Ayahuasca & Health Precautions

Ayahuasca brew cooking. Photo: F. Sammarco

If you are planning to do a retreat with us, you are kindly required to familiarise yourself with the information provided here as initial step to ascertain whether your health conditions and personal circumstances will allow for a safe Ayahuasca (in Peru) – or Yagé (in Colombia) – experience. We always endorse and support safety and responsibility when it comes to journeying with shamanic entheogenics.

Not everybody may drink the sacred brew of the Amazonian shamans…

People affected by chronic heart conditions, severe high blood pressure, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicidal tendencies – as well as other psychiatric/dissociative conditions – must not take Ayahuasca and may not be accepted at the retreat. Those under treatment with anti-depressant drugs like Prozac, Seroxat, Zoloft, Effexor, Paxil, Welbutrin (bupropion) – also sold under the trade name of Zyban as aid therapy to the urge to smoke – and similar, must not try Ayahuasca, unless their treatment has already ended – under medical supervision – for at the least 3 months. Equally, potential guests taking low dosage of antidepressant/mood-stabilizer Abilify (aripiprazole), prescribed as (complementary or sole) treatment for adults with depression, must interrupt the intake of their medicine for at least 7 weeks before their retreat’s start date, in agreement with the opinion of their healthcare provider.

Depending on length of administration, type of medication and individual response times, it may take from up to 7 weeks to several months for your system to clear from the prolonged use of certain anti-depressants pharmaceutical drugs. Because of this, you must always inform your medical practitioner and get professional medical advice on the potential risks involved in taking a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI) like Ayahuasca, in conjunction with your medical prescriptions, even if you have discontinued their use for several weeks, or even months. The Ayahuasca concoction contains DMT and belongs to the MAOIs family and, even though weaker than most pharmaceutical drugs available on the market today, there is always the potential for very serious health risks when certain classes of medications (including SSRIs – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – used to treat depression, CNS – central nervous system depressants) interact with Ayahuasca.

Those who are currently on – or have recently finished an – antibiotic therapy are equally required not to take Ayahuasca, to avoid potentially strong adverse reactions. Doxycycline & Mefloquine hydrochloride-based anti-malaria drugs (marketed as Lariam) may not mix well with Ayahuasca (proguanil hydrochloride-based Malarone is a better alternative).

If taking phenylalanine, non prescription drugs like antihistamines, systemic vase-constrictors or decongestant (both natural, like ephedrine and synthetic formulations, like pseudo-ephedrine and similar), medicines for cold & flu, bronchitis, sinusitis, hay-fever, allergies, asthma or other breathing problems, as well as drugs with high content of caffeine (including off the counter ones), please discontinue their use from at least a week before until a week after your Ayahuasca retreat.

Other medications non-compatible with Ayahuasca include: diet pills (appetite suppressants), narcotics, sedatives, tranquillisers, anti-hypertensive agents (used to treat high blood pressure), analgesics like Meperidine, anti-Parkinson drugs (medicines used to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease) like Levopoda, drugs used to treat heart conditions, like Dopamine (brand name: Intropin), neurological prescriptions like Carbamazipine (a drug that eliminates seizures, but has also severe side effects), and sympathomimetic drugs (substances that mimic the effects of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline) like amphetamine and tyrosine.

Amphetamine salts-based medication (brand name: Adderall) used (in the US & Canada) to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, as well as medications containing methylphenidate (brand names: Aptensio XR, Concerta, Metadate, Quillivant, Ritalin), a drug belonging to the family of the central nervous system (CNS) stimulants used also in the treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD), are equally not compatible with MAO inhibitors and Ayahuasca, and their use must be discontinued well before your arrival at the retreat (the use of methylphenidate must be suspended for at least 14 days before the retreat start date, as otherwise a dangerous drug interaction could occur).

Taking products like Clonazepamis, a benzodiazepine drug prescribed to treat seizures and panic disorder, with anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, and hypnotic properties (brand names: Klonopin, Rivotril, Ravotril, Rivatril, Clonex, Paxam, or Kriadex), may weaken – or else, completely antagonise and neutralise – the visionary dimension of the Ayahuasca experience.

People affected by Addison’s Disease must not take Ayahuasca (as well as any other medication/medicine that would alter their hydro-electrolytic balance).

