Health, Introductions
comments 17


Deep ecology

By Steve Beyer

There is no doubt that ayahuasca makes you vomit. There is some consolation in the fact that the vomiting will ease with continued experience; shamans seldom vomit. There is more consolation in the fact that the vomiting is considered to be cleansing and healing. But the vomiting is certainly distressing to a gringo, who has been taught that vomiting is wretched and humiliating. Indeed, ayahuasca vomiting has become something of a literary trope. Poet Allen Ginsberg has described the physical part of his ayahuasca experiences. “Stomach vomiting out the soul-vine,” he writes, “cadaver on the floor of a bamboo hut, body-meat crawling toward its fate.” William S. Burroughs writes: “I must have vomited six times. I was on all fours convulsed with spasms of nausea. I could hear retching and groaning as if I was some one else.” Novelist Alice Walker speaks of the effect of ayahuasca on her protagonist — horrible-tasting medicine, gut-wrenching nausea and diarrhea, “waves of nausea … like real waves, bending her double by their force.”

Anthropologist Michael Taussig, investigating the shamanism of the Colombian Putumayo, felt compelled to drink ayahuasca — he uses the Colombian term yagé — as part of his research. “Somewhere,” he writes, “you have to take the bit between your teeth and depict yagé nights in terms of your own experience.” And one gets the ineluctable impression that Taussig hated the experience of drinking ayahuasca, hated the corporeality of its effects, hated vomiting. He writes, “But perhaps more important is the stark fact that taking yagé is awful: the shaking, the vomiting, the nausea, the shitting, the tension.” It is, he says, “awful and unstoppable.” His description of the experience is filled with metaphors of slime and nausea. The sounds he heard “were like those of the forest at night: rasping, croaking frogs in their millions by gurgling streams and slimy, swampy ground,” “the sound of grinning stoic frogs squatting in moonlit mud.” He writes that the “collective empathizing of nausea” at the healing session “feels like ants biting one’s skin and one’s head, now spinning in wave after trembling wave.” He refers again and again to “the stream of vomit,” “the streaming nasal mucus,” “the whirling confusion of the prolonged nausea.”

But this is the reaction of a gringo. It is important to note that emetics and purgatives are widely used among the people of the Upper Amazon, who periodically induce vomiting in their children to rid them of the parasitic illnesses that are endemic in the region. Vomiting is often induced in children and adults using the latex of ojé, also called doctor ojé, which is widely ingested throughout the upper Amazon as a vermifuge; some shamans, such as don Agustin Rivas, use an ojé purge to begin la dieta. Vomiting may be induced in children by giving them piñisma, hen excrement, mixed with berbena, verbena, or ñucñopichana, sweet broom, along with other horrifying components, including pounded cockroaches and urine. I have no doubt that this is an effective emetic.

Communal vomiting is also found among indigenous Amazonian peoples. The Achuar drink a hot infusion of guayusa as a morning stimulant, much as we drink coffee, after which all of them, including the children, vomit together. Apparently the vomiting is not due any emetic effect of the drink, but is learned behavior. Here in the jungle, vomiting is easy, natural, expected; the strangled retching of a gringo comes from shame.

La purga misma te enseña, they say; vomiting itself teaches you. Giving yourself over to the plant, giving up control, letting go of shame — perhaps that is the first lesson you receive from el doctor.

Steve Beyer’s blog Singing to the Plants is at

Filed under: Health, Introductions


Steve Beyer has doctorates in religious studies and in psychology. He has been a university professor, lawyer, wilderness guide, and peacemaker. He has studied both wilderness survival and the indigenous cultures of North and South America. He has studied sacred plant medicine with traditional herbalists in North America and with ayahuasqueros in the Upper Amazon, where he received coronación by banco ayahuasquero don Roberto Acho Jurama. He has worked with ayahuasca and other sacred plants in the Amazon, peyote in ceremonies of the Native American Church, and huachuma in Peruvian mesa rituals. He has served as an editor of the Journal of Shamanic Practice, and is currently completing a book on shamanism, sorcery, and plant medicine in the Upper Amazon.


