Why use Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug like alcohol. When taking a recreational drug, we generally feel good when we take it and generally pay the price after with some sort of hangover. Ayahuasca is the opposite. Pretty soon after taking Ayahuasca, most people experience intense phycological and physical process(es) which are not usually pleasant. But after the experience is over, people often report feeling better than before. In other words, with Ayahuasca you have your hangover first, then reap the benefits after.
So then why do ayahuasca? Like going to a therapist, or yoga, the workout doesn’t feel good, but it feels good after. We do the work to improve and reap the benefits after.
In modern Western society, we lack opportunities to enter into transcendental states or otherwise alter our consciousness. This is not the norm, despite what social programming may tell us. Most indigenous cultures have or had at least one way to alter their conciseness as a ritual, often done regularly. It seems to be an innate common human need to alter our consciousness, gain new perspectives, and to get in tough with the non-material world.
We have some great videos that dive further into this on our resources page.
Risks of Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca has been found to be fundamentally safe by a large number of scientific studies (for example McKenna, 2004; Gable, 2007; Bouso & Riba, 2011; Barbosa et al., 2012; dos Santos, 2013a and b). The only major risk is when you mix drugs with the medicine.
Further certain circumstances in which it should either not be used, or be used with care. Examples include if you: have a serious cardiovascular condition; a personal or family history of psychiatric disorders; are taking certain medicines (including herbal medicines), or have recently been eating certain foods.
Therefore, it is necessary for everyone wishing to work with these medicines to stop taking all forms of medications (over the counter or prescription), drugs (legal and illegal), supplements of all types, and vitamins prior to the ceremonies. For most medications, it is sufficient to stop taking them one week prior. However, for anti-depressants and any other drug that has a warning label about contraindicated use with MAOIs, it is necessary to stop taking these medications at least one month prior to the ceremonies. Those people who are taking anti-depressants (and other medications) should discontinue their use under the guidance of the doctor who prescribed them.
The following are drugs that you should absolutely never mix with the medicine.
Ayahuasca affects both serotonin and monoamine oxidase levels. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants, should be avoided before working with Ayahuasca to avoid potentially dangerous adverse reactions.
The MAOIs found in Ayahuasca can cause severe reactions when combined with foods such as cheese, beer, wine, yogurt, coffee, and chocolate and with amphetamine-like compounds such as ephedrine and MDMA. The best way to avoid side effects associated with these substances is to fast for twelve or more hours before the ceremony, or otherwise ensure that these compounds have fully washed out of one’s system.
These substances/medications should also be avoided before/during an ayahuasca ceremony:
antihypertensives (high blood pressure medicine)
appetite suppressants (diet pills)
medicine for asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems; antihistamines, medicines for colds, sinus problems, hay fever, or allergies (any drug containing dextromethorphan/DXM or with DM, DX or Tuss in its name.)
CNS (central nervous system) depressants (xanax, ativan, etc)
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Here are some good article(s) on the risks and things to think about