What is ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a tea that’s made from two plants found in the Amazon rainforest. What’s remarkable about these two plants is that when used together they allow the psychedelic DMT (dimethyltriptamine) to be absorbed.
How did indigenous people learn to combine these two plants out of all the plants in the jungle?
They say, “The plants told them.”
How is ayahuasca used in South America?
Indigenous people use it for a variety of purposes. Primarily it’s a medicine for health problems which are considered to be spiritual in origin. It’s also used to improve luck in love or to locate good hunting sites. And, important for living in the jungle, it also removes parasites. The word, ayahuasca, means vine of the dead – ayahuasca opens up portals so people can communicate with the dead.
Practitioners call ayahuasca a medicine. Why?
Ayahuasca is considered a sacred plant medicine. In the West, it’s used mostly for healing both psychologically and spiritually within a ritual or shamanic context. It’s called a medicine to clarify that it’s not just another psychedelic drug that can be used recreationally.
Ayahuasca is also considered a religious sacrament in the Santo Daime and Uniao de Vegetal churches. These churches originate from Brazil and they’re expanding into the West. They use ayahuasca in their services strictly for spiritual purposes.
How can this medicine help with depression, addictions, PTSD and anxiety?
My research study asked, “How did you change as a result of your ayahuasca experience?” 81 people completed an in-depth questionnaire and I interviewed another 50. A few people had what I call miraculous cures.
“Depression is GONE. I now have a feeling of self-worth. I’m slower to anger and quicker to smile.”
“I can hardly drink now.” “Alcohol is not appealing any more.” “I used to drink too much alcohol. I do not enjoy it since meeting Grandmother Ayahuasca.” “I have more awareness around abuse of alcohol, so I drink less.” “No desire for alcohol.”
Not everyone has an immediate miraculous experience. Some people described more of a process of incremental growth and unfolding.
“I’m more socially outgoing, more attentive to others, and less self-absorbed; more open, spontaneous, and expressive. I’m less self-critical, more accepting with a better understanding of who I am as opposed to who I thought I was. I feel much less sadness, less anxiety and gloomy thoughts. I have flashes of joy and hope, the possibility of being alive. I’m aware of the pos- sibility of transcendence. I want to live before I die.”
Is there research indicating these therapeutic benefits?
Yes, such research is just beginning and more is needed because ayahuasca is showing great therapeutic potential for a variety of diagnoses. Ayahuasca is the most difficult of all the psychedelics to study since it’s impossible to control the dose or potency of the medicine. Shamans claim the intensity of the medicine depends upon what time of day the plants are harvested, what prayers are said over the plants. Spanish researchers are using freeze dried ayahuasca to control for these factors but when an American study asked shamans to work with the freeze dried medicine, they refused saying, “The spirit of the medicine is not there.”
Ayahuasca is similar to other psychedelics so in the book I drew on current on psilocybin and LSD research, especially the studies using fMRI data. Research in England is exploring how psychedelics can lead to dramatic changes in worldview and sense of self. Studies at Johns Hopkins show enduring change after a mystical experience with psilocybin. At NYU and UCLA they’re finding reduced anxiety in terminal cancer patients.
What’s the experience of drinking ayahuasca?
The tea, itself, is like drinking mud – it’s disgusting. And it leads to purging, both vomiting and diarrhea. So it’s not likely to be used recreationally. The purge is important to the healing process – there’s a letting go and a cleansing.
Ayahuasca is a visionary medicine – some people see elaborate displays of fireworks, others see scenes from their lives unfolding in front of their eyes like a movie, and others are actually in the scene, reliving the events from their past which can be from childhood or trauma. Some describe encounters with animals, people who have died, and ancestors. People can experience a wide range of emotions during ayahuasca ceremonies – from ecstasy to profound sorrow. They can also have incredibly therapeutic experiences where they feel deeply loved in a way that changes them forever.
Is ayahuasca dangerous?
No, you can’t overdose because you’d just vomit if you drank too much. But there are warnings not to drink ayahuasca if you’re on antidepressants, specifically SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors). The most conservative advice is to be off these meds for at least five weeks.
You do have to be careful that the setting is safe and that the people in charge are legitimate and have enough helpers to watch over everyone. There are an increasing number of stories of rape and death in South America so be very careful choosing where you go. This is all word of mouth and that’s not always 100% reliable. Ayahuasca is illegal here in the states so the ceremonies are held discreetly. The only exception are the churches in NM and OR that have the right to use it as a spiritual sacrament.
