Ayahuasca or yage is a psychoactive plant medicine made from a potent brew of the Ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) with the leaves of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria viridis). Their commingling creates a powerful drinkable medicine that is similar in structure to the body’s own serotonin. In the early 90’s ethno-pharmacologist Dennis McKenna at the University of British Columbia, discovered that Psychotria, when taken alone, is entirely inactivated in the human gut by the monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzyme system, but when brewed together with Banisteriopsis caapi-containing monoamine oxidase inhibiting harmala alkaloids, a profound psychoactive experience results.
Ayahuasca, well known by its Quechua name translates as “vine of the soul” or “vine of the spirits.”
Though first scientifically catalogued and classified by Western science in the mid nineteenth century, Ayahuasca has been used by the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon for healing and divine ritual since long before the arrival of the first Europeans in the 1600’s.
Sadly, when the Jesuit missionaries conquered and enslaved the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon in the seventeenth century, forcing them to convert to Christianity and abandon many of their ancient rituals, the Jesuits also prohibited the use of sacred plant medicines including Ayahuasca. These so called “diabolical potions” were naively believed to put the people in communication with the devil and deprive them of all reason.
Despite the destruction of these ancient cultures by the early Europeans that sought to destroy thousands of years of ritual and sacred tradition, the healing power and sacred ceremony of Ayahuasca remains alive and thriving today deep in the Amazon rainforest.
Western medicine has traditionally sought to cure illness and dysfunction of the body by controlling or making changes to the external environment at the level of the cells. This approach to healing may help the physical cells making up the human body to heal, but it fails to promote growth and healing at the level of the mind, soul and spirit.