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The Ayahuasca vine is a woody vine that contains several potent psychoactive substances, namely: Harmine, Harmaline, and Tetrahydroharmine. None of these chemicals is vision-producing, but there are many benefits to the Ayahuasca vine alone and the shamans consider it to be the "power" in the brew. Ayahuasca is called the Mother of Plants and while other ingredients are somewhat changeable, the tea always contains Ayahuasca and it is always referred to by the name of the vine, not the other components. The visions come from the admixture plants, usually the leaves of the chacruna plant – scientific name "psychotria virdis", (which tells you something). If the vine is the power, the shamans refer to these plants as the "light."


“No longer is the show we are watching everyday reality, Channel Normal. DMT provides regular, repeated, and reliable access to “other” channels. The other planes of existence are always there. In fact, they are right here, transmitting all the time! But we cannot perceive them because . . . our hard-wiring keeps us tuned to Channel Normal. It only takes . . . the few heartbeats the spirit molecule requires to make its way to the brain – to change the channel, to open our mind to these other planes of existence.”
– Rick Strassman, M.D., DMT The Spirit Molecule (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2001) 315-316.

These admixture plants contribute an important chemical called NN-Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT for short. DMT is one of the family of tryptamines that have a very similar physical form to Serotonin. It is believed that this is why they are so potent in the brain, since they lock into the same receptors as serotonin. Pure DMT is the most potent vision-producing substance known to exist. It exceeds LSD or any other tryptamine, natural or man-made (and LSD is an artificial, man-made chemical). It also has a very different effect from other substances, an effect that is enhanced and moderated properly in the matrix of Ayahuasca.

DMT is actually present in many plants, but is not normally active if ingested, due to enzymes in the stomach that break it down before it can get into the brain. If you just eat chacruna leaves, you won't see any visions at all.

It is an authentically amazing fact that out of all the millions of possible combinations of plant recipes in the jungle, the ancient tribal peoples discovered this combinational recipe. When Ayahuasca vine and the chacruna leaves are broken up, mixed together, then boiled for over 10 hours and one drinks the reduced tea, the vine acts as an MAO inhibitor, essentially neutralizing the enzymes in the stomach that prevent the DMT from reaching the brain. This vine and leaf combination has been noted and described as one of the most astonishingly efficient chemical delivery systems known to exist - a combination that in no way should be obvious or discoverable by sheer experimentation.

If one asks the shamans how this came to be known, they have a simple if disturbing answer for us. They will tell you that the plants themselves told them how to do it.

DMT, like LSD and other tryptamines and most other entheogens, is a controlled substance in the United States and other western countries. It is completely illegal to make, possess, or ingest it. In Brazil and Peru, it is fortunately considered a part of the rights of the citizens as a “National Cultural Heritage” and is protected, at least for now.

It is intriguing to know that DMT is a substance that is endogenous – that is, we produce it ourselves within our brains in small amounts. It may be, as Dr. Strassman suggests, the “spirit molecule” that gives us access and passage from one realm, one universe, to the next. Perhaps this is why, from a chemical viewpoint, this brew is so effective a tool to transport us into these realms.



from my trip journal:

“It rained most of the night – a wonderful jungle rainstorm with occasional thunder and some downpours. I was snug and safe under my thatch roof. In the morning, as we were eating a good breakfast, a large tree crashed in the selva (jungle) behind the lodge, almost coming down on top of the Ayahuasca cooking tambo or hut.

The morning's work was to watch and help with the cooking of the brew. Two huge pots boiled over wood fires, and don Rober was watching things closely and blessing the ingredients with mapacho smoke. We all smoked the mapacho, and blessed the Ayahuasca. Mapacho is a large “cigarette” of a sacred tobacco, made from the species “nicotiana rustica” – a completely different species from commercial tobacco. It has none of the tars and other additives, and it is considered a sacred and visionary plant by the shamans. When used properly, mapacho is a true medicine plant rather than an unhealthy substance.

I had never smoked, but it is not necessary to inhale the mapacho smoke into the lungs and it is an integral and somewhat mind-altering part of the ritual process. This ties us in to the sacred space of the great teacher plants. We worked and watched all morning as the brew was condensed and cooked down. The entire process of cooking the Ayahuasca can take more than 12 hours.

Everyone is thinking about our journey tomorrow – the real journey that will redefine us.”



“It is said in the Amazon that Ayahuasca has a jealous spirit.  This is a culture-bound concept which often seems strange to the western mind.  How could a plant considered sacred also be jealous?  One has to step outside the usual human concept of jealousy to understand what is meant by this.  It simply means that the conscious spirit of Ayahuasca desires our undivided attention when in Her presence.”
– Howard Lawler, aka Otorongo Blanco, from the SpiritQuest website:


from my trip journal:

“Monday – Preparing for our first Ayahuasca Ceremony

It rained softly through the night. The jungle emerged from a misty sunrise. I met don Rober coming from the kitchen tambo – short, wiry, muscled. He looks very normal, even nondescript as he comes and goes around the camp, but I know he is a master shaman and will be in full control in tonight’s first ceremony.

We had a good breakfast of eggs and fruit and potato fries (unsalted, of course). This meal is larger and more protein oriented than lunch, which will be light - fruit only. No dinner tonight as we head into the sessions around 8 pm. Ayahuasca is a strong purgative and any excess food in our systems can be problematic during the sessions.

Howard called in each of us one at a time to formally meet and speak with don Rober and express our intentions and needs for healing during tonight's session. The formulation and stating of authentic intentions is crucial to the work with Ayahuasca. It can strongly affect the way the plant works with you to heal and to teach.


continued . . .



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