Deep in the jungles of Costa Rica, people are throwing up, crying tears of joy and saying that angels are speaking to them. Are they drunk? Drunk on spirtuality, maybe. Welcome to an ayahuasca ceremony.
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a drink made from the flowering plant Psychotria Viridis, found in the Amazon, which contains the psychedelic compound DMT, or dimethyltryptamine. It’s not meant to taste very pleasant – users say it has a very earthy taste.
According to drug education site Frank, DMT can make you feel tripped out, hallucinate and feel sick – hence, the spewing at the retreats.
People have been using DMT and Ayahuasca for thousands of years. In 2019, a pouch was found during an archaeological dig in a Bolivian cave, thought to date from AD900 to 1170, and it contained traces of DMT, cocaine and other psychoactive substances. From time immemorial humans have been chasing answers to the universe.
When it comes to the science behind the drug’s mystical powers, scientists have found that ayahuasca can have a profound impact on the brain, particularly in areas that are highly evolved in humans, such as language, memory and decision-making.
Another study found that ayahuasca had “significant and rapid antidepressant effects, starting as early as one day after the ayahuasca intervention.” Okay, we’re officially intrigued!
What happens on an Ayahuasca retreat?
Ayahuasca retreats have been held for centuries by indigenous tribes of South America and is a very sacred and protected practice.
People looking to expand their mind and cure themselves from problems like anxiety and depression head to the Amazonian jungles to meet up with other like-minded travellers and a shaman who will look after them on their journey.
It’s recommended for most participants to fast and abstain from sex, alcohol and drugs before attending their ceremony to “purify their bodies.”
According to TikTok users, after you take the drink, there’s lots of vomiting and diarrohea as your body ‘purges’ toxins. TikTokker Kegs says after that, he had a great time, singing songs, sharing food and chatting with the other soul seekers.
Others have ‘bad trips’ where they feel intense fear and anxiety. TikTok user Jules said her trip was the most “psychologically and physically excruciating experiences of my life” and she hallucinated herself dying in every way imaginable for hours.
She says the feeling was “inescapable” and she was screaming and crying telling everyone, “This is it guys. I’m not going to make it.” While this was going on, three retreat helpers were holding her and trying to calm her down, so there is support available for anyone having a rough time.
It can’t have been that bad, though, as she went back for a second round the next night, when she had the “most magical experience”! Most ceremonies are conducted over a series of consecutive days where you take the medicine every night.
Experts say that you can’t predict what kind of time you’ll have, good or bad, but the trips are usually short-lived – around two to six hours – and there is a lot of calm music and mediation going on to keep the atmosphere peaceful, happy and spiritual.
If you’re thinking of trying ayahuasca, speak to a medical professional first to make sure it won’t have adverse effects on any medications or illnesses you have, and be safe when travelling to South America – many of the ceremonies are in remote jungles where emergency medical attention might not be readily available.
With all that said – have a good ‘trip’!