What inspired you to research ayahuasca?
In my first ceremony I re-experienced my father’s death – he died at my home. I traveled with him as he left his body and dissolved into the universe. This was such a profound experience – It was healing and also it prepared me for my own death journey
From that first ceremony, I’ve been amazed at the therapeutic value of this medicine. As a therapist, I’ve had lots of my own personal therapy, and my experiences with ayahausca have been the most healing. But I’m not just talking about the ceremony, itself. The therapeutic effect continues far beyond the ceremony and my research has focused on how people change after the ceremony. My book describes how therapy can help people integrate those changes into their daily lives.
What do you mean by Grandmother Ayahuasca?
The biggest surprise from my research was that 75% of the 81 respondents described an on-going relationship with the Spirit of Ayahuasca. In many indigenous cultures, plants are considered to have spirit teachers associated with them and Grandmother Ayahuasca is one of these plant teachers.
I had my own relationship with Grandmother Ayahuasca but I didn’t realize that most everyone else was also hearing from her – sometimes actually hearing a voice like I did, sometimes an intuitive communication in dreams or meditation, both in and out of ceremony. In other words, whether under the influence and not.
I can’t explain what this voice is – it’s a continuing mystery to me. But I can say that listening to Grandmother Ayahuasca has changed my life – certainly it’s upset my worldview and added other dimensions to my life.
What do you most hope readers will take away from your book?
The book is intended to be a therapeutic container for your ayahuasca experience. It will help prepare you and it will help you to integrate afterward in the most therapeutic way possible. I use my own experiences and those of others to illustrate how you can work psychologically and spiritually with ayahuasca experiences. The book will also help guide therapists who are working with people attending ayahuasca ceremonies.
About the author:
Rachel Harris, PhD is the author of Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction, PTSD, and Anxiety. She received a National Institutes of Health New Investigator’s Award, has published more than forty scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals, and has worked as a psychological consultant to Fortune 500 companies and the United Nations. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine. Visit her online at http://www.listeningtoayahuasca.com.
On December 10, seven recipients of Cosmic Sister’s psychedelic feminism grants will travel to the Amazon rainforest in Peru to participate in traditional ayahuasca ceremonies with trained indigenous shamans in a safe setting. The diverse grant recipients include a medical doctor, a psychedelic scholar, a musician, a journalist, an interpreter, a yoga educator and a photographer.
Ayahuasca is a powerful plant-based psychedelic brew from the Amazon that is legal in Peru, where it is considered a cultural treasure. Zoe Helene, founder of Cosmic Sister and an experienced ayahuasca journeyer, advocates for responsible journeying with natural psychedelics as a means of conscious evolution. “One of Cosmic Sister’s goals is to support women to develop quality immersive journalism about the ayahuasca experience after participating personally in authentic ayahuasca ceremonies where they are legal,” said Helene. “Natural psychedelics such as ayahuasca are evolutionary allies. We’re interested in responsible psychedelic journeying from a women’s empowerment perspective.”
Cosmic Sister brings women’s voices to the forefront in the field of psychedelics through a series of interconnected, merit-based psychedelic feminism grants. The Plant Spirit Grant financially supports passionate, communicative, creative women to participate in authentic, legal ayahuasca ceremonies in the Peruvian Amazon. A companion grant, Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance, supports women to share their experience upon returning home. All seven women have received Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance educational grants, and five have been awarded Plant Spirit Grants, which cover the costs of staying at the retreats.
“Up to this point the primary spokespeople in the psychedelic arena have been men, despite the fact that women participate equally in these endeavors,” Helene said.
Helene’s husband and partner, ethonobotanist and medicine hunter Chris Kilham—also a highly experienced ayahuasca journeyer—will accompany the women as a guide and help introduce them to the region’s medicinal plants. “While psychedelics hold promise and offer benefits to men and women alike, women find resolution for issues specific to gender while also tapping into deep wells of creativity,” Kilham said. “Psychedelic feminism is a path, a way of empowerment and integration.”
“Ayahuasca is a loving medicine and a sacred plant,” Helene said. “Psychedelic plants can liberate us from whatever burdens we carry, reconnect us with our core selves and our path of heart and inspire us to help others do the same. It’s an honor to journey with these outstanding women.”
