Study Finds Benefits Outweigh Risks of Ayahuasca Use

Given the recent Western uptick in ayahuasca use, a new study from the University of Melbourne took a closer look with data from an online Global Ayahuasca Survey, carried out between 2017 and 2019, of 10,836 people over the age of 18 who used ayahuasca at least once.

Ayahuasca is a concentrated liquid made from prolonged heating or boiling of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant to create a tea containing DMT, the psychedelic active element of the brew. 

The drink has been used for spiritual and religious purposes in the past and is still utilized for similar purposes. Often a shaman or curandero, an experienced healer and spiritual leader, prepares the brew and leads the ceremony, which are often held at night. The experience typically lasts between two and six hours and may usher in a number of effects, both positive and negative. 

Similar to other therapeutic psychedelic experiences, participants often seek out ayahuasca ceremonies to gain a new perspective, to confront trauma and seek long-term, life-altering changes, among myriad other reasons. Because it typically contains DMT, a Schedule I substance, ayahuasca is illegal under U.S. federal law.

Ultimately, the study found that the benefits and positive experiences from ayahuasca use outweighed any adverse effects. Researchers found that acute physical adverse effects, primarily vomiting, were reported by 69.9% of respondents, and 55.9% reported adverse mental health effects in the weeks or months following consumption. Though the majority, around 88% of people surveyed, considered these effects as part of the process of growth or integration after the ceremony, and those who experienced these side effects said they were expected.

Researchers noted that physical effects were related to older age at the time of initial ayahuasca use, having a physical health condition, higher lifetime and last-year ayahuasca use, having a previous substance use disorder diagnosis, and taking ayahuasca in a non-supervised context. 

Dr. Daniel Perkins, one of the study’s authors and a University of Melbourne research fellow, nodded to the increase in ayahuasca’s popularity when speaking with Healthline

“Recently we’ve seen a booming underground retreat culture in the Western hemisphere in which people pay hundreds of dollars to go to these retreats,” Perkins said. “It is a spiritual experience, but it is not something you get up and dance to. There is no real recreational use other than for alternative healing. Overall, it is not widely consumed.”

The study ultimately confirmed that ayahuasca use results in a high rate of adverse physical effects and challenging psychological effects, though they are generally not severe. Not only that, but many participants continue to attend ceremonies; authors suggest this means participants generally perceive the benefits as overshadowing any adverse effects.

Moving forward, researchers suggest further examination of variables that might predict eventual adverse effects to better screen or provide additional support for vulnerable subjects. They add that improved understanding of the risk.benefit balance users associate with ayahuasca could assist policy makers in decisions around potential regulation and public health responses.

“Many are turning to ayahuasca due to disenchantment with conventional Western mental health treatments,” the authors write in a media release, “however the disruptive power of this traditional medicine should not be underestimated, commonly resulting in mental health or emotional challenges during assimilation. 

“While these are usually transitory and seen as part of a beneficial growth process, risks are greater for vulnerable individuals or when used in unsupportive contexts.”

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Dr. Dan Engle on Using Psychedelics to Heal Trauma 

Podcaster and Onnit co-founder, Aubrey Marcus, is a proponent of using psychedelics for both self-development and healing trauma. He regularly talks to guests who are experts in this field. On a recent show, he talked with Dr. Dan Engle, a psychiatrist, entrepreneur and author, who has a unique background in neurocognitive restoration and psychedelic research. 

Marcus refers to Dr. Engle as a “thought leader” in the psychedelic research space, and praises the doctor’s recent book, “A Dose of Hope,” about MDMA-assisted therapy. The book is a No.1 bestseller on Amazon. In this podcast, Dr. Engle dives into the current psychedelic renaissance, exploring the healing traits of individual psychedelics, explaining why and how they work differently. 

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Dr. Engle’s Background

It’s worth mentioning that Dr. Engle’s is a hands-on researcher. He and Marcus met around 15 years ago in the desert town of Sedona. Even back then, Marcus thought of Engle as the “future of medicine” due to his experience as a medical doctor, holistic therapist and psychedelic researcher. He has spent years in the Amazon Jungle. 

Engle sees “all the medical interventions as having a place at the table.” He gives the example of the time he broke his neck, saying: “When that happened I didn’t go to see my homeopath.” He recognizes that emergency care services, pharmaceuticals and surgery are essential in some cases, but also that the body’s natural healing process can be enhanced with holistic and psychedelic modalities. 

Over the course of his career, Engle has explored different “dogmas,” but thanks psychedelics for opening his mind to the possibility of integration. For five years before going into the jungle, he went the “other extreme,” and was “against all allopathic medicine.” So much so that when he picked up a virus during his first ayahuasca experience and his body went into septic shock, he refused to take antibiotics. 

However, ayahuasca changed his thinking. “I learned more about myself in one weekend with ayahuasca than one decade of psychiatric training,” he says. Back then he was angry with the psychiatric field for “bastardizing sacred plant medicine technologies.” But ayahuasca gave him new hope because he could see the value in being a “bridge” between the allopathic and plant medicine

Meeting Ayahuasca

Dr. Engle stresses the importance of having the right mindset, attitude and grace when interacting with any plant medicine. Ultimately, he sees plant medicine as a vector that teaches a person about themselves, and warns: “Those that come into our lives to be reflections of our power, integrity and value system, sometimes … come in really uncomfortable ways.” 

He believes there’s a valid reason why he got so sick during his first ayahuasca experience, and it had to do with his attitude. He explains how he had been on a “diet” for weeks at that point. “Dieting” is the term that’s used to describe the traditional way of working with plants to get to know them better and receive their energy or gifts. It involves food restrictions but only to allow deeper connections with nature. 

During his diet, Engle was receiving lots of information about integrative medicine, and got so excited about all he was learning, he approached the ceremonial shaman, and in bad Spanish, told him, “You’re my teacher,” and offered a gift. Shortly after, Engle got sick, and for years after that first experience, his ayahuasca journey was “blocked,” meaning the plant had mild to no effect on him. 

It took him years to piece the story together and fully understand what had happened. First, he realized his audacity to walk into a “sacred space that had been held for lineage of shamans,” and demand to be a student. But also, he had given the shaman a gift, which in the world of plant medicine enabled a part of Engle’s energetic field to be drained. 

Five years later, he went to a retreat, and on the first night, he dreamt of being visited by a different shaman who told him he was “carrying a blockage.” During the ceremony he attended that evening, the ceremonial shaman performed intense icaros over him, and Engle could feel the pressure inside his body. Until finally there was a release and “the visual landscape opened up,” and suddenly he felt, “whole, free, light and inspired.”

Seeing Trauma as an Ally

Engle admits that when he came back from the Amazon, he was dealing with suicidal depression due to the personal challenge of re-integrating back into day-to-day life. After experiencing the ceremony where his blocks were released, he realized everything that had happened over the previous five years of his plant medicine journey was exactly what he needed, it was all “for him.”

ayahuasca medicine

During his meditations, he was focusing on principles that were of value to him: humility, integrity, reverence and gratitude – using them as guides for his interactions, for how to “walk in the world.” Though he wasn’t aware of it at the time, that mindset was causing him to live with a sort of “victim mentality.” In many ways, his first shaman, the one who blocked him, turned out to be his best teacher.

