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Preparation for the Ayahuasca Experience

by Howard G Charing

Eagle’s Wing

General Information about Ayahuasca

After being virtually ignored by Western civilization for centuries, there has been a huge surge of interest in Ayahuasca recently. There is a growing belief that it is a kind of ‘medicine for our times’, giving hope to people with ‘incurable’ diseases like cancer and HIV, drug addictions and inspiring answers to the big ecological problems of modern civilization.

Spirituality is at the centre of the Ayahuasca experience. Purification and cleansing of body, mind, and spirit in a shamanic ceremony can be the beginning of a process of profound personal and spiritual discovery and transformation. This process can continue indefinitely even if one never drinks Ayahuasca again. One thing is sure, and that is that every person gets a unique experience. We believe that by seriously looking at the way Ayahuasca is used we can improve our life experience and benefit more from this medicine.

Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon. It is made from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis). The two make a potent medicine, which takes one into the visionary world. The vine is an inhibitor, which contains harmala and harmaline among other alkaloids, and the leaf contains vision-inducing alkaloids. As with all natural medicines, it is a mixture of many alkaloids that makes their unique properties. For example, Peyote, the cactus used by the North Native Americans, is said to contain 32 active alkaloids, so when one of those alkaloids, mescaline (LSD) is synthesised in a laboratory, contrary to popular opinion, the result is not at all the same.

The oldest know object related to the use of ayahuasca is a ceremonial cup, hewn out of stone, with engraved ornamentation, which was found in the
Pastaza culture of the Ecuadorian Amazon from 500 B.C. to 50 A.D. It is deposited in the collection of the Ethnological Museum of the Central
University (Quito, Ecuador). This indicates that ayahuasca potions were known and used at least 2,500 years ago.

Ayahuasca is a name derived from two Quechua words: aya means spirit, ancestor, deceased person, and huasca means vine or rope, hence it is known as vine of the dead or vine of the soul. It is also known by many other local names including yaje, caapi, natema, pinde, daime, mihi, & dapa. It plays a central role in the spiritual, religious and cultural traditions of the Indigenous and Mestizo (mixed blood) peoples of the upper Amazon, Orinoco plains and the Pacific coast of Colombia and Ecuador.

The plants are collected from the rainforest in a sacred way and it is said that a shaman can find plentiful sources of the vine by listening for the ‘drumbeat’ that emanates from them. The mixture is prepared by cutting the vines to cookable lengths, scraping and cleaning them, pounding them into a pulp. Meanwhile the Chacruna leaves and picked and cleaned.

So what, perhaps, is the advantage of ayahuasca over other disciplines? In the words of Padrino Alex Polari de Alverga of the Santo Daime Community in Brazil, “Daime (ayahuasca) is basically a shortcut, it’s as if we had been travelling down the same highway as the rest of humanity, but then, in order to arrive at our destination more quickly we took a side road. When taking such a shortcut, however, we must be very careful and clear-minded. It is a shortcut that leads us to truth, but only if we follow in the footsteps of the Masters who have preceded us.”

Medicines like ayahuasca can help us along our path but we still have to do the work ourselves. My experience is that these kind of allies can help us open the doors of perception, but what we do when we get there is entirely our own challenge.

To understand ayahuasca in the local context, one cannot avoid taking a look at the ecological environment, such as the forest, cultural environment and indigenous cultures. This has structured the cultural content of ayahuasca.

There are many legends and myths about ayahuasca, one the more romantic is from the Shipibo people who live up the river in the heart of the jungle in the Peruvian Amazon.

This tale is centered around women, more so than men, as they look after the children and their health, whilst the men are out hunting and fishing. Men are more interested in plants that aid their inner spirits whilst hunting. Women are more interested in plants that will allow their children to grow.

There was one particular woman who was very interested in plants, who liked to pick the leaves of different plants. She would then crush the leaves into a pot and soak them in water over night. She would then take a bath every morning before sunrise (the way to find out about various plants and their effects is to bathe in them). She bathed in them every morning until she had a dream. In her dream a woman came and said, “why are you bathing every day?”

She answered, “I am doing this as I want you to teach me.” The other woman said, “You must seek out my uncle, his name is Kamarampi. I will show you where to find him”. The woman led the other woman to her uncle. The uncle showed her how to mix the leaves of the chacruna, which was a bush she had taken leaves from to bathe in. He showed her how to prepare the brew of Ayahuasca, he told her to go and tell the people the knowledge of how to use the brew. The Indigenous people past and present have taken Ayahuasca to enable them to focus on other dimensions. One example: – To enable them to be more successful on a hunting trip they would contact the Mother spirit of certain species, through the Ayahuasca. The hunt would be more successful.

