Ayahuasca: a journey through hell and heaven. Part 1

Nutrition and productivity blog 29

The plant-based drug ayahuasca is gaining interest as a powerful tool for self-reflection, enhancing mindfulness and the remediation of psychiatric disorders. This psychotropic tea has been used for generations by indigenous South American tribes in religious ceremonies and for healing. In this blog, guest writer Dave, recounts his experience with the tea and what led him to it in the first place. First a little on what ayahuasca is and the research findings:

Ayahuasca – the key ingredients

The main active ingredients are N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and a mono-amine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). DMT is the psychedelic compound and naturally occurs in plants, however, the psychedelic  effects are prevented by the enzyme mono-amine oxidase (MAO). The ayahuasca brew closes down MAO with the MAOI allowing the DMT to induce psychedelic effects.

Research findings

Therapeutic findings of ayahuasca include1:

  • Increased Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) levels – this protein promotes neuroplasticity in the brain – it’s like miracle grow for your neurones.
  • Improved energy metabolism, through enhanced mitochondrial activity. Mitochondria are your cellular batteries.
  • Reduced dependencies on drugs such as alcohol and cocaine.
  • Remission of depressive and anxiety disorders. Improved outlook on life

Dave’s Ayahuascan rocket trip

I’ll pass over to Dave now. Dave is a health blogger, coach and fellow orthorexic.

My reasons for doing ayahuasca? Perhaps what made me turn to it was anecdotal evidence that it opened up awareness to opportunities. Another reason was that it takes a bazooka to your limiting beliefs and the fears deeply ingrained in your amygdala.

I had done my research on ayahuasca – listened to podcasts, spoke to people inside and outside my network. I researched the dangers of doing ayahuasca – nothing came up apart from the dangers of doing it in South American jungles under the guidance of charlatans posing as shamans. There was all kinds of stories about rape, murders, kidnappings, intense experiences gone wrong. But there appeared to be very little on the dangers of the drug itself. A lot of what I had read had actually been positive with many anecdotal accounts on the healing properties of the drug. There are some contraindications with SSRIs2. People with psychiatric disorders should avoid. [Paddy: a review suggests ayahuasca is safe from a toxicity viewpoint3].

Since I was doing it in the Netherlands with a group of close friends under the guidance of an experienced and trustworthy facilitator who came with recommendations and that I wasn’t on anything that would have contraindications or had any psychiatric disorders I felt relatively safe. That wasn’t to say that the ayahuasca ceremony wouldn’t be a hellish experience –  just that if it was I could be fairly certain I would be back in one piece after the 4-6 hour experience.

Ayahuasca can be temperamental. Some people have pleasant experiences, others have hellish experiences and this can vary from session to session. One of the things I was forewarned about ayahuasca is that it gives you what you need, not what you want. And to be perfectly honest I was afraid I was going to get what I needed, even though all attempts to approach the ceremony without expectations.

Come back to part 2 where Dave documents his experience on ayahuasca.

Thanks for reading,



  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0361923016300454 ‘Ayahuasca: Pharmacology, neuroscience and therapeutic potential’
  2. http://www.ayahuasca-info.com/faq
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27287824 ‘The current state of research on ayahuasca: A systematic review of human studies assessing psychiatric symptoms, neuropsychological functioning, and neuroimaging.’

Disclaimer: the content provided in this blog is the personal opinions of the Nutrition and Productivity Blog / Patrick McCay and is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute any type of professional advice. The content may or may not be true. The Nutrition and Productivity Blog / Patrick McCay makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. The Nutrition and Productivity Blog /Patrick McCay encourages you to seek the advice of the relevant licensed professionals before making any decisions related to health.


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