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what is ayahuasca like

What is Ayahuasca Like?

Your experience of ayahuasca will vary each time you drink.

Ayahuasca works on you on all levels:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual

It meets you wherever you are and intuitively knows what experience you need.

Ayahuasca seems to seek anything you are ready to release.

The release happens either energetically or physically through “purging”.

Purging is the process that may include any (or all) of:

  • Intense sweating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Shaking
  • Yawning
  • Vomiting
  • Twitching
  • Stretching

And many other physical reactions.

The most common effects are:

Positive Effects

Temporary Change in Consciousness
ayahuasca-conciousness

Being able to take a detached view of your thoughts and emotions.

It enhances self-acceptance and allowing you to process and let go of emotional events safely. (Source)

Hallucinations/Visions/Out-of-Body Experiences

visions-ayahuasca

From your past, observing yourself from outside the body and other mystical visions.

Recollection of Personal Memories

ayahuasca-memories

From your childhood and throughout your life.

Often brings emotions and insight with them.

Insights into Behaviour You Want To Change

ayahuasca-insight

See your patterns, habits and ways of being that don’t serve you.

Clarity on the way you’ve been in the past.

And deep insight into how to be the best person you can.

Euphoria

ayahuasca-euphoria

From mild to extreme mood lift, feelings of joy and happiness.

Deep Connection

ayahuasca-connection

Feeling of being connected to everything (God/universe, others, nature, yourself).

Relationship Healing

ayahuasca-relationship-healing

Understanding and letting go of family/past love issues.

Trauma/Emotional Release

ayahuasca-trauma-release

Strength to recall traumatic experiences and deal with things you usually ignore.

Release of built up negative energy and emotions built up.


Physical Healing

ayahuasca-physical-healing

Release from long-standing aches, pains and ailments.

Some people report healing of severe illnesses (e.g. cancer).

In this study, 9 patients with different cancers took ayahuasca:

  • Seven experienced improvements.
  • One patient deteriorated.
  • One patient was difficult to evaluate.


Anxiety/Depression Release

Image Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/20416124@N05/7824254750">is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0</a>

Image Credit: is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

There are many studies showing ayahuasca reduces the symptoms of these crippling conditions:

  • A single dose of ayahuasca reduced symptoms of treatment-resistant depression significantly (Source).
  • Reductions of up to 82% in self-assessed depression scores 1, 7 and 21 days after taking ayahuasca (Source).
  • Significant antidepressant effects and that ayahuasca use as antidepressant needs more investigation (Source).

Scientists also believe psychedelics are important in the treatment of human mental disorders.

Lastly, this published, randomised placebo-controlled trial (the gold standard for scientific studies) looked into the effect of ayahuasca for treatment-resistant depression.

The researchers supported ayahuascas safety and value “when dosed in the appropriate setting, to help treat depression.”

Creative Inspiration 

ayahuasca-steve-jobs

Image Credit: Steve Jobs

Many people report increased creative thoughts both during and after the ayahuasca experience.

This study concluded “The data shows ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking,”

There’s not much research about ayahuasca’s impact on creativity.

However, most people accept psychedelics boost creativity.

Did you know?

  • Nobel Peace Prize Co-winning biochemist Kary Mullis who studied at Berkeley said: “LSD was certainly more important than any course I took”. (Source)
  • Nobel Peace Prize Medicine winner Francis Crick reportedly discovered the structure of DNA (the double helix) during an LSD trip. (Source)

Feeling of Enlightenment

ayahuasca-enlightenment

This experience is often only for advanced and committed yogis, monks and other spiritual people.

Ayahuasca allows access some of these same insights and awareness.

This produces a sense of enlightenment that stays with you after the experience.

Ego Softening/Death

Image Credit: <a href="https://justinepnelson23.wordpress.com"> Justine P Nelson</a>

Image Credit: Justine P Nelson

The ego is what we refer to as our identity.

Your ego develops over the course of your life.

The most destructive parts are born in response to traumatic events.

It develops a “hard shell” to protect you from pain.