  1. I rarely vomit, not with yagé or with San pedro. ” days ago I guided a freind who is really ‘lost’, with both of drinking ayahuasca. I did the ceremony. It has been the strongest trance I ever experienced. The last 2 years I function as a medium, but this time I have to grapple dealing with spirits entities using my body to talk to others. ” nights ago I was definitley the instrument to talk to my Jewish ‘patient’. Satan or lucifer and Jahweh used my mouth to speak to him and admonish him. I have difficulties to come to terms with it. But I know what I felt and how I spoke and my postures were definitely from higher realm. I realised that God and the devil are one.

  2. Plants of the Gods by Schult & Hoffman
    isbn 0-89281-406-3. i have utilized the book not the Alan watts book but 1 above…lol as a suppliment to my use of sacred plants for over 30 years. i purchased it in 1982 at the age of 18 while stationed at ft lewis WA. I and a friend had just finished preparing several small bags of powdered Anamita Muscaria. By the way i recently stumbled on to this site and am curious as to whether you have ingested said substances of which u speak? i’m curious as to relate my experiences with an expert. For instance on LSD i found that time stopped, the ego barrier was eradicated, i could see in dark like i was using night vision equipment, found i could suddenly play licks on my guitar that i couldn’t get after weeks of practicing, could detect sounds at further distances, found myself sometimes creatively spouting out what i call power chants, as well as was able to observe matter in motion at a molecular scale ie material objects vibrated slowly in rythymic fashion. i could stare at a material object let say a desktop – i could actually see the wood atoms slowly moving to and fro ie e=mc2 ie energy in motion. during one experience where i was really what i call ga ga i experienced a visionary landscape with a giant tree that reached to the heavens. curious have you ever experienced these effects or others?
    i have also been researching mythology & dreams since the mid 80’s. that tree image i experienced is the cosmic world tree ie yaddrisl in norse mythology and funny how its called odins steed in norse germanic literature. it’s my contention that the celts, norse, gauls, etc of northern europe were using psychedelic plants and “shaman trancing” during their time. I myself practice seid – see wiki link
    wiki states Seid or seiðr is an Old Norse term for a type of sorcery or witchcraft which was practiced by the pre-Christian Norse. This same art was taught to odin (Woden) by the Frejya. Seid means literally “see thing or seeing” ie oracular vision via trance method and you’ll see that wiki link leads you down alot of other links concerning shamanism. i have several hundred links to shamanism, mythology and dreams and am willing to share i’ll but em in a file and you can copy em to you favorites folder and research to your hearts content. by the way anyone ever tell you mr Beyer that in that photo you look alot like a long haired Donald sutherland.. no offense intented…
    you may reach me by email

  3. the spiral says

    One can always extract the active alkaloids (DMT and harmine/harmaline) from the plants instead of ingesting the nasty ayahuasca brew that has all sorts of other stuff in it that makes you sick to your stomach.

    This method is better known as “pharmahuasca.” While it does take a good bit more effort to extract the DMT and harmine/harmaline and then to take only those active ingredients, it can eliminate some or all of the unpleasant body load. People do still report some nausea and vomiting on pharmahuasca, but significantly less.

    I’ve heard people say that going the pharmahuasca route is somehow “cheating,” or that you are somehow losing something and will have a less valuable experience this way. I disagree. I also find this article to be rather racist.

  4. i’m relatively new to the psychedelics world having only done weed, and salvia about 20 times. since im not sure how strong the trip on ayahuasca is, i am worried that vomiting or the constant nausea will induce a bad trip, any thoughts? Also, it says above that there are accounts of diarrhea , how common is that?

