Vernacular name : . . . . . . . . ayahuasca
Latin name : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Banisteriopsis caapi
Family : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MALPIGHIACEAE
Ayahuasca, Yagé, Caapi, Natema
Banisteriopsis caapi (Spr. ex Briesb.)
Common Names in the Amazon
Yagé; bejuco bravo; bejuco de oro; caapi (Tupi, Brazil); mado, mado bidada and rami-wetsem (Culina); nucnu huasca and shimbaya huasca (Quechua); kamalampi (Piro); punga huasca; rambi and shuri (Sharanahua); ayahuasca amarillo; ayawasca; nishi and oni (Shipibo); ayahuasca; ayahuasca negro; ayahuasca blanco; ayahuasca trueno, cielo ayahuasca; népe; xono; datém; kamarampi; Pindé (Cayapa); natema (Jivaro); iona; mii; nixi; pae; ka-hee’ (Makuna); mi-hi (Kubeo); kuma-basere; wai-bu-ku-kihoa-ma; wenan-duri-guda-hubea-ma; yaiya-suava-kahi-ma; wai-buhua-guda-hebea-ma; myoki-buku-guda-hubea-ma (Barasana); ka-hee-riama; mene’-kají-ma; yaiya-suána-kahi-ma; kahí-vaibucuru-rijoma; kaju’uri-kahi-ma; mene’-kají-ma; kahí-somoma’ (Tukano); tsiputsueni, tsipu-wetseni; tsipu-makuni; rami-wetsem (Kulina); amarrón huasca, inde huasca (Ingano); oó-fa; yajé (Kofan); bi’-ã-yahé; sia-sewi-yahe; sese-yahé; weki-yajé; yai-yajé; nea-yajé; horo-yajé; sise-yajé (Shushufindi Siona); shimbaya huasca (Ketchwa); shillinto (Peru); nepi (Colorado); wai-yajé; yajé-oco; beji-yajé; so’-om-wa-wai-yajé; kwi-ku-yajé; aso-yajé; wati-yajé; kido-yajé; weko-yajé; weki-yajé; usebo-yajé; yai-yajé; ga-tokama-yai-yajé; zi-simi-yajé; hamo-weko-yajé (Siona of the Putomayo); shuri-fisopa; shuri-oshinipa; shuri-oshpa (Sharananahua).*
At least 42 indigenous names for this preparation are known. It is remarkable and significant that at least 72 different indigenous tribes of Amazonia, however widely separated by distance, language, and cultural differences, all manifested a detailed common knowledge of ayahuasca and its use.*
Both the plant and the medicine prepared from it are called ‘ayahuasca’ in most of the Peruvian Amazon. In this cyber treatise we distinguish the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis caapi ) from the medicinal brew (ayahuasca combined with a companion plant such as chacruna) by capitalizing the name of the prepared medicine, i.e. Ayahuasca.
*from Schultes and Raffauf, The Healing Forest.
Principal active biochemicals: the ß-carboline alkaloids harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine, harmol, harmic acid, methylester harmic amide, acetyl norharmine, harmine N-oxide, harmalinic acid and ketotetra-hydronorharmine are present in the bark, stems, and trunk of B. caapi, B. inebrians , and other species of Banisteriopsis .
Tetrahydroharmine occurs in greater concentration in B. caapi than in other plants bearing harmala alkaloids such as Peganum harmala (Syrian rue) and certain species of Passiflora sp. (passionflower). This may account for the more profound and enduring therapeutic effects produced by genuine ayahuasca compared to “analogue” preparations.
What is Ayahuasca?
The word ” Ayahuasca ” refers to a medicinal and magical drink incorporating two or more distinctive plant species capable of producing profound mental, physical and spiritual effects when brewed together and consumed in a ceremonial setting. One of these plants is always the giant woody liana vine called ayahuasca ( Banisteriopsis caapi or other species). The other plant or plants combined with ayahuasca generally contain tryptamine alkaloids, most often dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The plants most often used are the leaves of chacruna ( Psychotria viridis and other species) and oco yagé; also known as chalipanga, chagraponga, and huambisa ( Diplopterys cabrerana ).
This drink is widely employed throughout Amazonian Perú, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, western Brazil, and in portions of the Río Orinoco basin. It has probably been used in the western Amazon for millennia and is rapidly expanding in South America and elsewhere through the growth of organized syncretic religious movements such as Santo Daime, União do Vegetal (UDV), and Barquinia, among others.
In traditional rainforest practice, other medicinal or visionary plants are often added to the brew for various purposes, from purely positive healing ( blancura ) and divination to malevolent black magic ( brujeria , magia negra or rojo ).