This creates a “false self” which can lead to negative behaviours which are automatic.

Through spiritual evolution or consumption of psychedelics, you can “lose” this false self.

Carl Jung referred to this experience as a complete loss of subjective identity.

He said it precedes a rebirth into a new identity.

In many of our movies and books we see the hero’s life ruined.

His old way of being is destroyed before he is reborn.

This is because nearly all of our stories use the same formula:

Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey”.

ayahuasca-ego

The second stage of this formula, is ego death.

In Buddhism, ego death allows you to understand your true nature.

People call ayahuasca “The Vine of Death”.

It’s called that because it kills your false self, the part that limits and doesn’t serve you.

Ayahuasca reveals a path to move beyond your ego.

To be your true self again.

While positive, it can have negative consequences too.

Especially if your life has been severely traumatic.

If so, you may need help after the ayahuasca experience to integrate what you learned.

A therapist for support might help if you have a lot of “stuff to work through”.

Inner Peace/Self-Acceptance

ayahuasca-self-Acceptance

As humans, we need to be accepted and loved for who we are.

If we don’t experience this in childhood, we seek it later.

Usually in romantic relationships.

In this thread from the ayahuasca sub-Reddit “Did ayahuasca change how you felt about yourself? (Self esteem/love/compassion etc)” user comments include:

“It changed how I feel about trauma from my past, it’s only as bad as I make it.

I also have a lot of beautiful, pure experiences from childhood/adolescence that have made me compassionate and creative.”

“Ayahuasca changed how I feel about myself by totally destroying my sense of self.

It helped me see a new way of relating to people and things I previously considered ‘not me’.”

“Ayahuasca can be tremendously helpful with addressing self-esteem issues and all the secondary problems that emerge out of those self-esteem issues.”

“Yeah, it definitely helped me with self esteem and fear issues, but those changes didn’t happen overnight.“

“Deep long standing self-esteem issues were certainly approached and I’m very thankful for the understanding I gained.”

Lastly, this study compared a 4 week ayahuasca program (one session per week) against a Standard 8-Week Mindfulness Training Program.

Researchers found “a small number of ayahuasca sessions can be as effective at improving acceptance as more lengthy and costly interventions.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Relief

ayahuasca-ptsd

This is one of the more exciting areas for ayahuasca.

There’s been a lot of attention here in recent years.

Researchers found ayahuasca can help PTSD and want to study it more deeply.

However, the science community has struggled to gain approval for a clinical trial.

This is because ayahuasca contains DMT, a schedule one drug.

Despite that, researchers think governments should relax regulations regarding ayahuasca.

This study concludes “so that it could be provided more readily to recognised, credible researchers to conduct comprehensive clinical trials.”

In the Peruvian Amazon, the Temple of the Way of Light is undertaking a large-scale study.

They are collaborating with:

  • The International Center for Ethnobotanical Research and Service in Spain
  • The Beckley Foundation in the UK

The study will analyse the long-term effects on psychological wellbeing.

Over 580 people attend their retreats each year.

Which makes this the largest psychedelic study of this type ever undertaken.

Jessica Nelson, PH.D and Julie Megler, MSN, NP-BC wrote an interesting scientific article:

Consideration of ayahuasca for the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.

They say “Current research indicates that ayahuasca mimics mechanisms of currently accepted treatments to PTSD.”

You can see more from Jessica here:

This study reveals the reason ayahuasca may aid PTSD.

The results proved that while on ayahuasca, participants amygdala activates highly.

The amygdala is the part of the brain most commonly linked as the source of PTSD symptoms.

When ayahuasca reactivates the amygdala, it allows you to recall of traumatic events.

You can then process the emotions again.

With ayahuasca, the re-experiencing of trauma is different.

This is because it comes with “moral lessons and higher perspectives”.

They help you deal with the memory in a healthy way.

ayahuasca-helps-PTSD

Thousands of PTSD sufferers are turning to ayahuasca.

Usually after everything else has failed.

These patients are often public servants. exposed to trauma in their work.

