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Those new to the realms of ayahuasca often encounter a confusing amount of seemingly contradictory information concerning what exactly constitutes an authentic ayahuasca brew.
Some of the confusion arises because, first, there are many terms and spellings, etymologically speaking, that refer to both the vine–ayahuasca (common botanical referent Banisteriopsis caapi; short form B. caapi)–and the brew ayahuasca that contains the vine and at least one other admixture, usually, but not always, a DMT containing plant such as chacruna (common botanical referent Psychotria viridis).
Yet, depending on the individual preparing the ayahuasca brew–and most notably, the tradition he or she became adept with the preparation of ayahuasca–the actual ayahuasca recipe ingredients may contain a plethora of other plants.
The other plants are added to the brew based on the desired healing effects an ayahuascero (someone who is trained to administer ayahuasca, often to referred to as a shaman) determines are necessary to treat or alleviate an illness, be that a psychic or physical illness.
“A shaman is a healer who sings.” –Anon
It would be fair to say that from thousands of accounts from anthropological and ethnobotanical studies there are two key ayahuasca recipe ingredients in any ayahuasca brew which work together in synergy to catalyze a subjective experience of altered consciousness for those who partake of the brew.
There are many adjuncts to what could be considered an ayahuasca potion or brew, but its base–essential ingredients, i.e. there are no psychoactive properties without these two essential ingredients–traditionally consist of, at a minimum, the following two ingredients:
1. The ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi (pictured right), and,
2. A DMT containing plant.
This is the basis of all traditional ayahuasca recipes as prepared by indigenous cultures in and around the areas of South America’s Amazon region.
With that said, from a purely clinical or scientific perspective, there are many other plants that could be mixed together to get an effect similar to the traditional brew that can be found in the Amazon.
For example Jonathan Ott has written a book, titled Ayahuasca Analogs, which details around 4000 potential plant combinations that, when brewed together, would result in an ayahuasca-like experience.
On the other hand, to keep true to the cultural and possibly spiritual foundation of ayahuasca, as far as encountering the “ayahuasca spirit” and all the legendary mythology associated with it, the definitive ingredient for any brew to be considered ayahuasca is Banisteriopsis caapi.
Without including Banisteriopsis caapi in an ostensible ayahuasca brew, you are not preparing or partaking in an experience that any indigenous ayahuascero (shaman) would consider to be ayahuasca–because, it is believed through thousands of years of use and handed-down experiences that the Banisteriopsis caapi serves to connect those who ingest it with a spirit unique to the Banisteriopsis caapi vine; the spirit is thought to be a gatekeeper to another realm and is said to be responsible for miraculous healing, revelations of deep personal insight, protection, divination and a long list of other far-out things: Things which, even today, remain hard to prove in any accepted empirical manner according consensus and repeatability within scientific circles.
In a perfect world, the ideal way to experience ayahuasca is with a reputable ayahuascero or shaman–both terms referring to individuals adept in the workings of the ayahuasca brew and the spirit of the ayahuasca vine.
If you are fortunate enough to be traveling to South America, AyahuascaRecipe.org is currently building a directory of reputable ayahuasceros and ayahuasca retreat centers in South America. If you would like to review a retreat center or you are associated with a retreat center and would like to have your facility considered for inclusion in our directory, please send an inquiry via the form available here, Contact Us.
If you are seeking to build a relationship with the ayahuasca vine, there are numerous online sources where you can buy ayahuasca ingredients.
Also, if you are traveling in South America, the ingredients necessary to brew your own–not recommended–ayahuasca via a basic ayahuasca recipe can be found in most open markets, such as the San Pedro Market in Cusco, Peru, pictured below, or in the witches alley of Iquitos’, Belen Market.