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Ayahuasca Conference
California Institute for Integral Studies

March 17-19, 2000
San Francisco, California
by Earth Erowid


We had an excellent time at the conference this weekend. Spent a large part of our time in the lobby outside the conference room talking and meeting people.

The primary bit of data for psychonauts came, of course, from Ott, who presented his findings from his use of 5MeO and Bufotenin. The short story of which is that he said that for him and several other testers, bufotenin and 5meoDMT are "dramatically pharmacologically active" orally, sublingually, and snuffed.

Long Version

The ayahuasca conference was organized by Tony Rich (apparently a wealthy Bay Area man) and Ralph Metzner. Metzner's new book _Ayahuasca_ is an introductory book on the subject and this conference had many introductory elements to it.

The first evening, friday, was an introduction to each of the presenters, who each spent a few minutes introducing themselves.

Tony Rich
He struck me as a new age salesman. Nice fellow, expensively and precisely dressed. I recorded the following quotes: "a new millenium of consciousness raising" "CIIS [the school where Metzner teachers] is the best kept secret of consciousness raisers" He said that he had strong intuitive powers from the time he was very young and spent a month in Peru where he met ayahusca for the first time. "ayahuasca's wisdom percolated through all the villages along the amazon.." "upcoming millenium of finding the balance" "moving into the age of aquarius" we need to help "further the process which is building world wide"

Ralph Metzner
He said he saw 3 points of view of the use of ayahuasca: Shamanic, healing, and Divination practices; Modern Science ; and a Social, cultural, spirititual movement. [[ i guess he left out recreational :} ]]

Luis Edwardo Luna
He said since he met ayahuasca his life has been shaped by the vine "I am just following the vine in as many ways as possible."

Jose Campos
did not speak English, spoke Spanish. said "I like the term purgative better than 'ayahusaca'" He seemed to be a man of few words.

Kathleen Harrisson
Grew up with intimate relationship with plants & nature. "became a traveller in the 60s" "honor that medicine [lsd] for opening so many windows" "I see ayahuasca as an upwelling of the force of life" "ayahuasca offers us deeper eyes"

Jeremy Narby
uthor of Cosmic Serpent, spent 15 years workin on amazonian land rights & education, believes that ayauhuasca can be used to 'gain knowledge' in many fields.

Connie Graud
herbalist, 6 year apprenticeship to an ayahuasquero. after ayahuasca "plants started to talk to me" was formerly a 'corner pharmacist' She initially went down to the amazon "to see where curare and quinine came from."

Jace Callaway
working in finland now. He said he worked "for the non believers, the ones who need to know how much is in this and how much is in that". Talking about his work with McKenna & Grob with the UDV "we came, we saw, we measured" said that trying to analyze the data from that research was "the challenge of a lifetime"

Dennis McKenna
"Terence is gravely ill, but he wanted me to be sure to extend his love and greetings" He said that after his experience at La Chorrera "the rest of my life has been to try to sort out or live down what all this has been". He said his reaction afterwards was to "retreat into hard sciences" "early experiences pointed out the limitations of science" "beta carbolines not unusual at all, fairly common in nature" He said in reaction to Metzner's calling the UDV work 'the definitive study': "its not the definitive study, its the preliminary study"

Silvia Nakkach
musician - said she believes in and uses "the power of plant spirits to trigger musical energy" "amazonia inside" - the creative imagination of the plant.

Jonathon Ott
looking pretty weird, seeing him on the panel was totally amusing. Where the other presenters sitting on the stage sat quietly and calmly, Jonathan was looking around, sucking his cheeks, moving his lips, restless.. sorta like watching the bored guys in the back seat of highschool class while all the well behaved students pay attention, their mind is wandering and waiting for it to be over. He said he was a "learn around-er" and "pharmacophile" He said "I dont see ayahuasca as special or different from the other things I'm interested in." he called himself "a dyed-in-the-wool druggie"

Analise Shinzinger
18yr involvement with huasca and churches like the UDV. "I want to express my gratitude to ayahuasca who has been very important in my life." Lived in Brazil for 6 years, said of ayahuasca "she has always been in my heart" and "she's still my ally" "ayahuasca is about change, about union, and can help us be more integrated"

Luzia Krull
"most important thing about Santo Daime was to put me in direct communication with the creator." "developing that connection allowed me to be guided... how do you bring that to a culture which doesn't understand that?" "all of us who choose to surrender at that level, evolve."

