Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca.com is a research project devoted to the botany, ethnography, mythology, arts, music, therapeutic mechanisms, and phenomenology of the Amazonian Spirit Vine Ayahuasca (aya-soul/dead, wasca-vine/rope); the jungle vine Banisteriopsis Caapi, and the medicinal tea prepared from it.

The Banisteriopsis vine is a Malpighiaceous jungle liana found in the tropical regions of South America. The vine constitutes the primary ingredient of the Ayahuasca tea which is used widely used throughout the Amazon for healing and spiritual development.

Science

Mestizo Shamanism and Vegetalistas»What is mestizo shamanism?
The Loreto province of northeastern Peru (and to a lesser extent to Ucayali province south of it) is virtually unique in Latin America in that indigenous shamanic practices have been adopted and adapted by the mestizo population, and become a part of the mestizo culture.
While mestizo curanderismo is not unknown elsewhere in […]

Ayahuasca, Neurogenesis and Depression»Daniel Mirante
A hypothesis suggesting Ayahuasca may be growing healthier brains…

Spirit & Healing

Ayahuasca and Kabbalah»Jay Michaelson
The ayahuasca trip is not especially unitive: indeed, one of its hallmarks is the sense of communication with other life forms or consciousnesses. And while a sense of “all is One” is sometimes reported in the midst of the ayahuasca experience, it’s more common to read reports of visions of phenomena – manifestation, not essence.

Ayahuasca, Neurogenesis and Depression»Daniel Mirante
A hypothesis suggesting Ayahuasca may be growing healthier brains…

Common Names in the Amazon

Yagé; bejuco bravo; bejuco de oro; caapi (Tupi, Brazil); mado, mado bidada and rami-wetsem (Culina); nucnu huasca and shimbaya huasca (Quechua); kamalampi (Piro); punga huasca; rambi and shuri (Sharanahua); ayahuasca amarillo; ayawasca; nishi and oni (Shipibo); ayahuasca; ayahuasca negro; ayahuasca blanco; ayahuasca trueno, cielo ayahuasca; népe; xono; datém; kamarampi; Pindé (Cayapa); natema (Jivaro); iona; mii; nixi; pae; ka-hee’ (Makuna); mi-hi (Kubeo); kuma-basere; wai-bu-ku-kihoa-ma; wenan-duri-guda-hubea-ma; yaiya-suava-kahi-ma; wai-buhua-guda-hebea-ma; myoki-buku-guda-hubea-ma (Barasana); ka-hee-riama; mene’-kají-ma; yaiya-suána-kahi-ma; kahí-vaibucuru-rijoma; kaju’uri-kahi-ma; mene’-kají-ma; kahí-somoma’ (Tukano); tsiputsueni, tsipu-wetseni; tsipu-makuni; rami-wetsem (Kulina); amarrón huasca, inde huasca (Ingano); oó-fa; yajé (Kofan); bi’-ã-yahé; sia-sewi-yahe; sese-yahé; weki-yajé; yai-yajé; nea-yajé; horo-yajé; sise-yajé (Shushufindi Siona); shimbaya huasca (Ketchwa); shillinto (Peru); nepi (Colorado); wai-yajé; yajé-oco; beji-yajé; so’-om-wa-wai-yajé; kwi-ku-yajé; aso-yajé; wati-yajé; kido-yajé; weko-yajé; weki-yajé; usebo-yajé; yai-yajé; ga-tokama-yai-yajé; zi-simi-yajé; hamo-weko-yajé (Siona of the Putomayo); shuri-fisopa; shuri-oshinipa; shuri-oshpa (Sharananahua).*

At least 42 indigenous names for this preparation are known. It is remarkable and significant that at least 72 different indigenous tribes of Amazonia, however widely separated by distance, language, and cultural differences, all manifested a detailed common knowledge of ayahuasca and its use.* Both the plant and the medicine prepared from it are called ‘ayahuasca’ in most of the Peruvian Amazon.  In this cyber treatise we distinguish the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) from the medicinal brew (ayahuasca combined with a companion plant such as chacruna) by capitalizing the name of the prepared medicine, i.e. Ayahuasca.

*from Schultes and Raffauf, The Healing Forest.


Biochemistry

Principal active biochemicals: the ß-carboline alkaloids harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine, harmol, harmic acid, methylester harmic amide, acetyl norharmine, harmine N-oxide, harmalinic acid and ketotetra-hydronorharmine are present in the bark, stems, and trunk of B. caapi, B. inebrians, and other species of Banisteriopsis. Tetrahydroharmine occurs in greater concentration in B. caapi than in other plants bearing harmala alkaloids such as Peganum harmala (Syrian rue) and certain species of Passiflora sp. (passionflower). This may account for the more profound and enduring therapeutic effects produced by genuine ayahuasca compared to “analogue” preparations.

What is Ayahuasca?

The word “Ayahuasca” refers to a medicinal and magical drink incorporating two or more distinctive plant species capable of producing profound mental, physical and spiritual effects when brewed together and consumed in a ceremonial setting. One of these plants is always the giant woody liana vine called ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi or other species). The other plant or plants combined with ayahuasca generally contain tryptamine alkaloids, most often dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The plants most often used are the leaves of chacruna (Psychotria viridis and other species) and oco yagé; also known as chalipanga, chagraponga, and huambisa (Diplopterys cabrerana).

This drink is widely employed throughout Amazonian Perú, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, western Brazil, and in portions of the Río Orinoco basin.  It has probably been used in the western Amazon for millennia and is rapidly expanding in South America and elsewhere through the growth of organized syncretic religious movements such as Santo Daime, União do Vegetal (UDV), and Barquinia, among others. In traditional rainforest practice, other medicinal or visionary plants are often added to the brew for various purposes, from purely positive healing (blancura) and divination to malevolent black magic (brujeria, magia negra or rojo).

The oldest know object related to the use of ayahuasca is a ceremonial cup, hewn out of stone, with engraved ornamentation, which was found in the Pastaza culture of the Ecuadorean Amazon from 500 B.C. to 50 A.D. It is deposited in the collection of the Ethnological Museum of the Central University (Quito, Ecuador). This indicates that ayahuasca potions were known and used at least 2,500 years ago. Its antiquity in the lower Amazon is likely much greater.

The Ayahuasca medicine usually contains both beta-carboline and tryptamine alkaloids. However, some indigenous Amazonian cultures, i.e. Yahua and others, prepare a ceremonial drink from the ayahuasca vine alone.The effects differ in visionary qualities from the more typical composite preparation but with the same profound cleansing and spiritual effects. The beta-carbolines (harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine) are obtained from the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi). Harmine and harmaline are visionary at near toxic levels, but at modest dosage typically produce mainly tranquility and purgation.

Tetrahydroharmine is present in significant levels in ayahuasca. It may be responsible for some of its more profound effects compared to analogue plants such as Syrian rue (Peganum harmala).

The ratio of the harmala alkaloids in ayahuasca appears to vary greatly from one geographical area to another in the Amazon basin. The proportions in which they are present likely account for the varied effects reported by shamans from different ‘kinds’ of ayahuasca even though all are botanically classified as Banisteriopsis caapi.

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