The women will participate in three ayahuasca ceremonies led by Shipibo Maestro Estella Pangosa Sinacay at DreamGlade, a lakeside retreat outside the Amazonian river town of Iquitos, followed by a visit to Ayahuasca Foundation’s education center, where they will learn how ayahuasca is prepared and participate in an ayahuasca ceremony led by Shipibo Maestro don Enrique.
2016 COSMIC SISTER GRANT RECIPIENTS
Los Angeles-based journalist Katie Bain (33), born and raised in Wisconsin, writes about electronic music, culture and travel (her passions) for Billboard, L.A. Weekly, The Rattling Wall, Beatport News and more. “The intersection of music and psychedelics has become the sweet spot in my professional coverage because it’s one of the places where all these things meet,” she said. “While in Peru, my intention is to use the space to explore new artistic and creative realms and work with whatever other scenarios present themselves.” Bain was also awarded a Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance journalism grant to develop an immersive travel article about her experience. (@bainofyrexstnce)
New York City-based musician and writer Faye Sakellaridis (28) is managing editor of The Alchemists Kitchen and Reality Sandwich, where she enjoys the “rich spectrum of intellectual essays on consciousness through a diverse lens of art, culture, and science.” She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens College, but as a classically trained improvisational pianist, she identifies first and foremost as a musician. “Writing and music are two are elemental parts of me, and communicating through them is what I do,” she said. Sakellaridis was also awarded a Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance grant to explore and write about her personal healing work around creative and emotional blockages to transform “healing into art.” (@fayesakell)
Tacoma, Washington-based psychedelic scholar and teacher Nese Devenot, PhD (29) is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Puget Sound. One of her key interests is “going outside the purely therapeutic program” to allow everyone—not just people who have suffered trauma or psychological issues—to see their lives from a different perspective. Through ayahuasca, she intends to explore themes related to “Chemical Poetics,” a book she’s writing about the relationship between language and psychedelic experiences. Devenot was also awarded a Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance grant to explore and write about her research focus from a personal perspective. She hopes her work “contributes to broadening our cultural appreciation for non-ordinary states of consciousness to cultivate a more empathic and compassionate world.” (@NeseLSD)
Freeport, Maine-based family physician Selma Holden, M.D. (40), recently finished Harvard Medical School’s Integrative Medicine post-doctoral research fellowship. She believes “more in skills than pills” for helping people heal, and weaves mindfulness, yoga, herbs and other complementary techniques into her clinical repertoire. A mother, she’s particularly interested in maternal wellness. Through ayahuasca, she said, she is looking for “connection with truth, re-engagement with energy and motivation, and a clearer vision to do what’s needed for the world—doing the best I can with the privileges I’ve been given.” Holden was also awarded a Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance grant to write about her ayahuasca experiences for peers and colleagues in the integrated medical field and beyond.
Asheville, North Carolina-based Sandra García (50), a Colombian-American Spanish translator, interpreter and visual artist, plans to interview native Shipibo women in the Amazon about gender equity, shamanism and their experiences as women in modern tribal culture. García’s life’s work is about “sharing the vision of oneness and the connection between all beings.” Garcia, who recently became a U.S. citizen, was also awarded a Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance grant to interpret for an article Helene is developing about how ayahuasca’s growing popularity affects female shamans and women of the indigenous Shipibo tribe and the connection between la medicina and their exotic kinetic textile art. Garcia will also support other writers on assignment.