Alex Polari de Alverga
leader of a Santo Daime church in Mapisa Brazil - non english speaker. Big long greying beard. "18 years ago I met daime." "Santo Daime is a religion, a sacrament, shamanic, entheogenic, & christian" [sorry about the non parellelism] "went to shoot a documentary 18 yers ago, but never got very far, but the experience of ayahuasca changed my life and I lived there." He said he "participated in the process of legalization in the 80s" and was "involved in the institutionalization of the religion of Santo Daime"

Aprecida Groome
from south america, spoke english, "my mother was chanelling all these different spirits & entities" "grandmother wsa also psychic, peoplw would go to her & ask advice" "my aunt read tarot cards & another aunt would heal people with her hands"... all of this "was not so uncommon in Brazil" She is interested in "the science of the heart" "through ayahuasca I heard the planet, gaia, telling me that we need to change our relationship to nature, to our bodies, and our sexuality" "our bodies are sacred"

Diane Haug
breathworker, therapist, background in mental health, 20 years in healing, was imressed by the UDV village she visited.

Ken Symington
"Independent researcher" grew up in peru, worked with ayahuascqueros and curanderos "Im here as a student of ayahuasca"


The morning session we came for, but I only listened for 15 minutes before stepping out and spending the rest of the session manning the Erowid booth and meeting people.

Jeremy Narby: I very much enjoyed his talk. He had a sort of geeky but playful energy. His delivery style seemed somewhat performancy, but in a strange plodding deadpan style. He didn't move his body much, kept his back straight, and had his long sleeve buttoned shirt buttoned all the way to the top button, hair 2" long and not combed. He would make little jokes or plays on words and smirk as he finished them and then continue. He was fun to listen to and his style was (despite how that might sound) quite good. He talked about how he came to the idea that he thinks ayahuaca may be giving otherwise 'impossible' knowledge to the users by giving them an ability to perceive DNA directly. Very enjoyable.

The main piece of data that really stuck out to me that Jeremy talked about was how there is a report of the use of extracted scopolamine from Brugmansia leaves being used as a form of assault. He said the case reports involve someone being sprayed in the face with something and then losing their memory for the next few hours. When they go to the hospital, scopolamine is found in their blood. Later he was very kind to bring the reference for us to write down: the article was in Brain & Cognition 15 236-245 (1991) Alfredo Ardila and Carlos Moreno "Scopolamine Intoxication as a Model of Transient Global Amnesia" When used this way this extract is apparently called "Burundanga"

After Jeremy's talk I only sporadically walked in and out of the sessions on Saturday. Jose Campos's talk was translated and went slowly and he is a man of few words to begin with. Charlie Grob, Dennis McKenna, and Jace Callaway's talk was interesting but I didn't take any notes. I did not attend the women's talk with Harrison, Groome, Haug, and Schinzinger, but a friend found the talk a little too "mushy" for her tastes.

Unfortunately our brains shut down before the music session on saturday evening.


Sunday morning, Jonathan Ott gave his talk:

Jonathan Ott: "psychonautica tryptamina or "psychonautica shamanica" He "first became interested in the ayahuascas 10 years ago". 5-HO-DMT = bufotenin. Richard Manske in the 1930s in Canada discovered / synthesized DMT. 1955 DMT shown to be in anadenanthera colubrina. 1956 tested by Szara via IM injection definite "psychotropic effects" 1966 it was shown that harmala + dmt in the ayahasca potions in 1967 there were only 15 surveys of ayahuasca potions, they revealed that between 50 & 200 ml of potion was used which contained an average of 160 mg of beta carbolines and 30 mg of DMT, with the ranges being 20-450 mg of bCarbolines with a 3 to 1 ratio of harmine to tetra-hydro-harmaline and 25-35 mg DMT per dose.

