What Could You Gain by Taking the Indigenous, Plant-Based Medicine, “Ayahuasca”?

I went on a 7-day ayahuasca retreat to find out.

Jeff Valdivia

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Photo by Cesar Carlevarino Aragon on Unsplash

In May 2022, I didn’t meet nine perfect strangers but 20 of them. We had all signed up for a retreat in Costa Rica where we would drink an ancient, indigenous, plant-based medicine called ayahuasca.

For most of us, it was our first time — myself included. In retrospect, it was a leap of faith putting my mental health in the hands of two plants that, taken together, allow the molecule N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, to enter the brain.

How the ayahuasca “brew” was discovered is somewhat miraculous. DMT is broken down during the digestive process, thereby losing its psychoactive properties. To prevent this from happening, the brew includes a plant containing a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, which allows DMT to move through the digestive tract and cross the blood-brain barrier.

What happens next is as unique as the person who drinks it. This is what’s so powerful about this medicine. It doesn’t provide a generic experience; rather, what happens under its influence is catered directly to the person based on his or her life experiences.

Does the idea of participating in one of these ceremonies sound fascinating? Or, perhaps…

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Jeff Valdivia

Following my curiosity and hoping it will lead me to wisdom. I write about psychology, meditation, self-development, and spirituality.