He revealed, the “shamanic path is a power path, not a spiritual path.” This discovery prompted a “total reframe” for Engle. For the first time he could see that life was happening “for him not to him,” and he came to understand that whatever lessons come along the way, it was up to him to imbue his “power with spiritual virtues and values.” The experience taught Engle the hardest life lessons are typically the best teachers, and it’s possible to “turn trauma into an ally.” 

Marcus picks up on this point, describing his own run-ins with the “dark side” on psychedelics, saying that the experience can be “scary” but “what it’s showing you is a mirror,” and with it, the knowledge that “the darkness is within you.” Engle agrees, and says it takes “a lot of courage to come face-to-face” with that dark force. Both men recognize that this is often the most challenging aspect of using psychedelics. 

As challenging as it is, Engle believes it’s also vitally important, as the “darkness” is needed to “hone the light.” He explains that there’s a spectrum of consciousness along which everything exists, both good and bad, and we always have the choice to enter “the dark path, whatever that means,” but the adversarial force is necessary, as it prompts us to cement our values. 

New Perspectives with Psychedelics

“The ego doesn’t know the difference between annihilation and transformation because the ego experiences them as the same,” explains Dr. Engle, “We go through this annihilating process so we can deprogram all of the ego constructs that we’re imbued with [through childhood, as well as] trans-generationally [and] collectively. We have to be deprogramed of all those things to come back to our inherent nature.”

He calls this process both “disorientating,” “highly uncomfortable” and “highly inconvenient,” especially in today’s society, where “we don’t have the time or the space for that.” Current mental health models that reduce the mind to “chemical components” don’t hold up for him, as he’s an advocate of what he calls “soul-centered” medicine. In this model, he takes into consideration a person’s “karma” (past experience), “persona” (current state) and “darma” (sense of purpose.)

Engle is a proponent of taking “radical responsibility” for our lives, and in that action, he believes it’s impossible not to feel the power that each individual possesses. He takes the idea one step further, saying that each individual is responsible for the ongoing “expansion” of the universe, and that’s what makes us to powerful on both an individual and collective level. 

However, he also notes that our psychology has yet to catch up with the speed of our technological evolution, which is why so many people feel overwhelmed. He doesn’t want people to overlook the travesties of modern life, he wants people to be able to see the catastrophes and understand that they are part of life. For him, this is where psychedelics play a key role, as they can help people get to the point of being able to hold and accept both the beauty and horror of existence. 

Final Thoughts

Dr. Engle is a fascinating character, a doctor who takes his practice so seriously, it’s not enough for him to read the research of others, he has to experience it firsthand. That not only gives him an edge, but also means he’s full of hard-won wisdom. One of his heroes is Victor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist, and he quotes him, saying: “The last of the great human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” For Engle, plant medicine and psychedelics have the unique ability to guide people towards that choice. Check out this podcast, it’s well worth the watch, and may just change your understanding of psychedelics. 

Hello readers! We appreciate you joining us at, a top choice news platform for independent coverage of the growing cannabis and psychedelics landscapes of today. Come by the site whenever possible for updates on current and world-changing events, and head over to the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, so you’re always up on what’s going down.

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San Francisco Supervisors Vote to Decriminalize Psychedelics

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week voted to pass a measure to decriminalize natural psychedelics such as magic mushrooms, giving its unanimous approval to a proposal to reform city policy on the drugs that show promise in the treatment of several serious mental health conditions.

The ordinance calls on the San Francisco Police Department to make the enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession, use, cultivation, and transfer of entheogenic plants and fungi including psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca by adults “amongst the lowest priority for the City and County of San Francisco,” according to the text of the proposal. The ordinance also requests that city resources not be used for “any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the use of Entheogenic Plants listed on the Federally Controlled Substances Schedule 1 list.”

The measure notes that psychedelics “can benefit psychological and physical wellness” and “have been shown to be beneficial” for people dealing with addiction, trauma, and anxiety. Additionally, the ordinance encourages the State of California to reform its laws to decriminalize natural psychedelic drugs statewide.

Psychedelics for Mental Health

The proposal was introduced in July by Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Dean Preston with the support of Decriminalize Nature, a group working to end the prohibition of entheogenic plants and fungi. Noting that the natural drugs have the potential to treat serious mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, grief and end-of-life anxiety, the group said that there “is an unmet need in San Francisco’s communities for the compassionate and effective care that these medicines provide.”

“I am proud to work with Decrim Nature to put San Francisco on record in support of the decriminalization of psychedelics and entheogens,” Preston said in a statement after the measure was approved by the Board of Supervisors on September 6. “San Francisco joins a growing list of cities and countries that are taking a fresh look at these plant-based medicines, following science and data, and destigmatizing their use and cultivation. Today’s unanimous vote is an exciting step forward.”

After introducing the measure earlier this year, Preston noted that the measure would bring San Francisco policy in line with the movement to look at psychedelics in a new light after decades of stigma and criminalization.

“The law hasn’t evolved at all since then, and these substances are treated the way they always have been,” Preston said. “At the same time, the scientific community has been expanding their study and research into their therapeutic use.”

With the vote from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the city is the largest municipality in the country to enact a psychedelics decriminalization measure. Denver was the first city in the nation to decriminalize psychedelics in 2019, and since that time others including Washington, D.C., Oakland and Santa Cruz, California, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Easthampton, Massachusetts have adopted similar ordinances. And two years ago, voters in Oregon approved pioneering legislation to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use.

The San Francisco ordinance is similar to a California bill introduced by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener that would have decriminalized psychedelics statewide. After facing opposition, the legislation was amended to drop the decriminalization provisions and instead only authorize a study of the drugs.

“While I am extremely disappointed by this result, I am looking to reintroducing this legislation next year and continuing to make the case that it’s time to end the War on Drugs,” Wiener said after the bill was gutted. “Psychedelic drugs, which are not addictive, have incredible promise when it comes to mental health and addiction treatment. We are not giving up.”

Joshua Kappel, founding Partner and head of the Entheogens and Emerging Therapies division of the law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, lauded the unanimous approval of the ordinance by the Board of Supervisors after the vote.

“This is a great step forward for any city, but it’s surprising it took San Francisco over 3 years after Denver and Oakland decriminalized certain plants and fungi,” Kappel wrote in an email to High Times. “Hopefully, this paves the way for meaningful reform at the state level.”

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Health Canada Loosens Restrictions on Ayahuasca Research and Use 

Canada has been a primary hub for progressive drug policy and research for some years now (cannabis legalization), and with the psychedelic industry in full swing, it’s no surprise to see they are dominating that sector as well. Canada’s federal health agency has the power to exempt people, groups and substances from having to abide by the country’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and over the last few years, they have been granting exemptions to various religious groups for the use of ayahuasca in their ceremonies. Additionally, in March of this year, they granted approval to an R&D company to begin studying ayahuasca and other psychedelics.  

