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Ayahuasca is a powerful medicinal tea brewed from the thick woody stems of the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine (Vine of the Soul) and the lush green leaves of the Chacruna Plant (Psychotria viridis – referred to as the ‘Queen of the forest’). These two native Amazonian plants, when fused with careful attention in a ceremonial context, create a potent and divine medicine.


With the utmost reverence, intention and prayer, the plants are prepared and cooked for a number of days in a ritual context, during which time the Ayahuasquero’s (maestro’s trained in the use of the vine) chant their sacred songs of healing (icaro’s) to the brew as it is being cooked.


The mixture is prepared ceremoniously by cutting the vines to cook able lengths, attentively scraping and cleaning them, and pounding them into a pulp. Meanwhile the Chacruna leaves are picked and cleaned one by one. The two are then boiled together for many hours or days until ready.


Banisteriopsis caapi - Vine of the Soul

Chacruna Psychotria Viridis

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Ayahuasca is revered by the indigenous people of South America as a sacred medicine and a master-teacher, capable of transporting the drinker to other dimensions of space and time, where past, present and future are all equally accessible, both one's own life path and those of others.


Everyone’s journey with Ayahuasca is totally unique and individual. The plant-teacher guides us to the deepest parts of our subconscious where, with our conscious self, we are able to confront, understand and release deep-rooted emotional baggage and behavioural patterns that are holding us back in our lives and preventing us from being our authentic selves. Diseases, behavioural patterns and egoistic tendencies can be analysed to determine their nature and origin.


It is not uncommon to experience a regression back to the situation or source of a problem or trauma. To relive the experience is to gain new understanding and insights enabling resolution or closure. Dream-like scenes where personal messages from spirits are received cause ceremony participants to  re-evaluate their life course with a deeper understanding of why they are here, and what it is they need to do to fulfil their purpose.


Drinkers of Ayahuasca often report significant changes in the way they see life and how they feel about themselves, and in many cases they experience a growing sense of purpose and direction, inner strength and power.


Not everyone comes to this medicine with the same needs. The magic of Ayahuasca rests in its ability to find, focus, diagnose, heal and transcend one’s personal limitations, conditioning, negative thoughts and fears. It takes us to a pure fundamental part within each of us that instinctively knows the answer, that wants us to achieve what we really desire in life and to be true to ourselves. It teaches us how to trust this inner voice and achieve a more fulfilling life.


Fundamental to the work of the Shaman is the knowledge that Nature is alive; that the plant kingdom is conscious and has intelligence; that plants have spirits who can help to heal mankind; that an answer to any illness can be found in Nature. During an Ayahuasca experience it is possible for one to see and communicate with these spirits. For example, one can speak with plant spirits to learn their medicinal properties and how to collect and prepare them for use in healing.


Ayahuasca allows for the integration of the Self with the Higher-Self. From this integration emerges the True Self. The fully active brain strips away the fear-based, ego-mind issues that plague the human condition. The light of our higher consciousness renders the mask of our ‘pretend’ self irrelevant. It ceases to be of importance to impress others by being right or better than someone, or to be ashamed of who we are. A light, joyous and playful sense encompasses our being and we become resolved in our humanity and our divinity. We stop thinking and start knowing.


- What is Ayahuasca?

- The Marriage of the Plants

- The Ceremony

- The History of Ayahuasca

- Ayahuasca the Master-Teacher

- Ayahuasca & Healing

- The Diet and Precautions

- The Biochemistry of Ayahuasca


What is Ayahuasca?

For centuries, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon have used a sacred medicine as a powerful tool for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing and awakening. This medicine is known as Ayahuasca, a Quechua Indian word which translates as ‘Vine of the Soul’.


Having been almost completely ignored by Western civilization for centuries, Ayahuasca has recently attracted a lot of interest from Academics, Doctor’s, Philosopher’s, Artist’s and Mystics due to the mysterious healing and teaching properties that it possesses.


It is widely believed that Ayahuasca is the ‘medicine of our time’, giving hope to people with supposedly ‘incurable’ diseases such as cancer, HIV, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as chronic depression, anxiety, and drug addictions. Ayahuasca can provide valuable insight into the sociological and ecological problems of today’s world, and inspires ideas about how to resolve them.


Spirituality is at the core of the Ayahuasca experience. Purification of mind, body and soul in a healing ceremony can catalyse a profound process of spiritual awakening and development. This process of growth and spiritual evolution can continue indefinitely even if Ayahuasca is not taken again.


Ayahuasca is divine, sacred, magical - teaching a deep respect for life and the world and facilitating personal healing and self-discovery far beyond the boundaries of conventional modern medicine. Indeed, it is believed that a single Ayahuasca session has the potential to be equally as effective as 10 years of psychotherapy or meditation.


The Ayahuasca experience is highly individual and unique to each person as it enables a direct connection with the deepest parts of the sub-conscious, facilitating a deep connection with our true, inner and higher self. Ayahuasca provides a window into our soul and shows us who we really are and who we can become.

We strongly believe that the benefits to be gained from learning about Ayahuasca are immeasurable, both on a personal and planetary level.


