Understanding Ayahuasca: Ayahuasca Explained for Beginners

In researching ways to open your mind or even heal from trauma, you may have heard about ayahuasca retreats. You may feel apprehensive about trying a psychoactive substance, but from what you have heard, it could change your life and help free you from the mental baggage that you carry.

At Avalon, we offer multiple ayahuasca retreats yearly, along with multiple other retreats, for overall well being. You’re in good hands with multiple experienced shamans, therapists, and guardians to guide you through your spiritual journey.

Below we will explain the basics of ayahuasca and what you could expect during your retreat. We invite you to learn about this important tool of the shaman and how it can help you achieve inner peace and a better outlook on life.

What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive drink that consists of usually two, but sometimes many different plants depending on the desired intoxicating effects. We use a common combination, Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis or Chagropanga mixed with water. People usually consume ayahuasca during a shamanic ceremony, as is the method we employ at Avalon.

History of Ayahuasca

The use of ayahuasca and similar substances dates back to at least 900 B.C., as depicted in artwork from indigenous tribes throughout Amazonia and other parts of South America. Shamans used psychoactive substances for healing, predictions, and religious purposes. Traditionally, people who consumed it did so within the ritualistic confines of the tribe or group they were associated with.

Today, shamans still use ayahuasca in areas of South America such as Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. Many also use it non-traditionally outside of ritual, which takes away from the benefits of its use. The ritual context of ayahuasca use is important because it creates a safe, supportive, and controlled environment to do the emotional work required for it to affect mental and spiritual health positively.

What Ayahuasca Does Within Your Brain and Body

Ayahuasca is a combination of chemicals; mainly an alkaloid called harmaline from Banisteriopsis caapi and N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) from Psychotria viridis. When a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor mixes with DMT, it breaks down before crossing the blood-brain barrier, causing visions and consciousness-expanding effects. The effects take about 20 to 60 minutes to start, and the visions typically last two to six hours. However, before the effects take hold, it can cause nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.

What Happens in an Ayahuasca Ceremony?

Ayahuasca ceremonies vary depending on where a shaman comes from or where they receive training. However, many parts of these ceremonies are very similar. Ceremonies include music, chanting, meditation, and the shaman guiding participants through their visions and exploration of their inner selves.

Participants should adhere to the recommended diet before the ceremony, but if not, the body will purge itself of toxins. Ceremonies usually take place at night and are sometimes done several nights in a row. The shaman may sing icaros, songs and chants that help to guide each participant through the experience. Visions can be frightening, but the skilled shaman is there to help everyone through the process.

Is Ayahuasca Safe to Use?

In a controlled environment, ayahuasca is safe to use. Many studies on the psychoactive tea found that lasting adverse effects are not expected. The shaman and available support staff at the retreat monitor the behaviour of each participant for safety during each ceremony. Because everyone has a different experience or journey, a participant can have visions that are frightening or difficult to understand.

Before attending an ayahuasca retreat, you should have a health exam and be deemed healthy enough to consume the tea. You also need to make the shaman aware of any diagnoses you have and any medications you take— especially medications for psychiatric disorders. Medications such as MAO inhibitors can interact with ayahuasca.

Is Ayahuasca Legal?

In many Western countries, ayahuasca is not legal to possess. However, it is legal to use and possess in Spain, where our retreat is located. A March 2020 trial concluded that even though ayahuasca contained a controlled substance (DMT), the Spanish government would not control the plant product itself. What this means for you is that attending an ayahuasca retreat and consuming in this context is not illegal.

One Step Closer to Healing

We are here to remember what we are and why we are here on Earth. We offer safe Ayahuasca retreats in Europe with the intentions to:

Wake up, Clean up, Grow up and Show up.

Wake up from the conditioning and programming of the past. Clean up old emotional wounds and harmful patterns. Grow up to the fully expressed, youthfully free, and responsible human being. Show up to benefit the world with our unique purpose on Earth.

Discover our events today, and show up for yourself.

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