Ayahuasca diet: Health & Safety information for perspective participants to our retreats in Peru

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

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

 

If you are planning to do a retreat facilitated/organised by El Mundo Magico in Peru, where Ayahuasca/Yagé is part of the experience, please familiarise yourself with the information provided on this page – before contacting us – as initial screening and first step to ascertain whether your (physical and mental) health conditions & personal circumstances will allow you to have a safe plant medicine journey. This page has been thoroughly researched by El Mundo Magico, and is the fruit of over two decades of work with plant medicine in the Amazon, but under no circumstance is to be intended as a substitute of professional medical advice. We strongly recommend any perspective participant to see a medical doctor well acquainted with the nature of Ayahuasca and have a thorough medical check-up before joining any of our retreats (when the use of Ayahuasca/Yagé, is contemplated). We always endorse and support safety and responsibility when it comes to journeying with shamanic entheogenic medicine.

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

Medical conditions and drugs (pharmaceutical and recreational) incompatible with Ayahuasca

Pregnancy, menstruations, Ayahuasca and Camalonga in PERU

The Ayahuasca/Yagé diet: what to avoid

The Ayahuasca/Yagé diet: what other food to avoid

The Ayahuasca/Yagé diet: what food you may eat

The degree of flexibility (or strictness) in allowing (or not) the use of Ayahuasca at a retreat with us will vary depending on one’s individual circumstances, personal health status and to the shaman’s diagnostics (which may take place and change several times in the course of a long retreat).

Medical conditions and drugs (pharmaceutical and recreational) incompatible with Ayahuasca/Yage

Perspective participants affected by chronic heart conditions, severe high blood pressure, psychiatric/dissociative conditions – including schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder – can be at risk if taking Ayahuasca/Yagé (or other psychoactive plants to that extent, including – but not limited to – Tobacco, Toé and Camalonga), and may not be allowed to drink the brew. Furthermore – for the safety and well-being of fellow participants, shamans and staff – we regret that we are unable to accept potential guests affected by suicidal tendencies, or carrying any infectious/transmissible disease.

People who recently underwent brain surgery – regardless of whether one is still under medication, or not – may take part to our retreats, but may not be allowed to take Ayahuasca, Toé, Camalonga and/or Tobacco in liquid form (or any other psychoactive plant, to that extent). The same criteria applies to people with damage to their internal organs, who may – on top – also not be allowed to take master trees tea/infusion/macerate (even if this is not psychoactive, but only intoxicating). Exceptions might be made from case to case, depending on individual circumstances, subject to medical clearance and to the assessment/diagnostic of our shaman.

Perspective guests 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/Yagé, unless their treatment has already ended – under medical supervision – for at the least 3 months. Equally, perspective participants 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 who must be consulted beforehand.

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-depressant pharmaceutical drugs. Because of this, you must always inform your medical practitioner and get professional medical advice on the potential risks involved in taking Ayahuasca/Yagé – a Reversible Inhibitor of Monoamine Oxidase (RIMA), a subclass of Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) that reversibly inhibits the MAO-A enzyme – in conjunction with your medical prescriptions, even if you have discontinued their use for several weeks, or even months. Even though your doctor may not know anything about Ayahuasca or Yagé, he/she will know for sure what a RIMA or MAOI is.

Because of this reversibility, Ayahuasca appears to have fewer side-effects than traditional pharmaceutical drugs belonging to the MAOIs class. That being said, Ayahuasca, even though weaker than most pharmaceutical drugs available on the market today, bear always the potential for very serious health risks when taken in conjunction with a certain classes of medications – including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, used to treat depression) and CNS (Central Nervous System depressants).

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) do not mix well with Ayahuasca. Proguanil hydrochloride-based Malarone is usually more tolerated and *might* be a better alternative, even though one might also want to consider homeopathic/natural therapies altogether, as antimalarial prophylaxis.

If taking phenylalanine, non prescription drugs like antihistamines, systemic vase-constrictors or decongestant (both natural, like ephedrine, and synthetic formulations, like pseudo-ephedrine, oxymetazoline hydrochloride, xylometazoline hydrochloride 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. Asthma medications like Salbutamol should be administered with caution, whilst asthma drugs like Albuterol should be administered with extreme caution whilst using MAOIs (or within 2 weeks of discontinuation).

Other medications incompatible with Ayahuasca/Yage 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 and anticonvulsant prescriptions, like Carbamazipine (brand names: Carbatrol, Epitol, Equetro, TEGretol, TEGretol XR) – a drug used to eliminate seizures and nerve pain (like trigeminal neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy), and also used to treat bipolar disorder – and sympathomimetic drugs (substances that mimic the effects of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline) like amphetamine and tyrosine, can all trigger dangerous drug interactions with MAO inhibitors.