He said that the largest DMT-only dose reported is 1gram, which is not orally active. He said of the simple tryptamines many are orally active and DMT is the exception, not the rule. (afterwards J. Callaway said he thought it would be a crime to waste grams of DMT trying to find the level at which its orally active)

1967 the government sponsored "ethnophamacologic search for psychoactive drugs"
1968 verified content in the potions
1980s D. McKenna showed ayahuasca definitely inhibited MAO

He said his method was to "get as much information as one can" and he said that there was a lot of problems with science because of the "pretense of scientific subjectivity" [maybe I caught this wrong and he said "objectivity"] He says he describes his method as "the Heffter technique" because Heffter pioneered the testing on self to determine activity of substances. Said that the term "psychonaut" was coined by Ernst Junger (1970).

He said he was "not per-se opposed to the use of animals in research but certainly the only ethical way is the Heffter technique" (self bioassay). He said that research into these things was going on in the "demi monde or underworld" meaning the psychedelic community. "ayahuasca analog" was coined by D. McKenna.

For his testing he said he works with harmine isolated by him from perganum harmala and the DMT is isolated from "commercially available herbs". He found that 1.5 mg per kg harmine + 25-35 mg DMT orally was enough for "clear cut visionary effects". He said that non plant MAOIs such as Moclobemide can induce oral activity of DMT. He said that all the tryptamines are MAOIs, but that harmine is 100-1000x more potent MAOI than DMT, bufotenin, or 5MeODMT.

He said that all the focus on ayahuasca has meant that many people have forgotten or ignored the snuffs, which were some of the first things studied. He calls isolated 5-MeO-DMT when used as entheogen "pharmepena" - from the virola traditionally used as an oral paste, snuff, and 'fumatory'. He calls isolated Bufotenin "pharmayopo" and traditionally it is used as a snuff, orally, enema, and fumatory.

He said he considers all of these tryptamine psychoactives to be "spokes around which tobacco is the hub" although he didnt go into great detail about what he meant by this. Over the weekend, I heard him say this several times. I think what he means is that traditionally tobacco is considered the most powerful 'helper' plant and it kinda goes with everything :) He said that he considers it strange that "tobacco has been kicked out of the syncretic religions" meaning that with the Santo Daime, tobacco smoking is prohibited, despite the centrality of its role in traditional ayhuasca use.

Although it wasnt entirely clear to me I believe he is also saying that tobacco is strongly potentiated by harmala as well and that this may have something to do with his spoke model. I didn't really understand what he meant by that image.

He tested the 5MeO oral activity and found it "quite dramatically orally active"

30 mg 5MeO orally active alone. Pharmacologically identical to snuffing or inhaling, salt not necessary, all his work was with the freebase.

10 mg sublingual or nasally is a threshold dose for him

3-5 mg of harmaline doubles the effects of sublingual or snuff use.
T+5mins noticeable body effects
T+15mins to get clear cut psychotropic effects
T+25-60 mins is the peak
T+70-90 mins is the "dissolution of the experience"

"most people need 60 mg harmaline orally + 10 mg 5meo or 30+mg 5MeO orally without the harmala.. so the numbers are 5-10-30" Meaning that with harmaline 5 mg snuffed or sublingual (not swallowed) was potentially strong, 10 mg snuffed or sublingual without harmaline or 10 mg oral with harmaline, or 30 mg oral without MAOI... we will get this info up in a more useable form...

