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Ayahuasca is a South American hallucinogenic drink. The color is brown/red and the taste is very bitter. A nickname is 'la purga' because the user often vomits during the trip and sometimes suffers from diarrhea. Some see the Purga as a spiritual and physical cleansing. Ayahuasca means liana of the soul, other names are yagé, hoasca or caapi. Indigenous peoples from the Amazon have been using this drink in magical-religious rituals for centuries. They see the drink as the main medicine of the jungle.
Depending on the dosage, the experience lasts 2 to 6 hours. One will see brightly colored kaleidoscopic geometric structures and experience dreamlike visions. Nausea and vomiting occur almost always.
Ayahuasca is made up of two plants: the Psychotria viridis and climbing plant Banisteriopsis caapi. The Psychotica viridis contains the active substance DMT. Banisteriopsis ensures that DMT is not degraded and continues to operate long. If you drink DMT, such as tea ayahuasca, the substance in the stomach and liver is broken down by enzymes called MAO (monoamine oxidase enzymes), not allowing the DMT to reach the brain. However, the plant Banisteriopsis caapi contains MAO inhibitors (harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine). They inhibit the action of the MAO enzymes. The degradation of DMT by MAO is thus counteracting, making that DMT can reach the brain and the users experience the psychedelic effects. In the Amazon region often more plants with a variety of active substances are added to the drink. In the Netherlands this hardly ever happens.
In the right dosage, ayahuasca induces strong intoxication with visual hallucinations. One sees brightly colored and fast-moving images. Users sometimes receive religious, mystical experiences and experience contacts with alien beings. Sometimes there are disturbances in ones ego. Users not only see animals but might even think they are one. A deepening of insight may occur. In the beginning, the effects are very unpleasant. You become nauseous, dizzy, heavy sweating occurs and you vomit. Then the hallucinations begin that, depending on the dose can last up to 6 hours. The after-effects can last another 8 hours.
Drinking ayahuasca unaccompanied is not advisable because of the unpredictable effects of the drink. In practice, this never happens, because ayahuasca is almost always used in a ritual setting. Ayahuasca can cause confusion, hallucinations and unpredictable behavior. In a ritual setting, however, this is prevented or well taken care of.
Combination with medicines and drugs
Another risk of ayahuasca is in the MAO-inhibiting (MAOI) effect of the drink. It is dangerous to combine MAOI with certain medicines, drugs and food. The combination of ayahuasca with antidepressants of the SSRI or TCA-type, dextromethorphan, amphetamine, MDMA or serotonergic opioids like tramadol, can cause serotonin syndrome.
Combination with tyramine-rich foods
According to some sources, eating tyramine-rich foods (such as aged cheese, red wine and soy beans) is not recommended for an ayahuasca trip. Because MAO is inhibited, tyramine cannot be broken down and thus accumulates. This can lead to a hypertensive crisis (high blood pressure). Other sources suggest that a special tyraminearm diet is not required, just as in the reversible MAOI moclobemide.