Shipibo shamans preparing ayahuasca at Ashi Meraya

Shipibo shamans preparing ayahuasca at Ashi Meraya

What are the Benefits of Drinking Ayahuasca?

  • Spiritual Growth is obviously a vast subject about which books are frequently written. Because of the experiential nature of ayahuasca, many people find that things they have read and perhaps understood intellectually now become integrated on an emotional, loving level.  Partake in enough ceremonies and you’ll be writing the books.
  • Life Purpose It is always a good idea to approach each ceremony with questions you want answered and problems for which you need solutions, and to meditate on these as deeply as possible beforehand.  ‘What is my life purpose?’ is probably the most fundamental question you can ask.  Ayahuasca has radically transformed the lives of so many people for the better, often in unexpected ways.
  • Depression Scientific studies have shown very convincingly that time and again, ayahuasca has provided amazingly effective long-term cures for those suffering from chronic depression, and helped people break out of the vicious circle of a negative mindset manifesting a dismal reality.
  • Addiction Similarly with drug or alcohol-related problems, ayahuasca has repeatedly proved to be far more efficacious than any of the methods employed in the west.  Deepak Chopra has argued very cogently (Overcoming Addictions, 1997) that addictive behaviour represents the search for transcendental experiences by a soul who has been cut off from his spiritual core – addictive behaviour representing the search for spirituality, but clearly, in the wrong place. Ayahuasca certainly reconnects you to your inner core and the experience of true inner joy.  After that, you will never want to return to the cycle of suffering and transient pleasure.
  • Positivity If your motivation is to come and get high, you will probably be disappointed.  Ayahuasca is a very powerful sacred medicine which connects you to spirit realms and must be approached with seriousness and reverence.  And however healthy you are, practically everyone has some degree of toxicity to be purged, which while very necessary, is scarcely pleasurable.  Individual experience varies, but most patients feel a tremendous sense of positivity by the end of the ceremony.  The more ceremonies you do, the greater the positivity and the more enjoyable the entire experience.  Ayahuasca is by no means, however, a recreational drug.
  • Physical Ailments Extraordinary claims have been made for the effectiveness of ayahuasca in the treatment of almost everything from cancer to sclerosis but other than those on depression and addiction there have been few scientific studies;  DMT, the primary psychoactive compound in the ayahuasca brew became a class A restricted substance (on a par with heroin) in the late 1960’s (in the west) despite the fact that it is naturally produced by all animals and in humans seems to play an important role in the pineal gland, or third eye.  Funding for further research was withdrawn with the result that the evidence regarding physical diseases is largely anecdotal.  If you have any concerns over a physical condition please contact us, and one of our shamans will be delighted to advise you.

Madre Ayahuasca (Mother Ayahuasca) is rightly considered to be one of the principal sacred medicines of Amazonian Shamanism, and, depending how the brew is made up, it is generally one of the most powerfully psychoactive.  Amazonian shamans specialise in many different fields, and ayahuasca must only be taken under the guidance of an experienced ayahuascero.  Unlike many other shamanic ceremonies, in the Amazon and elsewhere, it is necessary for all the participants to drink ayahuasca with the shaman, thereby opening up the possibility for the celebrant to travel with the shaman through other realms and interact with spirits at first hand – although the patient who is able to retain full conscious awareness of such experiences is rare.  The ability to see visions is variable and unpredictable, generally improving after a number of ceremonies as physical and spiritual toxicities are expunged, and any residual anxiety often felt by the first time taker is released.  Nevertheless, when notes are compared between the shaman and the participant, generally the day after the ceremony, there is generally more than enough overlap between the two experiences – that is, the patient will recall a fraction, but not all, of the places and events that the shaman recounts – to convince the most sceptical participant that what he or she and the shaman have witnessed must relate to some genuinely valid external reality.  Ayahuasca is classified, in western terms, as a hallucinogen, and a hallucination is defined as the mind’s perception of something that has no reality.  However, science considers the corroboration of independent observers as a good argument for the reality of something, and so I prefer the term ‘psychoactive’ to ‘hallucinogenic’.  Note: shamans seem to consider everyone taking part in the ceremony a ‘patient’ even if they are bursting with health and vitality!  Please don’t think you need to feel unwell to benefit – while many people do, of course, come to address physical issues, the fitter you are, the more quickly you will experience spiritual growth and psychological benefits.

Traditional Shipibo art

‘Tomando ayahuasca’ – drinking ayahuasca. The original Shipibo artwork is in the Ceremonial House at Ashi Meraya



 Ayahuasca: The Sacred Plant that Teaches, Heals, Makes to Flourish, Awakens and Purifies. 

