The Ultimate Ayahuasca Guide: Your Top 7 Questions Answered

Explore the world of Ayahuasca ceremony in this comprehensive guide. Get answers to your top questions about everything Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca ceremony. A hand gloved in a blue medical glove, holding up a disc of ayahuasca bark. Behind this image is a floral light pattern of shades of blue and pink.
Author: Nina Izel
By Nina Izel
May 16, 2024

As many contemporary seekers turn to the internet for answers, it’s no surprise that certain questions about Ayahuasca dominate the most used search engines. In this article, I delve into the curious case of Ayahuasca by addressing the seven most Googled questions about this sacred plant medicine

“Traditionally, Ayahuasca ceremonies last several hours—typically overnight, from dusk to dawn…Usually, it takes about twenty to thirty minutes to start to feel the effects of the Ayahuasca brew.”

— Nina Izel

Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or a curious newcomer, this article will help you to clarify some mysteries surrounding Ayahuasca.

1. What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew traditionally used for thousands of years by indigenous communities in the Amazon basin—particularly in regions of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil—for spiritual and healing purposes. The brew is typically made from the combination of two primary plants: the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub. The active compounds in Ayahuasca include DMT, a potent substance some people call the ‘God molecule.’ 

The word Ayahuasca is a Quechua word, with aya meaning spirit or dead body, and huasca meaning vine. People often refer to her as the Vine of the Dead. If you work with this powerful plant medicine, you’ll know why she has this name!

2. How Long Does Ayahuasca Last?

Traditionally, Ayahuasca ceremonies last several hours—typically overnight, from dusk to dawn. The central part of the Ayahuasca journey lasts about four to eight hours. Usually, it takes about twenty to thirty minutes to start to feel the effects of the Ayahuasca brew. Many people experience purging at the beginning of the ceremony. After the onset of the Ayahuasca brew, most people have a peak experience—this is the most intense part of the journey. Then, there is a slow decline when people start to feel more grounded. In this phase, they return to baseline consciousness, although residual effects may persist for several hours more. 

Some individuals may experience an “afterglow” period following an Ayahuasca ceremony, characterized by feelings of peace, clarity, and mental calm. This state can last for several hours or even up to four to six weeks after the experience.

3. Where Do I Get Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is traditionally prepared and served in a ceremonial setting by experienced shamans in regions where its use is culturally and legally permitted, such as Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil. 

These ceremonies often occur in remote areas within the Amazon jungle or high up in the Andes, where these traditions originate

Ayahuasca churches are organizations that incorporate the use of Ayahuasca as a sacrament within their religious or spiritual practices. One of the most well-known Ayahuasca churches is the União do Vegetal (UDV) and Santo Daime in Brazil. The biggest and most popular Ayahuasca Church in the US is Soul Quest. It promises to practice, live, and impart the Universal teachings of Mother Ayahuasca in order to experience our divine nature.

There are also traveling shamans and curanderos who bring their wisdom, tradition, and this medicine worldwide. These events and retreats are more underground, often by invitation only from ceremonial spaces. 

Thanks to the psychedelic renaissance over the last decade, the psychedelic wellness industry has also exploded. It keeps growing, promising healing, happiness, and love in the form of various retreats and trainings. However, you need to keep in mind that not everything that is glowing is gold. It is vital to do your due diligence before you sign up for an Ayahuasca Retreat advertised on social media. 

4. How Can I Make Ayahuasca?

Let me start with this disclaimer: if you are asking this question, you are in no position to make it.

The only safe and responsible way to make the Ayahuasca brew is if done by a trained Ayahuasca Shaman. Making the brew is so much more than just putting the ingredients into a pot and cooking it for a few hours. 

It starts with finding the plants in the jungle and asking them permission to use them to make medicine. The process of harvesting the Ayahuasca is fundamental to working with the medicine. 

With what intention is it being harvested? Who harvests it? What is the energy of the person harvesting the Ayahuasca and the Chakruna? What are their intentions?

Who is preparing and cooking the medicine? With what intentions? What prayer songs are sung while preparing it? 

These questions might sound strange to you now, but I assure you that these are significant contributing factors. They affect the Ayahuasca brew and, subsequently, the experience of the person who drinks from that brew of the medicine. 

