that this is the ‘home’ of a humans ability to self-identify as an individual human and also with various features of the world like a social group, racial group and to identify with basically anything like the skill set you have as a career. I suggest that this network is also the home of The Ego spoken of in psychedelic circles so often.

The DMN is active more or less when you wake up until you go to bed and is not only the home of your ability to identify but is also responsible for your ability to navigate the world. It is very practical and helps you to navigate the world in a productive and self-sustaining way.

TIP: I suspect this makes sense that people talk about Ego Death or dissolution in Ayahuasca and psychedelic circles because The Ego sounds very similar to some parts of the DMN which relate to our ability to self-identify.

It is this area of the brain which is reduced in activity. At this time areas of the brain which are not in the DMN are able to undergo neurogenesis and form connections which would not normally be possible. I suspect that the hallucinations and visions which people experience while taking psychedelics might serve to reinforce these new connections. Almost like a memory or experience might engrain in us and remind us of a particular event a hallucination can help us to remember a set of emotions or concepts associated with the new neural connections.

Here is Robin talking about his research with which influenced my thinking so much.

What is the function of Ayahuasca from a spiritual point of view?

I would say that the spiritual explanation of the function of Ayahuasca is that our Ego’s serve to cut us off from the greater spiritual reality, that being ‘we are all one’. This concept says that all living (and even things which are not traditionally considered living) things are actually part of one larger entity and that while we appear to have a material and separate being from other things this is in fact an illusion or hallucination. Our Ego’s serve to reinforce this perceived separation.

When our Ego’s are dissolved or made reduced in their activity we are more able to understand and even intuit these concepts. For example, hallucinations under the influence of Ayahuasca may for some people visually show you white lights representing the humans in your ceremony which you sense or even see are connected to each other in some higher way. This is actually an example from my own Ayahuasca experiences.

These Ayahuasca visions and hallucinations are often accompanied by feelings of empathy and love which The Ego separates us from in our day to day lives. Instead it focuses’ on relatively selfish concerns of immediate survival for ourselves and those very close to us.

TIP: This is not to say that The Ego is not useful or relevant to us, in fact it is very necessary for us to survive in the material world, but it is to say that The Ego is by default the way in which we interact with the world and this has pro’s and con’s.

Physical healing functions:

Beyond the physical and chemical interactions I described above some people experience physical healing from Ayahuasca. It’s hard to say why this is exactly but the Ayahuasca Dieta in preparation may have something to do with it as it balances PH levels in the body. A neutral PH level is associated with less acidity. Acidity causes inflammation and inflammation the root cause of many diseases.

The Dieta doesn’t explain the healing in the actual ceremonies themselves from the Spirit of Ayahuasca but actually I’m not sure how those aspects of physical healing works. This is probably a question for a shaman(a).

What motivates you to take Ayahuasca?

People looking to take Ayahuasca are often trying to heal themselves from depression and other psychological trauma, or could be seeking spiritual advancement and physical healing in some cases.

I would say that the main reason western people use Ayahuasca is for depression and anxiety. Psychedelics are well known for helping to deal with depression, even clinical levels of depression.

NOTE: Anti-depression drugs are usually not safe to combine with Ayahuasca so if you are taking these kinds of drugs then you will likely need to remove them from your system for, perhaps 6 weeks or more, before you can take Ayahuasca safely. You can refer more to our guide on Ayahuasca Dieta and preparation for more details.

In my own and other peoples experiences Ayahuasca can cure depression and/or anxiety completely in the coming days and weeks after Ayahuasca or even other psychedelics. Slowly the depression and anxiety can come back but it is often not as strong or reduced to the point where it is not really an issue anymore.

This is because the insights given to Ayahuasca users who suffer from these kinds of mental health issues are perspective changing and give you a new view on your previous depression and anxiety. Some people feel love very strongly in an Ayahuasca ceremony and this has a curative effect. Some people are given a sense of meaning and specialness to their lives and afterward see no point in being depressed. That is to say it becomes a conscious decision to not be depressed.

In my own experience, I have high amounts of anxiety, I was cured of anxiety for several weeks and months after Ayahuasca. I felt life was so easy compared to before. I did so many things which used to be difficult for me with ease. I had no particular worries and floated through life. I t was like previously I was walking in knee high mud and now I was walking on hard earth.

Eventually these effects wore off but by this time I had gained so much productivity and a routine which supported me in my life henceforth. I did fall off the wagon so to speak sometimes but it was so much easier to get back on again. Once these effects wore off I found there was something else useful Ayahuasca had given me.

Does Ayahuasca change you?

