comments 14

What indigenous groups traditionally use Ayahuasca?

The region of traditional Ayahuasca use is the Upper Amazon, that is, the western part of the Amazon Basin, and the western part of the Guiana Shield. (The Guiana Shield, which encompasses much of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guiana, is not technically part of the Amazon Basin, as its rivers do not drain to the Amazon River, but ecologically and culturally it is considered as part of the Amazon rainforest, and we will hereinafter use the terminology that includes the Guiana Shield as part of the “Amazon.”)

“Ground zero” of Ayahuasca usage is the northwestern region of the Amazon Basin where Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil come together (see red-outlined area on map). Close to 100% of indigenous ethnic groups here traditionally use Ayahuasca (and this also contains the centers of mestizo traditional usage, Iquitos and Pucallpa in Peru). Beyond that (see fuschia-outlined area on map) Ayahuasca is used by a large majority of the indigenous peoples. Ayahuasca is also used by several indigenous groups outside of this area of traditional usage: the Tsachila and Chachi of the northern coast of Ecuador, the Embera of western Colombia and the Choco of northwestern Colombia near the Panama border, and some Guarani groups in eastern Bolivia, which may have adopted Ayahuasca in modern times. (See light blue areas.)

Assigning an actual number to the Amazonian ethnic groups that use Ayahuasca is not a straightforward task, as it is often difficult to define whether two neighboring communities with similar customs and similar tongues constitute one ethnic group or two; Amazonian peoples themselves usually do not traditionally concern themselves with such definitions, as their traditional loyalties and identification have usually been to their own immediate village, and ethnic/tribal identity is a new concept that is developing in modern times as Amazonian peoples organize for their rights. Multiple variant names in the literature for the same groups adds to the difficulty of enumerating groups, and sometimes the same name being assigned to several different groups (like “Campa” for Ashaninka and Nomatsigenka, or “Napo Runa” for the distinct cultures of the Upper and Lower Napo River). But, as defined by language and common cultural characteristics, there are approximately 130 indigenous tribes in the outlined areas.

Ayahuasca use has been recorded either in past or present among the following groups. Alternative names and spellings with which they may be referenced in the literature are in parentheses, and locations are given so that they may be found on the following maps from (extinct groups do not appear):
Northern Colombia
Southern Colombia
Northern Peru
Southern Peru