They include:

And many more like them.

The results have been promising.

There are now many charitable organisations connecting military veterans struggling with mental trauma to ayahuasca therapy retreats.

Heroic Hearts is one such place.

A non-profit doing great work to help people suffering with PTSD.

Addiction Relief 

ayahuasca-drug-addiction

Image Credit: Imagens Evangélicas

Ayahuasca has shown strong addiction relief qualities in the studies completed so far.

This study concluded:

“Several present day studies suggest that it may be useful for treating various psychiatric disorders and addictions. 

The side effect profile appears to be relatively mild, but more detailed studies need to be done.”

Many studies specifically focused on addictions to strong substances (crack, alcohol, nicotine).

These studies showed promising results.

This study included interviews with 13 therapists who apply ayahuasca professionally in the treatment of addictions.

The 13 therapists consisted of:

  • 4 indigenous healers
  • 9 Western mental health professionals
  • 2 expert researchers
  • 14 individuals

They all had undergone ayahuasca-assisted therapy for addiction in South America.

They found ayahuasca can serve as a valuable therapeutic tool.

It supports recovery from substance dependencies and prevents relapse.

In another study, scientists researchers selected 12 people from a rural aboriginal population.

Drug addiction is common in these communities.

All suffered severe psychological and behavioural issues related to substance abuse.

They took part in a 4-day treatment program that included 2 ayahuasca ceremonies.

At a 6-month followup, the participants showed significant improvements in:

  • Mindfulness
  • Hopefulness
  • Empowerment
  • Overall quality of life
  • Self-reported use of tobacco, cocaine and alcohol significantly declined

Mystical/Religious/Spiritual Insights & Experiences

ayahuasca-spiritual-experiences

The web is full of stories about profound ayahuasca experiences.

Many called ayahuasca the most spiritual and transforming experience of their life.

This post called “How ayahuasca changed my life” provides a great overview of the common experiences.

Most people gain an understanding of the true nature of the universe.

Many experience a spiritual awakening.

Usually visions include seeing the habits holding you back.

This awareness alone creates a “rebirth”.

See ego softening/death for more.

Many people report gaining access to higher spiritual dimensions.

Some say they contacted spiritual or extra-dimensional beings.

They say these beings act as guides or healers.

Most people don’t consider themselves spiritual or believers.

Neither did I for many years.

You don’t even need an open minded (though it’s better).

The plant will give you a spiritual experience regardless.

The experience is a profoundly positive, life changing one.

Find/Get Clear on Your Purpose 

Image Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/84979541@N00/7021431279">Leesean</a>

Image Credit: Leesean

One of the most common effects of ayahuasca is getting clearer on the purpose of life.

This can include your specific life purpose.

Each ayahuasca ceremony begins with the question you wish to ask.

Ayahuasca will reveal the answer (if it’s what you need).

My personal experience was that I got very clear on my purpose and even the path to achieve it (see here for more).

Google searches reveal many similar stories.

One of my favourites is this one by Rohan Tahiliani.

It’s so relatable to me and maybe for you too:

“After a 10-year downhill ride, I felt completely lost and directionless in life. 

Although on the surface my life looked perfect – a high-paying job with flexible work hours, a lake-facing apartment, and the “freedom” to do whatever I wanted—none of these things gave me any real satisfaction or contentment. 

My life felt completely monotonous, and although my job was interesting, something just didn’t feel right.“

Rohan’s experience was pivotal, and he discovered his purpose.

In his own words:

“To say I discovered the meaning of life and found my purpose is one way to put it, but even that falls short of expressing the deep and massive impact the retreat had on me.”

Rohan also offers this pearl of wisdom:

“But what does ayahuasca have to do with living our life’s purpose?

Only by healing ourselves can we fully live out our life’s purpose.”

This made so much sense to me.

Another story filled with emotion is this one by Mindy West.

Her journey begins like many peoples, with a breakdown:

“My search for my life’s purpose began about a year and a half ago. I was going through the hardest part of my life so far.