Please take the time to read some of our Testimonials from previous participants of Know Thyself.

The Marriage of the Plants

The medicine Ayahuasca - often referred to as ‘The Queen of the forest’ and considered to be the most powerful of the teacher plants - is traditionally consumed in a ceremonial context under the guidance of a Shaman or Ayahuasquero (a maestro trained in the use of the vine).


It is imperative to have an experienced Shaman/Ayahuasquero present to conduct the ceremony, someone who has a deep understanding of the forces at work and how to keep the energies in balance. His hinario’s (songs of healing, also known as Icaro’s or ‘callings’ depending on the tradition) assist in guiding the drinker through his or her journey within.


Ayahuasca ceremonies typically take place at night in a safe location within an appropriate setting, and generally last between 5 to 8 hours.


For initiates we sometimes hold our first ceremony during the day, providing a gentle introduction to the force of Ayahuasca, in beautiful natural surroundings. The following ceremonies are held at night, enabling us to go deeper with our experience. We are fortunate to have three very blessed venue’s for our ceremonies: The Temple, the Tepee, and the Healing Wheel (outdoors).


Preparation for a ceremony can involve dieting, contemplation, meditation, silence, and time immersed in nature.


A ceremony is typically opened with a smoking of protector plants combined with an invocation (an invitation and calling to the spirits of nature and the elemental forces to guide and to protect) and likewise with a closing of the ceremony, something usually done whilst basking in an immense feeling of gratitude.


It is preferred that one tries to remain in silence throughout a ceremony (with the exception of the Shaman’s singing and chanting) so as not to distract another from their experience. The Shaman will usually start to sing when the force of Ayahuasca arrives, normally after about 30 minutes. The Shaman is attentive to each individual, and will give special care and attention to anyone who might be having a particularly difficult experience.


If you have any specific questions about the context in which our ceremonies are conducted, you may contact paul@know-thyself.org

The Ceremony

The History of Ayahuasca


The name Ayahuasca comes from Quechua, a widely spoken South American language found throughout the Amazon: aya means “soul” or “spirits” and huasca means “vine”, therefore translating to “vine of the soul” or “vine of the spirits”. Although there are many other names for Ayahuasca used throughout South America such as yage, caapi and Daime.

Ayahuasca was first described academically in the early 1950`s by Harvard University ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes who found it employed for divinatory and healing purposes by Amerindians of Amazonian Columbia. Ayahuasca has been used in the Amazon for millennia, long before the Spanish came to Peru, long even before the Incan Empire was formed. The oldest known object related to the use of Ayahuasca is a ceremonial cup which dates to a culture that ended in the year 50 A.D. Hewn out of stone with engraved ornamentation, it was discovered in Ecuador and currently rests at the Ethnological Museum of the Central University (Quito, Ecuador). In the Peruvian Amazon, its use dates back much further.

The origins of the shamanic use of Ayahuasca are lost in the mists of history and there are many stories surrounding how the natives initially came to work with this sacred medicine. In his book, "The Cosmic Serpent", Jeremy Narby comments, "Here are people without electron microscopes who choose, among 80,000 Amazonian plant species, the leaves of a bush containing a brain hormone, which they combine with a vine containing substances that inactivate an enzyme of the digestive tract, which would otherwise block the effect. And they do this to modify their consciousness. It is as if they knew about the molecular properties of plants and the art of combining them, and when one asks them how they knew these things, they say their knowledge comes directly from [the] plants."


In an indigenous context, Ayahuasca was used by the shamans of the Amazon region (Ayahuasqueros) for healing and divinatory purposes. Complex rituals surround the preparation and use of Ayahuasca which have been passed down through generations of curanderos and curanderas (healers).

Today, the use of Ayahuasca is rapidly gaining awareness and acceptance in South America and elsewhere thanks to organized religious movements such as Santo Daime and the União do Vegetal (UDV), who recently won a supreme court decision for the right of members to use the sacred medicine in ceremonies in the United States.


Ayahuasca the Master Teacher


Ayahuasca & Healing


Many rainforest shamans simply refer to ayahuasca as 'el remedio' - the remedy – and believe that Ayahuasca is capable of curing any illness, be it physical or mental, from cancer to depression.


In the shamanic world, all human conditions of sickness are considered to be a result of imbalance or energetic blockage between mind, body and soul. True healing comes from a place of integration simultaneously on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. From this viewpoint the ego based western societies are in a spiritual sickness, out of balance and in great need of healing. All disease is merely a manifestation of this imbalance (or dis-ease). Ayahuasca works to diagnose and restore balance, therefore facilitating holistic healing far beyond the frontiers of conventional treatment.


There are now many scientific studies of the healing properties of plants in general. The curanderismo ("healing") of the Amazon Jungle is perhaps the most powerful in the world. An incredible variety of medicinal plants exist in the jungle, some known and many more yet to be discovered. Many of the drugs sold in western pharmacies were derived from Amazon jungle plants, and more and more traditional Amazon remedies (passionflower, guarana, cat's claw) are making their way into western consciousness.