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What is Ayahuasca? 

Although the history and background of ayahuasca is a bit mysterious, we do know that it has been used both ceremoniously and medicinally for a very long time, and now, it’s experiencing a surge in western culture and has been the topic of quite a bit of research and medical testing as of late. Because it’s naturally occurring, and since it is produced by the human body, it has long had a very significant connection to human culture.  

Evidence of ayahuasca use in shamanic ceremonies dates back over 1,000 years – a practice that is still continued to this day. Artwork from the Chavin people of Peru frequently depicted shamans using various psychoactive plants. Today, ayahuasca retreats (most of which still take place in South America) are becoming increasingly sought-after as a way to open one’s mind, treat mental illness, and resolve past trauma.  

Ayahuasca is a tea made from combining two specific plants: Psychotria viridis and the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. Both plants have psychoactive effects on their own, but when combined, the DMT content from the Psychotria virdis is activated by the harmala alkaloids found in the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. DMT (chemical name: Dimethyltryptamine) is a powerful, naturally occurring hallucinogenic that is very abundant throughout nature, found in many plants and animals, including humans. DMT is a type of chemical known as a tryptamine, which refers to a family of hallucinogenic compounds. LSD, psilocin and psilocybin, mescaline, and many other psychedelics fall into the tryptamine category.

DMT also be synthesized, and in countries where less DMT-producing plants are known to grow (much of Europe for instance), synthetic DMT is more common. Whether natural or synthetic, DMT is known to give users a short (roughly 15-30 minutes) but very intense trip that is often spiritual in nature – described by many as life-changing, and the most intense trip of their lives.  

Leniency for Religious Use 

Over the last few years, Canada has been quietly granting more and more special exemptions to religious groups who want to import the ingredients needed for Ayahuasca brews to use in their ceremonies. The exemptions allow for religious groups and churches to practice their main sacrament without fear of legal repercussions – a right that has been denied to many people for decades.  

“These exemptions provide the applicant’s designated members, senior members and registrants with the authority to possess, provide, transport, import, administer and destroy Daime Tea (ayahuasca), as applicable, when carrying out activities related to their religious practice,” Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette wrote in an email to Global News. “Details of the exemptions, such as policies and procedures related to the use of Daime tea, are private and confidential to the applicants,” Durette added. 

The first two ayahuasca exemptions were granted to Montreal-based religious groups in in 2017. Since then, a handful of other applicants including the Ceu da Divina Luz do Montreal, the Église Santo Daime Céu do Vale de Vida in Val-David, Que., and the Ceu de Toronto, have received their own exemptions. The exempt status lasts for two years and is renewable, but it can take years, and sometimes decades to work through the system. Jessica Rochester, president of Céu do Montreal which was one of the first two applicant approvals, said it took more than 15 years to complete the process due to “a number of hurdles”.  

By the end of 2020, Health Canada has granted six federal exemptions for churches in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg to allow them to import and use ayahuasca – and we can certainly expect this number to grow over the coming years. “We were not open to new members until now because without an exemption it was illegal to import, possess and serve the Daime Tea in Canada,” said a spokesperson for Winnipeg Centre for Universal Illumination Luz Divina. “Now things have changed for us, we will begin our calendar of ceremonies again.” 

Research on the Horizon  

In March of this year, Numinus Wellness became the first company to receive approval from Health Canada to begin studying Ayahusaca brews from the following botanical materials: Banisteriopsis caapi, Psychotria viridis, Diplopterys cabrerana, and Mimosa tenuiflora (as well as San Pedro cactus, a legal source of mescaline), at their licensed, state-of-the-art research facility in British Columbia. Numinous is already working on various psilocybin projects, and they believe this move will position the company as a global leader in psychedelic research.  

With their new licensing agreement, Numinus Wellness will be the first company in Canada to receive approval for various activities related to psychedelics including possession, analytical testing, production, assembly, sale, export and delivery. 

“Many naturally occurring psychedelic compounds have already been in traditional use for millennia,” Numinus Wellness CEO Payton Nyquvest said in a statement. “These amendments honour and build on those practices while allowing us to do novel clinical research and deepen the body of scientific data for scaled development and greater public access to much-needed therapies,” he added. 

Final Thoughts 

Although it’s a step in the right direction, some advocates argue that this is nothing more than a “stopgap measure”. Spencer Hawkswell, the CEO of TheraPsil, a B.C.-based non-profit that helps Canadians access psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, mentions that “We’ve been yelling in the streets for the last few years that this is too little too late. But it truly is. So as happy as some of us are, we need more, and medical regulations are that answer.” 

Regardless, as abysmal as regulations and exemptions have been up until this point, there’s nowhere to go but up. In the United States, the Native American Church has a similar exemption allowing members to cultivate and possess peyote for ceremonial purposes. Aside from that, no other religious, research-based, or end-of-life exemptions have been granted, so it will be interesting to see if we follow suit with Canada and start opening the floodgates for psychedelic research and other practical uses in the states as well.

Hello readers! We appreciate you joining us at, a top choice news platform for independent coverage of the growing cannabis and psychedelics landscapes of today. Come by the site whenever possible for updates on current and world-changing events, and head over to the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, so you’re always up on what’s going down.

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San Francisco City Leaders To Consider Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure

City leaders in San Francisco will consider a proposed ordinance to decriminalize the use of natural psychedelics including psilocybin and ayahuasca when the Board of Supervisors returns from recess next month. The measure, which was introduced by San Francisco Supervisors Dean Preston and Hillary Ronen on July 26, would also encourage the state of California to reform its psychedelic drugs policy.

If adopted by the Board of Supervisors, the ordinance would call on the San Francisco Police Department to make enforcement of laws banning the possession, use, cultivation and transfer of entheogenic plants and fungi including psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca and their active components by adults “amongst the lowest priority for the City and County of San Francisco,” according to the text of the proposal.

The ordinance also requests that city resources not be used for “any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the use of Entheogenic Plants listed on the Federally Controlled Substances Schedule 1 list.”

Preston has been critical of the SFPD’s recent increase in enforcement of laws criminalizing drug use. But he noted that decriminalizing natural psychedelics is a different matter.

“We’re not talking about addictive substances here. Around this particular category, I would hope that even folks who disagree around the best approaches to dealing with opioids and other drugs prevalent in San Francisco would agree with deprioritizing enforcement around entheogenic plants,” Preston said, adding that research has shown psychedelics have the potential to treat several serious mental health issues including substance abuse.

The Evolution of Psychedelics Policy

Preston noted that the measure would bring San Francisco policy in line with the movement to look at psychedelics in a new light after decades of stigma and criminalization.

“The law hasn’t evolved at all since then, and these substances are treated the way they always have been,” Preston said. “At the same time, the scientific community has been expanding their study and research into their therapeutic use.”

