Ayahuasca is a mixture made from the vine Banisteriopsis caapi found along the Amazon River basin, a region of South America that includes parts of Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. For over a thousand years, native shamans have known that when cooked and mixed with other plants, ingestion of the psychoactive brew allows spiritual self-discovery. In fact, its name is Quechua for "vine of the souls", in reference to the profound experiences some have had talking to the creatures and gods that appear, Quechua having no expression for "vine of the Pink elephants".
Though often associated with LSD, the term "tripping" was first used by scientists experimenting with Ayahuasca because users often hallucinate that they are standing in line at airport ticket counters waiting to have their luggage checked. Early drawings from caves in remote Brazil have images that look strikingly like flight attendants, suggesting that Ayahuasca may hold the key to the development of the airline industry.
In the 16th century, Christian missionaries encountered the plant and called it "the work of the devil". But it is an honest plant, one used for shamanic purposes. This author detests those who use it for anything but!
In the 1940s, Coca-Cola added it to their "New Coke" soft drink as a replacement for the newly prohibited cocaine without tasting it first. Because Ayahuasca gave neither the high energy "kick" nor the euphoria of cocaine — but stomach pain instead — it was soon removed from grocery store shelves.
Even for its short time on the United States market, Ayahuasca-enhanced cola had a lasting impact on the American psyche: historians are convinced that Ayahuasca hallucinations, experienced by millions of Americans, led to the adoption of the Federal income tax, the "beat" music scene, and later, the return of the Panama Canal.
In step with innovative uses of old drugs to treat stubborn afflictions, like Ecstasy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Ketamine for Depression, researchers have been experimenting with medical applications for Ayahuasca. The FDA has yet to approve Ayahuasca for medical indications outside of clinical trials. Studies are complicated by uncertainty of which conditions a vomit-inducing hallucinogen could fix...
The active ingredient in Ayahuasca is N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, often shortened to DMT, never re-lengthened to N,N-DMT except by pedants. Like psilocybin ('shrooms), DMT fools the brain, binding to the neurotransmitter serotonin like a CB operator on a Tennessee mountaintop. Laboratory analysis finds 73 other active ingredients, including: gypsum, cobalt, hexavalent chromium, banana flavor, lipstick, eyelashes, peanut dust, carrots, a dash of paprika, three cups of flour, beat gently at slow and then at medium for three minutes, and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Be careful it doesn't implode like a soufflé.
Ayahuasca is a vine with flowers that are made into a tea. It is said to taste especially delicious. Preparation calls for addition of the stems to be mixed with leaves of the shrub Psychotria viridis, also known as chacruna.
- For those of you who enjoy the flavor of burnt coffee...
In Peru, one of the places where it can be found, it's totally legal, and there are knowledgeable guides for the entheologically curious. It's illegal everywhere in the United States except Oakland, California, where it is just as illegal but the DA won't prosecute. Say, did you know the plant it comes from is not illegal? No reason that I mention that. None at all.
It sets in within a half-hour. It can last anywhere from 3 to 14 hours, so you never know what you're in for. Like LSD, it can be very good or very bad...er, so I've heard. Strong visions tend to manifest: talking creatures, especially insectoid aliens, tend to appear and may have something to say. Snakes and tigers are common too, but that might be from the Jungle setting. Goddesses may also try to communicate. Speaking with deity can be life-affirming and spiritually fulfilling.
But I'll be honest: I only took it so I'd be tripping balls, man.