Ayahuasca and Health Precautions

Ayahuasca brew cooking over a traditional wood-fire, in the Ayahuma centre, in Peru. Photo: C. Hoyos

Ayahuasca brew cooking over a traditional wood-fire, in the Ayahuma centre, in Peru. Photo: C. Hoyos

Are you planning to do an Ayahuasca / Yagé retreat with us in Peru, or in Colombia? Great! Before contacting us, however, kindly familiarise yourself with the information provided on this page as initial step to ascertain whether your health conditions and personal circumstances will allow you to have a safe Ayahuasca experience. We always endorse and support safety and responsibility when it comes to journeying with shamanic entheogenic medicine. Thank you for your co-operation.

 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 *might* be 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/Yage 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).

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 and – according to certain studies – may even be beneficial. Subjects affected by Chron’s Disease and/or with stomach or intestinal ulcers, may not take Ayahuasca for *at least* the first three months of their retreat in Peru 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).

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.

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

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.

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.

Ayahuasca brew cooking in the Ayahuma venue, in Peru. Photo: Trenton Doyle

Ayahuasca brew cooking in the Ayahuma venue, in Peru. Photo: Trenton Doyle

Pregnancy, menstruations and Ayahuasca in PERU:

Pregnant women on an advanced stage of pregnancy must not take Ayahuasca, as for the possible risk of miscarriage. Pregnant women at the initial stages of pregnancy, might still join our Ayahuasca retreats but may only take part to a limited number of Ayahuasca ceremonies during their stay (at the sole discretion of the shaman) and will have a reduced dosage (maximum 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. Women having their menstrual cycle during the retreat *usually* should have no problem with the taking of Ayahuasca (historically, no curandero/a working with us in Peru has ever refused to accept a menstruating female participant to an Ayahuasca ritual).

Yage shamans Don Victoriano (left) and Don Laureano in our Finca in Putumayo. Photo © El Mundo Magico

Taita Victoriano and Taita Laureano, indigenous Yagé shamans of Colombia. Photo © El Mundo Magico.

Pregnancy, menstruations and Yagé traditions in COLOMBIA:

Traditional Yagé shamans (Taitas) in Colombia do not accept pregnant or menstruating women at the Yagé rituals. Women in fertile age wishing to partake to our Yagé retreats may want to either take period delay tablets (hormone medication to delay, or stop, the period), or else, simply make sure they won’t be pregnant or have their period then.

Ayahuasca heart decoration on a Shipibo ethnic textile. Photo © El Mundo Magico

Ayahuasca heart decoration on a Shipibo ethnic textile. Photo © El Mundo Magico

Disclaimer

This list of conditions, medications and drugs incompatible with a safe Ayahuasca experience is non-exhaustive and non-comprehensive. Please ultimately consult with your medical practitioner/specialist for official and extensive professional medical advice. If any of the above health conditions applies to you, or else, if you are a user of any of the above mentioned substances/plants/medicines/pharmaceutical drugs and have any doubts, please seek first appropriate professional medical advice before contacting us. Any disclosure re. your health status will kept in the strictest confidentiality.

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 solely and entirely responsible for the following of those precautions and the liability for any adverse effect that may result during the taking of the Ayahuasca brew, in the contest of a retreat organized by El Mundo Magico, remains – with no exceptions – entirely with you.

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Ayahuasca brew cooking. Photo Ⓒ El Mundo Magico

The Ayahuasca/Yagé diet

Abstinence from sexual intercourse and any form of sexual activity – from few days before, until few days after each Ayahuasca/Yage ceremony is of paramount importance, especially in light to preserve one’s “distilled” sexual energy during the challenging, magical encounter with the Ayahuasca/Yagé spirit. Don Mariano, a shaman from the Shipibo ethic group of Peru – interviewed by us on this matter – maintained a rather “provocative” position: “la Ayahuasca no se dieta antes, si no despues!”, that is: “Ayahuasca is not to be dieted before [taking it], but afterwards!”. Equally important is refraining from pork meat and derivatives (ham, bacon, pepperoni, salami, etc), for 15 days before your first ceremony, until at least 15 days after your last ceremony. You need to arrive at the retreat in the most possible energetically pure conditions, in order to benefit the most from this experience.

Ayahuasca/Yagé and food to avoid

Ayahuasca brew being filtered. Photo © El Mundo Magico

Avoid altogether – for at least 12 hours before the Ayahuasca/Yagé ceremony – any food containing stimulants, caffeine, spices, chilli, fats, oil, salt and sugar. And please refrain from having any fermented food or drinks like Soya sauce/Tamari, Soya beans paste/curd (like Miso or Tofu), beer, vermouth wine, aged/mouldy cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss cheese, blue cheese), yeast and all other food which is a potential source of tyramine, like mature avocados, eggplants, figs, grapes, pineapples, plums, raisins, prunes, broad beans, fava beans (broad beans), lentils, peanuts, dried milk, sour cream, yoghurt, buttermilk, chocolate, Vegemite and sauerkraut. Taking foods containing tyramine in conjunction with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, can trigger hypertensive crisis and migraines.

We recommend to fast on the day of taking Ayahuasca, or else, to only have a light breakfast and a very light lunch, and – by all means – no dinner. It will also be much beneficial to drink plenty of water, on the day of the ceremony, up until one hour before the ritual begins. However, no water must be drunk during the Ayahuasca/Yagé ceremony: doing so will only make the side effects of the medicine last longer, with no visionary effects. Remember that whatever food you may take on the day of the ceremony, will most certainly come out of your body via the “lower” or “upper” ways, after drinking the brew…

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