The oldest know object related to the use of ayahuasca is a ceremonial cup, hewn out of stone, with engraved ornamentation, which was found in the Pastaza culture of the Ecuadorean Amazon from 500 B.C. to 50 A.D. It is deposited in the collection of the Ethnological Museum of the Central University (Quito, Ecuador). This indicates that ayahuasca potions were known and used at least 2,500 years ago. Its antiquity in the lower Amazon is likely much greater.
The Ayahuasca medicine usually contains both beta-carboline and tryptamine alkaloids. However, some indigenous Amazonian cultures, i.e. Yahua and others, prepare a ceremonial drink from the ayahuasca vine alone.The effects differ in visionary qualities from the more typical composite preparation but with the same profound cleansing and spiritual effects.
The beta-carbolines (harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine) are obtained from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis caapi ). Harmine and harmaline are visionary at near toxic levels, but at modest dosage typically produce mainly tranquility and purgation.
Tetrahydroharmine is present in significant levels in ayahuasca. It may be responsible for some of its more profound effects compared to analogue plants such as Syrian rue ( Peganum harmala ).
The ratio of the harmala alkaloids in ayahuasca appears to vary greatly from one geographical area to another in the Amazon basin. The proportions in which they are present likely account for the varied effects reported by shamans from different ‘kinds’ of ayahuasca even though all are botanically classified as Banisteriopsis caapi .
Harmala alkaloids are short term monoamine oxidase inhibitors which render tryptamines orally active by temporarily reducing levels of monoamine oxidase in the body which otherwise rapidly destroys them. The combination of specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, such as Prozac), and most other antidepressants, with Ayahuasca or other MAO inhibitors can cause life support emergencies or death.
The principal ayahuasca compounds have a common indole structure which, through several mechanisms, influences certain functions of the central nervous system (CNS). The relevant factor is the biochemical similarity of these compounds to the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT). The harmala alkaloids in ayahuasca, primarily harmine and tetrahydroharmine, reversibly inhibit the neuronal enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO).
This allows DMT to be active when ingested orally. It also facilitates accumulation of biogenic amines, such as 5-HT, which are normally metabolized by monoamine oxidase enzymes. DMT is a naturally-occurring biochemical substance secreted by the human body in the pineal gland. It occurs in hundreds of plant species worldwide. It can produce very powerful visionary effects when smoked in its pure form or taken orally in Ayahuasca.
It is incorrect, however, to characterize the Ayahuasca experience as merely an oral DMT experience activated by a beta carboline MAO inhibitor. The holistic processes at work are far more complex and it is unquestionably the ayahuasca vine which fuels the transformative power and profound teaching of the Ayahuasca experience.
Tryptamines (specifically N,N-dimethyltryptamine = DMT) are derived most commonly from the leaves of chacruna ( Psychotria viridis and P. carthaginensis ).
Oco yagé is favored by shamans in Ecuador and Colombia, but chacruna is far more commonly used in Perú where many species and varieties of Psychotria are used by curanderos for varied purposes (see chacruna ).
Diplopterys leaves are 5-10 times more alkaloid-rich than an equivalent amount of Psychotria so fewer leaves are used. The leaves of neither plant are psychoactive if eaten or smoked due to the relatively low alkaloid content and rapid breakdown of alkaloids by monoamine oxidase, a natural human enzyme.
Chacruna and oco yagé are similar in their contribution to the Ayahuasca brew, but there are differences in their experiential and spiritual qualities. These differences are evident only to those who know the scope of effects of which each plant is capable. Both bring light and vision to the experience. Chacruna harmonizes with the power of ayahuasca while oco yagé adds power with light (the 5-meo-dmt effect). The ‘ mareación’ (Ayahuasca state of consciousness) produced with chacruna normally lasts four to five hours, while that with oco yagé often lasts over six hours with an extended “afterglow effect” which may last 12-24 hours.
The relatively low concentration of 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine in oco yagé contributes a strong effect. Though it does not particularly enrich the visionary experience per se, it is a powerful propellant for shamanic soul flight. This probably accounts for the longer-lasting effect of Ayahuasca containing oco yagé.
In northeastern Brazil, a sacramental drink called Jurema is prepared from the root bark of Mimosa hostilis , a common flowering leguminous tree. The bark from the roots of M. hostiliscontains the highest concentration of dimethyltryptamine known from any natural source.
Ayahuasca Vine Information
Banisteriopsis caapi is the botanical name of the plant more commonly known as the ayahuasca vine. Other common names for Banisteriopsis caapi include ayahuasca, caapi, and yage. The Banisteriopsis genus is part of the Malpighiaceae family of plants. The Malpighiaceae family is made up of over 75 genera and 1300 species.
