Taita Juan is a Cametsa traditional healer and yagecero from the Sibundoy Valley in Colombia. As a member of the new generation of Colombian taitas traveling the world, he has acquired clients and apprentices from throughout the Americas and Europe. He is perhaps best known internationally for having been detained by United States Customs officials and charged with possession with intent to distribute a Schedule 1 drug (ayahuasca) in 2010; he was subsequently released and deported. In this interview, we explore Taita Juan’s views on how ayahuasca can be used to diagnose and heal illness. We address how clients are prepared for ceremonies (i.e., diet, sexual activity) as well as how he determines which patients can safely receive ayahuasca or other plant medicines (i.e., proscriptions based on health conditions or medication use). The interview also explores how the substance itself is ritually handled, including preparation, dosage, and its combination with other purgative plants and healing techniques such as limpias (cleansings), perfumes, and music. We discuss how Taita Juan’s treatments are occasionally used in conjunction with conventional allopathic medicine. We also discuss his claims to have cured cases of heroin addiction, cancer, and AIDS, and address the drug addiction treatment clinic he and his assistants are founding in Central America. Finally, the interview explores not only Taita Juan’s experience of being detained and released by the United States government, but also the legal ramifications this has had for the traditional use of ayahuasca in Colombia and elsewhere.
Healing states: A journey into the world of spiritual healing and shamanism
From the publisher, Healing States is a journey into the world of spiritual healing and Shamanism. Healing States: A Journey Into the World of Spiritual Healing and Shamanism is a colorful and compelling examination of evidence for the mind’s ability to heal, taking a step into the fascinating world of psychic healing and shamanism.
“Meeting the Medicine Halfway”: Ayahuasca Ceremony Leaders’ Perspectives on Preparation and Integration Practices for Participants
Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant-based tea from the Amazon. Its ceremonial use for therapeutic and spiritual purposes has become increasingly common and stands to escalate based on current policy initiatives in some countries. As ceremonial ayahuasca use spreads there is a need to understand, from various perspectives, how best to improve outcomes and minimize potential harms. Clinicians and therapists encourage the use of preparation and integration practices that accompany ceremonial ayahuasca use; however, there is no research investigating the views of those conducting the ceremonies. This qualitative study explored the perspectives of 15 ayahuasca ceremony leaders regarding preparation and integration practices they consider helpful for ensuring safe and productive experiences for ceremony participants. Qualitative content analysis produced three main categories, each with relevant subcategories. The first category included factors that facilitate preparation, including participant honesty and respect; readiness and willingness; and internal and external resources. The second category encompassed several complementary modalities believed to facilitate both preparation and integration, such as psychotherapy, spiritual and contemplative practices, and other modes of creative expression. The third category included factors considered facilitative of integration, including sharing of experiences, and working with insights and lessons. Ineffective integration practices constituted a fourth subcategory. Consistent with reports from other stakeholders, the findings highlight a wide range of preparation and integration practices that may be useful for ayahuasca ceremony participants to consider when drinking ayahuasca.
Seeing with the eyes shut: Neural basis of enhanced imagery following ayahuasca ingestion
The hallucinogenic brew Ayahuasca, a rich source of serotonergic agonists and reuptake inhibitors, has been used for ages by Amazonian populations during religious ceremonies. Among all perceptual changes induced by Ayahuasca, the most remarkable are vivid “seeings.” During such seeings, users report potent imagery. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging during a closed‐eyes imagery task, we found that Ayahuasca produces a robust increase in the activation of several occipital, temporal, and frontal areas. In the primary visual area, the effect was comparable in magnitude to the activation levels of natural image with the eyes open. Importantly, this effect was specifically correlated with the occurrence of individual perceptual changes measured by psychiatric scales. The activity of cortical areas BA30 and BA37, known to be involved with episodic memory and the processing of contextual associations, was also potentiated by Ayahuasca intake during imagery. Finally, we detected a positive modulation by Ayahuasca of BA 10, a frontal area involved with intentional prospective imagination, working memory and the processing of information from internal sources. Therefore, our results indicate that Ayahuasca seeings stem from the activation of an extensive network generally involved with vision, memory, and intention. By boosting the intensity of recalled images to the same level of natural image, Ayahuasca lends a status of reality to inner experiences. It is therefore understandable why Ayahuasca was culturally selected over many centuries by rain forest shamans to facilitate mystical revelations of visual nature.
