Microdosing Ayahuasca

Xavier Francuski

With LSD and psilocybin leading the forefront of the microdosing movement, the prospect of microdosing ayahuasca is slowly starting to enter the public eye. This powerful potion brewed by the indigenous tribes of the Amazon region in South America has been steadily drawing interest from seekers of spiritual evolution worldwide.

Ayahuasca is traditionally brewed by experienced shamans for personal consumption, allowing a deep connection with nature and insight into the fate of their village. However, during the past few decades, with many venturing into the jungle and sharing reports of radically transformative experiences with ayahuasca rituals, many more have developed an enthusiasm for this mystical brew.

Thus, to accommodate the growing needs of the west, some shamans are welcoming ordinary humans into their spirit world and giving them a chance to peer into the fabric of existence itself. It is also worth noting here that, as it often goes in the world, many indigenous people are also entering the market of exploiting the naïveté of the unsuspecting, as evidenced in the trend called “ayahuasca tourism.” The exploitation goes both ways though, as the fetishization of the sacred customs of the ancients is trivializing of the nature of the otherworldly and the ineffable.

Is Microdosing Ayahuasca the Way to Go?

This brings us to an important point in this discussion: is microdosing the most powerful entheogen known to man really the way ayahuasca should be used? The answer is, of course, complex, with many pros and cons.

The benefits of ayahuasca rituals

The experience of drinking ayahuasca within a proper ceremonial context, under the caution and guidance of an experienced maestro (teacher) are by many dubbed as life-changing. Coming into the ritual with an honest desire to learn and grow, humility and respect can yield unfathomable benefits when done in the sacred setting of the home of the vine.

Ayahuasca takes you on a deep inner journey of self-investigation and gives you opportunities to confront your ego and let go of it. This process, often referred to as ego death, is highly challenging – it requires one to fully surrender to the power of the plants and understand the notions of the lifelong fortified concept of “the self”, which we identify with, as illusions. This is the goal of many, but it makes it no less surprising once they find themselves on the other side – the death of the self can feel like actual physical death and this event takes time and comfort to process and integrate. This is one of the main advantages of drinking ayahuasca in a ceremonial/retreat context.

Ego death seems like quite a daunting prospect, but it forever cracks open the doors to a healthier outlook on life and may close the doors to counterproductive habits and addictions. Results of preliminary research conducted by Gerald Thomas et al. show lasting positive changes on measures of hopefulness, empowerment, mindfulness and quality of life meaning and outlook from ayahuasca retreat participants. The study also recorded self-reported decreases in tobacco, alcohol and cocaine use. Profoundly rewiring results like these are attainable over one or more full-dosage sessions, but is it possible that microdosing can yield some of the progress known to happen in retreats?

Asides from allowing for deeper immersion into the effects of ayahuasca, placing oneself in an intentional and sacred space purified and guarded by a spiritual healer has the element of communing with the guide and with fellow travelers, which can be crucial for integrating the experience. The shaman serves to invoke the spirits, enrich the ceremony with blessings and sacred melodies and stabilize it with their vast knowledge of the spiritual realms, important instruction and care for any people they sense is having troubles. The presence of others can instill in us comfort in knowing that we’re not alone in seeking growth and the exchange of accounts can be valuable in understanding what it is that ayahuasca actually does.

This is probably why ayahuasca retreats, in their now standardized 3/7/12 day forms, have become so sought for. They provide a secure and comfortable framework for westerners to relax in and take time to process the experience, often complete with medical staff on hand, fully vetted shamans and well outfitted accommodation. Diet programs are weaved into the retreat structure, as well as a host of activities such as flower baths, sauna time, hot tubs, hiking, yoga, art and dance workshops.

Solitary ayahuasca use

The convenience of ayahuasca retreats comes at a price. All-inclusive getaways as described are valued at hundreds/thousands of US dollars, which does not fit into everyone’s financial capacities. The alternative is seeking out indigenous communities and engaging with unaffiliated or less “popular” shamans. However, this brings its own challenges and perils, among which are: the communication barrier (even knowledge of Spanish will hardly suffice as most authentic shamans only speak one of the varieties of Kichwa), safety in uncharted territory and time needed to navigate it, safety from “plastic shamans” trying to make a quick buck off of unsuspecting gringos, and their brews of questionable, at times dangerous, quality. For these reasons, taking (verified) ayahuasca in a more local setting seems like a viable option for people who don’t have the time or money and don’t want to deal with potential risks at play, which is not to say that using ayahuasca in any form comes without risk.

An interesting concept to consider about the western adoption of the ritualization of ayahuasca is John Welwood’s spiritual bypassing. This term refers to the identification of spiritual seekers with certain practices and creeds neatly packed up and made ready for mass consumption. It is the mainstream spirituality popularized by self-help novels and widely accepted traditions and teachings that often have their roots in eastern philosophy. Whether we like it or not, ayahuasca is becoming a trend and going to the Amazon to participate in ceremonies far too accessible and, thus, of questionable significance. The ritualistic aspect is liable to inhibit some of the deep introspection needed by means of serving the experience up a in standardized format.