Based on my above experience with anxiety I would say that Ayahuasca can indeed change you. While the effects of Ayahuasca do leave you eventually, after some months in my case, I was left with a permanent change in that I can always get back to that part of me which is not anxious. It’s like the experiences that I had are memories that I can recall and ‘fall into’ in some real sense.

Given my new understanding of neurogenesis based on the research of Robin Carhart-Harris above I suspect that the new neural connections which were created for me during my Ayahuasca trips are paired along with the visions, hallucinations and insights I experienced.

When I want to use those neural pathways or strengthen them I simply re-read the experiences and am reminded of those memories and hence can find those new ways of thinking. In fact even easier than that there is a conscious switch I can flick to get out of those old anxious pathways. I use it all the time like a mental state shift.

How does one ‘take Ayahuasca’ (Ayahuasca ceremonies)

Ayahuasca Tea is usually consumed in an Ayahuasca Ceremony at an Ayahuasca Retreat. The specifics of these ceremonies and retreats in terms of how they proceed differ depending on the tradition with which the shaman(a) use to guide the Ayahuasca ceremony. In my experiences in Pucallpa, Peru with Shipibo ‘trained’ shaman(a) they have a lot of practices involved in the ceremony itself, prepare for several weeks before and after with a Dieta and generally take the process very seriously.

Shipibo people have a vastly different world view than Western people and bring this to their ceremonies. You can read more about the actual process of a Shipibo Ayahuasca Ceremony in this article.

Safety precautions when preparing to drink Ayahuasca

Drinking Ayahuasca should have a great deal of preparation in order to make sure you are safe while drinking it. Ayahuasca is not safe for all under all circumstances.

Is it Ok to take Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is not considered to be safe to take if you suffer from a psychosis (or someone in your immediate family does) or if you are taking, at the same time as consuming Ayahuasca, certain drugs or medications. You can read much more detail about this in this article on how to prepare for drinking Ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca effects

Mental Health and Brain Health

As mentioned above Ayahuasca is generally considered to be beneficial and positive for mental health. Michael Pollen in his book ‘How to change your mind’ said that psychedelics was like a rutted and gouged ski field receiving a fresh coating of snowfall which fills in and makes smooth the ruts and gouges. A renewal of some sort.

DMT, the psychoactive agent in Ayahuasca, is chemically similar to Serotonin and this may be one of the reasons why it is so good for mental health.

I think its positive effects for mental health can also be related to the neurogenesis described by Robin Carhart-Harris’s research described above. I think that these new neural connections are new pathways for your brain to use to replace the old ones which in many cases represent a depressive or anxiety producing style of thinking.

I think of these new pathways produced under the influence of psychedelics which just might be more loving and positive for you.

TIP: You can guide an Ayahuasca ceremony in terms of its content to some degree by using an intention.

Is Ayahuasca safe for depression?

Generally speaking Ayahuasca is safe for depression assuming that you are not taking anti-depression medications or have them in your system while drinking Ayahuasca. If you take these kinds of drugs then consult this Ayahuasca preparation guide here.

Some people have reported increased anxiety and depression post drinking Ayahuasca and I investigate this further in above link. Mostly it is avoidable or a natural part of the insights given to you during Ayahuasca.

Hallucinations (visionary experiences)

The hallucinations or psychedelic visions people have while drinking Ayahuasca are often very vivid and emotional. It is my theory that the visions serve to act as memories allowing you to in future remember the emotions, visions and other experiences as a way to use the new pathways you created via neurogenesis.

I also think that your Ego, which is reduced in activity under the influence of psychedelics, restricts information that comes through to your brain via your 5 main senses. When it is reduced in strength we may actually be able to sense more information than under normal circumstances.

This information may be around us normally and all the time but because our Ego’s filter it out we are not conscious of it. The Ego is more focussed on survival and practical things to help you navigate the world. It is not in need of spiritual information and as such filters this out. It is only under the influence of psychedelics (or perhaps other ego dissolving practices like meditation) that we reduce its activity and can receive this information.

Some of us are not ready for this kind of information as others may be. The later people seek Ego Dissolving experiences in order to give access to this kind of information.

Ayahuasca experience stories

You can read several of my Ayahuasca Trip Reports from my experiences in Peru in 2018 and 2019. In these I give detailed descriptions of the insights in some of my own ceremonies.

I asked Facebook what Ayahuasca is like

When asked ‘what Ayahuasca is like?’ most people describe some sort of fantastical experience that is often introspective and highly meaningful with respect to their ideas related to individual selfhood and their place in the universe. As such Ayahuasca is like a highly relevant religious or spiritual experience for those who drink it.