One of the many mysteries surrounding Ayahuasca is how the vine became to be used with the Chacruna leaves as although they both come from the same soil but always grow apart otherwise the ayahuasca winds around the Chacruna and kills it. No one knows this but we get a clue from how the shamans interact with the plant. Javier Arevalo a shaman from the Peruvian Amazon told us “ in the old days his grandfather and uncles used to sit around after taking ayahuasca and he said that ayahuasca was originally taken alone and in the visions they saw that Chacruna was missing. Ayahuasca would say I am the doctor that gives the vision. His grandfather responded, how can we find this plant? The response in the vision was, you can find it by turning two corners. So they went around two corners and found a bush which attracted them which was Chacruna i.e. the ayahuasca showed them.

This is a fundamental principle, in the visions it is the spirit doctor of ayahuasca which tells them what is wrong with their patient, what medicine they need, or who has caused the illness or malaise.

The Icaros

Integral to the ceremony are the chants that the shaman sings. These are known as Icaros, and the chant will direct the nature of the ceremony or visionary experience for the group and for individuals as the shaman during the ceremony will chant specific Icaros for that person’s needs.

The words of the chants are symbolic stories telling of the ability of nature to heal itself. For example the crystalline waters from a stream wash the unwell person, while coloured flowers attract the hummingbirds whose delicate wings fan healing energies etc. You might see such things in your visions but the essence which cures you is perhaps more likely to be the understanding of what is happening in your life, allowing inner feelings to unblock so that bitterness and anger con change to ecstasy and love. To awaken from the ‘illusion of being alive’ is to experience life itself.

There are several different kinds of Icaros, at the beginning of the session. Their purpose is to provoke the mareacion or effects, and, in the words of Javier Arevalo, ‘to render the mind susceptible for visions to penetrate, then the curtains can open for the start of the theatre’.

Other Icaros call the spirit of Ayahuasca to open visions ‘as though exposing the optic nerve to light’. Alternatively, if the visions are too strong, the same spirit can be made to fly away in order to bring the person back to normality.

There are Icaros for calling the ‘doctors’, or plant spirits, for healing, while other Icaros call animal spirits, which protect and rid patients of spells.

Healing Icaros may be for specific conditions like manchare, which a child may suffer when it gets a fright. The spirit of a child is not so fixed in its body as that of an adult, therefore a small fall can easily cause it to fly. Manchare is a common reason for taking children to ayahuasca sessions.

Preparation for the Ayahuasca Experience

In the West there are lots of stories like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ reminding us that plants have spirit power, Alice in Wonderland explored this world too. There is a large body of knowledge of power plants even if the form has been adapted to fairy tales and ‘domesticated’, not to under rate the richness of Grimms’ tales.

When a person drinks Ayahuasca, especially with a trusted shaman, there is a chance to learn and trust the plant. You discover that it works in its own way. It is a great moment getting to this point. Then there is the question of whether the plant trusts us, because it can be abused and used for getting the wrong kind of personal power. Without intention, vision, preparation, and a shaman, it is a drug not a healing medicine.

A major difficulty for Westerners is the diet and the living conditions in the rainforest. There is also the care clients need afterwards, as one is extremely vulnerable after drinking Ayahuasca. Also some of our attitudes need to change, for example some people find vomiting unpleasant.

In the Ayahuasca ceremony purgative cleansing of the physical body is an essential preparation for the new level of emerging consciousness. Vomiting and occasionally brief diarrhoea are common effects during the initial sessions.

The Shaman’s Diet

An integral element of this preparation is to undertake a diet intended to reduce excessive sugar, salt, oils, pork, fat, and spicy food in the body in
preparation to be in communion with the spirit of Ayahuasca. Reduction of these should commence as soon as one commits to the experience.

Pork in particular is considered to be impure and is studiously avoided by Ayahuasca practitioners. Complete abstinence from pork and lard for at least two weeks prior to the first ceremony is recommended to participants to reduce the impact of the purge. It is also recommended that this abstinence continue for at least two weeks after the final ceremony.

In the initiatory diet for those seeking personal cleansing and healing, chicken, fish, wild game meat, fruits, and vegetables may be eaten but with little if any salt, sugar, oils or spices. The cleansing effect and strength of the visionary experience can be greatly enriched by one’s commitment to these preparations.

Sexual abstinence also forms part of the diet and is a traditional requirement of Ayahuasca cleansing and healing. We recommend abstinence from sexual activity for a few days prior to the ceremony, and to continue a day or two after the last ceremony.

