Ayahuasca : Vine of the Soul

Ayahuasca must have a very ancient history as it is deeply pervasive across Amazonian hunter gatherer societies.

Vine of Soul

In the last decade, another South American entheogen, ayahuasca has received a lot of attention in the West. While ayahuasca has received a lot of attention in the West. While ayahuasca has been known to anthropologists of most of the last century, correct identification of the plants, and some understanding of the complex chemistry involved has only been achieved in the last thirty years. A great deal of confusion remains, facilitated by the fact that the varieties of ayahuasca are many. Furthermore, botanical identification of all the varrieties has not been possible.

Ayahuasca is so very deeply rooted and pervasive across most of the Amazonian socities that it must have a very ancient history. The names are many - yage, yaje, and caapi among numerous others.

Visit the Ayahuasca Church of the Gnostic Vine

Caapi & Chacruna
Caapi
Diplopterys cabrerana
Psychotria

Adding to the Confusion

Ayahuasca is most often made from at least two plants - a vine called Banisteriopsis caapi and another tryptamine-filled plant. B. caapi by itself is also called ayahuasa, which translates as the "vine of the soul."

Ayahuasca is most often made from at least two plants - a vine called Banisteriopsis caapi and another tryptamine-filled plant. B. caapi by itself is also called ayahuasa, which translates as the "vine of the soul."

Ayahuasca is occassionally made from only the vine and for a long time scientists thought that the vine provided the only psychoactive ingredients harmaline and harmine. But ayahuasca is generally made from both B. caapi and either Psychotria viridis, in the southern reaches of South America, or Diplopterys cabrerana or "chacruna" from the northern regions. Both are rich in tryptamines. Nonetheless to date more than several hundred plants has been identified as additives to the yage brew. When yage is made from the vibne alone mild psycho activity is obtained. But things get considerably more exciting when at least one tryptamine-laden plant is added. As harmine and harmaline are excellent monoamine oxidase inhibitors, the tryptamines which otherwise are metabolized in the human stomach become psychoactive. What is fascinating to consider is how early shamans figured out that a potent brew could best be made from these two ingredients being mixed together, as consuming a tryptamine-filled plant without an effective MAOI gives one no psychedelic effect at all.

The brew is prepared by boiling the admixtures togeter for hours (today a pressure cooker is often used) and then drinking the resuling thick alkaloid-tasting liquid. Ayahuasca is nicknamed "la purga" for a reason, as nausea and vmiting ar equite common. The effects are strong and last about two hours, with intense visions often filled with jungle themes, jaguars and (anaconda) snakes. Sessions often involve the repeated dinking of material so that they can be all night-affairs.

Like peyote, ayahuasca has been at the center of the new synchretic Christian-AmerIndian religions are expressed by Udiao de Vegetal and the Santo Daime churches, active most notable in Brazil but spreading rapidly worldwide. Ayahuasca is one of the few entheogens to be internationally recognized as a pyschedelic sacrament and to be considered a protected plant.