My husband and I separated; he decided he’d rather be with someone else.

He said she reminded him of me when I was 23, and that’s why he liked her.

Well, she’s 23, and I was then 28 with a job and a house and a baby. 

So really, who could blame him? 

It was devastating for my son and me. I didn’t know what to do with myself. 

I didn’t like my job, the novelty of making a lot of money working at my corporate job had worn off, and I felt like it was killing my soul. 

My son would barely sleep, he was just as heartbroken as I was, and I felt like I didn’t know how to take care of him anymore. 

Before, I thought he was the happiest baby in the world. 

At that point, he was miserable.”

Mindy went to the ceremony asking ayahuasca:

“What is my life purpose, and how do I move forward?”

Mindy found exactly what her life purpose is and has dedicated her life to it. Go read the post to find out more.

Lastly, this blog post details Trinity de Guzman’s experience after asking the same question.

She was given her purpose, and her path to make it happen.

Another recommended post, well worth reading.

Relaxation/Mindfulness/Improved Psychological Well Being

ayahuasca-Mindfulness

Ayahuasca can be traumatic.

But the overall lasting effect is increased well being and feelings of peacefulness.

The science support this too:

Chris Timmermann and his colleagues at Imperial College London conducted a study with 13 volunteers.

In one experiment, they group received DMT and in another got a placebo (a dummy pill).

The group didn’t know which session contained the real drug.

After the DMT session, all 13 reported feeling:

  • As though they entered an “unearthly environment”
  • Feeling “incredible peace or pleasantness”
  • Heightened senses and a feeling of unity with the universe

This study compared a 4 week ayahuasca program (one session per week) against a Standard 8-Week Mindfulness Training Program.

The researchers found:

“A small number of ayahuasca sessions can be as effective at improving acceptance as more lengthy and costly interventions.”

The results showed ayahuasca could produce the same improvements in mindfulness that takes years of dedicated meditation to achieve.

Image Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/8563790@N08/2278847603">"1984 Middle Prong Wilderness"</a>

Image Credit: “1984 Middle Prong Wilderness”

Ayahuasca raised mindfulness to levels equal to or greater than people practising meditation for seven years.

Another interesting study comes from researchers in Madrid led by Jordi Riba.

Interestingly, Rolling Stone magazine named Jordi among the 25 people who will mark the future of science.

Jordi works at CIBERSAM, a mental health research centre.

For this study he recruited 25 volunteers.

  • Most had taken ayahuasca in the past.
  • They had not consumed any for at least 15 days before the experiment

The volunteers filled out a questionnaire designed to assess mindfulness.

It was given to them before, and 24 hours after the experiment.

The answers suggested significant improvements in all three aspects of mindfulness:

  1. Greater acceptance of mental experiences
  2. Less “inner reactivity”
  3. Increased ability to take a detached view of thoughts and emotions

The summary of Jordi’s study concluded:

“Our findings indicate that ayahuasca intake leads to a rapid increase in several mindfulness-related parameters”

And…

“The scores in some mindfulness capacities observed after ayahuasca are analogous to those of experienced meditators.”

Other studies you may wish to look at include this one.

It “Assesses the Psychedelic “After-Glow” in Ayahuasca Users” and looks into the “Enhanced Mindfulness Capacities”.

Researchers concluded there were “increases in the “non-judging” subscale of the Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire” and “increased scores on the self-compassion questionnaire” which sustained when checked up on 2 months later.

This study called “Exploring the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca: acute intake increases mindfulness-related capacities” took 25 volunteers.

They were assessed before, and 24 hours after taking ayahuasca.

Researchers then measured mindfulness using two methods:

  1.  The Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)
  2. The Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)

Ayahuasca intake led to significant improvements in the key areas associated with traditional mindfulness training.

The scores were the same as what we could expect in people who practise mindfulness extensively.

This study of 57 people showed ratings of depression and stress reduced significantly immediately after consuming ayahuasca.

ayahuasca-depression

The effects were still significant 4 weeks later when researchers followed up with the participants.