As all Amazonian shamans will tell you, and in the words of Dona Cotrina
“ Sex is bad. The ‘mother plant’ loves you and if you make love to another person, you are being unfaithful to her”. For this reason it is often said that Ayahuasca is jealous, and if you do not respect her, she makes you ill instead of healing you. You will also not be able to see any visions. The ill effects from not respecting the diet are called cutipa and range from a sense of trauma and stress to skin problems.

Menstrual cycle.

This is a complex issue in the Amazonian tradition. Basically women in their menstrual cycle are not permitted by Amazonian shamans and curanderos to be present in the preparation of the brew, drink Ayahuasca or attend the ceremonies. This is an ancient tradition rooted mainly in safety considerations rather than sexism, as female shamans in the Amazon also follow these prohibitions.

Some shamans say the presence of a woman in menstrual flow prevents them from “seeing” the causes of illness among those present in the ceremony, thus obstructing their ability to make diagnoses and facilitate healing.

Although Eagle’s Wing are unable to make any exception as this rule is observed by shamans in the Ayahuasca tradition, our experience is that shamans have a degree of flexibility and can perform a special chacapa session with participants to address this.

Medical Precautions

It is important to know that, in some cases, the consumption of Ayahuasca in combination with some groups of prescription & non-prescription medicines can bear health risks.

1. Prescription Medicines
If you are taking prescription medication (including antibiotics), are subject to high blood pressure, have a heart condition, or are under treatment for any health condition), please consult your GP.

1.1 Anti-depressants
Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis Caapi) contains MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) generally in the form of harmine and harmaline therefore Medical consultation is essential if you are taking Prozac or other antidepressants affecting serotonin levels, i.e. serotonin selective re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI).

SSRI’s block the reuptake of serotonin in the brain and because MAOI’s inhibit breakdown of serotonin, the combination of MAOI’s and SSRI’s can lead to too high levels of serotonin in the brain. SSRI’s are much more common than MAOI’s which are found in some anti-depressants. Consult your GP about the use of temporary monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI).

These medications generally require a period of six to eight weeks to completely clear the system and must be reduced gradually.

2. Non-Prescription Medicines
Non-prescription medications such as antihistamines, dietary aids, amphetamines and derivatives, and some natural herbal medicines, i.e. those
containing ephedrine, high levels of caffeine, or other stimulants, may also cause adverse reactions. We recommend that you discontinue all such medications, drugs, and herbs for at least one week prior to and following work with Ayahuasca.

3. Recreational Drugs
Avoid all recreational drugs, in particular MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine, heroin. Also do not drink alcohol on the day of the ceremony.

4. Herbal Remedies
Use of herbal remedies for depression such as St John’s Wort (which also influence the serotonin levels) need to be discontinued as per 2 above.

Article Source: Preparation for the Ayahuasca Experience


  1. If I completeltely stop using my Zoloft(ssri) medication one week before doing Ayahuasca, will I be safe?
    This is a huge concern for me.

  2. In the third paragraph it mentions mescaline (lsd). Mescaline and lsd are not related.You might want to check the facts,Its hard to take this site as legit with such a big error.

  3. Chris says

    “For example, Peyote, the cactus used by the North Native Americans, is said to contain 32 active alkaloids, so when one of those alkaloids, mescaline (LSD) is synthesised in a laboratory, contrary to popular opinion, the result is not at all the same. ”

    this particular passage is inaccurate as mescaline and lsd are 2 very different things.

  4. kettunainen says

    For example, Peyote, the cactus used by the North Native Americans, is said to contain 32 active alkaloids, so when one of those alkaloids, mescaline (LSD)

    Mescaline is mescaline. LSD is Lysergic acid diethylamide.

  5. Teleterkji says

    Mescaline is only one of the alkaloids in Peyote.
    The same with Lsd,it is only one alkaloid.
    Using synthesized mescaline may have a similar effect to eating the Peyote buttons
    But it is not entirely the same.
    Indians wouldnt use a syntesized form of mescaline in their rituals
    And i don`t think they would use Lsd-25 either.
    The voice of the logos is not the main theme in an Lsd session,in my opinion
    but is when one is inebriated by Ayahuasca or Psilocybe Mushrooms,and Peyote.
    These plants are complete universes in themselves,and i wonder if not Lsd-25 lacks the natural touch.

    Thank you for broadening my knowledge on shamanism.

  6. I don’t really buy too much into the synthetic vs. natural stuff other than the fact that natural entheogens are much more likely to be safe due to the long history behind their use.

