Frequently Asked Questions
Working with Sacred Plant Medicines is compelling, mysterious and life-altering. The process of leaving your home country to journey to the Amazon to work with these plants is not a trival affair. It is likely that you have or will spend much time researching and considering whether this experience is right for you. Below are some answers to questions we frequently receive both from our Ayahuasca retreat in Peru participants and from those who are exploring plant medicine work. If you have a particular medical condition or a history of illness in your family and are unsure about whether Ayahuasca is right for you, we adivse you to contact your doctor or a qualified medical professinal.
Is Ayahuasca safe?
Scientific research has shown that Ayahuasca is “broadly safe” however, certain medications such as antidepressants as well as foods with a high Tyramine content such as aged cheeses, beer, nuts and some meats can place participants at a greater risk of experiencing adverse health effects when taken in close proximity with Ayahuasca. Many of the risks and fears associated with Ayahuasca usage stem from inexperienced facilitators administering the medicine to participants in unsafe conditions. Ayahuasca and the indigenous knowledge and expertise that informs its usage must be revered and treated with respect. Sacred plant medicines have been used in Amazonian culture to treat illness, heal disease and promote higher spiritual growth for thousands of years. Therefore, in order to promote safe usage, maximize the benefits of sacred plant medicine and assist people to make more informed decisions, these indigenous knowledge systems must be respected and fully integrated into any well-intentioned effort to introduce Ayahuasca to the West. If you are unsure as to whether Ayahuasca is safe for you, please consult a fully qualified medical professional.
Is Ayahuasca legal?
While Ayahuasca may not be legal in some parts of the West, Ayahuasca is sourced, brewed and administered legally in the Amazon regions in which our retreats take place.
What is Ayahuasca made from?
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive plant medicine made from a potent brew of the Ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) with the leaves of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria viridis). Their commingling creates a powerful drinkable medicine that is similar in structure to the body’s own serotonin.
How long do the nightly ceremonies last for?
Ceremonies begin at 8 pm in the evening and last anywhere between 4 and 6 hours.
A facilitator is always present, together with an indigenous curandero to guide participants through the experience. A facilitator will remain with the last participant until they are ready to leave the Maloca or ritual space.
Why do people vomit or experience diarrhea when they take Ayahuasca?
In order to work effectively to promote long last healing, Ayahuasca must first cleanse the body and eliminate unwanted physical, psychic and emotional debris. This cleansing process is often messy and uncomfortable and can involve vomiting and diarrhea.
Ayahuasca works, for instance, at the level of the physical body by directly cleansing and eliminating toxins and unwanted parasites. It is common when purging these entities for participants to vomit, defecate, cry, yawn and laugh.
Ayahuasca also works at the level of the psyche and emotions, allowing the negative aspects of one’s personality to be purged and released. This can also take the form of vomiting or diarrhea, though everyone’s body will respond differently. Put differently, vomiting and diarrhea are likely, but they are not inevitable.
Do I have to participate in all the Ayahuasca ceremonies?
Throughout the 12-day retreat, there are between 5 and 6 evening Ayahuasca ceremonies. If you are not wanting to drink the medicine, you are invited, and strongly encouraged to still attend the ceremony to receive the healing benefits of the Icaros (or chanting). There are great benefits to be had too, from joining in the spirit of community that is formed around this sacred ritual. Under no circumstances will you be forced to drink Ayahuasca if you do not want to.
How long do the effects of Ayahuasca last?
Ayahuasca begins to produce effects within 20-40 minutes and can last anywhere up to 4 hours. No one will be left unattended in the ceremonial space throughout our evening rituals and a facilitator will remain with the last participant until they are ready and fit to leave.
Can I take Ayahuasca if I’m pregnant?
There is little scientific research concerning pregnancy and Ayahuasca. The indigenous traditions of the Amazon, do, however have special practices embedded in their traditions for working with pregnant women, which does suggest that consuming Ayahuasca while pregnant may not be harmful. If you are pregnant and considering attending a sacred plant medicine retreat, we encourage you to consult a qualified medical professional before applying.
Can I take Ayahuasca while breastfeeding?
There is little to no scientific evidence suggesting it is safe to take Ayahuasca while breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding and want to attend a retreat with us, we strongly recommend you consult a qualified medical professional before applying.
Can I take Ayahuasca if I’m currently on other medications?
