Does Ayahuasca Really Heal Psychological Trauma?

Serious scientific evidence has surfaced indicating that ayahuasca is a viable cure for psychological trauma. The mystical concoction that has been increasingly covered in the media, as more members of North America and Europe see its potential for healing, has many pundits and scientists divided. Is ayahuasca a miracle medicine or is it a dangerous drug?

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A Groundbreaking Study in Brazil on DMT

One of the pioneering researchers on the psychological effects of the mixture is Dr. Charles Grob, M.D. who is Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine and Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Grob has made a career out of studying the psychedelics and conducted the first U.S. government-approved study on MDMA.

In 1993 Dr. Grob conducted a study of the Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) in Brazil. The UDV is a church whose members use ayahuasca as part of sacred rituals. Members of the church who struggled with past trauma that had manifested itself in various forms such as depression, addiction, and anxiety found significant relief from ayahuasca.

In many cases members of the UDV were able to alleviate their ailments without recurring episodes. When studying the blood samples of the subjects from the UDV Grob found that ayahuasca allowed them to increase their sensitivity to serotonin, which happened by growing additional serotonin receptors on nerve cells.

The findings of his study led Grob to conclude that “Ayahuasca is perhaps a far more sophisticated and effective way to treat depression than SSRIs [antidepressants].” He came away from the study believing that ayahuasca could be a lasting solution for people dealing with depression and other results of past trauma.

Ayahuasca Transforms A Writer’s Life

Kira Salak, a writer who sought relief from her depression from ayahuasca, was amazed by what she found in the Peruvian rainforest. Salak suffered from life-long depression before traveling to Peru to take ayahuasca as part of a freelance writing assignment. She says that she experienced a life-altering release from depression after only a few sessions. This encouraged her to return to Peru to continue to work with shamans who helped her work on her psychological distress.

In the course of her healing she was amazed to find that “Physical and psychological ailments that had long burdened me—anxiety disorders, OCD, migraines, knee joint pain, PTSD, etc.—vanished one after the next and never resurfaced.” In 2006, at the behest of her editor at National Geographic Adventure she wrote an article about one of her recent experiences in the Amazon which was published in the magazine. The article “Peru: Hell and Back” became the most popular article the magazine had ever printed.

Nine years after her earliest experience with ayahuasca Salak says her life is more amazing that she could have imagined when she was in the throes of her mental and physical pain. The depression she once suffered has never returned.

Ayahuasca and the U.S. Military

Salak is not an outlier, but one of many individuals who have tried ayahuasca as a way to heal from past trauma and have come away with stunning results. One group that has been using ayahuasca to treat serious psychological disorders that arose from past traumas is U.S. military veterans.

From the VA to the Jungles of Peru

Like many veterans Richard Stroder sought help from the VA (Veterans Affairs) to deal with psychological trauma that resulted from his years of service. Stroder suffered from PTSD that had stemmed from seeing the horrors of war and being sexually assaulted by a fellow Marine.

Stroder stated in an article on that the sexual assault made him feel “weak” and “the feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, guilt and shame would grow over the years.” He had a maddeningly difficult time seeking help from the VA, waiting 10 months after his request for mental health treatment before he could be seen.

While waiting to see a therapist he was prescribed numerous pills including lithium and various opiates. After having several appointments with the VA postponed or cancelled and not getting the results he was looking for, he gave up the notion that they were going to cure him. He elected to manage his PTSD with medical marijuana and meditation. Although he was finished with the VA he continued to search for ways to heal himself in order to find some lasting relief. He quest eventually lead him to the jungles of Peru.

In Iquitos Peru, the center of ayahuasca tourism, Stroder found the long sought after relief from his trauma. He says that through the ayahuasca ceremonies he “was able to recall trauma and remember parts of my experiences that had previously been blocked out.” He used this insight to process experiences from the military and beyond in order to “see how they synthesized into the person,” which he “had become.” The experience with ayahuasca finally allowed Stroder to let love and acceptance pour into his life.

As a result, he said “negativity and pain lifted from my shoulders and released from my body in what felt like what I can only describe as a psychedelic baptism.” The work he did with ayahuasca was such powerful healing that Stroder returned to the U.S. as an enthusiastic advocate of psychedelic treatment.

Why Many Veterans are turning to Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca healing is helping an increasing number of military veterans cope with the horrors of war, which manifest themselves in numerous psychological ailments. Former Marine Corporal Ryan LeCompte has taken groups of veterans to South America for ayahuasca treatments. He has become a believer of the miraculous healing power of the plant because of the many positive transformations that he has witnessed fellow veterans make.

He says that ayahuasca allows for true healing unlike the preferred prescription drugs that are routinely doled-out to veterans in the U.S. In America, LeCompte says, “It’s just, ‘Here’s a pill, here’s a Band-Aid.The ayahuasca medicine is a way to, instead of sweeping your dirt under the rug, you know, these medicines force you to take the rug outside and beat it with a stick until it’s clean.”

Conclusions on Ayahuasca as a Treatment for Trauma

Still ayahuasca has vocal detractors and the many stories of people who have had bad experiences with the hallucinogen ensure that it will be a controversial method of healing for years to come. As the tourists who are seeking healing and psychedelic experience increasingly head to Peru, the number of unscrupulous business people selling sub-par mixtures and posing as shamans grows.

This creates a confusing matrix around the effective and ethical use of ayahuasca. But it is unquestionable that ayahuasca has provided life altering healing for numerous people who were at their wits’ end. It will continue as a viable option for anyone who feels that they have nowhere else to turn.

P.S A while back ago, we got a personal message discouraging us from selling ayahuasca tea online. However, every day we have customers thanking us for the experiences they went through because of what we’re doing.

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Plan On Drinking Ayahuasca?
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  • Elenbaas, Adam. Fishers of Men: The Gospel of an Ayahuasca Vision Quest. New York:Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2010.
  • Escobedo, Tricia. “Ayahuasca: Could this be the next medicinal marijuana?”
  • Salak, Kira. “Peru: Hell and Back.” National Geographic Adventure
  • Salak, Kira. “Ayahuasca Healing in Peru.”
  • Stroder, Richard. “Veteran: My search for a PTSD cure led me to the Amazon.”,