Due to its potential for profound psychological and physiological effects, only experienced practitioners should guide the consumption of Ayahuasca in a safe and supportive environment. Any DIY preparation and consumption of Ayahuasca can pose significant risks to health and safety—I strongly recommend that you avoid it!

5. What About Ayahuasca Retreats?

Ayahuasca retreats is one of the most searched-for terms in the plant medicine space!

This makes complete sense to me. If you feel called to work with Mother Ayahuasca, the first thing you will likely think of is going on an organized retreat. This is not a bad idea!

Ayahuasca retreats are organized programs where you can participate in Ayahuasca ceremonies under the guidance of experienced facilitators or shamans. These retreats typically occur in more rural, natural environments and require participants to take some time off from their everyday lives.

Ayahuasca Retreats can provide you with so much if you choose the right place: 

When considering participating in an Ayahuasca retreat, it is vital to do your research, read reviews, and talk to participants. Be sure to choose a reputable and experienced facilitator or retreat center that aligns with your intentions and values.

6. Is there Ayahuasca Near Me?

Many use this as a search term when looking up Ayahuasca Ceremonies or retreats. I understand this is primarily because people want to save on travel costs when attending an Ayahuasca ceremony. 

However, choosing an Ayahuasca retreat or ceremony based only on location is not the wisest approach. Other things are more important to consider. Ask yourself:

  • Where is the medicine coming from, and who is preparing it?
  • Who is serving the medicine and leading the retreat or ceremony?
  • What are their credentials, and how much experience do they have?
  • How many people will participate, and how many facilitators will be present during the experience?
  • Is there a medical person on site?
  • What is their client intake process?
  • Do they provide aftercare and integration support after the Ayahuasca retreat or ceremony?

If you can find a reputable and responsible place like this near you, go for it and enjoy your experience. 

However, if distance is your most significant reason for choosing an Ayahuasca retreat or ceremony, I encourage you to think again!

Here is an excellent digestible course I presented to support you in preparing for your plant medicine journey in a conscious and responsible way.

Discover Ayahuasca: Nina’s Top Picks for Your Psychedelic Journey:

7. What Does Ayahuasca Do?

Ayahuasca helps you enter an altered state of consciousness. Here, you have an expanded awareness and can access important information in your unconscious to help you heal and awaken. In other words, She expands your awareness so you can make better choices and live a happier life. 

Ayahuasca magnifies the five senses, and this heightened sensitivity allows you to perceive things as more meaningful. Ayahuasca supports you in confronting unresolved traumas and completing emotional processing so you can find peace. It helps you set yourself free from the past and truly move on. 

On a physical level, Ayahuasca has a robust detoxifying effect called purging. This response can manifest as vomiting, diarrhea, intense sweating or shaking and shivering, involuntary body movements, numbness, yawning, and so on. This effect is one of the reasons they ask you to be on a strict vegan diet a week before the ceremony—it pre-cleanses and prepares your body to receive this medicine. 

Follow your Curiosity

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When working with this sacred plant, one often experiences a sense of unity and interconnectedness, which can lead to profound spiritual insights and transcendental experiences.

Ayahuasca undeniably alters your perception of time and space, allowing you to process a vast amount of information and content relatively quickly. 

You can learn more about what Ayahuasca truly does when you work consciously and responsibly in my book Heart Medicine: Ayahuasca Assisted Therapy and the Integration Process.

So, What Do I Do Next?

It’s important to emphasize that the effects of Ayahuasca can be very different depending on factors such as dosage, set and setting, and individual physiology. Ayahuasca should be approached with respect and humility. It’s most important that you prepare responsibly, seek expert guidance, and have professional integration support in place after your Ayahuasca retreat or ceremony experience. 

And remember always,
You are the healer, and love is the medicine!

The content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should be a substitute for medical or other professional advice. Articles are based on personal opinions, research, and experiences of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Support.

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Author: Nina Izel
Nina Izel
Nina Izel is a healer, teacher, and author of the book: Heart Medicine, Ayahuasca Assisted Therapy and the Integration Process. Nina combines psychology, holistic healing tools and shamanic healing technologies to assist individuals to take back the power over their health and life. Nina's motto is "You are the healer and love is the medicine!" Learn more at Nina's website or her Psychedelic Support community group.

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