Latin:  Banisteriopsis caapi (and commonly Psychotria viridis -chacruna)

Family:  Malphigiaceae  (and Rubiacae)

Parts Used:  The Caapi shredded vine is considered to be the ayahuasca as it contains the active entheogenic compound DMT.  Another plant that has MAOI properties is needed to activate the plant.  Chacruna leaves are commonly used for this in South America but other plants such as Mimosa hostilis also can be used with good effect.

Taste/Energetics:  Extremely bitter, acrid

Properties: Emetic, diaphoretic, diuretic, entheogenic

Actions: Ayahuasca is the main entheogen used for healing, divination and ceremonial purposes by Amazonian shamans (Ayahuasceros) in countries such as Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.  Because ayahuasca contains DMT, it is a powerful hallucinogenic, induces wild visions and deep soul shaking experiences.  Aya is primarily used by local ayahuasceros to develop deep relationships with jungle plants and animals, to learn their songs or “icaros”, and to perform healing ceremonies.  Ayahuasceros can also become embroiled in complex psychic warfare with other ayahuasceros and often the cause of sickness is viewed as a form of “mal brujeria”- bad witchcraft, that requires spiritual healing.  Traditionally, engaging with ayahuasca entailed strong sacrifice and taking on a a “dieta” or a set of  dietary and lifestyle restrictions and rituals in preparation for working with the plant.

Ayahuasca is also considered to carry the feminine spirit of the forest that can be quite demanding, harsh and loving at the same time.  I first took

After an ayahuasca ceremony

part in an ayahuasca ritual in 1992 when I traveled to Ecuador and lived in the Amazon for a summer.  The practice of Westerners working with a traditional ayahuascero was fairly unknown at the time but now has become a tourist industry that threatens local indigenous customs.  At the same time, numerous people have found that ayahuasca can be profound for helping to heal old patterns, wounds and the symptoms of PTSD.  Like many entheogens, Aya works at a profoundly deep soul level and has the capacity to help in the process of emotional healing and transformation.  This is a plant that should be treated with the utmost respect and caution.

Contraindications:  Lots.  This should not be taken by someone who is feeble, weak with little reserves.  Traditionally those who engage with Aya should purify themselves through eating a very stripped down plain diet, take solitude as much as possible and avoid medications.  Aya can be absolutely overwhelming and shake people to their core, bring up intense wounds, both personal and collective and be intensely cathartic in both a good and deeply challenging way.  On a larger level, I think those who engage with this plant should really consider the traditional uses and look to give back to the local indigenous communities that have cultivated, protected and worked with this plant for centuries.

Ayahuasca stories from Reset Me