Michael Pollan, a co-founder of the Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics and the creator of a recent Netflix documentary series on the drugs, said that entheogenic plants can be used therapeutically, but warned they should be used with caution.

“These substances have enormous potential, but they are not for everyone and they carry serious risks when used improperly,” Pollan said at a recent news conference. “The shift from destroyer of young minds in the ’60s to effective medicine in the 2020s is as sudden as it is confusing to many people. So we want to address that confusion and that curiosity with solid, credible information from a trusted source.”

“Not many people were doing basic science, trying to understand how it is that psychedelics have the effects they have and why they’re effective in the treatment of various mental disorders,” Pollan added. “We want to figure out what psychedelics might teach us about things like perception, predictive processing, belief change and brain plasticity.”

If the psychedelics decriminalization ordinance is approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the city would become the largest municipality to enact such a measure. Denver was the first city in the nation to decriminalize psychedelics in 2019, and since that time others including Oakland and Santa Cruz, California, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Easthampton, Massachusetts have adopted similar ordinances. And two years ago, voters in Oregon approved groundbreaking legislation to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use.

“One of the striking things about the Oregon experiment, which passed by ballot initiative in 2020, is that it will make a guided psychedelic experience available to anyone over 21, regardless of diagnosis,” said Pollan. “I do think that the use of psychedelics will not be restricted to the medical system. It’s not now and won’t be in the future.”

Dr. Markus Roggen, the president and chief science officer of psychedelics and cannabis research and development firm Delic Labs, said he supports the intent of the San Francisco psychedelics proposal.

“I welcome decriminalization from a philosophical point, as criminalizing ‘drug’ possession/use has brought many costs and pains to the country,” Roggen wrote in an email to High Times.

But he added that he does not believe decriminalization goes far enough and that past harms caused by the criminalization of psychedelic drugs need to be righted. He also said that decriminalization should include regulation, noting the thriving illicit psychedelics industry in the Netherlands.

“There the use is legal but production illegal,” said Roggen. “The government handed this whole industry to the cartels and mafia.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will take up the psychedelics decriminalization measure when it returns from recess in September.

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NFL Says Aaron Rodgers’ Ayahuasca Trip Didn’t Violate Drug Policy

The NFL says that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not violate league rules when he previously consumed the psychoactive beverage ayahuasca.

Via ESPN, “NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Monday that it wouldn’t have triggered a positive test result on either the substance abuse or performance-enhancing substance policies collectively bargained by the NFL and its players’ association.”

Rodgers, who is currently preparing for his 18th season in the league, has created quite a stir during training camp with his revelation that he consumed ayahuasca in Peru prior to the previous two seasons. In each of those seasons, Rodgers was named the league’s most valuable player, his third and fourth time winning the award respectively.

Rodgers said he doesn’t “think it’s a coincidence” that he claimed the top individual honor after those experiences in South America.

“I really don’t. I don’t really believe in coincidences at this point. It’s the universe bringing things to happen when they’re supposed to happen,” Rodgers said on an episode of the Aubrey Marcus Podcast last week.

Rodgers said on the podcast that the experience left him forever changed.

“For me, I didn’t do that and think ‘oh, I’m never playing football again,’” Rodgers said, as quoted by USA Today. “No, it gave me a deep and meaningful appreciation for life. My intention the first night going in was ‘I want to feel what pure love feels like.’ That was my intention. And I did. I really did. I had a magical experience with the sensation of feeling a hundred different hands on my body imparting a blessing of love and forgiveness for myself and gratitude for this life from what seemed to be my ancestors.”

Rodgers, who has spent the entirety of his career with the Packers, went deeper on the subject in an interview with longtime football writer Peter King that was published on Monday, explaining how the experience in Peru came together.

“I have a dear friend that I’ve known for 25 years that went on an ayahuasca journey in 2019. He came back, and we played golf one day and he told me all about it. I said, okay, I think it’s time that I do it. So we put together a trip to Peru [in 2020] and had a great experience. Then I went again this offseason and had another beautiful experience. Different, very different. Different size group, different amount of days,” Rodgers told King.

“We sat three different nights with the medicine. I came in with an intention of doing a lot of healing of other relationships and bringing in certain people to have conversations with. Most of the work was around myself and figuring out what unconditional love of myself looks like…,” Rodgers continued. “In doing that, allowing me to understand how to unconditionally love other people but first realizing it’s gotta start with myself. I’ve got to be a little more gentle with myself and compassionate and forgiving because I’ve had some negative voices, negative self-talk, for a long time. A lot of healing went on. There’s things—images from the nights, the journeys—that will come up in dreams or during the day I’ll think about something that happened or something that I thought about. It’s constantly trying to integrate those lessons into everyday life.”

For years, the NFL took a hardline on recreational drug use among its players, routinely handing down lengthy suspensions for mere cannabis use.

But in recent years, the league has relaxed its drug policy. During the 2021 offseason, with a new collective bargaining agreement taking effect, the NFL did not conduct random drug tests for marijuana, marking a sea change in the league’s rulebook.

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NFL Star Aaron Rodgers Used Ayahuasca Before Dual MVP Seasons

NFL star quarterback Aaron Rodgers revealed this week that he traveled to South America to take ayahuasca before being selected as the league’s most valuable player two seasons in a row, saying the potent psychedelic concoction changed his mindset and markedly improved his mental health. Rodgers made the revelations about his experiences with ayahuasca during an appearance on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast, where he shared that the psychedelic drug helped him find self-love and mental wellness.

The Green Bay Packers’ Superbowl champion quarterback said that he made the trip to South America prior to winning the MVP award for the third and fourth time in 2020 and 2021. Following the ayahuasca experience, he said, he “knew that [he] was never going to be the same.”

“For me, I didn’t do that and think ‘oh, I’m never playing football again,’” Rodgers said, as quoted by USA Today. “No, it gave me a deep and meaningful appreciation for life. My intention the first night going in was ‘I want to feel what pure love feels like.’ That was my intention. And I did. I really did. I had a magical experience with the sensation of feeling a hundred different hands on my body imparting a blessing of love and forgiveness for myself and gratitude for this life from what seemed to be my ancestors.”

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew of leaves and vines that is used by indigenous groups in South America’s Amazon basin for social and shamanic ceremonies. It contains the potent psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which can cause intense vivid sensations and hallucinations. Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, led a study on ayahuasca published in 2019 that found the brew caused a change to waking brainwaves the researchers compared to “dreaming while awake.”

“DMT is a particularly intriguing psychedelic. The visual vividness and depth of immersion produced by high-doses of the substance seems to be on a scale above what is reported with more widely studied psychedelics such as psilocybin or ‘magic mushrooms’,” Carhart-Harris explained. “It’s hard to capture and communicate what it is like for people experiencing DMT but likening it to dreaming while awake or a near-death experience is useful. Our sense is that research with DMT may yield important insights into the relationship between brain activity and consciousness, and this small study is a first step along that road.”