Boulder, Colorado-based yoga teacher and cannabis educator Rachael Carlevale (29), the first recipient of the Plant Spirit Grant in 2013, will return to Peru on a Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance grant to explore her work fusing yoga, healing and cannabis with a special focus on women’s reproductive systems. Carlevale will also examine the implications of “coming out” to her family about her cannabis liberation work following her cannabis wedding this summer. (@ganjasana)
This will be Western Massachusetts-based photographer Tracey Eller’s (52) third Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance grant to photograph grant recipients on location and the ayahuasca scene in the Peruvian Amazon. Eller’s high-resolution images will be available free for reputable media outlets that cover Cosmic Sister or grant recipients (media(at)cosmicsister.com). Eller received a Plant Spirit Grant in 2014. (@ellerimages)
About Zoe Helene
Cosmic Sister’s founder, Zoe Helene, an artist and cultural activist, is passionate about promoting and connecting kindred-spirit trailblazers in mutually supportive ways. Through Cosmic Sister advocacy projects, she helps communicate messages of love, liberty and ethical evolution. Zoe is a devoted wildlife advocate and psychedelic feminist. Her women’s empowerment work embraces psychedelic allies from the natural word—such as ayahuasca, cannabis and peyote—as a way for women look more deeply inside themselves, in part to discover fresh, liberating perspectives on core feminist issues. Her work has been featured in Bust, Forbes, Boston Magazine, Utne Reader, AlterNet and more, and her writing has been published in LA Yoga, Boston Yoga, Utne Reader, Organic Spa Magazine, Organic Authority, Eco Salon, Endangered Species Coalition, Huffington Post and others. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre. (@CosmicSister)
About Chris Kilham
Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter, author, and educator who promotes natural, plant-based medicines, sustainable global trade and indigenous cultures. Chris has conducted medicinal plant research in over 40 countries and lectures on holistic wellness and botanical medicines around the world. He has appeared on over 500 TV programs in U.S. and international markets, addressing traditional botanical medicines, psychoactive and psychedelic plants. Chris has been featured in The New York Times, Outside magazine, Psychology Today, LA Weekly, and Newsweek and appeared on CNN, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, ABC 20/20, Nightline and many other top tier media venues. He is the author of 15 books, including The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook, Psyche Delicacies, and The Five Tibetans, which has been published in over 28 languages. (MedicineHunter.com)
About Cosmic Sister®
Cosmic Sister (@CosmicSister) is a network that connects kindred-spirit trailblazers in mutually supportive ways, working collectively toward shared goals while enhancing each individual’s personal journey. Cosmic Sister wants to see a healthy, life-affirming balance of power between genders worldwide. The Plant Spirit Grant is funded internally. Cosmic Sister does NOT promote illegal activities. Donations for Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance educational grants are fully tax-deductible through Cosmic Sister’s fiscal sponsor, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). A direct link to the donation form can be found at http://www.cosmicsister.com/support. For more information, visit cosmicsister.com, or contact founder Zoe Helene at media(at)cosmicsister.com or (617) 501-6165. Join us on facebook.com/cosmicsister and twitter (@cosmicsister).
About Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
Founded in 1986, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. For more information, please contact Brad Burge, director of communications and marketing, brad(at)maps.org or (650) 863-6887.
Kratom is an ethnobotanical herb that has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of Southeast Asia as a stimulant and pain reliever.
In Arizona, where the plant is available for sale in some pharmacies, there was a plan to add two substances that are only contained in the kratom plant to the state’s list of banned drugs.
Matthew Hendley recently wrote about the controversial herb in the Phoenix New Times:
Many advocates of kratom were aware of the proposal to ban the substances in Arizona, and although New Times sent a message to the bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Eddie Farnsworth, seeking an explanation for adding kratom to the list, he didn’t provide one.
However, Farnsworth proposed an amendment Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee (which he chairs) to remove the kratom-related substances from the list, which includes about 40 other substances to be banned.
The committee voted in favor of the amendment, so kratom will remain legal in Arizona for now.
Most states don’t have laws against possessing kratom, but a few do, as do a few countries.
But there are people who swear by the plant. In a 2011 New Times story, kratom users touted its qualities as a painkiller, or as a way to overcome addiction to pharmaceutical painkillers.
A DEA evaluation states there’s “no legitimate medical use” for kratom (realize that the same agency claims there’s no accepted medical use of marijuana, either).
To read the complete article, please go to: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2014/02/kratom_removed_from_arizona_banned_drugs_list.php
Over 25 alkaloids have been isolated from the plant that share some similar activity with yohimbine and opiates. The primary alkaloid, once thought to be matragynine, is 7-hydroxymitragyne and acts as an mu receptor agonist effectively alleviating opiate withdrawal. In Malaysia it has been used to treat opiate addiction since the early 19th century. The plant also has immunostimulant activity similiar to cats claw. Because of its complex and unique nature, Kratom is believed to become of great importance to the future of phytopharmacology.
Quality Kratom from Thailand and Malaysia is currently available for sale online from Bouncing Bear Botanicals.