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Ayahuasca
Basics
by Erowid
DESCRIPTION #
"Ayahuasca" is a term for both the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and for the visionary brew made from that plant, usually in combination with an additional DMT-containing plant(s). The word "ayahuasca", from the Quechua language, means "vine of the souls". A traditional South American preparation, the ayahuasca brew frequently employs Psychotria viridis leaves as the DMT source. Inclusion of B. caapi, which contains monoamine oxidase inhibiting harmala alkaloids) allows the DMT, which would otherwise be quickly broken down in the body by the enzyme monoamine oxidase, to become orally active.

Ayahuasca is prepared by boiling or soaking its plant components; traditional brews may sometimes contain additional psychoactive and/or medicinal plants including tobacco, Brugmansia, Datura, and a long list of others.

Outside the Amazon basin, in cities around the world, ayahuasca is prepared with a wide variety of ingredients including pure chemicals (sometimes called "pharmahuasca") or substituted "analogue" plants, such as the root-bark from Mimosa tenuiflora [= M. hostilis] (sometimes called "mimosahuasca"), and often the seeds of Peganum harmala (Syrian rue) as a source of MAO-inhibiting harmala alkaloids. Ayahuasca is known for its tendency to induce vomiting and/or diarrhea in many users, its rich and complex visual effects, its reported healing properties, and its powerful mind-altering entheogenic effects.
Dose #
As the dosage of ayahuasca increases, the effects become stronger and more intense; at a certain point, some people may black out and forget much of the experience.
Price #
Ayahuasca brew is rarely available in the general underground market, but is sometimes sold or distributed within small networks of people. When available, brew made from traditional plants (B. caapi + P. viridis) has sold for around $50 per dose. Participation in underground ayahyasca circles cost $100-300 (or more) per person. Component materials are available for a wide range of prices, with analogue plants tending to cost less.
While none of the standard plant constituents of ayahausca are specifically controlled federally in the United States, DMT is Schedule I in the U.S. and in most countries. As a DMT-containing preparation, ayahuasca is generally considered to be illegal. Harmala alkaloids are not scheduled in the U.S., but some are Schedule III in Canada. Numerous ayahuasca plants and their analogues are illegal in France. We are not aware of any other countries in which Hamine or Harmaline are scheduled. Religious use of ayahuasca was specifically allowed by Brazil's Supreme Court in the late 1980s.
Some South American shaman have said that the "true spirit" of ayahuasca is in the B. caapi vine, which contains the MAOI harmala alkaloids. They say that the DMT-containing plants are primarily used to give the visions more color and depth, but are not the primary force of the message. Others argue that DMT is the dominant part of the brew, as it is a far more psychoactive substance than any harmala alkaloids by themselves.
Pharmacology #
Pharmacology Summary Needed.
Production #
Production Summary Needed.
Harmaline was first isolated from Syrian rue seeds in 1841 and the first Western record of the psychoactive effects of B. caapi (in the Brazilian Amazon) was made in 1852. Several reports were published in the mid-nineteenth century about the use of B. caapi. In 1922-1923 a film of traditional yagé ceremonies was shot and then shown to the annual American Pharmaceutical Association meeting. The popularization of ayahuasca in writing and media during the late twentieth century has led to many North Americans and Europeans travelling to South America to take ayahausca in "traditional" settings, creating a new industry around this "entheotourism". This industry helped cause a major shift in how ayahuasca use is viewed in its native lands. By the late 1990s, ayahuasca brews started to be sold by street vendors in glass bottles in some South American cities.
Terminology / Slang #
The Substance:
Ayahuasca; Pharma-huasca (with purified DMT and harmala alkaloids); Huasca; Yagé Caapi; Vine; Tea.
The Experience:
Tripping, La Purga (the purge).
Onset #
Depending on how much and how recently one has eaten food, effects begin between 20 and 60 minutes after ingestion.
Duration #
Ayahuasca users report 2-6 hours of peak effects with 1-8 hours after of lingering effects, depending on dosage and individual metabolism. Higher doses usually have longer-lasting effects.
Visual Effects #
Visuals Summary Needed.
There are a few serious injuries and deaths associated with ayahuasca use. Because ayahuasca contains a monoamine oxidaze inhibitor, which deactivates a key enzyme responsible for breaking down chemicals that could otherwise be toxic, it is possible to have severe negative reactions to ayahuasca, particularly if it is combined with proscribed foods and/or drugs. Those who chose to consume ayahuasca should educate themselves about compounds that are contraindicated when taking MAOI drugs before attempting any use.

Combining MAOI drugs with a wide array of over-the-counter, prescription, or recreational drugs can lead to very unpleasant or fatal effects. There are many articles devoted to discussions of foods and drugs that are contraindicated with any MAOI use.

Also, as with any intense psychedelic, ayahuasca can precipitate short- or long-term changes in personality or catalyze psychotic or neurotic episodes.
Contraindications #
Ayahuasca can have extreme, possibly fatal negative side effects if taken with some presciptions drugs, especially antidepressants such as Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Experienced ayahuasca practictioners and South American shamans recommend against taking ayahuasca while on most-or-all pharmaceuticals. In many traditions, there are required periods of abstinence and special dietary restrictions observed prior to ayahuasca ingestion and for a few days after each ingestion.

Addiction Potential #
Ayahuasca is not believed to be physically addicting nor likely to cause psychological dependence. Withdrawal effects following discontinuation have not been reported.
Long Term Health Problems #
Long Term Health Problems Summary Needed.
Risk of Death #
Risk of Death Summary Needed.
CAUTION & DISCLAIMER #
Erowid Basics pages are summaries of data gathered from site visitors, government documents, books, websites, and other resources. We do our best to keep this information correct and up-to-date, but the field is complex and constantly changing. Information should always be verified through multiple sources.