Ayahuasca usage in Amazonian cultures as a method of healing, has been more widely documented in more recent years. Ayahuasca has been very popular and widespread among indigenous people in South America, having much usage among Amazonian cultures as a way to promote community bonds within interethnic festivals, serving as an initiation or rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, as a religious sacrament, and also as a spiritual teacher plant to increase self-awareness. Various traditional medicines that include plants containing psychoactive constituents, such as Ayahuasca, are becoming more popular throughout the world. Ayahuasca, whose name means “the vine of death” contains N-dimethyltryptamine or DMT (Santos-Longhurst, 2022). This is an appropriate name, due to indigenous people’s use of Ayahuasca in order to achieve spiritual awakening where in the ritualistic ceremony. A participant may face in their mind the loss of everything that they consider important, such as their identity, their body, their health, their loved ones and perhaps even their old belief systems. How they were supposed to be, supposed to live, who they were supposed to love, and how they were supposed to forgive one another, all may become more apparent as the participant’s mind and body process the powerful psychedelic. This ceremony has three important components with the first being the setting, such as within the Amazon Rainforest, the second being the shaman master conducting the ceremony and third the ayahuasca plant and other relative constituents of the concoction to be consumed (Collective Awakening, 2017b).
While the documentary, Collective Awakening talks mostly about the positive aspects of Ayahuasca, I feel it is important to comment on other issues relative to its use. I have found other research on my part that warrants more discussion. Thousands of Westerners (I personally know a few) travel to Amazonian regions every year to pursue spiritual enlightenment and healing of physical as well as psychological ailments. With the more recent globalization of Ayahuasca, there has been a growing assimilation of the ritualistic settings, where the ceremony used to be more respective of its original context. As traditional healing methods grow in popularity, novelty and consequently more integration into Western culture, I feel there needs to be more intense scrutiny into the distribution, use and possible regulation within the US and other countries. This has already been occurring, as more scientists have been increasing their study of Ayahuasca for its potential therapeutic and long-term effects and benefits for fields of neuropsychiatric and neuropharmacology. Research has found encouraging results for mental health issues such as depression, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug dependency, and eating disorders (Bouso & Sanchez-Aviles, 2020).
Living here in Orlando, Florida makes me a bit more sensitive to this topic of Ayahuasca usage going mainstream. A few years back there was a death here, related to a seemingly “alternative church ceremony” and its use and administering of Ayahuasca. The church was not held as legally liable for the death of a 22-year-old man who was a participant (Ray, 2019). My concern is that the ceremony, its meaning, and its purity will become diluted as all of these factors often come into play with the Westernization of traditional medicine modalities.
Collective Awakening. (2017, February 8). Amazonia – Ayahuasca Documentary [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC1fcMplVWc
Bouso, J. C., & Sanchez-Aviles, C. (2020). Traditional Healing Practices Involving Psychoactive Plants and the Global Mental Health Agenda: Opportunities, Pitfalls, and Challenges in the “Right to Science” Framework. Health and Human Rights, 22(1), 145–150. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26923481
Santos-Longhurst, A. (2022, July 13). Everything You Need to Know About DMT, the ‘Spirit Molecule.’ Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-dmt
Ray, K. (2019, November 23). No charges after death investigation at ayahuasca church. WFTV. https://www.wftv.com/news/9-investigates/no-charges-after-death-investigation-at-ayahuasca-church/852255976/
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