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Herbal tripping?

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Herbal tripping?

I am an avid Howard Stern fan and I listen every single day- really it's the only reason I got satellite radio, I digress.  Robin Quivers recently had an experience where she met with a shaman and took some herbal supplements and basically took and herbal "trip".  I had been asked about this a couple of years ago, but never paid it much mind because this trend seemed to be with really eccentric A-list celebrities, and it was kind of a quite thing, not really talked about.  Now that Robin has shared her experience, I hear a lot of buzz surrounding Ayahuasca and the resulting hallucination trip that can take place. So, I want to give you guys the scoop on the pluses and minuses....and who should definitely not try this one out!

So what is Ayahuasca?
Basically it is a mixture of a few different herbs (banisteriopsis and dimethyltryptamine containing shrubs from the psychotria genus) into a tea; these  herbs separately would have minimal if any effect on you, but when mixed together, they can cause a hallucinogenic response.  It has been used for years in South American cultures as a part of healing and soul searching or as a religious sacrament.  It was first discovered by Westerners in the 1950's by a Harvard botanist Richard Schultes.

What's the deal?
Ayahuasca is totally shaman dependent and each brew is different than another because it depends what herbs are used (there are tons of variations), how long it is brewed, etc.  But when it is used medicinally, as intended, it has a hallucinogenic effect that last about 6 hours and peaks within 2 hours of ingestion, and you can start to feel the reaction within 30 minutes of ingesting the brew.

What are the Physical Effects?
It raises your heart rate pretty significantly and causes and increase in diastolic blood pressure. Your visual and auditory centers are stimulated which causes a good amount of the hallucinogenic trip, but it can also cause fear, paranoia, it can also cause really high spirits/excitement, and illumination/insight. One major downside is that it also causes a purge of your system, as it was used to rid the body of parasites and worms, so it unfortunately causes vomiting and/or diarrhea (I'll be honest with you, not really a plus in my book  at all).  But because it purges your body of toxins, and it is normally ingested by people of the rainforest with a really clean diet, you need to change your diet to be clear of spices, fats, salts, caffeine, and citrus, along with abstain from sex before, during, and after a ceremony.  Also you need to rid your diet of foods containing tyramines, which are found in any meats that are pickled, spiced, fermented, smoked, aged, or marinated and can be found in many aged cheeses and condiments; tyramine can interact with Ayahuasca and can cause a hypertensive crisis.

Is it legal?
The rub is that a lot of the plants used in making these brews/teas are legal, so I guess technically they are legal BUT the derivative found in the teas is illegal and considered a Schedule 1 drug.  Some religions do use this as a part of their religious ceremonies, so there are still some suits going on currently as to the use and legalities of these teas....so it definitely straddles the line here in the US.  It is considered illegal in most of the EU and legal for religious uses in most of South America.

I understand that people are looking for these religious experiences, and I think that whatever brings you to that higher plane and makes you feel happy, healthy, and at peace is the way to go.  My fear is that these various compounds can so easily interact with many modern medicines (I would actually say all) so I wouldn't suggest you taking these if you are on any sort of medication, and I really would encourage you to stick to the diet beforehand.  Also, you should want to be with someone who has taken the drug and knows the effects, just in case you get fearful or paranoid, you have someone who can talk you through the experience, and you can feel safe and comfortable. Whatever you choose to do, just know that there is a right way to prepare for this experience, and if you don't feel well or are predisposed to increased heart rate or blood pressure, be aware that you are at risk for a hypertensive crisis, in which case you need to go to an Emergency Department immediately.  It might have been the right thing for Robin Quivers to do, and she might feel awesome about it, but put some thought into it before you jump on the new trend to try Ayahuasca.

Yours in Good Health
B

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