WHAT IS AYAHUASCA?
Ayahuasca is a sacred medicine of the Amazon that has been used since time immemorial by more than 70 ethnic groups that inhabit the Amazon basin and constitutes the core of their traditional medicine and cosmovision. In Quechua, ayahuasca means “vine of the spirits”.
It is prepared by mixing and cooking 2 plants: a vine, ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the leaves of a bush, chacruna (Psychotria viridis). The result is a thick and bitter, earth-colored beverage, with enteogenous and emetic effects. Each ethnic group, including each individual ayahuasquero, may add ingredients (or substitutes) to increase the potency of the beverage and its medicinal effects. The beverage is attributed different names according to its geographical location: for the Shuar in Ecuador it is known as “natema”; in Brasil as “jurema” or “daime”; and for the Cashinahua, “nixi pae”. In the Peruvian jungle, it is better known as “Ayahuasca” and is commonly called purga due to its emetic and cleansing effects.
Chemical composition of Ayahuasca: In simple words, the presence of both plants is needed in the ayahuasca beverage in order for the enteogenous effects to take place. The active component responsible for the visions is DMT, which is naturally found in the leaves of the chacruna bush. However, the DMT is destroyed by the enzymes of the stomach. On the other hand, the ayahuasca vine essentially provides iMAOs, which inhibit the stomach’s enzymes and allow the temporary assimilation of the DMT into the blood stream.