Seven Recent Interesting Articles on Ayahuasca
As the use of ayahuasca expands across the globe, so the number of articles about it grows. It’s interesting to see, too, the proliferation and variety of discourses used to decribe the medicine – new age, scientific (notably neuroscientific), psychological, healing, ecological and political.
The following are the best and/or most interesting articles on ayahuasca that I have seen in the last few months.
This excellent article is from reset.me, which describes itself as “a community for independent consciousness journalism”, and has a number of good articles about ayahuasca and other plant medicines.
I particularly like this article because, although primarily about the value of the medicine in treating PTSD, it includes an ecological and indigenous perspective, which are sadly lacking in many articles about ayahuasca. The article concludes:
“We have adopted a development model that is unsustainable,” says Riccardo. “We are stressing the ecosystem. Indigenous people are on the front line of extractive economy. They see their forests and rivers dying because of unscrupulous, aggressive mining, logging, oil perforations, flooding, droughts, cattle ranching or mono-crop cultivations of eucalyptus, soya, and African palm.
“Concerned about these environmental catastrophes, indigenous spokespeople are proposing an alternative development model based on their millenarian experience, their philosophy, their cosmology, and their spirituality. We should listen and incorporate this vision into all development models.”
This article appeared in the September 12th 2016 edition of the New Yorker. The title, ‘The Drug of Choice for the Age of Kale’, gives some idea of what is in store by immediately referencing ayahuasca as a drug, rather than a medicine.
I include this article mainly in contrast to the previous one. It is interesting because it shows how ayahuasca is being assimilated into the highly individualistic, entreprenuerial, hedonistic culture of parts of the USA. The article, to give some idea of the growing use of ayahuasca, says that:
“Leanna Standish, a researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine, estimated that “on any given night in Manhattan, there are a hundred ayahuasca ‘circles’ going on.” ”
The last part of the article about a ceremony in Williamsburg is amusing in a sardonic way. Somewhere there is a great comic novel about ayahuasca just waiting to be written. I’d nominate Tom Wolfe for the job. Perhaps the best line is from a couple who make a living growing and serving ayahuasca:
“We manifest abundance wherever we go,” she told me. Her boyfriend added, “Consciousness is its own economy.”
I wonder what the Shipibo and other indigenous peoples would make of that.
This article by Tanya Mate from the Naturopathic News & Review, dated June 11 2016, gives a very balanced, non-sensationalistic and well-written overview of the possible aplications of ayahuasca for conditions such as: anxiety and depression; addictions; PTSD – as well as for general well-being.
This article, as the title suggests, is a particularly good resource for people thinking about drinking ayahuasca for the first time.
5. Scientific articles on ayahuasca
There is also a growing number of scientific articles about ayahuasca. In these, the medicine is generally assimilated into a traditional, rationalist, quantative, scientific discourse. For an example, see this article, entitled ‘Acute Biphasic Effects of Ayahuasca’. To give you some idea of the approach embodied here, see this quote below:
No significant changes were found in the delta and theta bands. A cluster at left parieto-occipital electrodes (P7, PO7, O1 and O2) had significant decreases in alpha power (p = 0.0398, partial η2 = 0.1531, Fig 3A). Post-hoc analysis revealed this effect to be significant specifically after 50 min from ayahuasca ingestion (p = 0.0420 Fig 3B). A significant cluster was also found for the beta band, at left fronto-temporal electrodes (FT9, AF7, F7, FT7 and T7, p = 0.0260, partial η2 = 0.1946, Fig 4A). However, this effect did not survive statistical thresholds after post-hoc analysis (Fig 4B). In the slow-gamma band three different clusters were found in the right frontal (Fp2, AF4 and F2, p = 0.0046, partial η2 = 0.3067), left fronto-temporal (FT9, AF7, F7, FT7, T7 and C5, p = 0.0026, partial η2 = 0.2214) and left centro-parieto-occipital (C3,CP3, P5, P3, P1, PO7 and O1, p = 0.0152, partial η2 = 0.2555) (Fig 5A). Slow-gamma power in these three clusters increased specifically after 100 minutes from ingestion of ayahuasca, with exception of the left fronto-temporal cluster where the increase was also significant at 75 and 125 min post-ingestion (all ps <0.05, Fig 5B, 5C and 5D, respectively). In the fast-gamma range four different clusters were identified. These were located at right-frontal (Fp2, AF4, F2 and F6, p = 0.0016, partial η2 = 0.3076), right parieto-occipital (P4, PO4, O2 and PO8, p = 0.0088, partial η2 = 0.2850), left fronto-temporal (FT9, F7, FT7, FC5 and T7, p = 0.0098, partial η2 = 0.2506) and left centro-parieto-occipital region (C3, CP3, CP1, P5, P3, PO7 and O1, p = 0.0132, partial η2 = 0.2870) (Fig 6A). Post-hoc analysis revealed these increase to be significant at 75, 100 and 125 min post-ayahuasca ingestion, with the exception of the left centro-parieto-occipital cluster where it was significant only after 75 min (all ps < 0.05, Fig 6B, 6C, 6D and 6E).
6. Comic Relief: ‘Ayahuasca Shaman dreading another week of guiding Tech CEO’s to spiritual oneness’
This piece from the Onion is one of the best humorous articles on ayahuasca. Part of the reason it is funny is that it is not so exaggerated. See here for the real life account of $10,000 USD retreats called ‘Entreprenuers Awakening’, promising benefits such as “a new level of innovative thinking” and “increased tactical clarity.”
This short article, by Adbi Assadi, dated 21st October 2016, is good in warning of the pitfalls of repeated ayahuasca use. He concludes:
“The medicine used in ceremonies is not addictive but feeling of oneness that the medicine can foster certainly is. And that is where the danger lies. We can get hooked on that feeling and keep wanting to repeat it. We need to pay attention to such things.”
I see his point, which is similar to others writing about the dangers of ‘spiritual bypassing’ but of the many things to be addicted to, a feeling of oneness seems least damaging.