    I don’t see why LSD can’t contain its own spirit. Its certainly very heavenly at times ( :

  7. Ian says


    “For example, Peyote, the cactus used by the North Native Americans, is said to contain 32 active alkaloids, so when one of those alkaloids, mescaline (LSD) is synthesised in a laboratory, contrary to popular opinion, the result is not at all the same. ”

    Very interesting article. But the above is untrue. Mescaline is not related to LSD, but rather, it is it’s own molecule, N,N-Dimethylmescaline.

  8. Jed McKenna says

    The ‘mother plant’ loves you and if you make love to another person, you are being unfaithful to her”. For this reason it is often said that Ayahuasca is jealous, and if you do not respect her, she makes you ill instead of healing you. You will also not be able to see any visions.

    -hm…. ayahuasca showed me oneness with everything….
    while I had Sex with Ayahuasca, we could even include other souls or spirits to have sex with us together, without being jealous! Because all is one, there are actually no “others”, with whom I could betray ayahuasca! Thats only stuff you find here in duality in hollywood love movies!
    With ayahuasca you see, that everybody is conected in love and ayahuasca is everybody, so no matter with whom you have sex, ayahuasca is everybody. ..plants, trees, mother earth, universe, father, mother, child, female, male, sister brother, soul, god, everything! no boundaries! pure wisdom!

    If I read things like “Ayahuasca is jealous”………….no way!………humans can be jealous, but not pure unconditional divine ayahuasca love……
    if ayahuasca is able to be jealous, than it is not unconditional love!

    which it was;)
    I love you aya<3

    ayahuasca even told me, that she is not just a plant spirit with a given name, but a representative for ALL-that-is, connected with all others, with eternity!

    even while writing this at 2′ o clock in the morning I sense some
    aphrodisiacal rose-strawberry-raspberry-like frangrance….:)

    thanks for that sign aya!

    do not even know if this smell is coming from physical somewhere or some astral nature… ever 😀

    big thanks!

  9. Jed – I completely agree. I’m coming up on almost 200 ceremonies, and though I’ve heard over and over that traditionally “ayahuasca is jealous”, I don’t feel it. It seems to me (and I’m still a baby in my apprenticeship, so I always leave room to be wrong) that the Medicine is simply showing us higher levels as we go along…but if we have a mental construct or belief system that we are unwilling to transcend (such as traditional Amazonian lore), be it out of respect or whatever, we can’t see past it. I’ve noticed myself, as an American working with the Medicine in the Amazon, I had almost a ‘to a fault’ tendency to respect the lore and traditions so much, that it limited my understanding. Now I’m beginning to balancing out, looking past all of it to higher planes of truth. Also, as Westerners we have completely different minds and mental contructs than in the jungle – neither better or worse – just a different way of thinking. So for us to adopt everything the shamans have learned and treat it as gospel is also limiting – some of it is simply not applicable to a Western viewpoint. They’re style has also been extremely refreshing for me, pulling into a more heart-centered way of understanding (rather than trying to analyze it all!) Anyway sorry for the tangent…my point is – I agree with you! lol


  10. “For example, Peyote, the cactus used by the North Native Americans, is said to contain 32 active alkaloids, so when one of those alkaloids, mescaline (LSD) is synthesised in a laboratory, contrary to popular opinion, the result is not at all the same. ”

    this particular passage is inaccurate as mescaline and lsd are 2 very different things.

    Irie, I think that this is not saying mescaline and lsd are the same thing. I think it was badly written and would make more sense if it read;
    “For example, Peyote, the cactus used by the North Native Americans, is said to contain 32 active alkaloids, so when one of those alkaloids, mescaline, is isolated & synthesised in a laboratory(LSD), contrary to popular opinion, the result is not at all the same. ”


  11. Helena says

    What a beautiful site…

    and though I am upcoming my 2nd only aya I had such an amazing and very lucid, profound and clear Aya the first time that I have no worries about a second…the vomiting will no doubt be funny again…

    We just have it at home, with a lamp on and a blanket each and make sure the cats are locked out and the phones off…Im meditating at nights and and am a vegetarian so keep my diet as clean as possible before (without being too carrot sticks and cabbaged out!)

    And I just wanted to say that I agree that Aya cant be jeleous.

    This is a human/animal trait, you will never see this in mother earth, it works together swappiny and flowing energy… living dying regeneration it’s all the same and egoless. I had some very sexual times during the aya it even showed my deepest fantasies and that was fun 🙂

    Does anyone think perhaps that it is more that jeleousy is a very latin american trait? (knowing many latino peopel in my timew and watching them fight and try to control eachother)

    Awesome posts too 🙂

  12. thomas gerlach says

    question…..I’m 63 years old with a little blood pressure problems and have 2 stints in my veins from the heart.
    Although I feel that my conditioned is held at normal with Meds. I’m pretty healthy. Does this cause a problem
    on taking the Vine medicine.

