After centuries, if not millennia, of ceremonial usage by Amazonian tribes, Ayahuasca has been gaining worldwide momentum for the past couple of decades. Ayahuasca tourism is big and retreat centers are springing up like mushrooms. And with thousands of Ayahuasca tourists taking part in healing ceremonies with Amazonian shamans all around the globe, some have begun to wonder: “Can I too make my own Ayahuasca tea?”.
Disclaimer! We do not suggest that you make or serve ayahuasca brew without thorough training and guidance by an experienced shaman or medicine person. This article is meant to assist those who are experienced practitioners and educate those who are interested in learning more about ayahuasca before they take it themselves or are on the path to becoming a plant medicine facilitator.
Before we delve into the recipe, let’s first take a closer look at what Ayahuasca exactly is and how it is capable of engendering such transformative psychological effects.
Ayahuasca is a potent brew that is traditionally made up of two components:
B. caapi is a South American woody vine. Dubbed ‘the plant teacher’, it is internationally considered to be a sacred plant. When used alone, the mysterious vine has mood-enhancing and sedative properties. However, it is also a natural MAOI, which stands for Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor. And in the case of Ayahuasca, this is needed for the brew’s other main component to have an effect: the Psychotria vridis (p.vridis)leaf.
To synergize with the effects of B. caapi, P. viridis is the most frequently used admixture. The leaf contains high amounts of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is revered for its healing and medicinal purposes.
The psychoactive substance DMT is the primary hallucinogenic compound found in Ayahuasca. It is known as the ‘spirit molecule’, and it has garnered a lot of love and attention for its therapeutic roles in treating depression and anxiety. (Check out the FAQ section at the end of this article for more information on this interesting spirit molecule!)
Now, if the DMT-containing leaves are Ayahuasca’s main hallucinogenic components, then why do we need the vine?
Well, our bodies contain an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO). And before DMT even gets the chance to reach our central nervous system, this MAO enzyme can break it down in the gut. This process basically renders DMT inactive, and when ingested orally, it must therefore be taken together with an MAO inhibitor to prevent its degradation. This is where the B. caapi vine comes into play.
The vine’s MAOI components temporarily disable our body’s MAO, and the combination of the two Ayahuasca plants helps to synergize the psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties well-known in the ayahuasca experience. This in turn leads to the well-known transformative Ayahuasca journey.
Now that you know how Ayahuasca works, let’s take a look at how you can make it.
Preparing an Ayahuasca brew is a time-consuming ritual that requires a lot of patience and care. For those who consider making it on their own, here is one Ayahuasca preparation method to give you an idea of what it involves.
Please note! Behold Retreats does not condone any illegal activity, and this recipe is intended for purely hypothetical use and should be used only in places where it is legal to do so.
Do you feel ready to embark on your transformative journey, but would you rather take part in a well-organized Ayahuasca retreat that is specifically catered to your needs? Then apply for a consultation here!
The following recipe is for 1 liter of ayahuasca (which amounts to 24-28 doses).
After doing your research, carefully examining your intentions, and following the necessary dietary regimen, gather together the following ingredients:
Disclaimer! Not only do our individual sensitivities to psychoactive substances vary widely, so can the concentration of psychoactive chemicals found in plant material! In addition, even a single individual can react very differently to the same substance depending on the set and setting.
For this recipe, we chose to combine B. caapi with M. hostilis. If you would like to read more about why, take a look at the FAQ section at the end of this article.
As mentioned above, pharmacologically, there are just two components to traditional Ayahuasca brews: DMT and MAOI.
In traditional Amazonian Ayahuasca teas, DMT is present in the form of the P. viridis leaves while the B. caapi vine serves as an MAOI.
That said, as each component can also be found in a variety of other plants, numerous Ayahuasca analogues exist. And virtually every continent has its own native DMT-containing plant as well as its own MAOI which can enable the plants’ psychedelic Ayahuasca effects to take place.
For example, instead of Psychotria viridis some use Mimosa hostilis, Diplopterys cabrerana or Acacia confusa as a DMT source and/or they replace the Banisteriopsis caapi vine with Peganum harmala (Syrian rue).