If you are a user of any substance – like dope, cocaine, heroine, crack, mescaline – or Phenethylamines (homologues of amphetamines), you must please inform us immediately. Most of these substances are, on top of been illegal, incompatible – at various degrees – with a safe Ayahuasca experience. Equally, if you have any alcohol dependency, please inform us beforehand. Strictly, people with type I Diabetes must not take Ayahuasca, as for the consequent sudden alteration in blood sugar levels that the taking of the brew may (or can) cause. Type II Diabetes is, however, usually compatible with Ayahuasca. Subjects affected by Chron’s Disease and/o with stomach or intestinal ulcers, may not take Ayahuasca for *at least* the first three months of their retreat and will be required to do a *minimum* of four months plant diet instead (at the beginning of the fourth month of diet, they may start – depending on the progress made – to take small quantities of Ayahuasca, on a once – or twice – a week basis).

In the herbal kingdom, plants (taken in any form, including fresh, or as dry/liquid extract) like St. John’s Worth (Hypericum perforatum), Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe), Ginseng (Panax ginseng), Sinicuici (Heimia salicifolia), Kava (Piper methysticum), Yerba Mate’ (Ilex paraguariensis) and Ephedra (Ephedra sinica / Ephedra vulgaris, and generally all varieties of it), are known not to be compatible with Ayahuasca.

For the safety of all participants and personnel, we regret we are unable to accept guests carrying any infectious disease to our retreats.

Last but not least, if you underwent brain surgery – regardless of whether you still are under medication, or not – you may still take part to our journeys, but you will not be allowed to take Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Toé, or Tobacco in any form or quantity, whatsoever.

If any of the above conditions applies to you, if you are a user of any of the above mentioned substances/plants/medicines/pharmaceutical drugs, or else, if you have any doubts, please seek appropriate professional medical advice before contacting us. You are kindly reminded that the responsibility of taking accurate and timely health precautions – along with professional medical advice – remains entirely with you. You are the exclusive agent responsible for the following of those precautions and the liability for any adverse effect that may result during the taking of the Ayahuasca medicine, in the contest of a retreat organized by El Mundo Magico, remains – with no exceptions – entirely with you.

This list of conditions and drugs incompatible with a safe Ayahuasca experience is non-exhaustive and non-comprehensive. Please ultimately refer to your medical practitioner/specialist for official and extensive professional medical advice. If any of the above conditions apply to you, first and foremost inform your doctor on the compatibility of your health status with MAO Inhibitors (which Ayahuasca – effectively – is), and then – upon favourable response from your doctor – us and our shamans of your conditions, to ascertain whether it would advisable or not for you to drink the Ayahuasca brew. Any disclosure re. your health status will kept in the strictest confidentiality. In certain cases, we may require a written letter from your Practitioner, before accepting you on the retreat (being it Ayahuasca or Plant Diet retreat). Thank you for your co-operation in this matter.

In PERU: Pregnant women on an advanced stage of pregnancy – from their seventh months onwards – must not take Ayahuasca, as for the possible risk of miscarriage. Pregnant women at the initial stages of pregnancy and up until their sixth month, might still join our Ayahuasca retreats but may only take part to Ayahuasca ceremonies twice a week, and need to take a reduced dosage (no more than half of a small cup) during each ceremony. Even with all due precautions, however, one must always bear in mind the possibility of miscarriage in the initial months of pregnancy, which may be triggered by convulsions and intense vomiting. Women having their menstrual cycle *usually* should have no problem with the taking of Ayahuasca. However, ultimately it will be the Maestro curandero and/or the Maestra curandera you will conduct the rituals with, who will decide on this matter (historically, no curandero/a working with us in Peru has ever refused to accept a menstruating female participant to an Ayahuasca ritual).

In COLOMBIA: The Taitas (traditional Yagé shamans) will NOT accept under any circumstance pregnant or menstruating women attending Yagé rituals. We strongly recommend women in fertile age to take appropriate measures/medications to inhibit their period for the time of their Yagé retreat in Colombia. Or else, they should select a range of days when their period is already over.

Last but not least, please familiarize yourself with the information on recommendations and food to avoid for the Ayahuasca diet.