Ayahuasca is part spiritual, part healing, part adventure and very misunderstood with many preconceived notions about ‘drugs’, ‘hippies’ and spiritual nonsense. When you speak to those who have actually drunk it most will attest to it being the single most important event of their life. I asked 36 people across Facebook and Reddit how they would describe Ayahuasca to those who haven’t tried it…. yet.

Facebook Ayahuasca Group A fantastic journey of surrender
Facebook Ayahuasca Group I wonder whether I would? [explain it to others] It was so big, powerful, and important. But I spent years preparing for it, without knowing [what] I was doing so. If ayahuasca wants you to take that step, you’ll have to work hard to resist her.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group New Heart Connecting with mother earth, spirits and myself
Facebook Ayahuasca Group It was a scary experience, I had to let go and be, and then I was shown what I needed to know. The lessons of love have lasted my lifetime and on and on, I will never forget them. I am not afraid of death anymore since I traveled outside of my body.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Clearing out all your inner detritus to make room for unimaginable beauty
Facebook Ayahuasca Group That she helped and continues to help me breakthrough all my barriers. That she is with me always. Before, during, and after ceremony. When you walk with Aya, she’ll grab you by the hand and guide you go through your toughest challenges. That that loving and comforting presence is always there. And she’s helped me realize how amazing it is to be alive. I’m deeply grateful for this experience, all the great and not so great moments that life has to offer. It’s all a real blessing ✨ Aya along with other natural medicines are truly life giving.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group It cannot be explained…..only be lived..
Facebook Ayahuasca Group That like all plant medicines, it has a spirit. And make sure you journey with a good shaman from the lineage that knows the spirit
Facebook Ayahuasca Group The Single most profound experience of my life so far.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Pure love
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Surrender , trust and you will have the most eye-opening , inspiring experience of your life . DON’T research because then you will expect certain experiences instead of making the most of your own .
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Most mystical experience, major catalyst in life. Just remember to integrate the lessons into your being.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group To do some research
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Very intense. Have a Puke bucket close by
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Ayahuasca is suitable for very few people and can do more harm then good. Many start with a retreat and keep going back because they never “heal”. There is a huge range of people with different sensibility to psychedelics. Also, men and women tends to react different to aya. What is entertaining or healing for one, is a nightmare for another. There are so many other energy medicines and practices that helps better and gentler. Also, if you are even a little sensible you know that earth energies are changing at the moment. One dose today is way stronger then only a year ago. To try to profit and promote ayahuasca is therefore wrong.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group I don’t think a wise person would use the word “wrong” as it’s a moral judgement and can’t be made. I understand your concerns but each has there own path and also it is your view that people are not healing. I have never met anyone on retreat that didn’t gain something of real value & insight or have any regrets in attending.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Yes I did, first thing, it made me afraid at that time I did not know what it meant.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Then I would say it’s the most beneficial medicine I’ve ever done
Facebook Ayahuasca Group just as you live each day you also die each day but ayahuasca you resurrect each time to live a new life each day
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Surrender and observe
Facebook Ayahuasca Group I would tell them exactly what happened…
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Reflectifly life altering
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Ayahuasca picked me up, gave me a good shake, and allowed me to get rid of much of the fears and problems that have worried my psyche most of my life. 3 years later, and it continues to work on me.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Just trust and surrender
Facebook Ayahuasca Group I kind of see what you mean. I watched a lot of videos of other people’s experiences and then was a little disappointed because my experiences didn’t seem as profound
Facebook Ayahuasca Group she gives you what you need. I’ve had quiet nights where I’ve had lots to drink and everyone else is flying but I’m just watching. I accept that the medicine is working in its own way
Facebook Ayahuasca Group dosage has never made a difference with me . Ive had one crazyyy experience with constant visuals and healing and my other 3 were so subtle , barely any but big teachings which took a few weeks after ceremonies to understand. If you seek amazing experiences with lots happening. Mother aya wont give you one. She will humble you first is what i learned .
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Healing
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Technically if you die and get reborn on the same day – you beat Jesus by two
Facebook Ayahuasca Group I would definitely focus on scientific facts over spiritual nonsense and rational deduction over dogmatic superstition.
Facebook Ayahuasca Group Did y’all really see a giant snake????
Reddit Ayahuasca Group Awesome, hyper-intelligent, loving, illuminating. Terrifying, gruelling. Worth it.
Reddit Ayahuasca Group It was the only undeniable spiritual experience I’ve ever had and it made me a better person.
Reddit Ayahuasca Group As mind blowing as it was when I first had access to the internet, but it’s like a spiritual internet and ayahuasca has the mouse and keyboard.
Reddit Ayahuasca Group 10 years of therapy in one night
Reddit Ayahuasca Group Like a therapy session on a roller coaster ride through the most beautiful forest you can imagine.
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