Ayahuasca Led to Best Season of Rodgers’ Career

During the podcast interview with Marcus, Rodgers said that his experience with ayahuasca “set me on my course to be able to go back in to my job and have a different perspective on things. To be way more free at work, as a leader, as a teammate, as a friend, as a lover. I really feel like that experience paved the way for me to have the best season of my career (in 2020).”

He added that the psychedelic drug helped him reframe his mindset, leading to improvements in mental health that helped him to play two of the best seasons of his career, winning his third and fourth MVP awards in 2020 and 2021.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Rodgers said about the ayahuasca experience in South America. “I really don’t. I don’t really believe in coincidences at this point. It’s the universe bringing things to happen when they’re supposed to happen.”

“There’s signs and synchronicities all around us at all times if we’re awake enough to see them and to take them in and to listen to our intuition when it’s speaking to us or pounding us in the head saying, ‘Hey dummy, this is what you’re supposed to be doing,’” he continued.

Rodgers said that he was inspired to try ayahuasca after a previous experience with psychedelic drugs. Marcus added that the NFL star had once told him that “one of the best days of my life” featured taking psychedelic mushrooms on a beach where he said he “felt [him]self merge with the ocean.”

The NFL star added that many people focus on the negative side effects of ayahuasca, which can include vomiting, diarrhea, and uncomfortable hallucinations, rather than the “deep and meaningful and crazy mind-expanding possibilities and also deep self-love and healing that can happen on the other side” that the drug can induce.

That self-love, Rodgers said, was a key benefit of his mental health journey.

“To me, one of the core tenets of your mental health is that self-love,” Rodgers said. “That’s what ayahuasca did for me, was help me see how to unconditionally love myself. It’s only in that unconditional self love, that then I’m able to truly be able to unconditionally love others. And what better way to work on my mental health than to have an experience like that?”

The post NFL Star Aaron Rodgers Used Ayahuasca Before Dual MVP Seasons appeared first on High Times.

Pick Your DMT – You’ve Got a Lot of Options

As psychedelics gain steam, getting closer to legalization in the US, interest has picked up in all kinds, whether lab-made like LSD, or nature-made like DMT. In so doing, it’s become apparent just how many entheogenic options there are. Take DMT, for example. Sure, it’s one half of ayahuasca, which comes from a plant, but another form comes from a toad, and yet another from sponge fish. With DMT, there are several options, and users can pick their poison.

DMT options abound in nature, and you can find the compound and its derivatives in tons of places. Take your pick! We’re a news publication focusing on the psychedelics and cannabis fields, and everything going on within. Stay with us by subscribing to The Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, and put yourself in first place for all new product promotions, as they become available to the public.

What is DMT?

DMT – or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, is a psychedelic hallucinogenic compound. Unlike fellow psychedelics LSD and MDMA, it’s found in nature, and is in plants like Psychotria viridis, which is one half of ayahuasca. DMT is processed into a white powder that is vaporized or smoked, brewed into a drink like ayahuasca, snorted like cocaine, or injected. Throughout history it’s been used in medicinal, ritualistic, and spiritual applications, in different time periods, and in different cultures. Trips are short, lasting anywhere from 10-90 minutes.

DMT is similar to other psychedelics in that its serotonergic, meaning it has a strong effect on serotonin receptors, especially 5HT2A. It exerts strength as a non-selective agonist at all (or most of) these receptors. DMT causes hallucinations which are sensory experiences that aren’t actually there, like hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, or tasting something that doesn’t exist. Like other psychedelics, its also associated with euphoria, well-being, feelings of connection and spirituality, altered cognition, and bringing on life-changing experiences.

One of the most popular applications of DMT is as ayahuasca, in which DMT is one half of the concoction. Ayahuasca is a brewed drink made by mixing DMT with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine in order for the MAO inhibitors in Banisteriopsis caapi to stop the DMT from breaking down so quickly. Because of this, trips last much longer, more like 4-6+ hours. The use of DMT this way dates back at least 1,000 years (though probably longer), as evidenced by a pouch found in southwestern Bolivia’s Sora River Valley, which contained both DMT and harmine (another MAOI), which produce ayahuasca together.

In 1931, Canadian chemist Richard Manske synthesized DMT for the first time. It wasn’t found in a plant until microbiologist Oswaldo Gonçalves de Lima located it in a plant in 1946. That it caused hallucinations took even longer to establish, and that happened when Stephen Szara, a Hungarian chemist and psychiatrist, took the DMT he extracted from a Mimosa hostilis plant.

It’s believed by some that the human body can create DMT in the pineal gland of the brain. The predominant thought is that this happens when approaching death in order to calm down the brain from death anxiety. It is currently undergoing trials for use with treatment-resistant depression.

DMT options – you’ve got plenty!

When it comes to drugs, we often lump a bunch together, even though they’re not exactly the same. Take the term ‘THC’ for example. It doesn’t actually refer to only delta-9 THC, but actually refers to several different compounds that have the same chemical formula, but different molecular structures. It’s a similar situation with DMT. There are different DMT options based on different derivatives, and these different options are very similar, but can cause different effects for the user.

DMT actually refers to N,N-DMT, which is found in plants like Psychotria viridis, Mimosa tenuiflora, and Diplopterys cabrerana. In all of these cases, it’s the primary psychoactive alkaloid. It’s a minor alkaloid in other plants like the bark pods and beans of the Anadenanthera peregrina and Anadenanthera colubrina plants. It’s also a minor alkaloid of virola bark resin, but this involves another form of DMT as well. If you noticed, I didn’t say anything about toads right now, and that’s because toad DMT is a different kind of DMT.

When dealing with toads, and the ever-growing popularity of getting high off these slippery creatures, the kind of DMT we’re speaking about is different. In toads, its called 5-HO-DMT, or bufotenine (5-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine). Bufotenine, much like all other similar forms, is considered a ‘DMT derivative’, so its not the same DMT that’s in the plants listed above, but closely related. It’s also an alkaloid, like regular DMT, and its found in toads like the Colorado River Toad (aka Sonora Desert Toad, or Incilius alvarius), as well as other mushrooms and plants. This kind of DMT was isolated and named during WWI by Handovsky, an Austrian chemist, from a sample taken from a toad.

Yet another of the DMT options besides the two just listed is 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine), which is also found in various plant species, and is also secreted by the Colorado River Toad, along with bufotenine. This form of DMT was synthesized for the first time in 1936, and is found in Anadenanthera peregrina seeds as well as Virola theiodora, along with regular DMT. In 2018, the research study A Single Dose of 5-MeO-DMT Stimulates Cell Proliferation, Neuronal Survivability, Morphological and Functional Changes in Adult Mice Ventral Dentate Gyrus showed that this kind of DMT promotes neuroplasticity.


It is sometime said that 5-MeO-DMT creates a more intense high than the other forms of DMT, but this could be related to subjective experience. The difficulty in assessing something like this, is that the same exact compound can produce varying effects at different times, and the effects we’re talking about have to do with distorting perception. For the most part, DMT and its derivatives are associated with the same kind of high and hallucinations, but frequent users can give more specific information about the variability they experienced between them.