Achuar (Achual, Achuara) – Ecuador / N.Peru
Amahuaca (Amenguaca, Sayacu) – S. Peru
Amuesha (Yanesha, Amuese, Amueixa, Amoishe, Amagues, Amage, Amaje, Amajo, Amuetamo) – S. Peru
Angutero (Ancutere, Pioje) – N. Peru (note 1)
Asháninka (Ashaninca, Campa) – S. Peru (note 2)
Ashéninka (Asheninca) – S. Peru (note 2)
Awajún (Aguaruna) – N. Peru
Awishiri – Peru (extinct)
Banihua (Baniwa) – Brazil / Venezuela
Barasana (Paneroa, Eduria, Edulia) – S. Colombia
Bora (Boro) – N. Peru / S. Colombia
Candoshi-Shapra (Kandoshi) – N. Peru
Capanahua (Kapanawa)- N. Peru
Carijona (Karijona, Carihona, Umawa, Hianacoto-Umaua) – S. Colombia
Cashibo-Cacataibo (Kashibo-Kakataibo) – N. Peru
Chachi (Cayapa, Kayapa) – Ecuador (note 3)
Chamicura (Chamikura) – N. Peru
Chasutino – Peru / Bolivia (exact location unidentified)
Chayavita (Chayahuita, Chayawita, Shayabit, Chawi, Tsaawi, Tshaahui, Tschhuito, Paranapura) – N. Peru
Chebero (Jebero, Xebero, Xihuila) – N. Peru
Choco (Choko) – Colombia (note 4) (note 3)
Cofán (Kofan, Kofane, A’i) – Ecuador / S. Colombia
Cocama-Cocamilla (Kokama, Huallaga, Pampadeque, Pandequebo, Ucayali, Xibitaoan) – N. Peru
Conibo – N. Peru (note 5)
Cubeo (Kubeo, Cuveo, Kobeua, Kubwa, Kobewa, Pamiwa, Hehenawa) – N. Colombia
Cuiba (Cuiva, Kuiva, Kuiba, Kwiba, Cuiba-Wámonae) – N. Colombia / Venezuela
Culina (Kulina) – S. Peru / Brazil
Desana (Desano, Wina, Boleka, Oregu, Kusibi) – S. Colombia / Brazil
Embera (Emperã, Eberã, Atrato, Baudó, Catrú, Embena, Eyabida, Chami) – N. Colombia (note 9) (note 3)
Ese’ejja (Chama) – Bolivia / S. Peru
Guahibo (Sikuani) – N. Colombia / Venezuela
Gwanana (Guanano, Wanana, Uanano, Kotiria, Anana, Kótedia) – N. Colombia
Guarani – Bolivia / Brazil (note 3) (note 6)
Harambket (Mashco, Amarakaire, Amarakaeri) – S. Peru
Hianakota-Umana – Brazil
Huambisa (Wambisa) – N. Peru
Hupda-Maku (Hupde) – Brazil / S. Colombia
Huni Kuin (Cashinahua) – S. Peru / Brazil
Ikito (Iquito, Iquita, Amacacore, Hamacore, Quiturran, Puca-Uma) – N. Peru
Inga – N. Colombia (note 7)
Ingano – N. Colombia (note 7)
Isconahua (Iscobaquebu) – N. Peru
Ixiamas Chama (Tacana) – Bolivia
Kabuvari – Brazil
Kacha’ – Peru (location unidentified)
Kamsá (Camsa, Sibundoy, Coche) – N. Colombia
Koreguaje (Coreguaje, Correguaje, Ko’reuaju, Caquetá, Chaocha Pai) – N. Colombia
Lamistas (Lamista, Lama) – N. Peru (note 7) (note 8)
Machiguenga (Matsikenka, Matsigenga, Matsiganga, Mañaries) – S. Peru
Mai Huna – N. Colombia
Maku (Cacua) – S. Colombia
Makuna (Macuna, Buhagana, Yeba, Suroa, Tabotiro Jejea, Umua, Wuhána, Paneroa, Jepa-Matsi, Yepá-Mahsá) – S. Colombia
Marinahua – S. Peru (note 9)
Matses (Mayoruna, Morique) – N. Peru (note 10)
Mazan – Peru (extinct)
Menimehe – Colombia (apparently extinct)
Mojo (Mojos, Moxo, Moxos) – Bolivia
Muinane (Murui, Muinana, Muinani, Muename) – S. Colombia
Napo Runa, Upper (Quijos, Napo Kichwa, Awa Napo Runa, Quichuas de Tena) – Ecuador (note 7)
Napo Runa, Lower (Orellana Runa, Uku Napo Runa) – Ecuador, N. Peru
Nheengatu (Ngengatu, Waengatu, Lingua Geral) – S. Colombia / Brazil (note 11)
Nomatsiguenga (Nomatsigenka, Atiri)- S. Peru
Noanama – N. Colombia
Omagua (Pariana, Anapia, Macanipa, Kambeba, Yhuata, Umaua, Cambela, Cambeeba) – Ecuador / Peru (note 12)
Panobo – Peru (extinct)
Pastaza Runa (Canelos, Alama) – Ecuador (note 7)
Piapoko (Piapoco) – N. Colombia
Piaroa (Kuakua, Guagua, Quaqua) – N. Colombia / Venezuela
Pioche – Colombia (note 13)
Piro (Yine, Mashco Piro, Mashco, Cujareño, Simiranch) – S. Peru
Puinave (Puinabe) – N. Colombia
Secoya – Ecuador / Colombia / N. Peru
Sharanahua – S. Peru
Shetebo – N. Peru (note 14)
Shipibo-Conibo – N. Peru
Shiwiar – Ecuador / N. Peru (note 15)
Shuar (Shuara, Jivaro, Jibaro) – Ecuador / N. Peru
Siona – Ecuador / Colombia
Taiwano – S. Colombia (note 16)
Takana – Bolivia
Tamas – Brazil
Tanimuka (Tanimuca-Retuara) – N. Colombia
Tarianas – Brazil
Tatuyo (Pamoa, Oa, Tatutapuyo, Juna) – N. Colombia
Tikuna (Ticuna, Tukuna) – Brazil / S. Colombia
Tetete – Colombia / Ecuador (extinct)
Tsachila (Colorados) – Ecuador
Tukano (Tucano) – S. Colombia / Brazil
Waorani (Huaorani. Auca) – Ecuador
Witoto (Huitoto, Minika, Bue) – S. Colombia (note 2)
Yagua (Yahua, Llagua, Yegua, Yava, Nijyamïï Nikyejaada) – N. Peru
Yaminahua (Yaminawa, Jaminawá, Yuminahua, Yamanawa, Chitonahua) – S. Peru / Brazil
Yebasama – N. Colombia
Ye’kuana (Makiritari, Maquiritare) – Venezuela
Yora (Yura, Yuranahua, Yoranahua, Parquenahua, Nahua) – S. Peru
Záparo – Ecuador / N. Peru

