Norma is one of the shamans who uses a brew containing psycho-active plants to induce a controlled trance like state. This concoction is called Ayahusca and is considered by many of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon to be the Mother of All Medicines. Norma’s brew is made up of 2 ingredients, although other ‘curanderos’ may add other plants to their cooking as well. The vine or liana (Banisteriopsis caapi) contains the alkaloid ‘harmaline’ and is mostly called Ayahuasca, although the vine is only 1 of the ingredients that make up the brew called Ayahuasca. The second plant that Norma uses is Chagrupanga (Diplopteris cabrerana) as the DMT (dimethyltryptamine) containing and vision inducing ingredient. Many other curanderos use Chacruna (Psychotria Viridris) as the second and DMT containing plant.

If DMT brings us the visions, then why should we add the vine that in itself barely gives us any noticeable effects? Because the harmaline containing vine is an MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitor and reduces the body’s production and distribution of MAO that normally breaks down the vision-inducing ingredient DMT before it can cross the blood brain barrier into the central nervous system. Only with this combination of ingredients can the drink have its consciousness-expending effects and trigger visions.

Nevertheless, Norma will never talk about the vine as an inhibitor but as the plant that gives the power of the journey, while the Chagrupanga gives the light and the visions.

Taken from THE ANTIPODES OF THE MIND by Benny Shanon

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew consumed throughout the entire upper Amazon region. The term is a Quechua compound word meaning 'Vine of the (dead) spirits'. Depending on the region and the context of use, the brew is also known by a variety of other names; the most well-.known are caapi, yage, natem, cipo, mariri, Daime, hoasca, and vegetal. Typically, Ayahuasca induces powerful visions as well as hallucinations in all other perceptual modalities. Pronounced non-perceptual cognitive effects are also manifest. These include personal insights, intellectual ideations, affective reactions, and profound spiritual and mystical experiences. Moreover, Ayahuasca introduces those who partake of it to what are experienced as other realities. Those who consume the brew may feel that they are gaining access to new sources of knowledge and that the mysteries and ultimate truths of the universe are being revealed to them. All this is often coupled with what drinkers describe as an encounter with the Divine. In the vast region encompassing western Brazil and the eastern areas of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia , as well as parts of the basin of the Orinoco, where Brazil and Venezuela meet, Ayahuasca has long been a key constituent of culture. Indeed, it appears that the indigenous peoples of this region have used the brew for millennia. In the past, Ayahuasaca was used in the making of all major decisions of a tribe, notably locating game for hunting and declaring war. It was also believed that the brew made it possible to see distant places and foretell the future. Even today, Ayahuasca is the basic instrument of shamans in the entire region. On the one hand, the brew is said to enable the shaman to see the inner constitution of his patients, and thus establish a diagonosis; on the other hand, it is said to bring the shaman in contact with wise beings and guiding entities that pass informaion to the shaman so that he knows how to perform the appropriate treatment. In addition, Ayahuasca is purported to allow the shaman to be in touch with the spirits, the beings of other worlds and the dead. For many, Ayahuasca is not merely a potion or a plant but also a being with special, unique qualities or even a deity.

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