However, caution is warranted: Ayahuasca is incredibly potent, and partaking in an Ayahuasca ceremony is already an intense experience in itself. Creating your own tea by randomly mixing and matching different plant medicines together is therefore not recommended as it is potentially dangerous, both physically and psychologically!
While Ayahuasca shamanism originally used the B. caapi vine alone, this changed after the discovery of the transformative synergy between B. caapi and P. viridis by indigenous groups.
Nonetheless, from an indigenous Amazonian perspective, the vine is still considered to be ‘Ayahuasca’, whereas the admixture plants are seen as the vine’s helpers. On the other hand, it is said that the Brazilian Santo Daime church, which uses Ayahuasca in its religious ceremonies, sees the brew as a “marriage”: a sacred synergy between the vine and the leaf in which both play an equally important role.
Interesting to know!
This also explains why the brew is called after the name of the vine, namely “Ayahuasca.” Most of the brew’s other native names —like Yage and Caapi — are also names for the vine (and not the DMT-containing admixtures.)
Analogues are plants or chemicals which are used in place of Ayahuasca’s traditional components. Today, various non-traditional Ayahuasca recipes exist, and some of them replace the original compounds with other plants.
As mentioned above, the Banisteriopsis caapi vine is traditionally considered to be mother Ayahuasca, while the plants are her helpers. While it is possible to replace the vine with something else like Peganum harmala (Syrian rue), this is not recommended as, in addition to its traditional usage, B. caapi also provides a much smoother and safer journey than other substituents.
In this recipe we have replaced the traditional Psychotria viridis leaves with Mimosa tenuiflora, also known as Mimosa hostilis or jurema preta. While less common than P. viridis, Mimosa hostilis root bark can still be considered a traditional admixture as it is used in some South American countries. In addition, M. hostilis is also said to be less harsh and easier to find.
If you wish to use P. viridis instead, you can substitute the M. hostilis for fifty grams of P. viridis leaves.
DMT is the primary hallucinogenic compound found in Ayahuasca. Like other psychedelic drugs, such as Psilocybin (magic mushroom) and LSD, it acts on the serotonin receptors in the brain.
While it is a naturally-occurring compound that can be found in animal tissues, including the human brain, its exact effects on the brain are still not entirely understood. But luckily, more and more research is coming in.
For example, a recent study from 2020 published in Translational Psychiatry, has shown that DMT can potentially play an important role in the activation of neural stem cells and neurogenesis. Adult neurogenesis refers to our innate capability to always continue forming new neurons, even well in adulthood.
While the study was done on mice, the results look promising! And according to José Ángel Morales, one of the researchers of the study, “This capacity to modulate brain plasticity suggests that it [DMT] has great therapeutic potential for a wide range of psychiatric and neurological disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases.”
Interesting to know!
In addition, the authors of the study have also previously shown that β-carboline harmala alkaloids, which are the three main alkaloids present in B. caapi, are key regulators when it comes to adult neural stem cell activity.
Creating your own Ayahuasca tea can potentially be dangerous.
As mentioned above, DMT affects the brain's serotonin receptors. Because of this, Ayahuasca should never be consumed while also taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This combination produces enormous amounts of serotonin in the brain and can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.
In addition, a too high dosage of MAOI can be fatal which is why Ayahuasca should never be mixed with MAOI medications such as MAOIs.
Ayahuasca can also be extremely dangerous when combined with certain food or substances that contain a lot of tyramine as this can lead to hypertensive crises. Think of strong or aged cheeses, meat, fermented food, soybeans, overripe fruits, and alcohol.
The reason why consuming too much tyramine is dangerous is because monoamine oxidase breaks down excess tyramine in the body. But due to B. caapi’s MAOI compounds, less monoamine oxidase is present in the body, which in turn means that excess tyramine is no longer broken down in time.
Finally, individuals with a personal or family history of any psychotic illness or nonpsychotic mania should also avoid hallucinogen intake, including Ayahuasca consumption.
What your Ayahuasca experiences will be like can’t be said for sure in advance. This depends on numerous factors, and in addition to the Ayahuasca tea itself, your set and setting play a vitally important role.
Do you want to begin your Ayahuasca healing journey, but would you rather participate in a well-organized and individually-curated ceremony? Then apply for a consultation here!
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