Another related critique to drinking under the guidance of a maestro might be the potential disposition of the locus of power and responsibility to the shaman. As prudently noted by Julian Palmer, the inventor of changa (an easily smokeable DMT herbal mix) and advocate of consuming ayahuasca in solitude, it might be difficult to find our own inner guidance if we go into the ceremony with the belief that our shaman is the only powerful entity there. Conversely, Julian notes that the first few experiences, until the person feels comfortable enough with the effects, should definitely be had under supervision.

Can You Microdose Ayahuasca?

After already having experience with ayahuasca in a safe and nurturing environment, you might want to consider drinking the brew alone and/or attempting to integrate it into your daily life and harvest the sub-threshold benefits it may offer. As with LSD, psilocybin and even DMT, microdosing ayahuasca is entirely possible. However, taking into account the large variety of ways to prepare the brew and highly individual responses to consumption, determining the specifics of dosage and content becomes a matter of experimentation.

How do you prepare an ayahuasca microdose?

There are a few options when it comes to making ayahuasca at home. If you would like to experiment with brewing the actual tea, we recommend reading our article on homemade ayahuasca. With many recipes and ingredients available online, it should be noted that brewing ayahuasca by yourself is far from ideal. It is a skill that should be learned from a master and honed, and the quality of the drink will very much depend on the freshness of the ingredients.

An alternative would be exploring the pharmahuasca route. Making a pharmaceutical ayahuasca analog allows for precise ingredient measurement and is less time-consuming. The first part of the recipe involves an extracted MAOI, most often one of the three harmala alcaloids found in Banisteriopsis caapi or Syrian Rue: harmaline, harmine or tetrahydroharmine. The second part is extracted freebase DMT. The MAOI is ingested in a plastic capsule and the DMT is taken some 20min afterwards, after it had been sitting in lemon juice and converting into DMT citrate. Some personal accounts suggest that vomiting might follow this type of intake, and some suggest that DMT can also be ingested in a pill without the need for citrifying it, as long as the harmala contents are properly dosed.

How much is a microdose?

The doses for a brew/analog of traditional strength are as follows:

As mentioned, ayahuasca’s effect and side effect presence and strength is highly individual and it is recommended to start with the lowest dose possible (a tenth of the values indicated or less, with some people using only a few drops), and slowly increase until the onset of altered state of consciousness. Then roll back the dose again, just under the threshold of noticeable effects.

This approach applies especially to the DMT portion – the vines/MAOIs are the actual healing agent and the microdosing should have a more purposeful role if it is geared towards healing rather than tripping. Omitting the DMT contents for starters and consuming a purely MAOI-based concoction is encouraged and in line with the actual shamanic traditions, where DMT visions come secondary to the healing properties of the vines.

Microdose timing

As with dosage, timing should be a matter of preference/influence as well. From various personal accounts it can be gathered that a morning or an evening dose should be effective, based on intention. In both cases, it is preferable to have a relaxed following day, with not much responsibility or demand for interaction. The effects are reportedly cumulative, so 48h should be the minimal repetition interval. It is advised to have a full dose at some point if possible, so as to integrate all the micro-healing experiences and teachings.

Effects of Microdosing Ayahuasca

Microdosing ayahuasca in the morning and evening should yield different, yet similar experiences. A few evening takers (here and here) cite alleviation in depression and anxiety, vivid dreams, daily life insights and shifts in stress, higher awareness and presence, compassion, satisfaction and a sense of peace, a sense of acknowledgement and emotional discharge. Negative effects cited include laziness and difficulty getting up, some fogginess in perception during the day and potential diarrhea.

Morning takers (here, here and here) report an increase in perception, deepening of meditative states, vivid dreams, gentleness, lovingness and lightness and positive effects on anxiety, with differing accounts of creativity and focus, social ability and sexual energy. Negatives include lack of motivation for strenuous activities, tiredness and a slight buzzy feeling.

Precautions

Even though microdosing shouldn’t warrant a full ayahuasca diet, some dietary precautions are advised, as there are foods that can be dangerous in combination with MAOIs. Aged cheeses, cured meats, soy sauce and any fermented foods like fermented tofu and pickled vegetables, spicy foods, alcohol in general, especially red wine, aspartame and large amounts of dark chocolate should all be avoided. Medications and drugs that conflict with MAOIs, such as SSRIs, hypertension medicine, other MAOIs and recreational drugs, should also not be used.

Alternatives to ayahuasca microdosing

The most important question to ask yourself if considering microdosing ayahuasca is what your intention is and whether this brew is the optimal way to actualize it. Even though personal accounts do suggest that anxiety and depression might be alleviated by using ayahuasca, if you’re suffering from these or similar afflictions, it’s useful to look into their possible cause. If it’s stress, where does it come from? Is it lack of purpose, unsatisfying work or social environment, unfulfilling relationships?

There are numerous options you might want to consider before turning to daily ayahuasca treatment. Psychotherapy, alpha-stim, heart rate variability training, holotropic breathwork, meditation, yoga, exercise, changing your job, traveling or starting more purposeful and fulfilling relationships are just some examples of how you could introduce more mindfulness into your life and alleviate stress. In the end, ayahuasca doesn’t really give you a cure – it just uncovers all the homework you still need to do yourself.

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