Despite its questionable legality, ayahuasca — a psychedelic brewed tea-like drink used for spiritual healing — will soon be available at newly created public “churches” in the U.S. Similar to a retreat, you can set up shop inside a teepee near Elbe, Wash., to drink the tea which contains DMT and other psychedelic plants, all for $1,500.
Ayahuasca is often referred to simply as yagé, and it originated among the native people of Peruvian Amazon. The indigenous people who drank the concoction believed the plant spirits themselves instructed them in how to make the brew, which is usually a combination of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, the Psychotria viridis shrub, and other plants. Sometimes Chacruna or Chagropanga leaves, which contain DMT — a psychedelic compound that’s listed as a controlled substance in the U.S. — are mixed into the drink, providing those intense spiritual and hallucinogenic trips.
Ayahuasca is an entheogenic brew, meaning it’s been used for religious or spiritual reasons for centuries, particularly among shamans. Shamans were religious leaders believed to be able to transcend into the spirits’ world and communicate with both good and bad spirits; ayahuasca often helped in that process. Now, it’s cropping up in the Western world as a way for people to mend broken minds, spirits, and bodies — at least that’s what the founders of Ayahuasca Healings believe.
Some “drinkers,” or those who clandestinely take part in ayahuasca circles in the U.S., do it to help them overcome diseases, mental health problems, and substance abuse. “I use it when I need to reset or when I’m searching for insight,” Michael Slater told The Daily Beast. “Years of drug abuse has affected my cognition, and aya helps me focus and puts things in perspective.
Others simply use it to transcend the world they live in and do some deep searching within themselves. “There is a discontent I feel from the society I live in,” one drinker, referred to only as “T,” told The Daily Beast. “The Western culture of competition, this dominator mindset, isn’t natural. So I use ayahuasca to look for something deeper, to do inner-searching of my fear of death.”
There is not a lot of research that examines the medical effects of ayahuasca — or other psychedelic drugs for that matter, simply because they’re mostly all banned in the Western world. But one recent study out of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, found that patients with major depressive disorder who drank ayahuasca saw a significant decline in their depressive symptoms. Another study conducted in New York City found that a chemical in ayahuasca called harmine could help treat diabetes by producing insulin.
In the meantime, the founders of the new church, Ayahuasca Healings, are hoping that once they legally set up shop they’ll be providing lots of drinkers with the right place to experience the spiritual and mental effects of ayahuasca.
The Ayahuasca Healings website is currently on pause “in order to ensure our Ayahuasca USA Retreats are 100% legal,” the website states. But another one of their websites is still available, and it describes the tea as being a “sacred medicine” that is a “powerful tool for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing and awakening.”