However, they said:

“Satisfaction with life and several aspects of mindfulness increased the day after the ceremony.”

The changes did not reach significance 4 weeks after.

“Changes in effect, satisfaction with life, and mindfulness were significantly correlated to the level of ego dissolution experienced during the ayahuasca ceremony and were unrelated to previous experience with ayahuasca.”

Neutral Effects

Sensation of Energy Moving Through Your Body

You may feel:

  • Tingles
  • Vibrations
  • Heat
  • Itchiness
  • Any other physical sensation

The feeling may be in a single location, passing through your body, or everywhere at the same time.

In my case, I felt strong vibrations.

ayahuasca-energy

Like every cell in my body had been “activated”.

I was buzzing with energy and life.

It reminded me of the life-changing kundalini experience I had during a meditation in April 2018.

If the feeling gets unpleasant, remember this:

  1. Thoughts Become Things: You can change the physical experience by changing your thoughts. Thinking about a more positive feeling and breathing can work wonders.
  2. Accept & Release: If you can’t change the feeling – accept you need this experience. Don’t fight it, don’t try to control it.  It’s part of letting go. Keep breathing and it will pass.
Visual Noise

Visual noise is when you see the continuous flickering of tiny black and white dots.

It looks like this:

static-tv
Sound Distortions

Sometimes your hearing gets worse.

Most people get enhanced hearing.

Other distortions of sound can happen, buzzing, static and vibration for example.

For me, I felt well grounded in reality and could hear everything that was happening around me.

Strong Visions 

Whilst not everyone experiences visions, the vast majority do.

Visions come in waves.

Sometimes as simple as brighter and clearer sight, but often elaborate geometric shapes.

Many find themselves “re watching” experiences from their life.

visions

Visions usually happen only when the eyes are closed.

Visions with the eyes open are possible, but only when doses are very strong.

Many report interacting with intelligent entities or “teachers”.

They talk of encountering everything from:

  • Animals
  • Plants
  • Humans
  • Gods
  • Aliens
  • Hybrids
  • Other indescribable beings

The visions are very vivid.

Participants usually believe they are real, despite some people arguing it’s just the imagination.

What Science Says About Ayahuasca Visions

A scientific answer comes from neuroimaging research.

It suggests the area of the brain responsible for vision lights up intensely during the ayahuasca experience.

Scientists claim this is “comparable in magnitude to the activation levels of a natural image with the eyes open”.

Draulio de Araujo of the Brain Institute at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte took 10 frequent ayahuasca users and handed them photographs of nature.

He scanned their brains during 3 activities:

  • while they looked at the photos
  • while they imaged the photo with their eyes closed
  • while they viewed scrambled versions of the photos

The volunteers later drank ayahuasca and repeated the tasks.

De Arauj discovered the brain’s memory circuits “feed” activity in the primary visual cortex.

That is what produces the visions.

The primary visual cortex is more active during imagery with eyes closed than during viewing of actual images when on ayahuasca.

Scientists think increased activation of serotonin receptors throughout the brain regions cause these effects.

What People See During Ayahuasca Experiences

These visions seem to have Universal Archetypes.

These are common similarities in the visions people see.

This is despite participants having different backgrounds and drinking different brews of ayahuasca.

Cognitive psychologist Benny Shannon made a list of the common things he encountered in his 70+ ayahuasca experiences plus the visions of 19 research participants.

The common visions are (in descending order of frequency):

  • Beings
  • Animals
  • Palaces
  • Human beings
  • Serpents
  • Ancient civilisations
  • Birds
  • Angels and divine beings
  • Felines
  • Forests
  • Cities
  • Landscapes
  • Flowers
ayahuasca-shannon-visions

Many artists have tried to capture ayahuasca visions.