  13. Johnny says

    One comment about the sexual abstinence, folks. There are physiological benefits to abstinence that may support the folklore. In folklore metaphor is used, in this case jealousy, to perhaps illustrate a more prosaic idea. In Chinese medicine and Aryuvedic medicine, abstinence, especially for men, is suggested to gather jing, or sexual power. A male orgasm releases sperm and semen which is highly concentrated with minerals. In Chinese medical folklore it is suggested that the woman actually receives the power and benefit of the male jing after ejaculation. Although there are obvious benefits to healthy sex, the male does lose a big load of zinc and magnesium. Sex, especially too much sex, has a depleting effect on the adrenal cortex and the immune system in general.

    It’s possible that this is why it is suggested to abstain. Much folklore has practical benefit if we go back far enough. But, it could all be a crock. However, I generally feel far stronger after a period of abstinence, and going into a ceremony strong is, for me, very important. I can’t speak for women, though.


  14. i’ve never done aya before but my friend gave me the engredients because she had no idea its mind altering effects (she just makes soaps and junk with herbs), I originally wanted to extract the DMT from the jeruma but now i think that if i can handle the strict diet aya might be a safer choice than dealing with dangerous chemicals.
    Does anybody have any advice?

    OH and i strongly recommend everybody to read or at least look into the book “DMT: the Spirit Molecule” by Dr. rick strassman, it will give you an extremely in depth look at what the chief chemical in aya (DMT) is all about.

  15. Hi,

    I have recently taken ayahuasca for the first time. I have a friend who I am sure would enjoy and benefit from the experience. However this person has irritable bowel syndrome and a stomach ulcer. Because of this they are pretty scared of taking anything that might aggravate it. They are worried that the purging effect could make this very painful or even cause more damage. Does anyone have any experience with this king of problem? I would appreciate some advice whether it would be safe for them or not.


  16. “Does anyone think perhaps that it is more that jeleousy is a very latin american trait? (knowing many latino peopel in my timew and watching them fight and try to control eachother)”

    Woah dude! I agree with you jealousy is a human emotion and not for mother earth or plants. But I’m Latin American and I think I’m way *less* jealous than average. It is common in all cultures and has nothing to do with ethnicity. If your Latino friends are like that then it’s just them.

  17. calendula says

    I am preparing for my first Ayahuasca experience. Does anyone know if thyroid medications are a contraindication? for the last 1.5 years. I take a low dose of a natural thyroid med a natural preparation derived from porcine thyroid glands, Armour (60mg) which adjusts T3 and T4. This med has corrected the fatigue I was experiencing, I am 60 years old and in very good health.

  18. Chris says

    I am taking a trip to the Peruvian Amazon this June for my birthday. I will be in Peru for almost a month. I would really like to participate in Ayahuasca and am well prepared to make the diet changes needed. My concern is the vaccination shots as well as the Malaria pills that will be taken for the trip. Are these going to conflict with this?

  19. Vaccinations and malaria pills are not contraindicated with ayahuasca.

    Some people are sensitive to malaria prophylactics and don’t like how they feel on them, so if they’re traveling in an area where malaria is uncommon or rare they forgo them (that’s what I did when I was in SA). But the decision, of course, is yours, and please understand that this post id informational, and does not constitute medical advice.

  20. Chris says

    Thank you M and of course I understand that it’s just informational. I just stumbled upon Aya when looking at one of the lodges in the amazon that offers these sessions. I’m still doing tons of reading and asking a lot of questions to see what the best way to experience this would be as well as cost.

    I’ve found a few sites so far but do any of you have any other sites or references that are a “must read” on the subject?

  21. This site’s “sister site” — — is a good source of general information on Ayahuasca. Participants include an interesting mix of traditionalists, non-traditionalists, and members of the syncretic religious faiths.

  22. Great article and who cares about the small error… The focus here is ayahuasca, not lsd or mescaline.

  23. Leslie says

    I am planning on participating in a ceremony very soon but I was recently (~1 month ago) prescribed Adderall 10mg/day (D-amphetamine salts). The last 10mg pill was taken 9 days prior to the date of the ceremony. (I’ve been drinking Yogi brand Detox tea for about a week, and have been following the diet & avoiding tyramine well.)

    Will I be safe discontinuing the low dose of Adderall just over a week before taking Ayahuasca?

    Reply ASAP please – very greatly appreciated
    Thank you

  24. James says

    It would seem as though a few people got hung up on the mescaline/lsd comparison. Yes, the precursors are not the same. I’m assuming that those who chose to fixate on this trivial irrelevancy are organic chemists by trade?! Just because the precursors are not the same does not mean that they do not share the same alkaloids (chemically). Not trying to be rude, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be factual. Just pointing out that this one “error” should not detract from the body of the article.