Banisteriopsis caapi has been used for thousands of years, as part of a sacred medicinal drink known as ayahuasca. The beverage has been consumed for millenia by the indigenous people living in the Upper Amazon area of South America. It is most often used for divination, medicinal, religious, and other shamanic purposes.
The word ayahuasca can be translated to English as vine of the soul or vine of the dead . This is most likely due to the fact that after taking ayahuasca, a person often feels a freeing of the soul. It may also be attributed to the fact that one of the functions of ayahuasca is to allow a person who consumes it to communicate with the souls of dead ancestors.
Scientific Classification Of Banisteriopsis caapi
The plant probably originated in South America. It is (and has been) cultivated in many parts of South America, and it can still be found growing wild in areas surrounding the Amazon basin.
Countries where Banisteriopsis caapi grows wild include Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru. Objects related to the use of ayahuasca can be dated to about 500 BC. It is assumed that ayahuasca use goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years prior to 500 BC.
Chemistry Of Banisteriopsis caapi
The main active constituents of Banisteriopsis caapi (and other species in the Banisteriopsis genus) are the harmala alkaloids harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine.
Lesser constituents include acetyl norharmine, harmalinic acid, harmic acid, harmine N-oxide, harmol, methylester harmic amide, and ketotetra-hydronorharmine. Stems, branches, leaves, and roots all contain active compounds. (reference 1)
Harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine are harmala alkaloids (a type of beta-carboline). Harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine are also classified as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s).
MAOI’s can stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) by inhibiting the metabolism of serotonin and other monoamines. This inhibition of the break-down of serotonin in the human body makes MAOI’s effective antidepressants.
However, MAOI’s may cause problems (or even death in rare cases) when certain types of foods or chemicals are consumed while taking them. For this reason, MAOI drugs are not usually prescribed to treat depression.
A large concentration of harmala alkaloids occur in Banisteriopsis caapi but the alkaloids are also found in other plants. Peganum harmala ( syrian rue ) has larger amounts of harmala alkaloids than Banisteriopsis caapi. Other plants like Passiflora incarnata ( passion flower ) and tobacco contain only trace amounts.
In the traditional South American preparation of ayahuasca, one of the plants used was always Banisteriopsis caapi, or another species in the Banisteriopsis genus.
South American shamans mix sections of Banisteriopsis Caapi with leaves from a number of other potential plants. The other plant or plants that are combined with Banisteriopsis caapi usually contain tryptamine alkaloids, most often DMT (dimethyltryptamine).
The plants that were most often mixed with Banisteriopsis caapi to produce traditional ayahuasca were the leaves of Psychotria viridis ( chacruna ) and the leaves of Diplopterys cabrerana ( chaliponga ).
The reason for mixing plants that contain harmala alkaloids with plants that contain DMT is to increase the amount of DMT absorbed by the human body. If the plants that contained DMT were consumed by themselves, the user would feel very little in the way of psychoactive effects.
By mixing plants that contain harmala alkaloids with plants that contain DMT, the body is able to effectively absorb the DMT when it is taken orally. The harmala alkaloids serve the purpose of potentiating DMT in the ayahuasca by reducing its breakdown in the human digestive tract. This allows DMT to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain.
The harmala alkaloids produced by Banisteriopsis caapi act as MAOI’s, any type of MAOI can have negative reactions that might be fatal if combined with foods and other medicines. Always follow these precautions when using any type of MAOI.
How To Use Banisteriopsis caapi
You can buy Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca vine) here . They ship from the USA to most countries. You can try smoking it, but a better way to ingest Banisteriopsis caapi is to produce your own ayahuasca .
Traditional South American shamans used ayahuasca, a drink made with Banisteriopsis caapi and other plant ingredients, to enter the supernatural world for various purposes that included divination and healing.
There are various types of Banisteriopsis caapi available. These categories are divided according to the potency they impart to ayahuasca, rather than being different varieties of Banisteriopsis caapi.
There is a history of the plant being smoked by itself, but the psychoactive effects are mild when compared to consuming ayahuasca. Banisteriopsis caapi itself contains no DMT, ingesting it will not produce DMT-like effects.
It can produce visionary experiences when consumed by itself, but large amounts are needed to achieve this level of high. At small dosage levels Banisteriopsis caapi can produce feelings of tranquility.
Banisteriopsis caapi is said to always be used in the preparation of traditional ayahuasca because it contains a plant intelligence that can (among other things) reveal the path to follow when one is having emotional or psychological problems.