(1) not on Ethnologue map, classified by Ethnologue as a subgroup of Secoya
(2) divided into various subgroup areas on Ethnologue map
(3) located outside of Amazon/Guiana Shield region
(4) some Choco live in Panama, but those are not known to use Ayahuasca
(5) today virtually merged with Shipibo, but some early literature treats them separately
(6) some Guarani live in Paraguay, but there are not known to use Ayahuasca
(7) speak a dialect of Amazonian Quechua
(8) identified on Ethnologue N. Peru map as Quechua, San Martin
(9) not on Ethnologue map, classified by Ethnologue as a subgroup of Sharanahua
(10) do not use Ayahuasca currently, but did at one time and have forgotten how, some now trying to recover it
(11) not an ethnic group, but a Tupinamba-based lingua franca used by various Indians of the upper Rio Negro, by some as their language; some of the groups known to use Nhengatu are Ayahuasca users
(12) although the Omaguas (once a major power on the lower Napo and Amazon headwaters) are nearly extinct, some Omagua words survive in icaros of mestizo curanderos of Iquitos
(13) classified as Siona on Ethnologue map, but consider themselves distinct from Siona
(14) not on Ethnologue map, classified by Ethnologue as a subgroup of Shipibo
(15) classified by Ethnologue as a dialect of Achuar
(16) not on Ethnologue map, classified by Ethnologue as a subgroup of Barasana

Some groups in the above list have become extinct since reports were made; some appear to have abandoned use of Ayahuasca under missionary pressure (or it has gone underground).

For the following indigenous tribes in the traditional geographical area of Ayahuasca use, no recorded data on Ayahuasca use could be found. However, many have been little studied or observed by outsiders, so absence of reports does not necessarily mean absence of use, and in some cases (as noted below) there are reports of Ayahuasca use among other groups that are neighboring and closely related linguistically and culturally. Data from forum members is very welcomed!

Achagua (Xagua) – N. Colombia (note 1)
Ajyíninka Apurucayali – S. Peru (note 4)
Andoke (Andoque) – N. Peru / S. Colombia (note 2)
Arabela (Chiripunu) – N. Peru (note 3)
Cabiyari (Cabiuarí, Cauyarí, Kauyarí, Cuyare, Kawillary) – S. Colombia
Cacua (Báda, Kákwa) – N. Colombia
Cahuarano – N. Peru
Caquinte – S. Peru (note 4)
Carabayo (Macusa) – S. Colombia (note 3)
Carapana (Mochda, Moxdoa, Karapaná, Karapano, Mextã) – N. Colombia
Curripaco (Kurripaco) – S. Colombia (note 5)
Guayabero (Jiw, Cunimía, Mítus, Mítua) – N. Colombia (note 6)
Huachipaeri – S. Peru (note 7)
Iñapari (Iñamari) – S. Peru
Macaguan (Macaguane, Hitnü) – N. Colombia (note 6)
Miraña – S. Colombia (note 8)
Muniche (Otanave, Otanabe, Munichino, Munichi) – N. Peru
Nanti (Kogapakori) – S. Peru (note 9)
Ocaina – N. Peru (note 10)
Piratapuyo – S. Colombia
Pisabo (Pisagua, Pisahua) – N. Peru
Resigaro (Resigero) – N. Peru
Saliba – N. Colombia
Taushiro (Pinchi) – N. Peru
Tutapi (Orejon, Oregon, Orechon, Payagua, Mai Ja) – N. Peru (note 11)
Tuyuka – S. Colombia / Brazil
Waikino (Uaikena, Piratapuyo, Urubu-Tapuya) – N. Colombia
Waimaha – S. Colombia
Yari – S. Colombia
Yukuna (Matapi (Matapie) – S. Colombia
Yuruti – S. Colombia

