How to Make Ayahuasca at Home
By Patrick Smith
Ayahuasca is an ancient psychoactive brew, intertwined in numerous South American cultures and traditions. Experienced shamans can dedicate days to producing a batch of ayahuasca, adhering to various traditional preparation methods and rituals. The resulting brew is drunk in ceremonies under the supervision of a shaman – after an initial purging (most commonly vomiting), ayahuasca induces a prolonged psychedelic experience that can be traumatic, joyful, healing, and usually all three!
If you are interested in experiencing ayahuasca, but don’t want to travel to the Amazon or join an ayahuasca church, your other option is to create some at home. Here we’ll run you through the best ways of creating an ayahuasca-like brew in your kitchen.
Traditional Ayahuasca Brews
Ayahuasca means something like “Vine of the Soul” – named after the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. Interestingly though, the B. caapi vine isn’t the main psychoactive component of the brew – it just prevents your stomach from destroying the most powerful psychoactive component, Psychotria viridis. Without the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) contained in B. caapi, the psychoactive dimethyltryptamine (DMT) molecule in P. viridis would be destroyed by your stomach.
It’s amazing that this brew must have been created by chance thousands of years ago, to create the perfect chemical conditions for a psychedelic medicine.
Traditionally there are many different ways to brew ayahuasca, but typically the B. caapi vine is stripped of its leaves and branches, mulched into fibre, and brewed in boiling water. Then, leaves of P. viridis, which are traditionally picked in the morning, are added (in both fresh and dried form) to the ayahuasca brew. This chemical soup of DMT and MAOIs is complete once the mixture has been reduced, sometimes repeatedly for several days.
This sounds like it might be tough to perform in your bedroom; but if traditional accuracy is not too important to you, it’s possible to make ayahuasca-like brews from a number of different plants. All you really need is a source of DMT and a source of MAOIs.
“It’s amazing that this brew must have been created by chance thousands of years ago, to create the perfect chemical conditions for a psychedelic medicine.”
Obtaining Your Ingredients
There are many options for ingredients containing DMT and MAOIs. You don’t have to rely on the traditional ingredients, B. caapi and P. viridis:
Although you won’t be making ‘ayahuasca’ if you leave out B. caapi – since that’s the sacred vine it’s named after – it’s arguable that you can substitute any MAOI to achieve the same effects. Even though the B. caapi vine has a subtle psychoactive effect on its own, all we have to go on are anecdotal reports, and it’s likely that most of the psychedelic experience is dictated by the presence of DMT.
If you are determined to stick to B. caapi, it can be found for sale through various online vendors (Europe) (US/Canada). Due to country-specific restrictions on B. caapi, it may not be available to you through these vendors. If you have patience, an alternative is to buy B. caapi seeds, which are often not subject to the same regulations as the vine itself.
NOTE: MAOIs can be fatal when combined with other drugs/foods. Jump to our safety section for the full list of risk factors.
DMT is an illegal drug in most countries, so obtaining DMT-containing plants is not entirely straightforward. Thankfully, DMT is widespread in nature, so it’s just a case of finding a DMT-containing plant that is available to be ordered to your country.
The P. viridis plant used in traditional ayahuasca brews is available to purchase in some countries, unfortunately only in Europe. If you’re in the US/Canada, you can purchase P. viridis seeds if you’re patient enough to grow your own plants.
Yopo seeds are thought to contain DMT, and can be purchased in the US/Canada.
If you are patient, you can order Reed Canary Grass seeds to grow your own DMT-containing plant.
The DMT-containing plant market is always changing, so keep an eye out for new appearances. Here is a list of dozens of plants that contain DMT, many of which could be available through online vendors to your country.
MAOIs can be fatal when combined with other drugs or foods! This means it’s really important to be careful with your diet around an ayahuasca experience, and avoid taking other drugs or medications.
Because MAOIs interact with naturally occurring tyramines found in your diet, they can affect your cardiovascular system and cause a dangerous blood pressure rise. Therefore you should avoid ingesting foods that contain tyramines, including aged cheese, beer, wine, pickled herring, chicken liver, yeast, large amounts of coffee, citrus fruits, canned figs, broad beans, chocolate or cream, in the days before and after your ayahuasca experience.
MAOIs will intensify the effects of other psychoactive drugs, including tryptamines (i.e. LSD and psilocybin), antihistamines, sedatives (including alochol) and amphetamines. It’s safest to not take any other drug while taking part in an ayahuasca experience.
If you are on a course of SSRIs, you should wait at least three weeks after your last dose before taking a MAOI.
Other prescription drugs that are dangerous to combine with MAOIs include Prozac, allergy medicines, migraine medicines, cold medicines, sleeping pills and ephedrine.
Here is a full list of things to avoid when you take MAOIs.
Calculating Your Dose
Depending on the plants you’ve obtained, they will contain different levels of MAOIs and DMT, some of which are unknown. Measurements of typical traditional doses of ayahuasca show that a single dose contains about 25mg of DMT and 20-150mg of MAOIs, with lots of variation. For this reason, it’s probably best to start small for a first experience.