Where does DMT come from?

This is where it becomes a little tricky, and when we need to remember that chemical relationships are found between different types of plants. For example, a couple more compounds that are actually derivatives of DMT are O-Phosphoryl-4-hydroxy-N,N-DMT, which we know as psilocybin, and 4-HO-DMT, which we refer to as psilocin. These are the two hallucinogenic components of magic mushrooms. When we talk of magic mushrooms, we usually separate them from DMT, but in reality, the main psychedelic compounds of these fungi, are derivatives of DMT.

Other derivatives are found elsewhere in nature, like sponge fish, which contain 5-Bromo-DMT (5-bromo-N,N-dimethyltryptamine). The reason for the connection between these different derivatives, is because they are all ‘DMT derivatives’, which means they are also ‘tryptamine derivatives’, which puts them in the grouping of ‘tryptamines’. Though ‘tryptamine’ isn’t an official drug class, it unofficially is the home of many compounds that are all agonists at 5HT2A receptor sites, and is the main reason that these different drugs produce hallucinations.

What makes these connections even more interesting? Tryptamines are all derived from tryptophan, an amino acid. What does this sound very close to? L-tryptophan. If you’re wondering why that word sounds familiar, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, L-tryptophan is the amino acid in meat that makes people relaxed and tired. It’s most associated with turkey and Thanksgiving, and people getting very sleepy after their big meal.

That’s because L-tryptophan is associated with serotonin production, which is related to sleep. Whether L-tryptophan from meat actually makes a person tired or not is debatable, but the more interesting aspect, is in how the amino acid in our meat, might resemble the alkaloids that makes us see things that aren’t there. Tryptophan is a precursor to the synthesis of different compounds including serotonin, melatonin, and DMT and its derivatives.

Tryptophan becomes tryptamine via decarboxylation of the tryptophan with aromatic-L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC). This transforms into DMT by way of a catalyzed enzymic reaction using indolethylamine-N-methyltransferase (INMT). Obviously it’s not exactly a direct line from ‘turkey’ to ‘hallucination’, but this process does show a connection between the two.


Biology is cool in this way. There are tons of interconnecting factors between compounds and organisms that we might not otherwise think of as being related. Another example of this concept is with THC and hormones. We know delta-9 shares the same chemical formula with other deltas like delta-8 and delta-10, and with similar compounds like CBD and CBC.

What else shares that chemical formula? Progesterone, a hormone produced by the human body which plays a major role in things like steroid production, sex, the female menstrual cycle and pregnancy, and in brain function. In this case, the relationship is much closer, implying the ability of something like cannabis to impact the endocrine system. It’s a point of research indeed, but its still unknown just how much the two may or may not impact each other. It’s interesting with tryptophan and DMT as well, and although the connection is not nearly as close, it does act as a reminder that DMT is a biological compound, and one related to human and animal life.


DMT and its derivative options are responsible for a large percentage of the hallucinogenic plants and animals that exist. If you’re a first time user, you’d probably be fine with any of the varieties, and if you’re an experienced user, you might already have a preference. Regardless of which of the DMT options is your preferred pick, the one thing for sure is, that it’s going to be a very trippy experience.

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Grow It Yourself: Different Drugs You Can Grow at Home

Everyone knows you can grow weed at home, and a lot of us are doing it. But cannabis is hardly the only drug that you can make DIY style. If you want to grow drugs at home, there are plenty of options, here are some of the best ones, whether you already thought of them or not.

With cannabis and psychedelics inching toward legality, more and more people want to grow their own drugs at home. And it’s not that hard to do, so long as it comes from a plant. Here’s a look at how to grow some of the more popular plant-based drugs out there. We’re all about bringing you everything interesting and important from this industry. To keep up-to-date, subscribe to the THC Weekly Newsletter and also get access to premium deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and a host of other products! We’ve also got great offers on cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC, which will save you plenty of $$. Head over to our “Best-of” lists, and and enjoy your products responsibly!

Grow drugs at home

A home grow is exactly like it sounds, when a person grows something at their own house. Though the term ‘home grow’ often pertains specifically to weed, there are plenty of standard plant products that people grow themselves. In any case of home growing, it goes against the standard system of buying literally everything we need at a store. This goes for weed, or any other plant grown for a purpose.

Think veggies. It’s certainly not uncommon to see people growing their own vegetables, as well as fruit trees, herbs, and spices. Not everyone wants to depend on a supermarket, or trusts the practices of the world of agribusiness. Some people just have a green thumb and enjoy making plants grow, or simply like to pick their salad ingredients fresh every day, with no fear of where the products came from.

So the idea of growing plants at home is not new (certainly), and even a part of culture today. In many locations, with the exception of places like inner cities, growing one’s own vegetables is actually rather commonplace, with some people going as far as to have their own greenhouse. The idea of doing it yourself, certainly applies to the plant world beyond growing weed, but let’s be honest, that’s one of the plants we’re most interested in growing at the moment.

Grow drugs at home – cannabis

Though there might be plenty of options if you want to grow drugs at home, the most common and popular one to do, is cannabis. Not only is cannabis a plant that can be grown in large grow ops, but it can also easily be grown as a single plant in a closet in your home. Long before cannabis laws started to soften, tons of people were illegally growing the plant, sometimes to treat a medical illness, and sometimes just to promote the giggles.

Cannabis is fairly easy to grow, but there is some work involved. A prospective grower who is growing inside must buy equipment like lights (fluorescent lights, LEDs, (LECs) Light Emitting Ceramic, or metal halide & high-pressure sodium lights). They must choose the type of growing medium, and buy the equipment related, whether that’s soil, a hydroponics setup (grown with roots in water), or even an aeroponics setup (grown with roots in air). They must consider all the related nutrients, and the seeds themselves.

Not all cannabis was created equally, and this goes for growing times too. Most weed plants take between 3-5 months for the entire process, depending on the strain, with each stage requiring some tweaks to the setup, often in how long light is on the plants. However, so long as you have a nice dark place to grow, and the right lights and equipment, getting some amazing herb out of your own house, is easily a reality.

Grow drugs at home – mushrooms

Another drug that’s pretty easy to grow at home is mushrooms. Though they aren’t grown as widely as cannabis, the idea of home-growing mushrooms has also been around for decades, even as the drugs remain in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances list, federally. Much like with cannabis, mushrooms (and other entheogenic plants) have been gaining popularity, with medical legalizations starting to come in (eg: Oregon), tons of locations that have decriminalized (eg: Denver), and legislation for whole state recreational use (eg: California).

Growing mushrooms is different than cannabis, but overall requires about the same amount of energy output and know-how. The general materials include mushroom spores, vermiculite to create a mycelium network, rice flour, clean jars, rubbing alcohol to ensure all tools are clear of bacteria, foil or plastic wrap to cover air/water holes, a pan that jars can be heated in, a syringe to move the spores, perlite for the bottom of the growing container, a mist bottle for the mycelium cakes, and a dark place to allow the mycelium to grow.