Tetrahydroharmine occurs in greater concentrations in Banisteriopsis caapi when compared to other plants that contain harmala alkaloids. This may account for the plant intelligence traditional ayahuasca reveals to the user.
Most often, Banisteriopsis caapi is mixed with Diplopterys cabrerana or Psychotria viridis to produce the traditional version of ayahuasca. When mixed with Diplopterys cabrerana, it produces a more powerful brew (than it does when compared to Psychotria viridis).
For this reason , ayahuasca made by mixing Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis is recommended for the first few times a person consumes ayahuasca.
When a person has grown accustomed to a Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis brew, they can graduate to a more powerful Banisteriopsis caapi and Diplopterys cabrerana mixture.
For anyone who uses LSD or magic mushrooms (only those that contain psilocybin), you can try smoking some dry crushed Banisteriopsis caapi after you feel the effects of the acid or mushrooms starting to come on. This can intensify the trip and make it last longer.
the encyclopedia of psychoactive plants
There are many permutations of the classic shamanic formula for the magical healing brew in the upper Amazon. Virtually every shaman and curandero has his or her personal recipe, often incorporating secret components. The nature and spirit of the various admixture plants brings undeniable healing versatility to the medicine, often enriching one’s visionary communion with the plants.
Core Companion Plants
Ayahuasca prepared in the Peruvian Amazon is typically composed of the following plants, although combinations and ratios vary. Every experienced shaman has his or her special secret technique, ritual, or recipe. The indicated plant ratios will produce superior Ayahuasca if proper techniques are employed in the cooking process. It is important to point out that many factors influence the strength and character of an Ayahuasca experience apart from the plants and preparation technique.
the Power and the Light
ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi)
*Some shamans prefer oco yagé over chacruna while others pointedly avoid it. It is used much more in Ecuador and Colombia than in Perú.
toé negro; toé brasilera; maricahua (Teliostachya lanceolata)
chiric sanango ( Brunfelsia grandiflora )
mapacho (Nicotania rustica or N. tabacum)
More about admixture plants… These are some of the many plants used in various combinations by many curanderos in their healing practices. Up to 100 grams of these or other medicinal plants may be added…their healing properties reportedly strengthened in combination with Ayahuasca.
By Susan Emmert
“It was thirty minutes before I felt the first sensation, a numbness on the lips, and a warmth in my stomach that spread to my chest and shoulders even as a distinct chill moved down my waist and lower limbs…I opened my eyes to a flash of light, a passing headlight on the road, harsh and intrusive. I retreated again and felt myself fade into an uncomfortable physical body, prostrate on the mat, and tormented by vertigo and a mounting nausea” (Davis 1996). This account describes the beginning feelings and affects of an experience between Wade Davis and yage , a drink whose main component is the plant Banisteriopsis caapi .
Banisteriopsis caapi is a plant found in the tropical regions of South America, including the countries of Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and more. It is a liana that grows in the tropical forests of these regions and is often utilized in native tribe cultures. Many different aboriginal tribes of the Amazon rainforests use drinks prepared from this plant under many different names: ayahuasca , caapi , yage , yaje , natem , datem , pinde , dapa, and more. It has been used in various tribe cultures for years and still has a place in today’s societies and religions.
Banisteriopsis of the Malpighiaceae, is a genus of around one hundred species of plants in tropical America. Three of these are known for their hallucinogenic affects in ayahuasca. These three plants are B. inebriens , B. caapi (Schultes 1970) and B. quitensis (Schultes 1995). The best known of these three species and the main component of ayahuasca is B. caapi .
When the drink ayahuasca is made, it is often supplemented with other plants that provide hallucinogenic properties to the drink. There are many species of plants, stretching across genera, that are added. Some of the plants included in these various admixtures are Diplopterys cabrerana , Psychotria viridis , and Psychotria carthaginensis . There are also members of the Solanaceae that are commonly used, Nicotiana species, Brugmansia species, and Brunfelsia species (Schultes and von Reis 1995). These plants bring different chemical constituents to the drink.
The chemical components of Banisteriopsis caapi that cause the hallucinogenic effect are beta-carboline alkaloids found in the bark. More than nine alkaloids have been isolated in B. caapi . The three main active constituents, and most well known from this plant, are harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine. Other beta-carboline alkoloids include harmine-N-oxide, harmic acid methylester, harmalinic acid, harmic amide, and more (Kawanishi et al 1982).
