From Academic Kids

The widely used Quechuan name Ayahuasca has two highly interrelated yet distinct meanings and referents: 1) an Amazonian giant vine native to the rainforest, generally Banisteriopsis caapi, and, by extension, 2) pharmacologically complex infusions prepared from it for shamanic, folk-medicinal, and neoreligious purposes. Sections of vine are boiled with leaves from any of a large number of other plants (such as Psychotria viridis or Diplopterys cabrerana) yielding a brew containing the powerful hallucinogenic alkaloid N,N-dimethyltryptamine, combined with an MAOI, such as harmaline, harmine, d-tetrahydroharmine from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (which is mildly hallucinogenic on its own). The potency of this brew varies radically from one batch to the next, both in strength and psychoactive effect, based mainly on the skill of the shaman producing it, as well as other admixtures sometimes added. Generally speaking, due to its lengthy preparation process and strong purgative effects, ayahuasca is used strictly as a religious substance, no matter the culture it is tied with. This means that those who use ayahuasca in non-traditional areas often align themselves with the traditions of the visionary shamans. This includes U.S. citizens, who put their faith above the restrictive laws of the state.

Missing image
Cooking Ayahuasca in Amazonia.


  • "caapi", "daime", "hoasca" in Brazil
  • "yage" or "yaje" in Colombia
  • "ayahuasca" in Brazil, Ecuador and Peru ("vine of the dead" or "vine of souls": in Quechua aya means "spirit," "ancestor," or "dead person," while huasca means "vine" or "rope")

Plant/Chemical Constituents

Traditional and Western

Nowadays, the term ayahuasca can also mean analogous concoctions made with other plants that contain the two main components, an MAOI and DMT, one of its analogues, or pharmahuasca, made from pure chemical extracts. In this usage, the DMT is generally considered the main "active ingredient", causing the desired effects. The MAOI is necessary for DMT to be active orally. However, most actual shamans and many who work with the tea regularly object to this and state that the Banisteriopsis vine is the only defining ingredient, everything else being of secondary importance. While the DMT can be thought of as creating the desired state, the vine itself is considered by many to be the "spirit" of the tea; it is the gatekeeper to the other realms and the guide through the experience, controlling access to the altered states and helping one navigate them. Traditionally, Caapi is and has been the defining ingredient of the tea.

There are several varieties of caapi known as different "colors" with varying effects, potencies, and uses; for more information, see B. caapi.

In modern Western culture, entheogen users sometimes base concoctions off of Ayahuasca. When doing so, most often Rue or Caapi are used with a non-traditional, non-DMT admixture, such as Psilocybin or Mescaline. Nicknames such as Psilohuasca or Pedrohuasca (from the San Pedro Cactus, which contains Mescaline) are often given to such brews. This is usually only done by experienced entheogen users who are more familiar with the chemicals and plants being used, as the uninformed combination of various neuro-chemicals can be dangerous and most are unaware that such combinations can be made.

Introduction to the West

Ayahuasca is mentioned in the writings of some of the earliest missionaries to South America, but it wasn't for some time that it become a common, western meme. The early missionary reports generally claim it as demonic, and great efforts were made by the Roman Catholic Church to stamp it out.

When originally researched in the twentieth century, the active chemical constituent of Caapi was called Telepathine, but it was found to be the same chemical as harmaline.

William Burroughs sought yage (still considered to be "Telepathine") in the 1950's while traveling through South America, in the hopes that it could relieve or cure opiate addiction; the writings of him and Allen Ginsberg were probably the first major introduction of Ayahuasca to the west.

Ayahuasca was made more widely known by Terence and Dennis McKenna's experiences with Amazonian tribes as detailed in the book Invisible Landscape, which they co-authored. Their journey to the rainforest to search for Ayahuasca was spurred by their reading of Burroughs and Ginsberg. Dennis later extensively studied the pharmacology, botany, and chemistry of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, which were the subjects of his master's thesis.

In Brazil, a number of modern religious movements based on the use of Ayahuasca have emerged, the most famous of them being Santo Daime and the Uniao do Vegetal, usually in a animistic context that may be Shamanistic or, more often, (as with Santo Daime and the UDV,) mixed with Christian imagery. Both Santo Daime and Uniao do Vegetal now have members and churches throughout the world.

It seems unlikely that Ayahuasca could ever emerge as a "street-drug", given the difficulty of making the tea and the intense experience it provides. Most western users employ it almost exclusively for spiritual purposes, in line with both traditional, animist usage and organized churches such as the UDV. A diet is almost always followed before use, including a day of fasting, to rid the body of tyramines and other contraindicted chemicals; a "dieta" is often followed as well, to spiritually cleanse the body before and after the experience. Most "street-users" have never even heard of Ayahuasca, DMT or MAOIs, or the possibility of alterations to the shamanic brew.


