Ayahuasca is known as the vine of death. The Roman Catholic Church called it demonic and tried to stamp it out. Those who drink the herbal tea brewed from the ayahuasca vine report that is the most vile, worst tasting thing they have ever experienced in their life. People who go on ayahuasca retreats often have to endure primitive living conditions in the Amazonian jungle, eating a diet of bland food, or even fasting. Ayahuasca ceremonies are often marked by intense vomiting and diarrhea. So why, if it is so unpleasant, do people drink it? The reason is because of the unique insights and healing properties frequently reported by people who go through an ayahuasca experience.
For the Amazonian natives in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador for whom the herbal tea has been a part of their native traditions for as long as anyone can remember, the herbal tea brewed from the vine is sacred; part of a religious ritual. In the collection of the ethnological museum in Quito, Ecuador is a ceremonial ayahuasca cup that is at least 2,500 years old.
For westerners who travel to the Amazon to experience the powerful effects of ayahuasca, it is done for healing and to gain insight into their lives. The healing may be both emotional and physiological. In a report published in a National Geographic magazine in 2006, it was reported that curing metastasized colorectal cancer has been documented.
Most often, however, the ayahuasca experience is undertaken for its alleged spiritual benefits. People who take the hallucinogenic tea commonly report having the sensation of hearing receiving instructions or information from a higher voice, providing advice or knowledge about one's self or life history. This very personal information frequently teaches individuals facts about their lives they had not previously realized.
An ayahuasca journey is a spiritual vision quest, during which the traveler often reports being lifted out of their bodies and propelled into an enchanted land where they encounter the spirits of jaguars, snakes and other frightening jungle animals. After author William Burroughs took the herbal tea, he wrote that the experience was space time travel.
Similar to the benefits of psychotherapy or psychological counseling, the positive effects of an ayahuasca experience can help people know themselves more fully. This can lead to the living of a more authentic life, greater satisfaction and an increased sense of accomplishment. One leader of ayahuasca retreats into the Amazonian jungle has stated that this herbal medicine teaches a deeper respect for life for others. If world leaders would drink ayahuasca, he said, it would help create world peace because their thoughts and feelings would be more positive and more supportive of life.
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