B. caapi alone in ayahuasca has limited hallucinogenic affects, but it is sometimes fashioned this way. More likely though, the prepared drink is composed of more than just B. caapi . When these other plant species (listed above) are used in the preparation of the drink they bring along their own chemical compounds and enhance the psychoactive affects of the drink. The active chemical compound of these plants is N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). It is believed that this provides most of the hallucinogenic effects of the drink.
DMT is not orally active. This is why B. caapi is such an important component of the drink. The chemical compounds in B. caapi are believed to guard the DMT from being destroyed, and thus rendered inactive when taken orally. Since the DMT is not destroyed it can then elicit an effect (Schultes and von Reis 1995).
The indigenous tribes of the Amazon do not imbibe in their drinks prepared from B. caapi and various other hallucinogenic plants because they are looking for the high that today’s culture and society in the United States and other countries want. “The casual Western uses of hallucinogens for escape, relaxation, or experimentation are foreign to them” (Bennett 1992). Shamans, as the tribes medicine men are sometimes called, take the ayahuasca , natem , or pinde , which ever name their tribe uses, for religious and spiritual reasons and healing purposes. The shamans “drink hallucinogenic beverages to communicate with the spirit world, diagnose illnesses, determine guilt, and see the future” (Bennett 1992).
When the ayahuasca is used for medical purposes, the shaman is the person to take the drugs, not the patient. Sometimes the patient has already tried conventional medicine. If that fails, they will turn to the shaman for treatment believing that the source of the illness may be magical. During this treatment the shaman will imbibe in the drink and translate the visions he sees while under the influence of the drug. He interprets these visions so he can discern what caused the illness and fight it symbolically. The shaman will sing to the patient about the fight and in the process is freeing him from the evil (Rivier and Lindgren 1972). This is not the only way the drinks are used medicinally. In some cultures, the shaman and the patient will ingest the drink (Bennett 1992).
Apart from the medicinal uses of the drinks prepared from B. caapi , the drinks are also consumed on a social basis. But not in the same customary ways that western societies display. In many of the tribes that utilize the natem , caapi , hoasca , etc., it is the men that imbibe the drink. They drink it in order to have visions. Often these ceremonies involve singing and chanting and the words of the songs reflect what is being seen in the visions. The visions that the person sees vary greatly. They see enjoyable images or terrifying ones. They might have a vision in which they make contact with a deceased or absent person or they might see serpents and jaguars. They also sometimes have visions of objects of their culture and of more modern culture. What ever they see, it is told of in the songs the person sings (Lindgren and Rivier 1972).
The natives of the Amazon believe that they can discern differences of the B. caapi even without touching, smelling, tasting, or cutting the liana. There may be no morphological difference in these different types of B. caapi yet the native will contend that there are distinct kinds and that they can be used to make various types of the drink with varying strengths. “The natives insist that they can utilize these different ‘kinds’ of caapi to prepare drinks of sundry strengths, for different purposes or in connections with various ceremonies, dances, or magico-religious needs or for whatever the partaker wishes to kill in the hunt” (Schultes 1991). According to Shultes there are at least thirty different types of B. caapi that the natives of the Amazon acknowledge, have names for, and have uses for.
The preparation of the B. caapi seems to be similar in most of the indigenous tribes of the Amazon. The preparation of the drug varies little from one village to another…Fifteen stems of Banisteriopsis caapi are crushed with a short thick pole and cut into pieces 10 cm long…layers of vine are packed alternating with leaves of Psychotria sp., until the vessel is full. Ten litres of water are added, and the mixture is boiled for one hour. The vegetable sediments are eliminated by filtering through a strainer. As soon as it is cold, the decoction is ready for consumption (Lindgren and Rivier 1972). This reported preparation of caapi was from a paper written by Lindgren and Rivier published in 1972. In 1992, Bennett gives a similar account, a Shuar shaman, prepares the natem beverage by first splitting a 1 to 2 m length of B. caapi stem into small fragments. He places these in a pot with several liters of water and then adds leaves of Diplopterys cabrerana (Cuatrec.) B. Gates, Herrania sp., Ilex guayusa Loes., Heliconia stricta Huber and mukuyasku (an unidentified Malpighiaceae). He boils the mixture until most of the water evaporates and the solution has a syrupy consistency” (Bennett 1992).
These two acounts twenty years apart still describe the same process for preparation. Taking this drug has many effects on a human both mentally and physically. Ayahuasca causes profound alternations in consciousness, including changes in time and space perception, rapid mood change, synesthesia, de-personalization and increased suggestibility. Ayahuasca also brings on a state of immobility and incoordination of movement, as well as nausea, occasional heavy vomitting and frequent diarrhea, the latter symptons marking initial experiences for many” (de Rios 1970).