Here’s some of the best:

Image credit: <a href="https://www.alexgrey.com/">Alex Grey</a>

Image credit: Alex Grey

Image Credit: <a href="http://www.debernardivision.com/">Anderson Debernardi</a>

Image Credit: Anderson Debernardi

ayahuasca-art

Image Credit: Luis Tamani

Image Credit: <a href="https://kahpi.net/ayahuasca-visions-artist-pablo-amaringo/">Pablo Amaringo</a>

Image Credit: Pablo Amaringo

And a couple from my personal favourite ayahuasca artist, Juan Carlos Taminchi:

Image Credit: <a href="https://www.taminchivisions.com/store">Juan Carlos Taminchi</a>

Image Credit: Juan Carlos Taminchi

Image Credit: <a href="https://www.taminchivisions.com/store">Juan Carlos Taminchi</a>

Image Credit: Juan Carlos Taminchi

There are also video artists, who have tried to represent what they saw during their ayahuasca experience.

Here’s the best of them:

Sedation 

Ayahuasca creates a state of calm.

You’ll be less irritable and agitated.

Negative emotions such as stress and anxiety ease.

You may feel drowsy and fall asleep or be in a “between awake and asleep” state.

I remember being awake and despite being super tired; I couldn‘t sleep.

When the ceremony ended and my girlfriend asked how I was and I told her…

“I could sleep for 100 years”.

The following day I felt better, but I was definitely still a little subdued.

Negative Effects

Nausea/Vomiting
ayahuasca-vomiting

During the ayahuasca experience there is often a “purging”.

Most common are:

  • Shaking
  • Yawning
  • Crying
  • Sweating/chills
  • Diarrhoea
  • Repetitive vomiting

Vomiting is so common, there is a bucket placed next to each participants yoga mat in every ceremony.

Ayahuasca impacts the serotonergic system.

This influences your mood plus your visual and auditory perceptions.

Georgetown University Medical Center’s James Giordano, profession of neurology and biology says ayahuasca impacting the area postrema.

This is the part of the brainstem that controls that urge to throw up.

Ayahuasca’s impact on this area is very strong.

Because of this, the vomiting is often more violent than you may be used to.

Why we vomit depends on who you ask.

The shamans of South America believe feeling the emotions creates a physical purging.

They say it’s negative feelings like anger, depression, sadness, and fear leaving the body.

Western medicine says there is no scientific proof behind that answer.

Poet Allen Ginsberg has described the physical part of his ayahuasca experiences:

emotions

“Stomach vomiting out the soul-vine, cadaver on the floor of a bamboo hut, body-meat crawling toward its fate.”

Vomiting is normal.

Don’t be afraid, even if it’s described as “like nothing you’ve experienced before.’’

Some say they see visions as they vomit:

  • Snakes
  • Demons
  • Dragons
  • Parasites leaving the body

These are mind/body manifestations of the energy being released.

Vomiting could also happen if you drink too much.

In ceremonies it’s common to have 2-3 doses of medicine.

If you drink too much, the body removes the excess.

During my ceremony, I had a single dose.

I experienced all the visions and benefits and did not vomit.

The closest I got was an acidic feeling in my stomach and a few minutes of thinking I might be sick.

Fear/Paranoia/Panic/Anxiety 
ayahuasca-anxiety

Ayahuasca requires you to relive some scenarios from your life.

You re-experience the feelings to let them go.

When this happens, it can create fear.

The rough times can feel like they last forever, but time is difficult to quantify during the experience.

Here’s how you can overcome the fear:

  1. Change your thoughts to more positive ones
  2. Accept what you are experiencing and don’t try to control it
  3. Breathe deeply to remain present and rooted in reality
  4. Know everything has an end – “this too shall pass”
Diarrhoea/Gastrointestinal Distress
ayahuasca-diahorrea

One of the commonly listed methods of “purging” is diarrhoea.

There are stories in the Ayahuasca Reddit group of entire groups experiencing multiple bouts of diarrhoea.

This is often from a bad batch of medicine.

When the brew causes diarrhoea, it’s likely to happen in the first few hours.

Don’t worry if you get the urge to go.

You’ll make it to the bathroom before things get explosive.

Jokes aside, the stool consistency ranges from “unusually dense to loose and unformed (but not watery)”.

