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Ayahuasca
Plants

Many generations ago, indigenous curanderos of the Amazon rainforest brewed together two plants, creating an entheogenic tea that would forever transform the health and lives of many around the world.

This concoction is called ayahuasca, and in this article we will explore its potent biology, rich cultural history, and other aspects of its use which make it so uniquely powerful and transformative.

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What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a sacred, ceremonial, psychoactive tea originally concocted and consumed by Amazonian shamans. In traditional contexts, its purposes are:

Medicinal — diagnostics and healing of illnesses
Divinatory — ascertaining answers to questions and locating missing objects or people
Magical — energetic protection and waging spiritual warfare, and
Entheogenic — crossing over to otherworldly realms and communicating with deities.

Ayahuasca use has deep-rooted ritualistic traditions among indigenous and mestizo communities of Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, and Bolivia. Over the last few decades, though, it has also become widespread among Western psychonauts and seekers of healing and growth, who typically consume the brew in plant medicine retreats in the Amazon or with a traveling facilitator passing through, or based in their region.

The effects of this potent tea can be described as an extraordinary entheogenic voyage which can include spectacular visions, intense emotions, profound insights, and life-transforming revelations. The physical and spiritual purging of toxins often accompanies the journey and is considered a significant, or even central aspect of the experience.

 

The ayahuasca pronunciation sounds just like reading out its name as transcribed from the indigenous Quechuan languages: aya waska. Aya means “spirit,” “soul,” “the dead,” or “ancestors,” and waska translates to “rope” or “liana,” making both the brew’s and the plant’s name “Vine of the Soul.”

Both the ayahuasca tea and the ayahuasca plant are also known by many names depending on the local region or culture. Some of these names include: yagé or yajé (Cofán people), caapi (Tupí-Guaraní people), cipó (União do Vegetal church), daime (Santo Daime church), bejuco de oro (Colombia), hoasca (Brazil), natem (Shuar people), shori (Yaminawa people), uipa (Guahibo people), pindê or pilde (Tsachila people), and many others.

Due to its powerful medicinal and spiritual effects, the ayahuasca vine has the status of a Master Plant in Amazonian medicine, and the brew is also often referred to as la medicina sagrada (the sacred medicine).

Ayahuasca Tea Ingredients

There are numerous ayahuasca recipes depending on the specific shamanic practices and availability of admixture plants in different regions in the Amazon. However, the one plant that  ayahuasca tea cannot be made without is the ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi.

Caapi Vine

The bark of this sacred vine contains a number of alkaloids with mild psychotropic properties, which are also responsible for the brew’s purgative effects.

In many indigenous preparations, especially the ones shared with the whole community, B. caapi is also the only ingredient, the accent being more on the cleansing effects of the brew than on the ayahuasca visions.

Shamans also often drink vine-only brews, as their years of training enable them to experience the full range of the brew’s effects just through the vine.