Ayahuasca Medical Safety and Advice

Ayahuasca is generally a very safe substance to drink, however, if you suffer from heart, liver, kidney, colon, mental health or some stomach problems, drinking ayahuasca could be potentially harmful. Please check with your doctor before attending any of our ayahuasca retreats.

Who Should NOT Drink Ayahuasca?

If you suffer from any of the following conditions, you should definitely NOT drink ayahuasca:   heart problems, kidney disorders, high blood pressure, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anyone with a history of psychosis or psychotic breaks. Please take this seriously, as the potential consequences are an extended trip to a psychiatric hospital, or even death.

Additionally, asthmatics should be aware that inhalers cannot be used within at least 24 hours of drinking ayahuasca. If you are unable to get through an asthma attack without your inhaler, you should not drink ayahuasca.

If you have hypo-thyroid problems, we recommend that you bring your medication with you, but stop taking it a couple days before your first ayahuasca ceremony. If your energy plummets, you can resume the medication. However, we’ve yet to have a guest need their medication while at the healing center, and many have written us 2-3 months later and indicated that they have not needed their thyroid medication since drinking ayahausca.

What are the Psychological Risks of Ayahuasca?

Since the LSD culture of the 1960s, it has been known that hallucinogens can trigger latent tendencies toward psychiatric and emotional disorders. In a small percentage of cases, people with no prior history of problems have exhibited symptoms of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis or schizophrenia after taking hallucinogenic or psychoactive substances. The mechanisms of this are not understood, however, those with a family history of mental health issues are more at risk.

Anyone with a family history of poor psychological health, especially schizophrenic, bipolar or psychotic disorders, should be especially cautious about taking ayahuasca, or any other psychoactive substance.

There is also a small risk of "drug induced psychosis". Some of the classic signs of psychosis are bizarre behavior, delusions, disorganized thinking, hallucinations and catatonia. These symptoms may last for hours, days or possibly weeks and may require professional intervention.

Drug induced psychosis is fairly rare and is not limited to hallucinogens. There is fairly long list of drugs known to have caused psychosis, including marijuana, commonly considered a very safe drug. While the risk is small, it does exist.


Why Are Medications Not Permitted at the Center?

red jungle flower

Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) in the form of harmine and harmaline. MAOIs, like ayahuasca, are dangerous when taken with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which includes most anti-depressants.

Medications that fall into these classes need to be stopped 2-6 weeks before drinking ayahuasca, depending on the half-life of the specific medicine being taken. This is very important, as mixing these two types of substances can lead to potentially fatal serotonin syndrome.

Additionally, we have seen very strange and unpleasant experiences with clients who have used ayahuasca while on medications for which no contraindications could be found. As a result, we do not allow any medications to be taken while at our ayahuasca retreat center, and we ask that all medications be stopped at least 2 weeks prior to your arrival. We also require that any medication taken in the past year be disclosed on our intake form.

The Hummingbird Center does not allow any medications to be taken while at our ayahuasca retreat center.

Which Drugs & Supplements Interact with Ayahuasca?

The following classes of drugs are potentially dangerous when taken with ayahuasca, or any MAOIs. If you are taking medication, please research each drug’s half-life so you know how far in advance you need to stop use before drinking ayahuasca. Some medications require as much as 4-6 weeks.


  • SSRIs and SNRis (Antidepressants)
  • Anti-hypertensives
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Asthma medications such as salbutamol
  • Opiates and opioids
  • Barbiturates
  • Amphetamines and stimulants such as cocaine
  • Cough medicines
  • Decongestants
  • Antibiotics
ayahausca painting

Additionally, the following herbs and supplements should not be taken when drinking ayahuasca:

  • St. Johns Wort
  • Ginseng
  • Kava
  • Yohimbe
  • Kanna
  • Scotch Broom
  • Kratom
  • Ephedra
  • Boswellia
  • Nutmeg
ayahausca painting

Visit the Ayahuasca Safety Council for more information about the medications, drugs and herbs to avoid while drinking ayahuasca.

Additional Safety Precautions with Ayahuasca

If you have had a concussion within the last year, it is not advisable to drink ayahuasca. People that drink ayahuasca after having a concussion frequently have very unpleasant experiences, often 'reliving' the event that caused the injury in highly distorted and frightening ways, or feeling as though they’ve ‘gone crazy’ while under the effects of ayahuasca.  Please check with your doctor before attending a retreat.

Non-prescription medicines, such as amphetamines and their derivatives, antihistamines, dietary aids and herbal remedies containing ephedrine, high levels of caffeine or other stimulants, should be discontinued for at least a week prior to and following ayahuasca use. Please check with your herbalist or homeopath as even otherwise innocuous remedies, such as St John's Wort/hypericum, may not be suitable in combination with ayahuasca.

Avoid all chemically-based recreational drugs, in particular MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, speed and heroin. The use of non-chemical recreational drugs, such as marijuana, should also be discontinued for a period of at least four weeks prior to and following ayahuasca intake.

 

For more information, check out How to Prepare for Healing with Ayahuasca.