Potential risks:

Physical health

Many people regard Ayahuasca as spiritual and therefore safe, but it is still a chemical hallucinogen as well as a Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). There is an extensive list of foods to be avoided in order to prevent side-effects linked here. When following all dietary and medical restrictions, current scientific research indicates that Ayahuasca side-effects are relatively mild; adding that more detailed research needs to be conducted.

This means it can:

  • raise your blood pressure

  • raise your heart rate

  • be harmful to those with a pre-existing heart condition

  • cause intense nausea and vomiting as well as diarrhea in most participants

Mental health

Ayahuasca can produce very unpredictable – and sometimes frightening – effects, which tend to feed off of a participant’s subconscious and conscious imagination. Breath control, reaffirmation by guides/facilitators that everything will be okay and that the participants are safe, and lying prone can be beneficial to alleviate negative symptoms.

If panic sets in, the experience can be scary and confusing. Remember, this is a self-induced chemical state and is temporary.

Taking an extreme entheogen such as Ayahuasca can:

  • Lead to flashbacks, this is when part of the trip is subsequently relived after the original experience.

  • Be especially serious for someone with a history of mental health problems. It can trigger a problem for someone who didn’t know they had a predisposition to mental health problems as well.

  • Lead to the user harming him/herself or others if not properly supervised/guided and in a safe setting.

  • Lead to unpleasant emotional effects that could last for days after taking the drug.

Work with Ayahuasca or other powerful entheogens will be uncomfortable for most participants; understand that this is a sacred process, not a lark, and should be approached with preparation, reverence, and care.

Entheogens are not a replacement for mental health care.

Ayahuasca is not a cure-all or “magic potion.”


Potential Benefits:

Research is still evolving, with many studies undertaken to date being small scale or restricted to religious contexts where both the plant ingredients and context are carefully controlled. It is unclear the extent to what outcomes reported vary by context of use.

effects associated

  • increased confidence, optimism and independence (Barbosa, Cazorla et al. 2009)

  • increased assertiveness (Barbosa, Giglio et al. 2005)

  • being more calm, peaceful, compassionate, and loving, as well as feeling less judgmental, kinder, and increased feelings of being grateful (Harris and Gurel 2012)

  • enhanced cognitive and creative skills (Shanon 2000, Shanon 2002)

  • long term changes in belief systems (Shanon 2002)

  • increased clarity regarding purpose (Harris and Gurel 2012) (Halpern, Sherwood et al. 2008)

  • positive psychosocial adaptation (Bouso, González et al. 2012)

  • improved coping abilities relating to serious health conditions (Schmid, Jungaberle et al. 2010)

  • enhanced social cohesion (Andritzky 1989)

Mood and Anxiety disorders including PTSD

Positive effects associated with the use of the tea have also been documented relating to mood and anxiety disorders, including PTSD (Grob, McKenna et al. 1996, Barbosa, Cazorla et al. 2009, Fortunato, Reus et al. 2010, Anderson 2012). A recent review published in CNS Drugs outlines the preclinical evidence supporting the medicinal use of ayahuasca for anxiety disorders (Sarris, McIntyre et al. 2013). A recent small study of the administration of a single dose of ayahuasca to people with a current depressive disorder in an inpatient psychiatric clinic found significant reductions of up to 82 per cent in depressive scores after 21 days. The authors conclude that ayahuasca has fast acting anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in people with a depressive disorders (de L. Osório, Sanches et al. 2015). The use of ayahuasca as a self-therapy for a wide range of physical health issues has also been reported, and theoretical models of action advanced for cancer and Parkinson’s disease (Schmid, Jungaberle et al. 2010, Schenberg 2013, Djamshidian, Bernschneider-Reif et al. 2015). In Brazil and some other South American countries ayahuasca is used in combination with conventional medical treatment protocols (Mercante 2013), but the extent of integration with conventional or traditional medicine in Western countries is unknown.

Alcohol and substance dependence

There is an increasing body of evidence supporting the therapeutic use of ayahuasca for the treatment of alcohol and drug dependence (Liester and Prickett 2012, Bouso and Riba 2014, Loizaga-Velder and Verres 2014). Studies of lifetime alcohol and drug use, including severe dependence, among Brazilian members of the Santo Daime or UDV churches who are frequent ayahuasca drinkers have consistently shown either complete remission or significant reductions (Grob, McKenna et al. 1996, Halpern, Sherwood et al. 2008). Data from the Takiwasi centre in Peru, which has been using ayahuasca in combination with conventional psychotherapeutic methods for over 20 years, provides evidence of a positive treatment outcome in around two-thirds of patients (Mabit 2001), and a recent study examining ayahuasca-assisted treatment for problematic substance use in a rural First Nations community in British Columbia, Canada reported improvements in several addiction-related measures (Thomas, Lucas et al. 2013). Animal studies have confirmed the ability of ayahuasca to both inhibit and reverse alcohol addiction behaviours (Oliveira-Lima, Santos et al. 2015). It is suggested that in the appropriate settings, ayahuasca assisted treatment can catalyze neurobiological and psychological processes that support substance dependence treatment and prevent the likelihood of relapse (Loizaga-Velder and Verres 2014). However, what constitutes an “appropriate” setting has not previously been investigated.

Research cited on this page available courtesy of The Global Ayahuasca Project.


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