Pay attention to how your body feels.

Go to the bathroom as soon as you need to. It might take time to get there.

Pro tip: carry your bucket wherever you walk. You may need to vomit while on the toilet.

Charming, I know.

Intense Fatigue
ayahuasca-fatigue

My experience started with intense fatigue.

I felt like I’d been hit with a ton of bricks.

The energy just drained out of me and I yawned uncontrollably.

This started before the visions and continued throughout and after the experience.

Whilst sleep deprivation is a likely candidate, there was something different about this.

Apparently yawning is one way of “purging” and is common.

Heather Molina nailed it by describing it as:

 “My “purging” took the form of great big yawns. Yawns so big that I felt my jaw was going to snap from stretching it so far.”

During my experience, the fatigue was so intense.

I had a vision showing me I’d been trying way too hard instead of letting life flow.

I’d been holding onto to an identity that wasn’t really me.

And doing that was so tiring.

What followed was purging.

yawning

Then very clear visions of “the new me”.

You can read more about my experience here.

Intense Sweating/Chills (Alternating)

Another common form of purging is intense sweating or chills – often both.

I got so hot I had to take my top off.

Within 15 minutes I was so cold I had it back on.

Hood up, wrapped in my blanket trying to stay warm.

I can only summarise it like this:

ayahuasca-temperature-switch
Difficulty Walking for Short Period After Ceremony 

Ayahuasca affects your motor skills, but not as much as you might think.

You will still be able to walk, go to the bathroom etc – but sometimes you’ll need a little help.

The effect last between 2 and 4 hours for most people.

In my experience, I wasn’t able to open my eyes for more than a few seconds.

Ayahuasca pinned me to the yoga mat.

I was there for the entire 11 hour ceremony.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to go to the bathroom.

I’m not sure I would have been able to.

I had to walk at the end of the ceremony, when everyone gathers around the fire.

I used my arms to get to my feet.

I stumbled clumsily a few steps forward.

I was off balance and scared I might fall into the fire.

I had visions of spending the rest of my days living like The Hound.

the-hound-got

OK, no more GOT memes (maybe).

Many people have commented that in the early morning as the sun rises, they still can’t move much.

In my experience, when I woke up, I could walk.

But it was like something out of The Walking Dead.

walking-dead

I shuffled awkwardly and needed my girlfriend to hold me up for balance.

This passed after around 20 minutes and normal functions returned.

Blood Pressure Rises 

We know ayahuasca increases blood pressure, but not much information exists about it.

This study looked at the impact of ayahuasca on the full range of blood pressure.

The top of the range is systolic blood pressure.

blood pressure

The bottom number is diastolic pressure.

The study showed diastolic blood pressure increased significantly at higher doses (0.85 mg/kg) while systolic blood pressure increased moderately.

The shamans know blood pressure rises without the scientific measurements.

They will not allow you to take part if you have chronic high blood pressure.

The pre-ayahuasca diet in the days prior to the event removes foods known to increase blood pressure.

Heart Rate Rises
ayahuasca-heart

Ayahuasca can increase your heart rate.

That’s dangerous if you have a heart condition.

Interestingly, the rise in heart rate is from the strong emotions you feel during the experience.

Ayahuasca does not cause arrhythmias.

In people susceptible to arrhythmia, the emotional aspect could be a trigger.

Doctors recommend aspirin because arrhythmia is a problem if blood clots form.

Aspirin thins the blood reducing this risk.

Mixing aspirin with ayahuasca should not cause problems (as it doesn’t affect MAOIs).

However, avoid taking large quantities to be safe.

Lastly, if you have a heart condition, follow the pre-ayahuasca diet to minimise the risks.

Dizziness/Vertigo
ayahuasca-dizzy

Dizziness is another common experience.

However, there’s little scientific evidence to explain why this happens.

Anecdotal evidence exists, like this thread on the Reddit Ayahuasca group.

An interesting theory in that thread is from a woman who asked an ayahuasquera (a woman who administers ayahuasca) why this happened.