There is no plant healer on the planet, however, quite as revered, as powerful, and as respected as Ayahuasca. And now the Western world is finally beginning to acknowledge this plant phenomenon, with an ever increasing number of people, academics, scientists, neurologists, philosophers and mystics heading to South America to experience Ayahuasca for themselves. Indeed, Harvard University have recently sent a team to study the magical healing properties of this medicine, given to the extraordinary and ever growing number of cases in which people have reported their condition to have completely disappeared since their Ayahuasca encounter. (see article Ayahuasca & Cancer: One Man’s Experience).


Charles Grob MD professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at UCLA has found through his research that people using Ayahuasca experienced remission without reoccurrence of their addictions, depressions, anxiety disorders and even some physical ailments.

Ayahuasca is currently being seriously considered as an effective treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. As early as 1928 a natural substance called Banisterene was used successfully in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Banisterene is also an old and well-known plant product called Harmine, and Harmine is the most pronounced Beta-carboline component of Ayahuasca. Sadly the use of Banisterene fell out of favor as a Parkinson's treatment, as the pharmaceutical industry was evolving into the study of synthetic drugs that were patentable, and losing interest in natural products that were not patentable. What’s more is that many of the experimental drugs being used today to treat Parkinson's disease contain strong MAO inhibitors, as well as have pro-Dopamine properties, much like Ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca is a strong purgative (allows profound cleansing through vomiting and diarrhoea), an antibiotic (kills microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses), an analgesic (painkiller), disinfectant, and cicatrizant (speeds healing of wounds).

For some people the heaviness that is felt in their life is the weight of old emotional baggage. Ayahuasca can assist in bringing such memories to the surface to be confronted and released through purging. The purging aspect of the Ayahuasca experience is hugely beneficial as it also allows for  impurities to be released that sap the body’s energy. This deep cleansing system is a natural detoxification which restores physical vitality and harmony. It is in this clearing process that we create new space for higher energy, clarity, creativity and vibrancy to enter into our life.



The Diet and Precautions

It is strongly advisable to follow a preparatory diet leading up to your Ayahuasca experience, this includes refraining from eating meat and sexual activity 7 days before your experience. It is also advisable to drink plenty of medicinal plant teas to help cleanse the internal organs. This can potentially make any physical purging easier, and refraining from sexual stimulation will help conserve your physical and mental energy resources required for the experience.

Following an Ayahuasca ceremony, it is advisable to refrain from eating anything at all for a few hours, as the medicine will continue to work in the body long after the psychological effects have passed. A diet of basic, fresh, organic food of fruit, vegetables and fibre is recommended for the days following your experience. This will help to promote the ongoing healing effects.


Ayahuasca has a way of teaching us what is good for us, and you may find that following your experience you have increased awareness and sensitivity for which foods and drinks to avoid, such as red meat, processed and oily foods, alcohol and fizzy drinks. The healing effects of Ayahuasca can continue long after the ceremony, depending on the individuals’ strength of will to take heed of the lessons Ayahuasca has taught them.


Ayahuasca is non-addictive and safe to ingest and has the ability to facilitate holistic healing and transformation far beyond any other known method.


Ayahuasca is not compatible with SSRIs like Prozac or Zoloft, or other drugs that are MAOIs. If you wish to take Ayahuasca you must have stopped taking anti-depressants at least four weeks before coming to the retreat. This should be done under your physician's supervision.



Scientific studies have managed to isolate the principle molecular compounds responsible for the consciousness-altering states induced by Ayahuasca.


In 1923, Fischer analyzed the B. caapi vine and isolated a compound he named telepathine (from the telepathic powers one reportedly gains when under the influence of ayahuasca). It was not until 1969 that a full chemical analysis was carried out (Shultes & Hoffman, 1992), and the compound was actually found to contain three primary active molecules (harmala alkaloids) - harmine, harmiline, and d-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroharmine (all beta-carboline derivatives). Harmine and harmiline were shown to be the primary molecules of the B. caapi vine responsible for the altered state of the ayahuasca drinker; however, these chemicals alone could not account for the intense visions and experiences of ayahuasca.


The beta-carboline chemicals Harmine and Harmaline found in the B. caapi vine can be psychedelic/visionary, but only in toxic doses (McKenna, 1993) and when consumed at modest dosages, produce only a state of tranquility and purification. Further research revealed P. viridis (Chakruna) as a common admixture to ayahuasca. Assays showed this plant to contain small but significant amounts of the potent hallucinogen DMT or N, N- dimethyltryptamine. However, DMT is rendered inactive when taken orally. How does the DMT in Chakruna get into the blood when drinking ayahuasca? In the presence of the Harmine (found in the B. caapi vine), DMT from the P. viridis plant becomes orally active in the body because Harmine alkaloids inhibit enzymes (MAO’s) in the stomach that normally destroy DMT. In other words, the B. caapi vine allows the hallucinogen DMT to make its way to the brain and induce visions (Turner, 1994). Of the thousands of plants in the Amazon rain forest, only these two types of plants when combined and drank will allow the user to experience a slow, sustained release of DMT and the resulting psychedelic/transformative state of mind.

The Biochemistry of Ayahuasca