What is ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca refers to both the brew and the plant used to make it—specifically, the ayahuasca vine, or Banisteriopsis caapi. In the Quechua language, ayawaska means “vine of the dead” or “vine of the soul.”[23][24] In the traditional tea, pieces of the vine are combined with the leaves of Psychotria viridis (or chacruna, from the Quechua term chaqruy, “to mix”).

Harmala alkaloids in the vine function as MAOIs, inhibiting stomach enzymes that would otherwise destroy the DMT.

How do you pronounce ayahuasca?

EYE-uh-WAH-skuh, as in the Quechua spelling ayawaska.

What is yagé?

Yagé, basically, is just another name for the brew. The term originates from the Tukano people and is therefore more common in Colombia and other parts of the northwest Amazon.[25][26]

There may be technical differences between yagé and ayahuasca, such as the inclusion of chaliponga (Diplopterys cabrerana) or just the core and not the bark of B. caapi.[27][28] According to some, yagé also has a masculine spirit, in contrast to “mother ayahuasca.”[28] In practice, however, the terms are mostly interchangeable.

What is ayahuasca like?

The ayahuasca experience is often described as many years of therapy packed into a single night. It’s typically characterized by visions, vomiting, and emotional catharsis. You can get a sense of ayahuasca visions (though not everybody experiences them) from the ayahuasca art of Pablo Amaringo and various ayahuasca documentary films. In the traditional ceremony context, these visions are guided by the songs and chants—the ayahuasca icaros—of the shaman.

The prevailing effect for almost everyone who drinks the brew is a kind of life audit—a frank and often brutal evaluation of one’s lifestyle, relationships, and behavior.

For more on ayahuasca effects, see the Effects section above.

Is ayahuasca legal in […]?

For details on the legality of ayahuasca worldwide, see our post on the topic and our Essential Guide to Ayahuasca Retreats.

Can it be detected in a drug test?

DMT, the psychedelic compound in ayahuasca, is not included in a typical drug screen, nor is it included in any known extensive drug screens. It is also not chemically similar to substances that are typically tested for, so the likelihood of triggering a false positive for other drugs is near zero.

Will it make me sick?

Ayahuasca will often induce nausea or diarrhea in the early stages of the experience. This is why, traditionally, users will avoid eating or drinking for some time before the ceremony. It is considered a purification of the body and spirit, and a crucial part of the ceremony. There have been no reports of long-lasting harm from this aspect of the ceremony.

How common is ayahuasca death?

Ayahuasca death cases are few and far between, and commonly attributed to interactions with other substances or medical contraindications. This is not to say ayahuasca dangers are negligible⁠—just that following advice is essential. This is not a substance to be taken lightly.

Do I have to travel to Peru for a ceremony/retreat?

Although traditional ayahuasca ceremonies are mostly associated with the Peruvian Amazon, there are many places you can find the brew. See our Essential Guide to Ayahuasca Retreats for details on ayahuasca tourism. Various religious groups use ayahuasca in their gatherings too. The UDV, for example, is a Christian organization that uses ayahuasca legally (at least in some countries) in its ceremonies.

Where can I buy ayahuasca?

Beyond the witches’ markets of South America, you’re unlikely to find ayahuasca for sale. Certainly if you do find ayahuasca tea for sale on the internet, you should view it with extreme caution (not least because it’s generally illegal). But ayahuasca ingredients (traditional and alternative) are widely available online.

Search ethnobotanical suppliers and reputable headshop websites to purchase ayahuasca plant materials.

How to make ayahuasca?

Traditional ayahuasca is a boiled decoction of B. caapi vine and P. viridis leaves. The latter ingredient is sometimes substituted with other plants. Different traditions also have their own special rituals for ayahuasca preparation.

Various non-traditional ayahuasca recipes exist too, using plants native to regions beyond the Amazon. One ayahuasca recipe, for instance, calls for Syrian rue and Illinois bundleflower.

Pharmacologically, there are just two components to the brew—DMT and MAOI—and each of these can be found in a variety of plants native to virtually every continent.

For more on this, see our guide to making ayahuasca at home.

How long does ayahuasca last?

Ayahuasca affects people differently depending on a number of factors. Some would say it lasts a lifetime, at least when it comes to the benefits. Ayahuasca healing can certainly outlast the immediate effects. In general, though, the trip itself usually lasts between five and eight hours.[29][30]

Will I have a negative experience?

Ayahuasca contains an intense psychedelic compound that is certainly no guarantee of a pleasant experience. However, taken in the right context and with the right mindset, most people find the experience to be extremely meaningful. Ayahuasca can help you view various painful aspects of your life, allowing you to see how they can be made better. This experience may not be gentle, but it’s typically integral to healing.

Can I mix it with other drugs?

Ayahuasca should not be mixed with Tramadol, as it can lead to serotonin syndrome. Be cautious if mixing ayahuasca with cannabis, amphetamines, or cocaine. Click here for a detailed chart of safe drug combinations.

Does ayahuasca produce tolerance?

Ayahuasca tolerance is very mild; you can take another dose within a day without significantly reduced effects. It also does not produce tolerance to other psychedelics.

Can I microdose with ayahuasca?

There is not much information about ayahuasca microdosing, as microdosing is most commonly performed with LSD and psilocybin. However, as it contains DMT, a classic psychedelic in the same family as LSD and psilocybin, it can be microdosed in a similar way. Click here for more information about microdosing ayahuasca.