The ayahuasquera told her the shaman was using his favourite icaro (see ayahuasca music) throughout the entire night.

The shaman used that icaro specifically to create a “whirlwind” effect.

The effect on the people present, she said, was dizziness.

Another poster in the same thread who experienced intense dizziness found 2 main causes:

  • Not Drinking Enough Ayahuasca – Smaller cups nearly always led to a night of confusing thoughts and unpleasant physical feelings.
  • Victim Mindset – They used to go back to their mat, huddle up like a victim, and wait for this terrible medicine to “have its way with me”.

This mindset did not lead to a pleasant experience.

Instead, they now:

  • Embrace what will happen
  • Trust that whatever happens is for the best
  • Sit upright calmly in an open pose
Distress
ayahuasca-distress

As you re-experience traumatic situations, you’ll feel distress.

It only lasts as long as you need to “process” the experience.

The distress is only temporary.

Long-term, there is scientific evidence showing ayahuasca reduces feelings of distress significantly.

Brad Adams Ph.D. (Counselling Psychology at USC) is a cancer researcher at the UCLA Medical Center.

He is completing a final analysis of a study of three separate groups of participants who attended a 10-day retreat in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

Each retreat included 3 ayahuasca ceremonies.

Remarkably, the participants overall psychiatric distress decreased by over 42%.

For people with more severe ongoing issues, like PTSD, the re-experiencing can cause significant distress.

However, overall the experience is still healing.

For those suffering with these severe conditions, post-ceremony professional support is absolutely required.

This is because it’s important to integrate the ayahuasca experience for everyone.

Even people without PTSD need to do this .

You may find integration difficult to do alone.

You can find more information about post-ayahuasca integration here.

Tremors/Shaking

Shaking is one way you “purge” during the experience.

This happened during my experience but it didn’t last for more than an hour.

Digging into the Reddit ayahuasca group reveals a few tales of tremors like this:

“During my 8th and final ayahuasca ceremony at a retreat in Peru my body convulsed violently for about 3 hours.

These convulsions were electric and uncontrollable making my limbs flail about and my abdominals tense repeatedly.

When the convulsions stopped I felt amazing, an incredible feeling of elation and consciousness.

I could feel and see energies and manipulate them at will, even feeling the essence of other people in the room.

It felt as if I were a child in a brand new magical world.”

In that same thread, another poster shares an interesting perspective about why the shaking may happen:

“You have stumbled onto one of the oldest ways mammals heal trauma.

This shaking is your physical body shaking out the physically stuck energy from your body.

I highly recommend reading the book Waking the tiger by Peter Levine.

This video will give you an introduction into somatic experiencing and healing.”

The video reveals the physiological basis of trauma and how Somatic Experiencing® (SE™), developed by Peter A. Levine, PhD, helps distressed individuals recover a sense of wellbeing, stability and vitality.

Muscle Spasms/Twitches

There’s little information explaining why we experience twitching or spasms.

I could only find a single statement that “muscle spasms are primarily caused by the harmala alkaloids in ayahuasca”.

Anecdotal experiences suggest muscle spasms are common and mostly mild.

With that said, some people experience more than the involuntary muscle twitches.

They find their muscles beginning to spasm.

One guy described it “as if someone was digging their fingers into my nerves”.

Though its uncommon, it sounds painful.

Autonomic Instability

This condition causes the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to not work properly.

This can affect the functioning of:

  • The heart
  • Bladder
  • Intestines
  • Sweat glands
  • Pupils
  • Blood vessels

I couldn’t find any evidence for this either scientifically or anecdotally.

What Does Ayahuasca Feel Like?

ayahuasca-feelings

For a list of all the effects, positive, neutral and negative, go here.

If you’re asking “What is an ayahuasca trip like?” – here’s your answer:

It’s like being fully awake and conscious of your surroundings, but seeing vivid visions when you close your eyes.

A handful of people even see the visions with their eyes open.

If you haven’t tried ayahuasca, but want to see what the visions are like, these clips will give you an idea:

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