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Seven Good Reasons NOT to drink Ayahuasca

November 24, 2015
Ayahuasca vision by Paulo Jales

Ayahuasca vision by Paulo Jales

As one of my most visited posts is Seven Good Reasons to drink Ayahuasca’, I thought I should complement it with this new post ‘Seven Good Reasons NOT to drink Ayahuasca’.

1. Because you don’t know the shaman/curandero/maestro/facilitator leading the ceremony.

This cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Drinking ayahausca with someone you don’t know is like playing Russian roulette with three bullets in a six-barrel revolver. You might get lucky and have a wonderful experience. Alternatively, you might drink with someone who is incompetent, a charlatan or, worse, who actually causes you harm.

2. Because you don’t know where the medicine you are drinking comes from.

The longer I have been drinking ayahuasca, the more I appreciate that the kind of medicine that you drink – that is who made it, how they made it and what ingredients they have put in it – is crucial.

Ayahuasca absorbs the energies involved in its making and these then influence the effects it has. This, of course, runs counter to Western rational, scientific ideas that making it is a just a physical-chemical process and if this is carried out well technically then there should be no problem. There are at least two reasons why this is not so.

First of all, the singing of icaros into the ayahausca when it is being made is important. That requires someone who knows what they are doing.

Secondly, unscrupulous shamans can add other plants to the mixture of the ayahuasca vine and chakruna, such as toé, which makes it easier to manipulate people in ceremonies.

This has been brought home to me recently when I had the opportunity to drink medicine on a dieta made by the people doing the dieta under the supervision of the Maestro leading the dieta. People carefully made the medicine the traditional way, fasting whilst they did it, thoroughly breaking up the vine and painstakingly going through each chakruna leaf, throwing out the ones that were not just right. I have never drunk such clean medicine, sublime in its effect.

LSD trip Mashup

3. Because you want to have a ‘trip’.

Unfortunately, in the Western World, notably the USA, ayahuasca is getting assimilated into a pervasive drug culture, so some people taking it are wanting to have ‘big’ experiences and ‘big’ visions.

Ayahuasca is not a drug, it’s a medicine. That’s worth repeating. Ayahuasca is not a drug it’s a medicine.

There is a world of difference between taking ayahuasca because you want to trip your balls off, and whatever the female equivalent of this is (suggestions?), and taking it with profound respect for the extraordinary intelligence and wisdom embodied in these plants and appreciation for the indigenous traditions that have been using this medicine for centuries, possibly millennia, to heal people.

Traditionally, with the Shipibo, only the shaman drank ayahuasca, not the patient.

Fortunately, some of the effects of ayahuasca, like needing to shit and/or vomit frequently, suddenly and explosively, which are an important part of the healing process, do not lend it to recreational drug use.

4. For health reasons.

Much good work has been done outlining the counter-indications to drink ayahausca. This can be because the person is consuming Western medications like certain anti-depressants, or has a specific health condition, like a heart problem, or has previously had psychotic episodes – though this last point is moot.

Malidoma Some bookSee, for example, this article by Malidoma Somé pointing out that people diagnosed as crazy in Western societies would be seen as potential healers in traditional societies and would be treated as if they were undergoing a spiritual transformation.

It could be that people taking ayahuasca with a history of what psychiatry sees as mental disorders find that the reality they have experienced, and which has been labelled as madness, is validated by Madre Ayahausca.

However, the environment in which people drink ayahuasca, called ‘set and setting’ in the psychedelic literature, can make all the difference between whether someone is precipitated into psychosis or is able to have experiences that they can contain, work with, and eventually integrate.

ICEERS (the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education Research and Service) provides good information here that outlines the physical and psychological health risks that one should be careful of in drinking ayahausca.

There is also a very good article on about medical precautions which includes a very long list of drugs that may have contra-indications with ayahuasca.

5. Because its ‘cool’.

This reason is linked to the earlier point about ayahausca becoming the latest kid on the drug scene block. As the popularity and globalization of ayahuasca has grown, it has been receiving celebrity endorsements.

One of the most intelligent is from Sting, in an interview with Daniel Pinchbeck.

Here’s another one by Lindsay Lohan, talking about how ayahuasca has changed her life. (It’s only one minute 58 seconds long!)

6. Because you think it will solve your problems

ayahuasca promises

Undoubtedly, ayahuasca has a huge potential therapeutic effect. However, like any therapy, it requires work. It is a not a magic pill. Many people stop drinking ayahausca or turn to something else or another shaman when they do not get the instant results they hope for and/or they get an intuition of the hard work that is needed to really get somewhere with her.

Madre Ayahauasca does not offer a short cut to enlightenment. If you want that, try smoking DMT, though I have doubts about what real changes that leads to. Madre Ayahuasca, like any spiritual path, demands work, dedication and sacrifice. And like any spiritual path, there are many pitfalls along the way.

7. I invite my readers to add the seventh reason in the comments section below (APART FROM THE TASTE).

  1. Kevin Borman permalink

    I don’t have a seventh reason to add but I wanted to comment because I found this post, like many of your others, very wise but with that light-hearted touch which seems to characterise the way many of the best shamans work (he said, from his limited experience of doce ceremonias) – flipping between the sacred and the profane. Which brings me to ‘tripping your balls off’ – nice phrase!
    I’m sure you’ve been asked this before Paul, but are you thinking that you might, at some point, collect these posts and perhaps some further thoughts into what the western, rationalist world might call ‘a book’? And…thank you!