The Psychedelic State Induced by Ayahuasca Modulates the Activity and Connectivity of the Default Mode Network
The experiences induced by psychedelics share a wide variety of subjective features, related to the complex changes in perception and cognition induced by this class of drugs. A remarkable increase in introspection is at the core of these altered states of consciousness. Self-oriented mental activity has been consistently linked to the Default Mode Network (DMN), a set of brain regions more active during rest than during the execution of a goal-directed task. Here we used fMRI technique to inspect the DMN during the psychedelic state induced by Ayahuasca in ten experienced subjects. Ayahuasca is a potion traditionally used by Amazonian Amerindians composed by a mixture of compounds that increase monoaminergic transmission. In particular, we examined whether Ayahuasca changes the activity and connectivity of the DMN and the connection between the DMN and the task-positive network (TPN). Ayahuasca caused a significant decrease in activity through most parts of the DMN, including its most consistent hubs: the Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC)/Precuneus and the medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC). Functional connectivity within the PCC/Precuneus decreased after Ayahuasca intake. No significant change was observed in the DMN-TPN orthogonality. Altogether, our results support the notion that the altered state of consciousness induced by Ayahuasca, like those induced by psilocybin (another serotonergic psychedelic), meditation and sleep, is linked to the modulation of the activity and the connectivity of the DMN.
The Relationship Between Psychedelic Use, Mystical Experiences, and Pro-Environmental Behaviors
Expanding on the work of Forstmann and Sagioglou, this study investigated the differences in personality and pro-environmental behavior (PEB) as a function of psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences. A sample of 240 participants with prior psychedelic experience completed an online survey. Data were collected on participants’ psychedelic-occasioned mystical states, personality, and self-reported PEB. A measure of behavioral PEB was also included (Charity Task). The mean scores on self-reported PEB, openness and agreeableness of participants who met the criteria for a “complete” mystical state, were significantly higher than those who did not. Specifically, those who experienced a mystical state scored higher on the PEB types “eco-shopping and eating” and “one-off domestic conservation actions.” Participants who demonstrated PEB in the Charity Task scored higher on self-reported PEB than those who did not, supporting the task’s validity. Findings suggest that mystical experiences influence PEB. Future research with experimental designs could further illuminate potential causal relationships.
Ayahuasca: Hallucinogens, Consciousness, and the Spirit of Nature
Ever since the “consciousness revolution” in the 1960s, dedicated spiritual seekers and scientific researchers from all continents have explored the world of psychoactive and hallucinogenic plants. In Ayahuasca, objective scientific information and the narratives of ayahuasca users — shamans and others — are presented together. Readers will also learn the pharmacology of this Amazonian plant.
The Healing Journey
This book takes an in-depth look at the spiritual and psychotherapeutic potential of the amphetamine derivatives MDA and MMDA, harmaline (the active compound in ayahuasca), and ibogaine. To distinguish them from classical psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, Naranjo coins the terms “emotion-enhancers” and “fantasy-enhancers” for these substances..
Pharmako/Gnosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path
This is the third and final volume of North Atlantic Books’ updated paperback edition of Dale Pendell’s Pharmako trilogy, an encyclopedic study of the history and uses of psychoactive plants and related synthetics first published between 1995 and 2005. The books form an interrelated suite of works that provide the reader with a unique, reliable, and often personal immersion in this medically, culturally, and spiritually fascinating subject. All three books are beautifully designed and illustrated, and are written with unparalleled authority, erudition, playfulness, and range.
Pharmako/Gnosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path includes a new introduction by the author and as in previous editions focuses on plant-based and derivative psychedelic “teachers” (including ayahuasca, peyote, LSD, and DMT) and on the “poison path” of substances such as belladonna, ketamine, and ibogaine. Each substance is explored in detail, not only with information on its history, pharmacology, preparation, and cultural and esoteric correspondences, but also the subtleties of each plant’s effect on consciousness in a way that only poets can do.The whole concoction is sprinkled with abundant quotations from famous writers, creating a literary brew as intoxicating as its subject.
The Pharmako series includes the predecessor volumes Pharmako/Poeia (which covers tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, opiates, salvia divinorum, and other substances) and Pharmako/Dynamis (focusing on stimulants and empathogens).
Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, their Plants and Rituals in the Colombian Amazon
Professors Schultes and Raffauf in this new book take us on a journey to a place where healing with plants is the norm, and where ritual and magic play an essential role in everyday life. This book is the story of a time that was — when the Amazon Indians, living in their verdant and expansive rainforest, had a minimum of contact with cultures of the outside world. Thus, we have a firsthand picture of traditional life in this region.
In Vine of the Soul –a companion book to Where the Gods Reign– Drs. Schultes and Raffauf collaborate to produce an exceptional photographic essay accompanied by detailed descriptions of the Amazon Indian’s use of medicinal and other sacred plant substances. Included are over 160 of the most significant photographs ever taken on this subject.