He said his other research in preparation for this conference was with bufotenin. As many know the question of bufotenin's psychoactivity has been in question.. In tests on mental patients, it was injected IM and "turned people's faces the color of plum & eggplant" and hasn't really been thoroughly tested since. He said he found "exactly the same pattern of activity as 5MeO" and that it was "virtually identical to 5MeO in time course" He was rushed at this point and said that activity was between 2 and 8 mg with "significant visionary effects" for inhaled vapors of the freebase. He said in lab in vitro studies, "bufotenin had twice the affinity to serotonin receptors to 5MeO with is 2x DMT's affinity" He said that hoffman said he found 50 mg not orally active, so Ott started with 100 mg and found activity. He said that 3-4 mg of harma doubles the effects. He said that he had given 100 mg of snuff to Manuel Tores and it was "the heaviest trip he'd ever had"...

Ott said that while he was experimenting with these things, it became clear that the oppossum was his power animal.

Jace Callaway then commented for a few minutes about Ott's talk: In talking about the animal testing he said "it just doesnt matter how much you give these animals, they just dont say anything" .. he said

"the notion of subjectivity is a fallacy in science" [ again, I expected him to say 'objectivity', but I dont think he did] He said that there have been some Lethal Dose studies with ayahusca and that if translated to humans it could be the equivalent of 7liters but that rats do not vomit (they dont have the physical ability) and that he said that he thought humans would naturally expel ayahuasca.. he said "I cannot imagine a lethal dose of ayahuasca". He said that his research had shown a different ratio of harmine to tetra-hydro-harmine than that reported in the 60s: sometimes a 1 to 1 ratio.

He said "I think we've overlooked the importance of tobacco in our community" meaning that tobacco is a huge part of the traditional use of entheogens in SAmerica. He said that nicotine occurs in coca leaf and tomatoes.

During the question & answer section, Ott was asked whether he observed any rituals for his use and he said "I dont observe other people's rituals and dont find them particularly useful." and "I dont think it makes any difference if it comes from a plant or if its a pure compount, in fact I prefer pure chemicals." He said that methamphematine was (recently?) discovered to be a naturally occuring chemical in some plant. He said he defines "artificial as meaning not yet found in a plant or animal." He said that valium & polyester have also been found naturally occuring. He said he prefers the terms "natural" and "artificial" over the word "synthetic", with 'synthetic' reserved for things which are produced in the lab whether or not they are 'naturally' occuring.

JC: "I've looked in the dictionary for some of your words, Jonathan, and I just dont find them."
Ott: "Neither do the cops".

He said that he doesnt get much colored visuals from nnDMT or bufotenin, but that the visual effects were 'extraordinary' he described them as "a shimmering, magical varnish over reality" and creating a "synesthetic psithurism or whisping sound", best in low light, not in total darkness or bright sunlight, he said it was like seeing the ether described in the 19th century, he said he got distinc strobe effects and occasional visual-field dimming as well as arabesque patterning but not geometric patterning.

James Callaway in response to a possible tone that he perceived in the question of perhaps criticizing Ott's use as non-sacred (the asker did not say this, but I think this is what he was reacting to) "what binds us together is a common experience, I suggest we should be open to diversity."

I asked Ott later whether he himself chose to use harmala with his tryptamines and he said no. He said that his research into the use of harmala to potentiate the tryptamines was just research and he found harmala to muddle the effects and he preferred not to use them. He said he'd prefer 10 mg snuffed 5MeO over 5 mg snuffed with harmala.

"Ayahuasca and the Amazonina Ecological and Cultural Context" This was an interesting panel talk, although there was no discussion :(
just each panel member talking individually.

Jose Campos: (translated by Ken Symington) He said that "ayahasca's reputation in Peru is getting worse" partially because of the migration from the non-ayahuasca using highlands down into the jungle has created a cultural shift. He said that the vine is decreasingly available and one has to go further and further into the jungle to find it, a large part due to entheo-tourism. He said that The Shapibo are losing the tradition of using, finding, & preparing ayahuasca he went to visit some shapibo villages and "instead of going learn to use ayahuasca in their style, jI ended up teaching them" "painful for me to see the effects of tourism" "you can buy ayahuasca at the corner stand like coca cola" ayahuasca tourism is hurting traditional use because entheotourists from the US because they end up doing it in commercial contexts and not in sacred contexts."