Some plant sources of MAOI:

DMT admixture sources:

Legal Status

Internationally, DMT is a Schedule I drug under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The Commentary on the Convention on Psychotropic Substances notes, however, that the plant itself is excluded from international control[1] (http://www.maps.org/pipermail/maps_forum/2001-March/003376.html):

The cultivation of plants from which psychotropic substances are obtained is not controlled by the Vienna Convention. . . . Neither the crown (fruit, mescal button) of the Peyote cactus nor the roots of the plant Mimosa hostilis nor Psilocybe mushrooms themselves are included in Schedule 1, but only their respective principles, mescaline, DMT and psilocine, psilotsin.

The legal status of these plants, in the United States, is somewhat questionable. The plants themselves are all legal, but concoctions made from them are in a more questionable state. A court case allowing Uniao do Vegetal to use the tea for religious purposes in the United States is currently pending.

Religious use in Brazil was legalized after two official inquiries into the tea, concluding that ayahuasca is not a recreational drug and has valid spiritual uses. (more on the legal status of ayahuasca can be found in the Erowid ayahuasca vault).

In France, Santo Daime won a court case allowing them to use the tea in early 2005; however, they were not allowed an exception for religious purposes, but rather for the simple reason that they did not perform chemical extractions to end up with pure DMT and harmala and the plants used were not scheduled. Four months after the court victory, the common ingredients of Ayahuasca as well as harmala were declared stupéfiants, or narcotic schedule I substances, making the tea and its ingredients illegal to use or possess. see [2] (http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/WAspad/UnTexteDeJorf?numjo=SANP0521544A%20#) and [3] (http://afssaps.sante.fr/htm/10/filcoprs/indco.htm) (both in French) for more information.

In the United States, in the case of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal v. Reno, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, January 25, 2001, the Government argued that international treaties do not mandate an exemption for religious use of ayahuasca[4] (http://www.state.gov/s/l/16353.htm).

External links


  • Burroughs, William S. & Ginsberg, Allen (1963). The Yage Letters. San Francisco: City Lights Books. ISBN 0872860043.
  • De Rios, Marlene Dobkin (1984). Visionary Vine: Hallucinogenic Healing in the Peruvian Amazon, (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland. ISBN 0881330930.
  • Lamb, F. Bruce (1985). Rio Tigre and Beyond: The Amazon Jungle Medicine of Manuel Córdova. Berkeley: North Atlantic. ISBN 0938190598
  • Luna, Luis Eduardo (1986). Vegetalismo: Shamanism among the Mestizo Population of the Peruvian Amazon. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. ISBN 9122008195.
  • Luna, Luis Eduardo & Amaringo, Pablo (1999). Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of A Peruvian Shaman. Berkeley: North Atlantic. ISBN 1556433115.
  • Luna, Luis Eduardo & White, Stephen F. (eds.) (2000). Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon's Sacred Vine. Santa Fe, NM: Synergetic. ISBN 0907791328.
  • Matteson Langdon, E. Jean & Baer, Gerhard (eds.) (1992). Portals of Power: Shamanism in South America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0826313450.
  • Metzner, Ralph (ed.) (1999). Ayahuasca: Hallucinogens, Consciousness, and the Spirit of Nature. New York: Thunder's Mouth. ISBN 1560251603.
  • Narby, Jeremy (1998). The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam. ISBN 0874779111.
  • Ott, Jonathan (1994). Ayahuasca Analogues: Pangæan Entheogens. Kennewick, Wash.: Natural Products. ISBN 0961423455.
  • Pinchbeck, Daniel (2002). Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism. New York: Broadway. ISBN 0767907434. [5] (http://www.breakingopenthehead.com)
  • Polari de Alverga, Alex (1999). Forest of Visions: Ayahuasca, Amazonian Spirituality, and the Santo Daime Tradition. Rochester, Vt.: Park Street. ISBN 089281716X.
  • Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo (1975). The Shaman and the Jaguar: A Study of Narcotic Drugs Among the Indians of Colombia. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 0877220387.
  • Schultes, Richard Evans & Raffauf, Robert F. (1992). Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Colombian Amazonia. Oracle, AZ: Synergetic. ISBN 0907791247.
  • Shanon, Benny (2002). The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199252939.
  • Stafford, Peter G. (2004). Heavenly Highs: Ayahuasca, Kava-Kava, Dmt, and Other Plants of the Gods. Berkeley: Ronin. ISBN 1579510698.
  • Strassman, Rick (2001). DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences. Rochester, Vt.: Park Street. ISBN 0892819278
  • Taussig, Michael (1986). Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226790126.
  • Wilcox, Joan Parisi (2003). Ayahuasca: The Visionary and Healing Powers of the Vine of the Soul. Rochester, Vt.: Park Street. ISBN 0892811315de:Ayahuasca

pl:Ayahuasca pt:Ayahuasca fr:Ayahuasca

Psychedelic tryptamines edit (https://directory.academickids.com:443/encyclopedia/index.php?title=Template:Hallucinogenic_tryptamines&action=edit)

5-MeO-AMT 5-MeO-DIPT 5-MeO-DMT AMT Bufotenin DET DIPT DMT DPT Ethocin Iprocin Psilocin Psilocybin


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools