Ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic from South America. It is traditionally made by the prolonged heating or boiling of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, with the leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub and is used for healing, ceremonial, or religious purposes.
It is served as a reddish brown, strong smelling and tasting drink. One of the active chemicals in ayahuasca is DMT (dimethyltryptamine) and it is found in the Psychotria viridis shrub. DMT has low bioavailability so it must be mixed with an MAO inhibitor and the Banisteriopsis caapi vine has that capability. The psychedelic effects that are felt are dependent on the dose taken. Other factors such as the person’s size, what they have been eating, and if they are on any other substances may all play a role in what affects the person may feel.
Many who consume this natural plant medicine can experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. The action of becoming physically ill is not considered a side effect, but more so part of the purging process. After consuming ayahuasca strong visual and auditory hallucinations and euphoria will also be felt. Shaman Juan Mutumbajoy Jacanamijoy suggests, “These resources should be recognized as visualizers better than as hallucinogens.” According to his point of view, visualizer is a term that must be used to avoid the discrimination of the indigenous communities that use it, instead of the term hallucinogen.”
According to a study done in 2017, published in Current Neuropharmacology, repeated exposure to ayahuasca may cause structural differences in the brain, and consequently a shift in attitudes and interests towards materialistic possessions, as well as superior open-mindedness. Ayahuasca is not addictive and has not been associated with psychopathological, personality, or cognitive deterioration. In consecutive human studies, no toxic effects were noted from long term use. Not only is ayahuasca reportedly assisting many people to bring more joy into their lives, this incredible plant medicine combination is scientifically showing promise with Parkinson’s disease and depression.
Treatment resistant depression is a type of depression that has been treated with at least three pharmaceuticals with little-to-no effect. It is also a diagnosis that ayahuasca may be able to treat according to a study published in the Spring of 2019. Scientists at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom looked at the rapid antidepressant effects of ayahuasca. It was noted that a significant reduction in depression severity was found in the first few hours after dosing, an effect that remained significant for 21 days. This study provides fantastic new evidence supporting the therapeutic value and safety of psychedelics when given the proper dose.
Ayahuasca’s healing potential may also include neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease that affects movement. According to research from 2010, using the extract of Banisteriopsis caapi for neurodegeneration showed that the functions of ayahuasca’s components include antioxidant activity and the inhibition of monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzyme activity, as well as its neuroprotectant capabilities.
Ayahuasca remains illegal in the United States, however there are places in America operating as churches offering ceremonies using ayahuasca as a religious sacrament which is legal in the U.S. The locations include: the Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth in Orlando, Florida, Oklevueha Native American Church of the Peaceful Mountain Way in Richmond, Kentucky, and the Brazilian Ayahuasca Church, aka Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) which is known as a Christian Spiritist religion that originated in Brazil with reported locations in Colorado, New Mexico, California, Connecticut, Texas, Florida, and Washington.
For individuals seeking the path to enlightenment, ayahuasca may be the natural plant medicine you seek. It is important to remember, if you are using any pharmaceutical medications be sure to tell the facility or person that you are using to assist you with your journey. Certain medications such as SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and certain foods can interact with the experience. Many facilities and shamans will recommend a prep diet for an Ayahuasca journey. This diet is generally followed for 2-4 weeks before the ceremony and rids the body of any toxins. If you make the decision to try ayahuasca, listen to the instructions you are given and open yourself to the infinite possibilities.
Prep diet for an Ayahuasca journey…
- No salt
- No sugar
- No dairy
- No oil
- No spicy food
- No sex
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Turmeric is a root vegetable commonly used as a spice in various Indian and other cultures’ dishes. Turmeric is in the zingiberaceae family, as is ginger. The turmeric plant is native to the southeastern region of Asia and commonly harvested in places like India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. It is responsible for curry’s signature orange color, and its vibrant pigment will give essentially any meal an orange hue.
Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin, and curcumin has been shown through research to offer anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic benefits. The scientific name for the turmeric plant is Curcuma Longa, and likely where the name curcumin comes from. When people are talking about the health benefits of turmeric, they are referencing curcumin so you may hear the two names used interchangeably. Curcumin is part of a group called curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most active and the most beneficial for health. Flavonoids are another substance found in various plants and give these plants their color. Curcumin is a flavonoid and is responsible for providing that bright orange color to turmeric. In addition to providing aesthetic value, flavonoids are also strong antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry published a study done by Sanjaya Singh and Bharat B. Aggarwal of the Cytokine Research Laboratory at the world-renowned cancer hospital, M.D. Anderson. The study found that curcumin suppressed NF-κB, a protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory responses. In other words, turmeric shuts off the body’s inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatories can be beneficial for many different ailments, including chronic pain and digestive disorders. A lot of CBD companies even put curcumin in their products because of its benefits. It is believed to be a synergistic pair with complementary therapeutic properties. The thought is that the two plant medicines are powerful on their own; as a combination, they can deliver even more anti-inflammatory and medicinal benefits.
