Ayahuasca is a traditional brew crafted in-depth in the Amazon Rainforest by indigenous communities. South American tribes have used the Ayahuasca brew for centuries for its healing properties. This mystical brew gain popularity in the Western world recently which raised a lot of questions. One of these questions is how exactly is this concoction made. This is exactly why we decided to carefully craft this article and unfold the Secret of brewing Ayahuasca.
Understanding the Ingredients
Two fundamental elements constitute the basis of Ayahuasca: the vine Banisteriopsis caapi and the leaves Psychotria viridis. The amalgamation of these botanical components generates a synergistic interplay giving rise to the distinctive effects of the brew.
Some tribes also introduce extra herbs into the mixture, establishing a distinct cornerstone for their creation. There are also online reports of people making this brew from Mimosa hostilis (acacia root bark) and Peganum harmala (Syrian rue). However, we will stick to the traditional method of brewing this mystical drink.
Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine
The Banisteriopsis caapi vine, also known as “ayahuasca vine” or “caapi,” is the main ingredient in the ayahuasca brew. It contains harmine and harmaline alkaloids that act as MAO inhibitors, allowing the psychoactive compounds found in leaves to take effect.
Interestingly, the same alkaloids are also found in inhibitors, allowing the psychoactive compound Peganum harmala, also known as Syrian rue, contains the same alkaloids. Hence that’s why some people use it as an ayahuasca vine substitute.
Psychotria Viridis Leaves
The leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant contain N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a potent hallucinogen that is the main psychoactive compound in Ayahuasca brew. DMT is usually smoked and is not active when taken orally. However, when combined with the MAO inhibitors, such as those found in the caapi vine, DMT becomes orally active, leading to the brew’s psychedelic effects.
How Is Ayahuasca Brew Made?
First, the vine pieces are cleaned to remove anything that’s not part of the ayahuasca, such as moss or any other botanical impurities. This can be done by washing or scraping with a knife, making sure only the ayahuasca vine is used. Making ayahuasca takes time, sometimes a few days for cutting, cleaning, and preparing. People often fast during this process to stay spiritually pure which is of huge importance for the ayahuasca dieta.
Once the vine is clean, it’s pounded with a hammer to break it into smaller pieces. This helps get more of the plant’s medicinal essence. The vine is tough, so hitting it the right way is important – strong enough for effect but not too much. It’s not uncommon to see a shaman or a healer sing during this step to talk to the plant’s spirit and make its effects stronger.
After breaking the vine, it’s mixed in a pot with Psychotria Viridis leaves, which are torn into small bits. Then, water is added to cover the plants. The pot is put over a fire and brought to a boil. Cooking times and temperatures can vary, but the goal is to reduce the water while taking in the plants’ healing qualities.
When the shaman determines it’s cooked enough, the water is taken out, leaving the plants. This is called the first ‘wash.’ More water is added to the plants, and the boiling is done again. This can be repeated multiple times with the same plants. Each time, more medicine is extracted, making the brew stronger.
After all the reductions, only the liquid is kept and heated again. This final heating determines how strong each dose will be. Shamans watch closely as the liquid gets stronger, making sure it’s the right strength.
Once the cooking is done, the brew is taken off the fire to cool. After it cools, the last step is to strain the medicine using a cloth, to remove any leftover plant pieces. The shaman then says a final prayer over the medicine. The brown liquid is put into a bottle and saved for ceremonies.
What Is the Role of a Shaman?
In the Amazon rainforest, indigenous tribes have utilized the sacred plant medicine ayahuasca for countless years. The healers who work with this sacred plant medicine are essentially practicing shamanism. However, within many indigenous communities, the term “shaman” is rarely used to describe a healer. This is because, for numerous indigenous people, the word carries a negative connotation akin to “charlatan,” someone who falsely claims special knowledge or skill.
In Peru, healers are referred to as “Onaya,” “Maestro,” “Ayahuasquero,” “Curandero,” or “Vegetalista.” Similarly, there are various names for healers throughout the Amazon. For instance, the Colombian Kofan tribes call their healers “Taita” or “Curacas.” Likewise, the sacred medicine has multiple names, such as yage, natema, oni, caapi, and more.
Although the names, intricate rituals, and healing ceremonies differ among tribes, Amazonian shamans share common ground. They all perceive mental and physical ailments as disruptions on energetic and spiritual levels. The focal point of their healing rituals is addressing and resolving this disharmony. The ultimate aim of these ceremonies is to restore balance. Thus, the role of a shaman is to help people with prayer and medicine.