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Full Review
Ayahuasca Analogues: Pangaean Entheogens
by Jonathan Ott
Natural Products Company 
Reviewed by Justin Case, 2/11/2006

Ayahuasca Analogues is certainly not light reading, although it is a slim book of a mere 127 pages. As those who appreciate the writings of Jonathan Ott would expect, this book is dense with information: detailed, technical, extensive, and thorough, for those who want to know all there is to know about the history, pharmacology and pharmacognacy (the study of the effects of psychoactive plants on consciousness) of ayahuasca, with all information attributed to sources for verification and/or further reading. Though the book itself may not include all there is to know about ayahuasca, it is certainly an invaluable starting point for a full literary study of that entheogen and this book, with its eighteen-page bibliography, gives the serious researcher the means by which to acquire just about all there is to know about ayahuasca. If the reader appreciates the Shulgins’ TiHKAL and PiHKAL, he or she would likely appreciate this book, though it is not quite as technical as the Shulgins’ books. On that note, Ayahuasca Analogues would do well sitting on the shelf beside these two books along with Ott’s Pharmacotheon and other technical books on entheogens.

The book opens with an essay on (as Ott has coined) the “entheogenic reformation,” referring to the return of entheogens to a place of importance in western history. Then Ott covers the history of ayahuasca specifically for the modern Western world beginning in1851 when, as far as history tells, the pioneering botanist Richard Spruce became the first-known westerner to become aware of its existence.

Ayahuasca Analogues goes on to discuss various admixture plants of both tropical and temperate zones before dealing with the pharmacognacy of ayahuasca in full detail, as well as the beta-carbolines, harmine and harmaline, and also gives individual attention to the tryptamine DMT. This is the real value of the book – detailed information of the usage of northern-latitude plants which can be substituted for Amazonian plants in order to elicit the same effects.

Indeed, one of the express purposes of the book is to provide enough information for the would-be ayahuasca experimenter to forget about ayahuasca tourism, leave the Amazon alone and instead use one of the thousands of possible combinations of plants that are available in the northern hemisphere (which, for that reason, has been called “ayahuasca borealis”).

The following chapter deals with psychonautic reports; that is, the experimentation by Ott and associates as they attempt to ascertain the active principles of ayahuasca and to determine optimum ratios and dosage levels through bioassays (assessments of the effects of taking ayahuasca) with various harmine/harmaline and DMT-containing plants. This chapter also discusses MAOI pharmaceuticals and pills (which have been called “pharmahuasca”) of extracted active principles.

The book continues with a literary history of ayahuasca, as well as Santo Daime and União do Vegetal, both of which are religious groups centered on the taking of ayahuasca as a sacrament.

Some unusual experimentation is explored. There is a section, for example, on “peyohuasca,” which is what the author calls a mixture of mescaline and harmaline which showed promising potential and which belies the underground myth that the combination would be deadly (and this is confirmed by Alexander Shulgin).

The reader will find no colorful descriptions of ayahuasca visions in this book, but rather, exact dosage levels, timing of effects and other such technical information. It should be mentioned, however, that all of the tables in this book are available on the net. But that is only part of the value of this book and, despite what one review on the website of a popular book company states, this book provides much that is not included in Ott’s Pharmacotheon.

Unfortunately, this book is out of print, but copies are still available through large bookselling companies that will track down used copies through smaller book-selling companies. One can expect to pay from $50 to over $100 for a copy. whereas it retailed for only $15 when it was published. One can only hope that Natural Products will make a reprinting. though there seems to be no signs indicating they intend to do so.

1 Comment »

  1. I can’t say enough good things about this book. If you are interested in Ayahuasca this is the book for you. It gives you every possible combination of plants that have been used throught history. 5 stars.

    Comment by Curt — 9/23/2006 @ 8:32 am

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