  25. Thank you so much for wonderful information! Ayahuasca is calling me, trying her feels like right action.

  26. A few friends and I will be partaking in our first Aya session very soon. We have each smoked DMT (Chonga) and are preparing to go deeper with Ayahuasca. I just have a few questions and concerns as I am not taking this decision lightly.
    Firstly, while under the effects of Aya is everyone still, for the most part, concious of what is happening around them? ie: able to vomit into a pail? or look about the room? Or will we be mostly incapacitated?
    Second, the 3 of us are relatively “new” friends (under 1 year) but are very like minded and considerate. Is there ANY possiblity our session would be “uncomfortable” due to knowing one another for such a short time?
    Lastly, we will not have any Icaros nor anyone “sober” in the room, does anyone recommend a style of music? Or even something specific to listen to during our experience for the most beneficial effects?

  27. niko says

    All the mistakes in vocabulary and spelling errors make this difficult to take seriously.

  28. Scotty says

    Hello my name is Scotty Enyart and I am a Ph.D. student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.  I am currently conducting research on Ayahuasca to try and further the academic worlds understanding of the healing practice and was hoping that I could get your help.  I am looking into the differences in healing between Western Psychology and the non-Western healing practice of Ayahuasca.  I would love your help. Please let me know if you have further question. And please provide me with an email address so I can send you my research questions.
    Your feedback is very important to bring more attention to this healing practice to the academic commuinty. 

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  30. I will be confident We have check this out very same type of declaration somewhere else, it should be gaining interest with all the masses.

  31. Michele says

    Calendula, I would like to f/u with your question about thyroid medication contraindications. I to am taking nature throid since being diagnosed with Hashis. Does anyone know if this med should be discontinued prior to ceremony?

  32. Karuna says

    Hi all, I found this website looking for details on thyroid-aya indications/contraindications as well, as my partner must take thyroid med. if anyone knows protocols concerning natural thyroid meds, much appreciated.

