What is in Your Ayahuasca Brew?

August 14, 2020 11:19:26

The Amazonian vine ayahuasca has exerted its healing influence far beyond the religious and traditional ceremonies of South America as evidenced by the exploding interest in the plant across the world. However, the complicated legal status of this plant, together with its attractive economic potential, has opened the door for some less than honest practices when preparing the drink, especially regarding the ingredients that go into the cup.

According to research (yet to be published) by Helle Kaasik, from the University of Tartu in Estonia and a team from the University of Campinas in Brazil, there is a marked variation in the percentage of several psychoactive substances found in ayahuasca brews prepared by different practitioners.

The general tendency found by the researchers was that the indigenous brews tested had balanced ratios of THH, DMT, and harmine. This trend was also evident in the samples taken from brews made by Santo Daime, an ayahuasca religious group.

However, the researchers observed that the ratios of these substances varied widely in the samples taken from neoshamanic practitioners, and most of those samples had higher concentrations of DMT when compared to preparations of the traditional communities. Most worrying, two samples taken from European sources didn’t have any B.caapi, the principal ingredient in ayahuasca brews. This, in effect, made those brews counterfeit!

Why should this be of concern? Lots of people are investing huge sums of money to seek an ayahuasca practioner, and they deserve to get what they pay for. Additionally, the traditional communities from whom the ayahuasca brew was discovered regard the brew as a medicine, and anyone taking medicine needs to know the ingredients of the medicine they are taking.

In the traditional communities, ayahuasca is prepared with community participation during an elaborate ceremony, so everyone sees and knows what is being added to the brewing pot at each stage of the process. This simple yet effective method ensures that there is transparency regarding the composition of what ends up in people’s cups.

Modern ayahuasca facilitators therefore need to learn from the ancients and foster a culture of transparency if this therapeutic drink is to deliver the expected results and minimize the possibility of harm. Every medicine has the potential for adverse reactions, and any such adverse events are easy to avoid or minimize if transparency is exercised in declaring all the ingredients found in what a patient is taking.

Where money is a motivator, getting everyone to play by a given set of rules is no easy task. Nonetheless, common guidelines can be established and enforced by all licensed facilitators so that the growth of the sector isn’t threatened by a few unethical players. It would be interesting to hear what suggestions entities like Cybin Corp. recommend for enforcing discipline among all ayahuasca facilitators.

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