  5. I am researching the uses of ipecacuana in Costa Rica and Panamá. Today the syrup of the root of the plant is commonly used as an emetic. In the 19th century, there were serious searched for the plant in the BriBri areas of Talamanca in Costa Rica. But it doesn’t seem likely that the occasional and marginal use of Ipecac syrup as an emergency emetic would drive people into the rainforests looking for the herb. My conclusion is that ipecacuana was more important and was used in trance-induction among the people of the Talamanca area. Since the name “ipecacuana” come from the Túpi, are there recorded uses of it as a psychotropic emetic in Amazonia proper?

    More questions: is vomiting secondary to other psychotropic effects of Ayahuasca, or is the vomiting the chief inducer of the psychotropic experiences? Could ipecacuana be part of the Ayahuasca cocktail?

  6. @Stephen Duplantier — The emetic effects are concomitant with the psychotropic effects, but they are definitely not the inducer.

    @the spiral — Are you basing your opinion on wide experience with both?

  7. el doctor says

    Drinking a tincture or tea of psychotria viridis vs. mimosa hostilis is in itself a less nauseating approach to pharmahuasca. (It contains less tannins.)

    More importantly, it is harmine-like alkaloids that CAUSE nausea and diarrhea. Replacing syrian rue or other analogues with a western pharmacuetical like Parnate or moclobimide can completly eliminate negative physical experiences like emesis, while producing any other typically desired effects.

  8. Richard says

    I have experienced Ayahuasca about 40 times over a 10 year period. Never did I vomit, even with very strong doses. I did experience diarrhea when I began using the medicine; it felt as if there was a war going on in my intestines; I have read that the brew acts as a parasite purgative. The diarrhea became less and less each time, and then just stopped. My experience is that Aya is a wonderful medicine for the entire body. Gringos tend to worry too much about vomiting, and pretty much everything else. This is not racist. I live in a gringo body.

  9. Douglas says

    I feel compelled to try ayahuasca. My life feels directionless now, without purpose. I wish I could find somewhere near Seattle or even in the USA, that would welcome me to a ceremony.

  10. Vivienne says

    I haven’t vomited for any reason in over 30 years. I will not be trying ayahuasca. Thanks for the warning. I like to get high on fresh air.

  11. Sean says

    my dad recently tried ayahuasca. We made the brew using the traditional ingridients (Banisteriopsis caapi, and chacruna leaves) i think. We are very well read and edeucated on the culture and usage of ayahuasca and other materials like it. However, there were no effects that he felt from it. No vomiting or nausea. We are confused as to why it didnt work, especially because we are very sure we had the right ingridients and prepared it the right way.

  12. TanThai says

    No effect in ayahuasca might come from any production factor such as
    1 too hot temperature on production can destroy essential substance .
    2 your ingredient might be fake item or low quality
    3 too low dose of ingestion
    4 condition of user
    5 God didn’t to let you go to the experience (^_^) If you still insist , Show more attempt on another right way .

  13. Deo McBottle says

    Science is on gringo’s side though and vomiting is really bad for your health (your teeth, your esophagus, etc). I don’t care what people with less advanced technology do to get rid of parasites and I don’t care that it’s customary for some Amazonean tribes to vomit every morning, it’s customary to slice out a young girl’s clitoris in some places too. Doesn’t make it ‘good practice’.

    Gringo wins this round, sorry.

  14. Sam says

    Do somebody have had experience with Ayahuasca after a Nissen fonduplication surgery? Could a person with this type of surgical treatment for GERD is able to work with Ayahuasca?

  15. Steven says

    In regards to the purge in my own experience I am a western gringo. My purging (only the 2nd and Last ceremony I did (6 in total) that my purge was a healing physical experience of ridding my deeply rooted emotional issues. Any unresolved issues/traumas etc.. if left unresolved get stored by the body, and can be brought up to be healed during a ceremony. Ayahusca’s gift is to say,.. Would you like to keep harboring and holding this dirty, yucky little thing any longer or let it go? Well it’s not as much a question as it was a revelation from the plant helping me to see how the emotion / energy / memory / belief that was in discord with my true self. This revelation demanded I rid it from my system if I were to be purified again transform myself and to move forward.