Scientific research has suggested that monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s) such as the beta-carbolines in Ayahuasca could when taken together with medications that effect one’s serotonin levels, lead to “serotonin syndrome.” Serotonin syndrome occurs when the body’s serotonin levels become extreme and in turn, unsafe. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include shivering, sweating, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and confusion and have the potential to be fatal. Certain medications that are metabolized by the cytochrome isoform (CYP2D6) including some antidepressants, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), neuroleptics, beta-blockers and antiarrhythmics can be dangerous when taken alongside Ayahuasca because they block the pathway needed to rid the body of serotonin, therefore furthering the risk of serotonin syndrome. Ginseng and St John’s Wart as well as amphetamines, MDMA, and ecstasy also increase the likelihood of experiencing serotonin syndrome. Cannabis is particularly dangerous as it can induce cardiac problems, anxiety, panic attacks and psychotic symptoms when taken in conjunction with Ayahuasca.
We advise all participants to avoid taking certain medications that have the potential to induce serotonin syndrome and other adverse health effects in the weeks leading up to their retreat experience. We also recognize that for many people the withdrawal symptoms that accompany tapering off a certain medication can outweigh the benefits of remaining on the medication. If you are currently taking or have recently taken any of the medications listed on our medical guidelines brief please consult a qualified medical professional prior to applying to attend a retreat with us. Your safety is our first and most important priority.
The Master Plant Dieta & holistic plant treatments
Will I receive an individually tailored sacred plant medicine treatment?
Yes, you will meet privately with our curanderos, and will prescribe you a sacred plant medicine treatment or dieta of master plants.
Am I able to decide my Master Plant Dieta or does the curandero decide?
Our curandero will decide on which Master Plants are best suited to promote growth and healing for you. It is important that the sacred healing traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon are respected and trusted. This is vital in order to minimize the risk of harm to participants. Our Maestros are widely respected indigenous Shipipo healers and have been apprenticed in the sacred healing traditions of his ancestors since he was a child.
How long are the post-dieta requirements?
After a participant finishes their dieta, they will be required to abstain from certain foods for several days and in some cases several weeks. The time one is required to observe a post-dieta will vary depending on the advice of the curandero. We advise all participants to avoid pork, alcohol, recreational drugs and sex throughout their post-dieta.
Why do I need to follow a post-dieta after the Master Plant Dieta?
Throughout your master plant dieta it is likely that you will have experienced major psychic and emotional shifts as well as deep healing on a physical level. We like to think of the healing that occurs on retreat as a kind of surgery. After any kind of surgery, the importance of rest and post-operative self-care is always emphasized by the medical professional. The same rules apply here. Adhering to the post-dieta requirements laid out by Don Miguel helps you to gently ease out of the dieta experience, whilst also serving as a reminder to take it slow in order to allow ample time for the body and mind to restore to a new, higher equilibrium. The post-dieta also serves as an ongoing commitment to healing, growth, and change. Think of it as a kind of offering to the plant spirits – a tangible way in which you express gratitude and demonstrate that you’re committed to living differently.
Is it safe to take a different plant medicine after the Master Plant Dieta? For example, Kambo or San Pedro?
If you are wanting to extend your plant medicine journey and experience more plants in the weeks following your master plant dieta, we recommend that you wait at least 3 weeks before doing so. This is important in order to allow ample time for integration and healing. Please discuss your plans to take additional plant medicines with Don Miguel prior to doing so.
Whilst on retreat
Can I bring my mobile phone on retreat and is there WiFi?
Mobile phones can be brought on retreat; however, internet access is limited. If a participant needs to contact a family member or check urgent work emails, they can do so through a hotspot network.
How can my family and friends contact me while I’m on retreat?
Friends and family members can contact retreat participants through the facilitator’s Whatsapp account or send email to a special address that will be provided to participants at the beginning of the retreat.
How many facilitators will be present on retreat?
Two English speaking facilitators and one indigenous curandero will be present on retreat at all times.
What is the best time of year to come on retreat?
The best time of year to attend a retreat is between May and July and October to December. We avoid conducting retreats during the rainy season and throughout the driest time of the year.
Is the water at the centre safe to drink?
Yes. We are extremely fortunate to have access to a 40m well. We use ground water from the well to serve the toilets and showers. The water is clean and safe to drink; however, we filter the water for drinking, cooking and washing dishes.
It is safe to swim at Lake Caschibococha?
It is safe to swim in the lake, but it is off limits during our nightly ceremonies.
We encourage participants not to swim after 5 pm and to use a kayak from the retreat center if they wish to journey out into the middle of the lake.
Is it possible to buy Shipibo art and tapestries whilst on retreat?
Yes! We proudly host a Shipibo market where we invite local Shipibo women that are currently completing (and self- funding) their university studies to attend and sell their homemade wares. If you intend to purchase local goods from the market, please bring Peruvian Sol or US dollars.
Do you sell chemical free tooth paste, soap and insect repellent?
Yes. A limited range of locally made, chemical free soap, toothpaste and insect repellent can be purchased for a small fee.
Ready to journey with us?
Ask us questions about what to expect on retreat, book a free Skype session, start your medical screening questionnaire and get set to be profoundly changed.