  2. Oh! I have a good one – Because you are on a 6 months backpacking trip through South America ANYWAYS so you should take this opportunity. NO!

    • CosmicDrBii permalink

      I like that one Mariya.

      Visit Peru: see Machu Picchu; fly over the Nazca lines; walk in the historic colonial centers of Arequipa, Cuzco and Lima; hang out in the ancient ceremonial center of Chavin; trek in the Cordillera; sample the world-renowned gastronomy; take San Pedro in the Sacred Valley and drink ayahauasca in the Amazon.

      This package can be organized in a de luxe version and for backpackers.

  3. CosmicDrBii permalink

    Thanks for your appreciative comment Kevin. You can’t help me with the female equivalent of ‘tripping your balls off’? (I picked up that phrase from some of the gringos I have met). I suspect the answer needs to come from a woman.

    As for the book……..if I had time…………or made time………..but I think the blog actually reaches more people than a book might.

  4. VERONICA permalink


  5. Because you learned that this medicine is not addictive, yet you find yourself wanting more of the impressive experience even before you totally integrated the lessons of the last one in your life.

    • aga permalink

      many times people dont wait and sit with the lesson that medicine taught you. they run for another ceremony and another to chase the solution and love. i personally find that by going within and really sink into the ceremony experience brings lessons and awareness. the spirit of the medicine is like a seed. you drink it and it stays with you. you need to water it and nurture it. thats when the real experience and wisdom comes. but thats my experience. thank you for your comment.

      • CosmicDrBii permalink

        Very well put, aga – similar to the comment above. I also think Madre Ayahausca is very smart – she only gives us what we are ready and able to receive, so the more work we do integrating previous experiences with her, and the more truly receptive we are to her, the more she can work with us. She is also very good at confounding and not complying with our expectations of her.

  6. guerrique permalink

    Because some people don’t need to drink to connect to the plant and have visions during the ceremony. It happened to me 🙂 Actually the only time I didn’t have visions was the time I drank, the “messages” came by sounds and words that time. The curandera told me some people where like that, and herself only needed a drop, and could totally do without.

  7. CosmicDrBii permalink

    Here is another reason I like, which a friend put on a Facebook post related to this blog.

    “Perhaps another good reason not drink ayahuasca is because you are looking for psychic abilities or magick powers.”

  8. Allyson permalink

    7. Because someone else told you you should or shouldn’t.

    She speaks to you. If you hear her do your research, be safe and wise in your decision but follow your path. Stop reading articals to validate or invalidate what your subconscious is telling you. Learn to trust yourself, you know what is right.

  9. Spring blossom (Janet) permalink

    Thanks Paul, very good and brings up
    questions for me about community here in Pucallpa and how close people
    feel to one another. Is there trust among people in extended communities who are dealing with seekers from fare away?

  10. Ladypants Magoo permalink

    7. because you have your period. CRIKEY. women, trust me, you are not ‘missing out’ if you miss a ceremony because you are bleeding.. have faith that it is enough of a ceremony on it’s own.
    Thanks Paul for another wonderful blog xxxxx

    • CosmicDrBii permalink

      Thanks Ladypants for your appreciation of my blog and your comment which is very pertinent and also somewhat controversial. I know some women who say doing ceremony when they are having their period is no problem at all and others who say like you that its best avoided.

  11. c r permalink

    Here is a voice for added emphasis on #2. I have heard from a reliable source that few(er) people are growing and tending the vine; that many centers that cater to westerners are purchasing the “brew” from people who are making it-maybe with the best of intention and input, or maybe for money…it’s not possible to know, therefore caution needs to abound.

  12. Because you haven’t been called to drink yet. You will know when the time and yourself are ready go and drink the brew.

  13. Brigitte Smiles Alot permalink

    I have never had a bad ceremony .

  14. lautrededor permalink

    Terence McKenna was speaking of tripping balls all the time 🙂
    How about to trip your boobs off (if we want to stick to the sex organ analogy)?

  15. Jennifer Aird permalink

    Women have “bulbs”. We would be tripping our “bulbs off.” 😉
    Thanks for the article.

  16. markas permalink

    The quality of the experience depends on the potency and constituency of the brew. You have no basis for stating that singing into it during preparation has any effect. None. Nada. Variation in experience is a result of you body/metabolic state and the chemical composition of the brew. Even a hundred anecdotal experiences would not give you any basis for declaring even a correlation without a full chemical analysis of each sample. Without such analysis your statements are no more worthy than the statements of one who climbs a mountain and sees a burning bush. This is not a science versus traditional or spiritual argument. This is an argument between a rational approach to the world that accepts the statistical realities of the known universe versus one’s personal arbitrary impression of it. My anecdotal experiences are completely different from yours. My deepest most intense and cleanest experiences have been with home brewed pharmahuasca from a Honduran mimosa hostilis and a “McKenna red” strain of caapi from Hawaii. This brew is as pure an experience as one can get free from almost all physical side effects. The purge is totally unnecessary and a negative side effect not a feature of the journey. Eliminating those poisons from the brew is far preferable.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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