(1) close relatives Piapoco reported to use Ayahuasca
(2) close relatives Tikuna reported to use Ayahuasca
(3) close relatives Zaparo reported to use Ayahuasca
(4) close relatives Ashaninka reported to use Ayahuasca
(5) close relatives Baniwa reported to use Ayahuasca
(6) close relatives Guahibo reported to use Ayahuasca
(7) close relatives Harambket reported to use Ayahuasca
(8) close relatives Bora reported to use Ayahuasca
(9) close relatives Machiguenga reported to use Ayahuasca
(10) close relatives Witoto reported to use Ayahuasca
(11) close relatives Tukano reported to use Ayahuasca

The only group in the “red zone” that appears not to have used Ayahuasca in the past or present is the Shimaco (aka Shimaku, Urarani, Itucali) (Alan Shoemaker, personal communication). There are reports specifically stating that the Yagua and Candoshi do not use Ayahuasca, but other reports that they do use Ayahuasca, so they have may learned from missionaries to conceal Ayahuasca from some outsiders.

Some indigenous names for Ayahuasca (most of these names apply to both the vine and the brew):

Tupi: caapi (note 1)

Hupda: carpi

Tikuna: cipo caapi

Desana: gahpi

Siona/ Secoya: yaje (note 2); ‘iko

Kofan: yaje; cofa; oofa

Karijona: yaje

Guanano: yaja

Tukano: kaji (note 3); kadana, kadana-pira

Yebasama: kaji

Makuna: ka-hee’, kahi ide

Yekuana: sipo, cipo; kahi

Kulina: tsipu (note 6); mado, mado bidada; rami-wetsem (note 9)

Shuar: natem, natema (with final a whispered)

Achuar: natem

Huambisa: datem

Awajún: datem

Ashaninka: kamarampi (note 4); hananeroca (note 5)

Yine: kamalampi

Machikenka: ka’maranpi, kama’rampi; wampu, wamp

Embera: pinde, pilde

Chachi : pindé; nape, nepe, nepi

Tsachila: pinde, pilde; napa, nepe, nepi

Choco: nape, nepe, nepi

Noanama: dapa

Waorani: mii, miiyagi

Shipibo: nishi; oni

Conibo: uni

Amahuaca: nixi; oni xuma

Cashinahua: nixi pae

Sharanahua: shuri (note 7); ondi; rambi, rame (note 8)

Pando: shuri; undi; rambi (note 9)

Yaminahua: shori

Marinahua: rame (note 9)

Yagua: ramanuju

Mojo: mariri

Kubeo: mi-hi

Piro: totsha

Zaparo: iyona, iona

Guarani: jauma

Kamsa: biaxii

Guahibo: uipa

Barasana: (note 10)

Ingano: inde huasca (note 11)

Quechua: ayahuasca (also spelled ayawaska) (note 12)

Uncertain: cabi; xono; shillinto; jagubi; pitujiracu; cauupiri mariri; tiwaco mariri

(1) the root kaa or caa in Tupi means “plant.” Naranjo (1983) translates caapi as “leaf to make one exhale, i.e, become a spirit.”