    Graphic Language Ahead: \\\\\ Warning /////
    I can say that any illness kind of vomiting you may have experienced from a flu, cold, food poisoning etc,.. does not compare with the kind of purge doing Aya. Even pooping or diharhea is and can be a religious experience. I guess it depends on the person and where they are in their personal development to surrender and accept this as an essential part of a deep healing process.

    I remember having something that I knew was probably stuck in me since childhood release from my bowels and go. I don’t know if that’s scientifically possible to have compacted fecal matter that old, but when it came out it smelled like a baby’s poop even with the smell of diapers emanated. I felt instantly like a balloon cut free from a weight as I released it. Aya took entanglements, twisted thoughts wrapped up and compounded in my organs and released and unwound them. It was a reset effect. I have never felt so clean, pure, empty of yuckiness until I did Aya. Some say it changes us genetically it gives us a light and a charge neurologically that shifts our being on an atomic level. That’s what I felt anyhow. It can only be done through the squeeze that happens while purging, it’s like giving birth in a way. The vomiting I had came from a place that was so deep in myself that I was barely able to recognize what part of my body it came from.

    One woman I helped at the end of a ceremony where I had come out of my experience, was still going through her journey and was having some difficulty. She was whining, moaning and complaining she needed to throw up but couldn’t. She kept looking outside of herself for the help she needed to give herself. I saw intuitively that she was in some way choosing to actually hold on to this darkness/illness inside of her, so I asked. What in you is afraid of letting this yuck go? Why would you choose to keep it in you knowing this is how it makes you feel? She began to cry and said she was afraid to let it go, that she felt connected to it and might miss it or be less than without it. I suggested that what she was holding also had consciousness and intelligence and may be asking her to give thanks for the lesson this pain and illness in her was teaching her. The idea was it didn’t want to leave her until it was recognized. Her lesson from it was coming to completion and this was the last stage.

    She spoke this with my coaching: I am sorry I have held onto you longer than necessary. I am grateful for your gift to me. Please forgive me I am so sorry, I love you. I release and transform you. I am healed and healthy I am renewed by my faith in me and I am ready to move forward. – 2 Seconds later she barfed the most awful black goo. I backed away and closed the door gently to allow her to finish in private. I heard her purge many times and she cried tears of happiness and gratitude for a long time.

    She came up to me an hour or so later and I hardly recognized her, she was 20 years younger, her hair looked like the grey had nearly vanished and she had a light in her eyes that was radiant. She smiled, thanked me and hugged me. I said to her to remember this lesson and to use her words consciously, to speak to herself with love and kindness and to forgive herself for holding onto dark yucky things. To let them go when it’s time and to say yes to feeling good.

    The purging process is natural and required for some. My wife has never vomited after 6 ceremonies but she is a magical fairy of some kind I think. The bottom line is the medicine is intelligent and goes where it’s needed and helps you face what you are ready to heal. Some need purging sooner or later than others. This squeezing and unwinding from a gut / nervous system level is deep and profound. Like an uber wringing out of a cloth and opening it back up dry and free of wrinkles, smooth and flowing freely again.

    People who tend to be meat eaters, eat lots of dairy, are smokers and or have unhealthy lifestyles tend to have the darker more difficult/intense purging. Being vegetarian for several weeks, no dairy, no sex, no soda, a reduction of salt and drinking lots of water prior and after a ceremony makes a huge difference in how physically ill a person may or may not get.

    In support of your victory on your journey!

  16. Ashley says

    Steve, by including “No sex” in that list, are you implying that sex is unhealthy? :/ I have a huge phobia of vomiting and I realize that this kind of purging is very different and healing for your body but physically, the way you feel during it…. I can’t do it.

  17. Sterre says

    Ashley, my god, I found you. I do have a huge phobia of vomiting too, it just controles almost my whole life.
    I’m so interested in Ayahuasca and I want to experience it really bad, but I’m just so afraid to lose controle, or worse, vomit..
    It’s just a very, very, deep fear.

Leave a Reply