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 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 the Griffonia simplicifolia (a plant native to West and Central Africa, from whose seeds is extracted the amino acid 5 HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, a precursor of serotonin, used to treat insomnia, mood disorders, depression and anxiety), 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.

In the animal kingdom, there are reported potentially lethal risks associated to the use of the psychoactive venom of the Bufo Alvarius (Incilius alvarius) toad, a.k.a. Sonoran Desert Toad – containing tryptamine compounds like bufotenin and 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-imethyltryptamine) – when taken in conjunction with Ayahuasca.

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

Ayahuasca brew cooking in the Ayahuma centre. Photo © Trenton Doyle

Pregnancy, menstruations, Ayahuasca and Camalonga in PERU

Women in an advanced stage of their pregnancy must not take Ayahuasca, as for the possible risk of miscarriage. Pregnant women at the initial stages of pregnancy – and, subject to the shaman’s assessment, up until their 5th month – may still join our Ayahuasca retreats but must only take part to a limited number of Ayahuasca ceremonies during their stay (typically, no more than 2 ceremonies per week) and may have a reduced dosage of the brew (typically, 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. Pregnant women at any stage of their pregnancy must not drink the Camalonga brew, as it will be toxic to the fetus. Ladies having their menstrual cycle during the retreat *usually* should have no problem with the taking of Ayahuasca (historically, no Maestro/a curandero/a working with us in Peru has ever refused to accept a menstruating female participant to an Ayahuasca ritual).

Disclaimer

The present 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 be 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 as well as other psychoactive plant medicine (like jungle Tobacco, San Pedro, Toé, Camalonga, etc) traditionally used by Amazonian shamans, in the contest of a retreat organised by El Mundo Magico, remains – with no exceptions – entirely with you.

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Ayahuasca brew cooking in the Peruvian jungle. Photo Ⓒ El Mundo Magico

The Ayahuasca diet: what to avoid

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 después!”, that is: “Ayahuasca is not to be dieted before [taking it], but afterwards!”. Equally important is refraining from pork meat and derivatives (ham, prosciutto, bacon, pepperoni, salami, mortadella, lard, hot dogs, etc), for at least 15 days before your first ceremony, until at least 15 days after your last ceremony. This rule changes from shaman to shaman, and – especially if one will be doing the shamanic diet apprenticeship with master plants/trees – one may need to increase the period of abstinence from pork meat, from 30 days before the dieta would start, up to 30 days after it has finished. A more conservative approach would even extend this range to 1 month before, to 3 months after the end of the diet training. You need to arrive at the retreat in the most possible energetically pure conditions, in order to benefit the most from this experience.

The Ayahuasca/Yagé diet: what other food to avoid

Avoid altogether – for at least 12 hours before the Ayahuasca/Yagé ceremony – any food containing stimulants, caffeine, spices, chilli, fats, oil, salt and sugar. Refrain from having any fermented food or drinks like Soya sauce/Tamari, Soya beans paste/curd (like Miso or Tofu), beer, vermouth wine, Chianti, prosecco, champagne, whisky, aged/mouldy cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss cheese, blue cheese), yeast, sourdough bread, and all other food which is a potential source of tyramine, like mature/overripe avocados, overripe fruits, egg-plants, figs, grapes, pineapples, plums, raisins, prunes, fava beans (broad beans), lentils, peanuts, dried milk, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, chocolate, Vegemite, sauerkraut, unfresh liver, chicken liver, corned beef, smoked fish, pickled fish, caviar and generally all canned fish (including tuna, herrings, sardines, etc).

Taking food containing tyramine in conjunction with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, can trigger hypertensive crisis and migraines.

The Ayahuasca/Yagé diet: what food you may eat

Sticking to the traditional indigenous Amazonian Ayahuasca diet will always be beneficial and you can’t be wrong with that. In the strict version of the diet you may eat steamed, grilled or roasted fresh fish (unseasoned), grilled or boiled plantains, grilled green bananas, rice, oat pudding (unseasoned) and yucca. You may also drink water. In the more relaxed version of the diet, you may add some little seasoning (olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil, but no spices or chilli) to your allowed food, which may also include some unripe fruits (apples, pears, melons, apricots and peaches), vegetables (like potatoes, beetroots, carrots and broccoli, but excluding lentils, garlic, onions and broad beans), salad (including lettuce and cucumber) and eggs.

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…

External links on Ayahuasca interactions (for informational purposes only):

Hello Pharmacist:

https://hellopharmacist.com/drug-herbal-interactions/ayahuasca-with-camphor-hyoscyamine-passif-phenobarbital-scopolamine-valerian

https://hellopharmacist.com/drug-herbal-interactions/ayahuasca-with-camphor-hyoscyamine-passif-phenobarbital-scopolamine-valerian#interaction-rating-key

Ask a Pharmacist (for free):

https://hellopharmacist.com/questions/create

Science Direct:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/harmalol

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