(2) varieties include: yai-yajé; nea-yajé; horo-yajé;weki-yajé; wai-yajé or wahi-yaje; wati-yajé; weko-yajé; hamo-weko-yajé; beji-yajé; kwi-ku-yajé; kwaku-yaje; aso-yajé; kido-yajé; usebo-yajé; ga-tokama-yai-yajé; zi-simi-yajé; bi’-ã-yajé; sia-sewi-yaje; sese-yajé or sise-yajé (“wild pig yaje,” used for hunting); so’-om-wa-wa’i-yajé (“long-vine yaje”)

(3) varieties include: kaji-riama; mene’-kají-ma; yaiya-suána-kaji-ma; kají-vaibucuru-rijoma; kaju’uri-kahi-ma; mene’-kají-ma; kají-somoma’

(4) “that which causes purging”

(5) said to mean “vine of the river of celestial youth”

(6) varieties include: tsipu-tsueni, tsipu-wetseni, tsipu-makuni

(7) varieties include shuri-fisopa, shuri-oshinipa, shuri-oshpa, shuri awu oshi, shuri awu fiso

(8) literally means change or transformation; refers to the cooked brew, to the visions, or to the songs that accompany the ceremony

(9) note 8 may apply here, but not known for certain

(10) no general name has been uncovered, but varieties include: kuma-basere; wai-bu-ku-kihoa-ma; wenan-duri-guda-hubea-ma; yaiya-suava-kahi-ma; wai-buhua-guda-hebea-ma; myoki-buku-guda-hubea-ma

(11) “sun vine”

(12) varieties include punga waska, nuknu waska, shimbaya waska, among others


  1. I’d like to add the Urarina, who are found in the Chambira Basin in Northern Peru, to this list as they definitely use ayahuasca. For more information see the work of Bartholomew Dean.

  2. samantha says

    hi, i’m wondering if anyone can tell me who the indigenous people of tena, ecuador are. thanks.

  3. sacha says

    “I’d like to add the Urarina, who are found in the Chambira Basin in Northern Peru, to this list as they definitely use ayahuasca.”

    Thanks, I’ll see if the article can be revised. I also left the Kamsa and Chocoe off the map (not contiguous with the rest of the groups on the map) so I need to redo the map too.

    “i’m wondering if anyone can tell me who the indigenous people of tena, ecuador are. thanks.”

    The indigenous people of Tena (Napo province) Ecuador are known as Napo Runa, Napo Kichwa (or Napo Quichua) or Quijos. They speak a dialect of Amazonian Quechua or Kichwa; in fact, it is from their language (their form of Quechua) that most of the Quechua words associated with Ayahuasca practice come.

  4. Given the fact of analogue ayahuasca jurema can be found in northeast of Brazil and the fact of many tipes of Banisteriopsis and Psychotria (and others) can be found in the center and the southeast Brazil, it’s reasonable to think that some southerns indigenous groups, like guarani, terena, kainagang etc. has used it in the someday in the past.
    In the place on where i live, São Paulo, the temperature and humidity is very similar to the groundzero usage.

  5. Ayshagawa says

    There many tipes of Banisteriopsis, Psychotria and other ayahuasca plants in all parts of south Brazil. So, many of these southern groups may use some tipe of ayahuasca in the past, before the ethnocide colonization. Some of them are: guarani, kaingang, xokleng, terena and many others extinct groups. My grandmother said to me that all her people was all exterminated or destribalized (destribalizado) in the begining of the XX century.
    I use to walk in the Tropical Atlantic Rain Forest and find many tipes of these plants.

  6. Ayshagawa says

    PS. In many parts of south Brazil, the temperature are very similar to the ones of Sucumbios, Napo and Pastaza.

  7. Constantine sharpe says

    I am interested in the approx. location in Ecuador of Itucali tribe, and what indigenous language they speak. Also, about the Jivaros tribe.
    Thank YOU.

  8. Hi there,

    I live in Panama City and I heard there would have a place in Emberá, south of the country to take the ayahuasca.

    Here in the site you mention Emberá in North Colombia…is there a way to find it in Pnamá? Where about?

    Thanks a lot,


  9. I am writing an undergrad dissertation on the usage of ayahuasca and I was wondering if I could have your permission to attach this list as an appendix to my work? I will give the author full credit, of course.

  10. Yes, you can credit it to

    (You might also find much usable material on the forums, and there are many people with experience in South America there who can answer questions. See link to Forums in upper right.)

  11. Vanessa Z says

    Do a search on “icaros” on Youtube, thousands of examples will turn up

Leave a Reply