The Power and Prudence of Ayahuasca: A Journey into Yagé


Centuries before the dawn of modern medicine, the indigenous peoples of the Colombian Putumayo were brewing a powerful potion with profound physical, mental, and spiritual effects. This brew, known as Yagé or Ayahuasca, is a purgative concoction derived from the ayahuasca and yacruna plants, and is deeply ingrained in the traditional healthcare systems of the Inga, Kamentsá, Kofán, Siona, and Koreguaje communities.

The consumption of this brew often results in a psychotropic journey, as if ushering the drinker’s spirit into another realm—a practice often used for healing or ritualistic purposes. But as with any powerful substance, comes considerable caution.

As noted by Héctor Julián Pérez, a teacher at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Antioquia and clinical toxicologist at LIME, “Yagé is generally associated with strong gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and colic, but most of the time, it is safe.”

However, as with most medications and substances, there are at-risk populations for whom consumption could lead to health complications. Individuals with cardiovascular diseases, arterial hypertension, coagulation disorders, diabetes, and some mental health disorders are advised against partaking in Yagé ceremonies. This guideline extends to elderly individuals with poorly managed hypertension or a history of cardiac issues.

For people diagnosed with mental health conditions, this ancient practice could exacerbate their symptoms or lead to psychotic outbreaks. Since the traditional drink is composed of two plants, depending on their combination, the effects may last longer or shorter. This introspective state, often paired with visual and auditory hallucinations, can be detrimental to those with existing psychiatric conditions or on antidepressants.

Therefore, before immersing oneself in this ancestral practice, it’s crucial to have a clear intention, seek guidance from an experienced indigenous leader, and ensure that the preparation includes high-quality ingredients following safety protocols.

Remember, the journey with Yagé can be a transformative experience, but only when done responsibly. Ultimately, the power of Yagé is a testament to the wisdom of our ancestors, reminding us that nature, when respected, has healing powers beyond our understanding.