The process includes creating the mycelium in one place, and then moving the cakes to another container where the mushroom spores can then grow. The whole process takes only 1-2 months, making it a shorter grow than with any kind of cannabis. These days, as mushrooms grow in both legality and popularity, there are even growing kits coming out, that have all the necessary tools included. And which make the process that much easier.

Grow drugs at home – Coca

Okay, so before I get into this, I’m not telling anyone to go out and do it. On the other hand, I’m not telling anyone not to go out and do it either. Let’s be honest though, in most places, growing mushrooms is just as illegal, so why not share a little on how a person can grow their own coca plants? Interestingly, it’s not all that hard to do. And considering coca itself is a mild plant in comparison to its processed versions, it’s really not a big deal to do it, beyond risking prosecution. Anyway, here is the basic process. Interested growers should investigate further.

  • Coca seeds, like everything else, are available on the internet, but its best to take them directly from a plant (which is obviously not possible in most places). These seeds cannot be dried out, so keep that in mind if buying them online. Dried seeds are probably not going to be the real deal, or useful at all.
  • Seeds are germinated in vermiculite, which can be done in a Styrofoam cup or plastic pot. Seeds are planted in soil, but high enough that they don’t get stuck in water. It should take 2-4 weeks for the seeds to sprout roots. It must be constantly warm – think of where coca usually grows (Peru, Colombia). A terrarium works well, though its shouldn’t be sealed as the seeds need air flow. They need a lot of light too, and might benefit from using a grow light.
  • Seeds shouldn’t be over-watered, but they should never be allowed to dry out either. Only water when necessary. Use rain or bottled spring water, as water with salts can damage the plant. The plant require sunlight, but different amounts at different stages of growth.
  • At about 2”, the seedlings can be transplanted into regular plastic pots. Clay is bad because it can dry the plant out. Pots shouldn’t be too big for the plant, and can be switched up as the plant grows. When the roots can be seen through the bottom holes, its time to replant. Soil should be something like 25% of each: sterilized loam, perlite, course sand, and milled peat. Organic compost can be added, but no more vermiculite at this stage.
grow coca
  • The plants should be fed soluble organic plant food, but only about every three weeks. Iron chelate should be added every six months as the plant matures. As you can tell by that last statement, this is a much longer process than the previous two, and can take between 1-2 years for plants to reach maturity.

Grow drugs at home – other psychedelics

There are tons of entheogenic psychedelics, even if we generally focus on just a few in popular culture. Some are not native to certain areas, and therefore not accessible to them, or require very specific climates for outdoor grows. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of psychedelic plants that can be grown. And pretty easily, even if it takes some time…and a lot of them do.

Peyote – Peyote is a cactus that naturally has mescaline in it. In order to grow peyote cactus, a prospective grower must germinate the seeds (some can actually lie dormant for around 10 years), which is done in one part sand, one part heavy grit, and one part standard potting mix. This combination is soaked and then dried before putting seeds on top (not in it). Plastic film should be put over the pot. Soil should ideally be about 22º C (71.6º F). A heating mat or placing it next to a vent can help in colder temperatures. After a few weeks, when small green spheres appear, holes can be put in the plastic.

More holes can be made as time progresses, and after 10 weeks, the plastic can come off, and the plant can be watered. It’s a cactus remember, so it doesn’t need too much. Sometimes misting is best, and in colder temperatures, no water is needed at all. It takes about a year for a full root system to grow, and at that time it can be replanted. The temperature should be kept hot, but dry, just like a desert.

Peyote isn’t quick, and can take years to mature, making this a project for very patient people. A grafting method can help speed it along. This involves cutting the peyote plant and grafting it onto another cactus plant.

Iboga Tabernanthe iboga is a plant native to Central Africa which is known as a strong painkiller, as well as a hallucinogen. To grow it, it helps to have fresh seeds, though apparently even rotting seeds have been known to work. The seeds, however obtained – (likely through the internet) should not be dried, or put in the cold. The seeds can germinate in weeks, or as much as 12-18 months. They should be put 10mm down in a tray or drainable pot, filled 5cm deep with rough sand. The sand should be moist and between 25-30º C (77-86º F). When leaves appear, it can be transplanted.

The plant can be transplanted to a pot with 90% rough sand/10% potting mix. It can be transferred once more when more leaves appear and the roots get woody.

Plants should be grown in an environment that is moist, humid, that’s well drained, and with medium light. Sandy clay soil is the best medium, and the plants should be kept from getting cold. At this point, horse manure can be used for fertilizer. The plant needs years to grow, and can gain psychoactive chemicals in about five years. You’ll know its ready when the roots become pale yellow, are bitter to the taste, and are like an anesthetic in the mouth and on the skin.


Psychotria viridisthe psychedelic part of ayahuasca, can also be grown in order to make your own ayahuasca, though I’m only going over this part of it, which is only 50% of ayahuasca. The other 50% comes from the caapi vine which acts as an MAO-inhibitor. This keeps the DMT in Psychotria viridis from breaking down as quickly, which creates a much longer experience.

Seeds are best planted fresh, and germination takes place in 2-5 months. It takes a while because seeds contain immature embryos which need time to mature. Seeds should be soaked first in a bleach solution to keep mold at bay, then soaked for 12 hours in regular water. They should be planted ¼ inch deep in soil. A heating pad can be used to keep it warm. It should be kept at about 22-28º C (70-80º F), without direct sunlight.

Plants require a well-drained potting medium, making sure the pH stays around 5.5-6.1, in a minimum temperature of 20º C (68º F). Soil should be moist, but not soggy. Plants should be watered regularly and kept in partial shade. Fertilizer can be used every 2-3 months, as this plant can take 1-2 years to reach full growth. Products like wettable sulphur, natrasoap or pyrethrum can be used to keep pests at bay. The plant grows into a small tree or large bush.


These are just a few of the options if you want to grow drugs at home. Some will only be relevant to some people, while others can be done by anyone with the right equipment and time. It should be remembered that any entheogenic plant can be grown by anyone with the right materials, so when you pick your plant, and locate your seeds, there are instructions online for almost anything. Regardless of what it’s for, growing plants is an enjoyable activity, and when the plants you grow have psychoactive effects, well, it just makes it that much better. Happy growing!

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

The post Grow It Yourself: Different Drugs You Can Grow at Home appeared first on CBD Testers.

What is Ayahuasca?

“When you drink ayahuasca, and you get to see divinity, you can almost never speak of it because it’s too big for words.” ― Gerard Armond Powell

When William Burroughs, famed beat writer, entered the Amazonian basin not long after killing his wife and in a tormented addiction to Opium, he stumbled upon a drug that would change his life.  “This is the most powerful drug I have ever experienced. Yage is not like anything else. It produces the most complete derangement of the senses.” He said in his book the Yage papers. Yage is another name for the hallucinogenic mixture of plants drunk in certain regions of the Amazon rainforest better known as Ayahuasca, an ancient psychoactive drink that has been a part of shamanic ritual for years. In this article, as part of our ‘what is drugs’ Series, we will be investigating this mysterious mixture and looking into the history, culture and science behind Ayahuasca. We’ll talk about the ceremony, controversy and preparation involved in so-called Ayahuasca retreats in South America and beyond. 