    meanwhile I feel inclined to offer my perspective to some of these questions. I have been working with the medicine for over 6 years now, as infrequently as 2x year or as much as 3x week in intensive phases. I have lived in the shipibo based aya communites in Peru when I lived in Peru, have worked with daime 2x, and sat in modern group ceremonies in western countries that hold the medicine in reverence. I’m not an expert or a shaman but certain themes
    Leslie…: of course its really better if you can give it more time.
    if its your ONLY opportunity to sit in ceremony, and you feel really called that ayahuasca is right for you… perhaps a thorough detox is ok. if on the other hand it can wait, I’d suggest being patient and letting a fuller detox take place. this shows respect to your body and ayahuasca.
    if you must proceed however…along with detox tea, do more cleansing. sauna as much as possible, get lots of sweaty exercise, eat simple clean foods following the traditional diet, and research some detoxifying plants to help take the meds out of your system. ( I don’t know if antidepressants are stored in fat, for example, which takes longer to detox as I believe it goes from fat to blood stream, and then you have to clean the toxicity out of your bloodstream.) consider if your body is strong enough to do such intense detoxing at this time, and for sure drink excess fluids especially water. consider supplementing as well. trace minerals, and perhaps cleanse with blue green algae, nettle tea/plant. exercise and yoga are perhaps the best allies, pumping blood, sweat, opening your energy channels so that when you sit you can be there in your fullest. humble suggestions. follow your heart.
    I am glad you are not taking your decision lightly, but here is my humble suggestion: seek a qualified practitioner to hold space for you and your friends. I say this for many reasons.
    1. sitting with the medicine effects people differently, some people may lose consciousness or wherewithall of there effect upon others. some may have such deepened centeredness and heightened awareness that they operate like a super-version of daily self. usually that takes a high level of familiarity with the way aya moves in the body.
    2. I believe in experimentation and self sovereignty, and I believe that aya is evolving with humans and adapting to different cultures, but I also believe its important for all of us to respect her origins and the vast body of knowledge of the people that have worked with her/it for hundreds of years.
    when you go in for surgery, you want a surgeon with years of experience. ayahuasca has the ability to be a deep psychic surgery and healing on many levels, if we give it that kind of preparation, respect and environment.
    certain things in ceremony are extremely helpful to creating a positive, healing experience. it doesn’t mean they are the only way, it means they are tried and true.
    example: the singing of Icaros that goes on in a traditional ceremony has many layers to it.
    I know a man who sat in upwards of 20 ceremonies and never experienced the “high” of the medicine taking effect, but he kept trying. finally when he sat in a traditional ceremony with someone who sang the icaros to open up the medicine, it all clicked into place and his experience was very strong.
    I know for myself that simply having someone hold the container in a ritualized way helps me to go completely inward because I know that the space is safe, the logistics are taken care of, and I can focus on listening to the messages that are being presented by spirit. my mind wanders quite a bit, I think most peoples do, and the songs, icaros in particular help to focus attention on the healing movements of energy of the ayahuasca. this is different than playing some kind of music thats pleasant to listen to.
    recorded music: is not aware of our circumstance, whereas someone singing an icaro is sensitively attuning their voice to the current environment, and focusing their intention on providing energies that will complement the needs of the participants. for example, when a group’s energy is very still as though the medicine is still asleep, not yet working upon us, the experienced shaman might sing songs to help awaken the inner wounds, bring in helping spirits, or sing uplifting songs designed to call in different frequencies of energy. (for example.)
    intention guides.
    another thing about recorded music is that it brings in electronic vibrations, and when you are being sensitively opened and attuned by a master plant teacher, electronics can tend to detract from the experience. where I sit, we turn off all cell phones, heaters, refrigerator and all sounding devices aside from live instruments which are played at appropriate moments.
    I always suggest that a novice sit with experienced practitioners. if you have a competent guide it does not matter if you know the other participants, you may experience their presence in the circle, you may even feel an unprecedented kinship with them. then again, if they are having a loud screaming terrifying experience of global trauma or re-experiencing childhood abuse, the experienced facilitator will know how to support them receiving the healing they need, as well as guide them into a process that is less distracting or disturbing for others.
    when you are with medicine its very likely that you will be more sensitive to all manners of stimulus. sounds are louder, more beautiful, more awful. emotions are intense, etc.
    AT THE VERY LEAST HAVE A TRUSTED FRIEND SIT AND NOT DRINK MEDICINE. buckets get spilled, missed, lost, the floor becomes non-local, walking can be impossible and the toilet might seem a mile a way in the middle of a profound experience. you might get thirsty, someone might come and wonder what you all are doing… the list is endless. one person there to attend to your every physical need (including walking to the bathroom) will set your mind and heart at ease, so you can do the real work of facing yourself in unconditional love and listening deeply and intently to the medicine. this person is not there to laugh at you or spectacle at your predicament, working with this medicine is truly vulnerable and brave. be supported. ask for help, even if your not sure you really need it. someone helping you take your vomit bucket can be a deep humbling medicine in and of itself. (always take the bucket away to be emptied after use so it doesn’t spill in the room). BE SUPPORTED.
    one time I sat by myself in the woods with a friend there to help but a good shout away. I was being pestered by mosquitoes but felt rooted to the spot. my tent was so close by. and I wasted precious time wondering if I should get in the tent or stay eaten alive. or move the tent. but it was too intense to move. I should have just asked her for help, thats what she was there for. because I didn’t, I missed out on precious time of healing magic. even the smallest physical distraction is unnecessary.
    other thoughts about how to hold a ceremony when a qualified practitioner is unavailable.
    this is a big big big topic. I’m sure all of this will raise some comments from others… lets roll with what arises!
    In my heart of hearts, as someone who loves ayahuasca deeply, who is a non-traditionalist but strong advocate of ritual container and safety and knowing what one is getting into (but you never really know with aya… thats the thing. shamans study their whole lives to do this work!)
    I recognize that ayahuasca is taking a big leap into public consciousness, which means that more and more people are trying her out! and that seems to be the path that she is choosing. which gives us as humans a great potential for collective spiritual growth, connection with ourselves and others.
    my deepest prayer in this transition and expansion, is that ayahuasca will be reverently respected, and that rather than diluting the medicine into a popular appeal, we can raise our self-standards, and rise to the level of spiritual growth that she offers, which is UNLIMITED!
    what this means to me is that ayahausca is never used casually. that each time we work with her we all do our absolute best to: have a clean diet, prepare our minds bodies and spirits for each encounter, work not too frequently that we “normalize” the experience. (for some once can change their entire lives. others are called to learn this medicine and share it.)
    it means that we respect the old rules and adapt them and allow them to shift to fit the obvious shifts in new environments.
    example: on this site many people have pondered the role of sexual tabboo in ayahuasca ceremony. I don’t have the answer here but I believe its important that we ask, look at where that rule came from, use discernment, and experiment safely.
    I’m personally puzzled by the sexuality taboo because ayahuasca has been the biggest advocate of sexuality in my life, but I still think its respectful and useful to respect the time window of a week before and few days after. what I notice in my own personal discernment with this is that to be sexually active with someone so close to ceremony time creates a high degree of energetic enmeshment of the two peoples energies, and if you are going into the ceremony to work on personal healing, and show up with that persons energy in your field, you will be accutely aware of them throughout your ceremony. and that may distract you from going deeper into your individual healing process.
    traditionally in the amazon, it was the shaman that drank ayahuasca and the patient remained sober while the doctor-ayahuasquero/a would sing icaros into their body and work with plants, spirits, and tobacco smoke to do an energetic re-patterning on the patient. the medicine enabled the doctor to see the energies of the patient more clearly.
    I love this intimate one-on-one doctor practice. its already evolved. today I see more music-concert style ayah ceremonies.
    I’d just like to remind us all that its not about a party, its not about getting high, its about getting closer to our true selves and to great spirit or the life force eternal in all, god whatever you want to call it.
    disconnection is the wound.
    in ceremony we should seek to reconnect, and to respect.
    for those of you who are experimenting with non-traditional structures, because you are those beings who never follow the rules because your life mission is to innovate!! or those of you who simply cannot afford or reach the gap to find such a qualified person…
    I’d simply like to offer (because I care about the quality of your healing and work)
    that its helpful to have a ritual container.
    in which you make prayers for your life.
    in which you honor the non-physical essences that feed guide and support you.
    in which you listen to the medicine deeply for the teachings that she brings.
    its helpful to have guiding songs.
    its helpful to meditate, to still the mind.
    its helpful to look at traditional ceremony structure and emulate certain aspects.
    its critical to have a clean natural brew, to follow the basic diet (esp no pork alcohol medications)
    its helpful to do movement practices to move stuck energy in your body
    its helpful to have instruments and magical tools to assist the healing process
    its helpful to….. have an altar space, be out in nature, have candles for opening and closing, be in the dark during the process, be mostly in silence, refrain from speaking your native language unless necessary during the ceremony (as it engages your conscious daily alpha less magical mind)
    its most helpful to come back to a space of love and forgiveness continuously.