In the Shipibo culture, the ayahuasca vine is known by the name ‘oni’ or ‘nishi’, it is considered to be one of the most ancient sacred, ‘master’ or ‘teacher’ plants, and the ingestion of the beverage, or potion, prepared from it strictly within the context of a ritual ceremony enables the shaman to receive the energies necessary

to go into trance, diagnose and calm the patient (who may be experiencing strong emotional reactions), and heal any ‘dis-ease’ of the soul at the same time as treating the physical body.  In this way, for five thousand years or more, human beings have lived healthy lives in the Amazon rainforest in harmony with nature.

‘Ayahuasca’ is the Quechuan name derived from the two words: ‘aya’, meaning a human corpse and ‘waskha’, which translates as ‘soga’ – literally rope, but commonly used as another word for vine.  Thus ayahuasca is known both as ‘the vine of the dead’ and ‘the vine of the soul’.  The distant ancestors of the indigenous Amazonian Indians had the privilege to discover how to harness its many benefits, so full of mysteries.  The word ‘oni’ has a double use (as does the word ‘ayahuasca’ itself) referring both to the beverage, or preparation that is ingested in the ayahuasca ceremony, and to the vine itself – whose Latin name is banisteriopsiscaapi. 

The correct method of preparing the ayahuasca beverage as practised by the Shipibo shamans, involves the mixture of the leaves of the shrub known as chacruna (psychotryaviridis) with the pulverised vine, this concoction being boiled for many hours.  The chacruna endows the mixture with its visionary energy due to its content of DMT (Dimethyltryptamine), a naturally occurring psycho-active compound manufactured in the pineal gland, or third eye.  DMT is broken down rapidly by stomach enzymes under normal circumstances, making oral ingestion entirely ineffective; however, the ayahuasca vine contains MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) which retard the break-down of DMT.  MAOIs are also the active component in many anti-depressant drugs, which are incompatible and potentially extremely dangerous and even lethal when combined with the use of ayahuasca – in common with many other prescription drugs (see Essential Health Considerations).

Additional additives may be included in the ayahuasca brew, which may prolong the intoxication, intensify the spiritual powers of the ‘icaros’, the sacred songs sung by the shamans, provide an additional tonic or purge, special cures for diarrhoea and intestinal disorders, aid in performing more accurate diagnoses, intensify visions and improve vitality even more than the ‘basic’ brew.  There is no doubt, that in the hands of a highly competent and experienced shaman, certain additives in the appropriate quantities can give excellent results – although the mechanisms are poorly understood.  Unfortunately, there are a number of false shamans who use additives irresponsibly and even with bad intention – such as toé, a teacher plant whose action is chemically similar to that of the better known datura: toé can be enormously beneficial when properly used by a master toecero – and also extremely dangerous, provoking total memory loss as well as loss of physical control and even, in the most extreme cases, causing insanity.  Please check the references of any centre as far as possible before booking your shamanic retreat.

Ayahuasca is an effective route to experience a direct awareness of the infinite power of good, to meet and communicate with any number of spirits of the Amazonian rainforest and to glimpse the mysteries of the beyond.  The ritual association of ayahuasca with the leaves of the chacruna plant radiates a psycho-active, extra-sensory energy which enables participants both to become aware of wonderful qualities of themselves and to appreciate, from a different dimension, the beauty of creation, the blessings of nature and the very essence of goodness itself.  For the Shipibos there is no question: the plants of the forest have their own life, they have feelings and can also suffer, for each of them has its own spirit and it is these spirits that may be clearly seen in the trances, or intoxication, of ayahuasca.  These beings of nature will approach you and seek to harmonise with you.  The boldest spiritual travellers amongst you will find the way to engage these spirits in conversation.  Many shamans are accompanied on their journeys through other planes by their spirit wife, having united themselves through a mystical marriage with their spiritual loved-one.

Ayahuasca is revered as the mother of all the plants, whose energy will guide you on a voyage of self-discovery, to meet spirits in other dimensions as well as the spirits of plants in this one and to invigorate you with the powerful energies of the sun, the moon and other astronomical bodies.

Through their up-lifting and enjoyable interactions with these spirits and forces, the shamans are able to bring you the benefits of a vast range of extraordinary knowledge.  Apart from healing both the physical and the spiritual bodies, they can assure the successful attraction of your loved one and drive away bad spirits which can be the cause of much suffering.  They can help you to separate from a partner who is bad for you for instance, or get rid of the effects of other people’s jealousy – which can be profoundly damaging spiritually.  They can even teach you to carry out astonishing cures, or to travel at will out of body and to continue learning divine truths.