Connie Graud: she said that the fad of helping out the amazon had passed and people need to buy more Rainforest Crunch. I found her talk somewhat uninspiring and stepped out after a few minutes. I think it was directed at the idle rich, perhaps? "Save the rainforests"

Jeremy Narby: Jeremy's perspective was "conservation through transformation" .. "all these things are about change, not just about conservation." He talked about how large a need there is for communication between the cultures and treating the inhabitants as equals.. "Bilingualism & bi-cognitivism are never easy to learn."

"Bilinguals have more fun"

I can't remember who said it, but someone (perhaps Luis Edwardo Luna?) said that there was a not-insignificant amount of resentment towards rich north americans for buying up parts of the rainforest to 'preserve it' which stops them from using it how they want to.. Luna talked more hopefully about the two sides of the entheotourism, although it looked bad from the outside and definitely was causing problems, there were some interesting effects. He said that every "lodge" (i think he meant Inn or small hotel?) had its own ayahuasquero and that many lodges have their own ethnobotanical gardens to grow ayahuaca and other plants.. He said he grew up in the rain forest and didnt know anything about ayahuaca until he met the McKenna's and he thinks in some ways the tourism has created a resurgent interest in the traditions and medicines.

ok, well thats the end of my notes.

For anyone who has never gone to one of these conferences, the main point of them for many is to spend some time networking and getting a chance to get a full-bandwidth opportunity to see what other folks in this community are like. Unfortunately I missed some of the people I expected to get in touch with, but we were somewhat prominently stationed behind a table for most of the conference and should have been hard to miss, so I blame you slackers for not findings me ;]

Overall I think that the conference location (a hotel) was not an ideal choice. The primary problem with it was that the room for the talks was long and narrow and the chairs cramped together so closely that I couldn't sit between two people without constantly bumping elbows and so very often chose to stand instead of sit. Narrow long rooms create the longest possible distances between seats and the speaker. Some people chose to go sit in the overflow room with the video feed instead of sit in the back. The sound was very clear and good throughout the room, but only the front 10 rows or so really could see the speakers who were primarily sitting on the very low stage (some stood at the podium which made them far easier to see).

The conference organizers had chosen to reserve the front 6 or so rows for presenters, their friends, and other preferred guests, so very few non-insiders got good seating. Also, many of the presenters did not make themselves much available for discussion after their talks and were (understandably) very busy. I consider this a major flaw with many conferences where presenters are primarily asked to come and do their performance, but there is no explicit part of the program to interact with the rabble otherwise. Ott was the most accessible of the presenters by _far_ and spent most of his time in the lobby. Dennis McKenna and others did answer questions and were somewhat accessible, but I think that these sorts of quasi-academic conferences need to be structured to create more explicit spaces for contact. The other major problem with the location (as many of you know) is that it only could accomodate 500 people in the room and they turned away many who wanted to buy tickets. On the very positive side, the area for the vendors was really quite good, large, and comfortable (I called this the lobby) and there was a small airport-priced place to buy drinks in the building. The area had lots of restaraunts and a grocery store not far away, but you kinda had to know where to find em.

We had Erowid t-shirts out for people to look at and were asking for donations and the world now has 7 more humans who can wear the federal schedules on their chest. One parole officer said he couldn't wait to wear it to work :] We gave out a bunch of cards. Thanks to MAPS and Entheogen Review and Alchemind and Mind Books and others for being cool people to hang around with and making it a great weekend for us and the other attendees.

anyway, great time, it was fantastic meeting all of you who came and I hope some who didn't get to come can find something interesting in my notes. I hope to hear from others what their impressions were.