    there is so much more to say, and I hope you find these comments useful and respectful. I know there are a lot of different opinions out there, and what I’ve shared comes from my intention of promoting continued respectful and safe use of medicinal substances.
    I’ve seen people lose it/get lost, and i’ve experienced environments that weren’t as safe or as sacred as I would wish for myself, and for us all to know and get to experience all the time. that is all. may we walk in beauty.
    may we create a blessed earth. may we invent ever more beautiful ways of expressing the depths of beauty in our vast universe, in ever deepening connection and healing.

  33. Passing Through says

    In absolutely every ancient (and more modern) organized religion, tribalism, mysticism, spirituality – there are certain beliefs, rituals, rules which reflect the times and culture they emerge from. There is often some degree of male biased, lack in scientific/medical/psychological understanding, superstition, exaggeration, over-emphasis on austerity/purity/”detachment”/isolation, reliance/leaning on some cosmic or nature-based hierarchy of deities, astrologies, elaborate histories and lineage stories, and I could go on.
    There is no question for me that there are things which are outdated, misunderstood, even harmful in some of these traditions.
    So for example in these Amazonian Shamanic Ayahuasca, there is mention of women’s menstrual cycle casting a fog over the preparation and guidance of ceremony goers. (I’m simplifying it of course)
    To this I call BS.
    For the lore about the plant being jealous if you have sex, and withholding experience and healing, I call BS.
    Refraining from sexual activity before and after makes sense, from a preparatory/energetic pov, but not for all kinds of superstitious reasons.
    Same goes for dietary restrictions imho.
    In my experience, Grace (or whatever word you prefer to use or not use) isn’t a judgmental moody parental figure sitting on a cloud.
    It is in a sense our true nature, and has/is intelligence entirely based on what is needed to bring us to the highest Realization.
    There are helpful guidelines to be sure, but we can’t know how Grace functions from our limited perceptions.
    Why the meat-eating murderer becomes a Sage, and the devout yogi in the mountains becomes a murderer.
    The key is intention, commitment, self-honesty/love/compassion, vulnerability, discipline, humility………
    So keep an open mind, use your discernment, be clear on what you are looking for, and may the force be with you : )
    And take time to enjoy the Mystery along the way!

  34. Arthur says

    My friend has been on adderal since she was 11 years old thanks to New York doctors! Now at 27 she has never been through a day without it and is scared that it might affect her heart. She wants to do the ceremony but is petrified of getting it wrong. Adderal is a strong and pretty terrible drug and I’m scared of the affects it might have under the mother if she doesn’t Lay off it.
    Help anyone? Advise would be hugely grateful.

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