Many people simply add turmeric to their dishes as a way to easily incorporate it into their daily routine. It is pretty mild in flavor and can be added to many dishes without changing the overall taste too drastically. Some say that turmeric isn’t strong enough on its own to receive the anti-inflammatory properties that curcumin provides, and therefore recommend a curcumin supplement. Research varies on that, so in the end it is just up to personal preference and your doctor’s approval. Curcumin supplements come most available in capsules. Pregnant women can safely use turmeric as an addition to their food, but should avoid taking high-dosage supplements. Those who are interested in supplementing with curcumin products should talk with their doctor first.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center did another study in 2007 exploring curcumin for cancer treatment. The study found that curcumin inhibits ovarian cancer growth and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels). It does this by targeting and manipulating the NF-κB pathway, the same protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory response. According to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “The nuclear factor NF-κB pathway has long been considered a prototypical proinflammatory signaling pathway, largely based on the role of NF-κB in the expression of proinflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules.”
The trend with curcumin seems to be it’s ability to control inflammatory responses in the body. It does this by multiple pathways, but a commonly researched one is the NF-κB protein complex. Because this pathway is able to be manipulated by curcumin to encourage anti-inflammatory expressions, its potential for successfully treating various ailments is there.
Psilocybin + Magic Mushrooms
When many think of plant medicine, specifically those plants with psychoactive effects, they think of “magic mushrooms,” or fungi containing psilocybin and psilocin that can cause hallucinations depending on the dosage consumed. In many states, there are active efforts to decriminalize these otherwise scheduled substances, lowering penalties for their use and possession. But what value do psilocybin-containing mushrooms offer? New research suggests a range of therapeutic and psychological value ranging from the treatment of substance abuse to anxiety and depression management.
What are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic Mushroom use dates back to 10,000 BCE and references continue throughout the era. Their modern popularity began when the term “magic mushroom” was coined by two etnomycologists who learned of a Harvard study on local doctors in Mexico using these substances, noting the substance’s ability to affect the nervous system. These findings were eventually published in Life magazine in 1957, and the term became the universal reference for psychoactive fungi and truffles, specifically those containing high concentrations of psilocybin and psilocin.
Psilocybin & Psilocin: The “Magic” in Magic Mushrooms
Psilocybin and psilocin are part of a family of psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Psilocin is pharmacologically active, and psilocybin is converted into psilocin when consumed or activated. Similar in structure to serotonin, there are more than 50 species of mushrooms and a variety of truffles that produce both the precursor, psilocybin, and the psychoactive compound, psilocin. Unlike LSD, magic mushrooms do not affect dopamine receptors, solely targeting serotonin sites.
How are Magic Mushrooms used?
Magic mushrooms are often used for recreational, therapeutic and medicinal reasons. “Effects range from mild feelings of relaxation, giddiness, euphoria, visual enhancement (seeing colors brighter), visual disturbances (moving surfaces, waves), to delusions, altered perception of real events, images and faces, or real hallucinations.” Recreationally, this is often known as “tripping.” As an alternative health option, these fungi are being used for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trauma, as well as psychological disorders such as substance abuse disorders, and science is beginning to back the potential for these applications.
Research on Mushrooms
Evaluations of currently available scientific studies suggest a growing number of therapeutic benefits and treatment options. “In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as psilocybin…looking at psilocybin and other hallucinogens to treat a number of otherwise intractable psychiatric disorders, including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug or alcohol dependency.”
Magic mushrooms have been respected as a “safe & natural healing sacrament for millennia throughout Mexico, Central America and the world,” and are known to be beneficial for depression, recidivism (the tendency to repeat past transgressions), and encourages openness, creativity, as well as personal and spiritual growth. UCLA and NYC have done studies on the applications of magic mushrooms in the treatment of end-of-life anxiety and other studies have backed up the use of psilocybin and psilocin in the treatment of substance use disorders, depression (especially in cases of terminal conditions like cancer as well as treatment-resistant depression), and reducing depression and anxiety overall.
Best way for people to consume?
When it comes to the consumption of mushrooms, advice on dosage is about as specific as it was with cannabis under prohibition. Consumers must purchase on the black market and are subject to whatever may be available.
“Recreational doses range from 1–5 grams of dry mushrooms depending on the species and individual strength of the specimens… After ingestion, the psilocybin is enzymatically converted to psilocin. Absorbed from the gastro-intestinal tract, hallucinogenic effects usually occur within 30 minutes of ingestion with a duration of effect of 4–6 hours.”
My recommendation as someone who has used magic mushrooms both for recreational and therapeutic purposes, is to grind the mushrooms into a fine powder and either encapsulate them in small increments and/or combine with lemon juice. Capsules will allow you to titrate your dosage as needed with a recognizable increment, while lemon juice will expedite onset time.
The Legality of Magic Mushrooms
In the United States, psilocybin is a Schedule I controlled substance, with no accepted medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. In contrast, the Drug Policy Alliance states that “Physically, psilocybin mushrooms are considered to be one of the least toxic drugs known.” With that being said, local efforts such as Decriminalize Nature – Oakland and Decriminalize Denver have pushed for and successfully passed initiatives and legislation to reduce penalties and make enforcement a low priority, as was done in the early days of cannabis activism. This has spurred multiple local and international efforts to “Decriminalize Nature,” efforts that we learn more about in this month’s feature.