A recipe that circulates on the internet, probably derived from Ecuadorian or Peruvian tradition, suggests starting with 50g of fresh B. caapi vine and 85g fresh P. viridis leaf per person.
These should just be taken as a rough guide; due to the variable nature of the components of ayahuasca brew and the required strength and sensitivity of individuals, it’s important to do your own research to arrive at a safe dosage. We recommend starting out with a very small dose to test the brewing process and your own sensitivity.
Making Your Brew
Once you’ve managed to find a source of MAOIs and a source of DMT, and calculated your dose, it’s simply a case of drawing them out of their plants in the most efficient way.
There are various suggestions for brewing ayahuasca, some a lot more complicated than others. We recommend one of the most straightforward methods, at least for your first time. It’s simply a case of crushing your B. caapi vines (or MAOI source), placing them in a large pot with P. viridis leaves (or DMT source), and boiling in a large quantity of water for 4 hours. This liquid is then collected and set aside, while another batch of water is added to the plant matter and boiled again in the same way. You can then discard your plant matter, and combine both batches of water (which should now contain your MAOIs and DMT).
This brew is then reduced over a gentle heat until it is a manageable (i.e. drinkable) quantity per dose. It’s important not to over-reduce your brew, as it may become too thick and the active ingredients could be destroyed. Some people recommend preparing two doses per person, in case the purge makes you throw up the first one!
“We recommend starting out with a very small dose to test the brewing process and your own sensitivity.”
Before you begin the brewing process, you should make sure you have prepared your mind and environment. As always, it’s useful to adhere to this guide on the 6 Ss of psychedelic use.
The most important aspects of an ayahuasca experience are the physical preparations (a diet that does not cause MAOI toxicity) and the presence of a guide. Traditional ayahuasca ceremonies are always performed in the presence of a trained shaman, and this is considered a crucial part of the healing potential of the ritual. If you don’t have access to a shaman (and presumably most of us don’t), then don’t just go it alone. It’s important to have other people with you, and ideally at least one of them should stay sober. Having a guide in any psychedelic experience can help you make the most out of it, and this is especially true with such an intense drug like ayahuasca.
Once you have a sitter organised, and you’ve adhered to the recommended diet, it’s simply a case of preparing your mind and environment. Environment is easy; arrange to trip in a comfortable, familiar place, and prepare your surroundings to be comforting and safe. Preparing your mind is a little trickier; the ayahuasca experience may show you painful and traumatic things, but can also be healing and joyful. Be prepared to lose control, and think about the important things in your life that you may be forced to address during the experience.
The Experience Itself
Purging (vomiting and more rarely diarrhea) is a common initial effect of ayahuasca, beginning within the first hour. Although unpleasant, this is considered by many to be a necessary step to begin experiencing the healing power of ayahuasca. Don’t fight the purge, and allow it to bring you to the next phase of the experience.
Within an hour or two, you should begin to experience the psychedelic effects of the brew. You may find yourself leaving your body, losing your sense of self, visiting incredible parallel realities, and fighting your own internal struggles. It will probably not be pleasant, but there may be aspects of beauty and joy that will be highlights of the experience.
Although the experience may be traumatic, being able to see life in a new perspective almost always has a healing effect, whether it’s on your own personal vices, or on the way you see yourself. It’s important to anticipate an unpleasant journey, but this is part of the reason why ayahuasca is so powerful and therapeutic.
Ayahuasca will have psychedelic effects for several hours after ingestion, lasting usually no more than 8-10 hours in total. You may feel permanent changes from the experience, so don’t be surprised if you need some time to integrate yourself, especially if you took a large dose. It’s recommended to take a day after the experience to reflect on your journey.
“We managed to find both plants and brewed them for 12 hours until we were left with a thick, almost syrupy tea. […] I threw up into the bucket, and the air seemed to be filled with golden strands of light, like a cobweb trying to entice me in. I threw up again, red fractals into the bucket. […] I was just myself, my pure self like a little core of light I gave up, I was all hers. She had destroyed me, wiped me clean and turned me into a blank page. No memories, no concept of self except that little burning light. True ego death. […] She [ayahuasca] told me what I was made for. My reason for being here, my purpose in life. She told me what my place was in the universe and the answer was so obvious I was astounded. […] Satisfied that I had finally listened she slowly left me and I came out of the dark space of the other side of the universe back into this one. Sitting on the floor, covered in spit and bile and tears and vomit. But clean.” – Full experience
“It’s true what they say about how truly nothing will prepare you for your experience and if you’re committed, prepare to enjoy the ride. Ayahuasca has turned me into a vulnerable, sensitive, raw and exposed sham. Ayahuasca is also responsible for allowing me to recognize profound beauty, truth, and happiness when I come to notice it.”
“I battled with quite a few demons inside for what seemed like hours, then when I felt like I had nothing left to give the happiness began to return. Following the ceremony I tossed and turned for a bit then went into a deep/refreshing sleep for a few hours.
My real breakthrough came the next day though, during integration therapy. When I was discussing my experience and emotions I arrived on a realization of my true source of anxiety and once I encountered this it felt like the weight of a million worlds was lifted from me, really the most incredible thing I’ve ever felt. It was sincerely like 100 hours of therapy lived in one moment.”
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