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Ayahuasca is defined as “a decoction (concentrated liquid) made by prolonged heating or boiling of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine with the leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub” by the Alcohol and Drugs foundation. In simpler terms, heat up two particular plants into a hot green broth and hey presto, you have a hallucinogen. What does Ayahuasca look like? Well, to be blunt, it doesn’t look very appetizing, nor does it taste very appetizing. The mixture looks like a mushy green tea and the taste has been described as “bitter, salty and yeasty”. Not ideal. Ayahuasca can be taken personally, but is more likely to be taken as a part of an Ayahuasca retreat.

Organised trips where a group of people will be guided through an Ayahuasca ceremony together, often led by a Shaman. You can look at some of the top rated Ayahuasca retreats here. They mostly take place in southern american countries like Peru and Mexico, but can be found across the world. Ayahuasca is also very interesting legally. The mixture itself isn’t illegal, however because it contains DMT a schedule 1 drug in the US you could be arrested for possessing it. Ayahuasca is only legally allowed for specific religious procedures in approved churches. Ayahuasca is legal in many countries in Southern America where there are indigenous tribes still using it to practice rituals.

The History of Ayahuasca

One of the oldest hallucinogens, Ayahuasca has its origins among the Amazonian tribes of South America, for whom the plants needed were readily available. It is believed that in early Aztec tribes, Shamanic figures within the group would use Ayahuasca to communicate with ancestors and spirits. In fact, a pouch containing Ayahuasca was discovered that dated back over a thousand years.

However, this compound may be even older. There are some claims that the drug has been in use in Southern American tribes for over 5000 years. Of course, it is almost impossible to accurately know this. Many guesses have been made based on the fact that Ayahuasca is so integral to many Amazonian tribes, but many tribes have no or little written history. What we do know is that Spanish invaders encountered the drug and deemed it the work of the devil.

How Does it Feel?

An Ayahuasca trip is often described as very intense, but quite a spiritual experience. Described as being different to other psychedelics as it often incorporates the natural sounds occurring around the user. The trips can lead to revelations, and often lead to a feeling of acceptance about events that have happened in the user’s life. Ayahuasca trips are unique though and sometimes people can have bad experiences. It’s impossible to predict whether you’ll have a good or bad trip, but making sure that you’re ready mentally and in a safe environment can help.

How Does it Effect the Brain?

So where in the brain does Ayahuasca affect? There is a growing amount of research that seems to suggest Ayahuasca has quite a widespread effect on many brain areas. The active chemicals that create the psychedelic effects of Ayahuasca come in two parts, each from the different plants used in the mixture. Psychotria viridis contains DMT and the other component plant, Banisteriopsis caapi, contains chemicals called Harmine and Harmaline. DMT (a drug that we have discussed before) seems to bind to serotonin receptors in the brain, perhaps leading to the hallucinogenic effects experienced in Ayahuasca ceremonies.

Haemine and Marmaline are known as Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), which act by inhibiting the breakdown of neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, Dopamine and norepinephrine, all of which in high levels can lead to psychedelic outcomes. MAOIs are sometimes used in the treatment of depression as well, which could explain some of the therapeutic benefits of Ayahuasca. 


Perhaps not surprisingly considering the growing research into Psychedelics and mental health, Ayahuasca has been linked to improving depressive symptoms. A recent study by Jiminez-Garrido and team looked into a sample of 40 participants, some of whom had mental disorders, including depression. They were then sent on an Ayahuasca retreat and their mental health measured after. They found that  “Remarkably, at the 1-month follow-up, 61% of participants who initially met the diagnostic criteria no longer met the criteria for any psychiatric disorder.” and that “overall, 83.2% of participants reported a clinical improvement. This improvement lasted until the 6-months follow-up.”

All rather incredible findings that suggest Ayahuasca has a rather potent medical potential. It has also been shown to have benefits when used to treat some substance abuse issues. Research shows that, in the correct and safe environments, Ayahuasca can reduce dependency on certain substances, even more evidence of its potential medical benefits. Scientists seem to be in agreement that Ayahuasca and DMT need more research done into them. From a more holistic approach, analysis was conducted on what the leaders of Ayahuasca retreats believed to be the benefits of Ayahuasca, particularly for treating disorders such as depression and eating disorders.

Some of the leaders believed that it was Ayahuasca “facilitates physical, spiritual, mental and emotional healing; enhances and reorganizes relationships with symptoms, self, community and creation”. A very interesting interpretation of the many benefits here.


A very obvious down-side of Ayahuasca is that it can often produces quite… unpleasant side effects when ingested. Many people after taking Ayahuasca will start vomiting and even sometimes be prone to diarrhea. This is likely due to the plants being used having a slightly toxic effect on the body. Some people have described these initial side effects as hell. Ayahuasca can also cause a significantly increased heart rate as well as feelings of dizziness.

Some also claim that there are problems with the way Ayahuasca retreats are run. People claim that they are not only forms of cultural appropriation, but also exploitative of Native peoples. Writer Kevin Tucker believes that Ayahuasca retreats are endemic of colonialism, in that we lack meaning in our world so will create a market of using another’s culture to find an artificial meaning. Damaging their culture in the process. This is a compelling argument and something I think each person considering an Ayahuasca retreat must consider first.

My Own Experiences 

I’ve never taken Ayahuasca, but a friend’s dad once recounted the experiences he had on his retreat in Brazil to myself and a group of uni friends. He described the entire experience as equal parts odd and magical. Meeting with a group of strangers, all there for an Ayahuasca experience and then carted onto a minibus out to the rainforest. When there, they sat in a make-shift marquee made from bamboo and leaves. Listening to the rain falling about them as a man in a shaman outfit poured them each a glass of Ayahuasca.

He said that he wasn’t sure if the man was a genuine Shaman, or someone being paid to play the part, either way he said it was convincing. Once the ceremony had been blessed they all drank their Ayahuasca. He said the trip was incredible and that the shaman was an incredible guide, making sure everyone was safe and ok. He said he felt totally connected with his past, accepting of all the events that had led up to where he was right now. He also said he was sick… A lot.   


Ayahuasca is a mysterious, powerful and spiritual drug with a long and ancient history. Ayahuasca retreats may have their issues, but it’s clear that the therapeutic and recreational benefits of this compound are many. It is a drug that I hope to one day try, in the correct and safe environment and with the right people. As always it is important to note that this is a very powerful hallucinogen and should be treated with respect. If you are considering taking it, make sure that you are in the correct headspace and have thought about this decision thoroughly. Where better to finish than with another quote from William S. Burroughs’ Ayahuasca experience: “You see everything from an hallucinated viewpoint.  Ayahuasca is not like anything else”

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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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