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Medical Safety and Advice

Ayahuasca is generally a very safe substance to drink. There are some medical conditions (e.g. some stomach, heart, liver, kidney, colon or mental health problems, etc) where drinking ayahuasca could be potentially harmful. Please check with your doctor and take their advice about participation.

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

Asthmatics should know they cannot use their inhalers within 24 hours of drinking ayahuasca at a minimum. If you cannot get through an asthma attack without your inhaler you should not drink ayahuaca.

Those with hypo-thyroid problems often ask about their medication. Our recommendation is to bring the medication with you, but stop taking it a couple days before your first ceremony. If your energy plummets you can begin the medication again. So far nobody has needed to resume their medication while here, and many have written us back 2-3 months later saying they have not needed their thyroid medication since their time with ayahausca.

There are psychological risks

Since the LSD culture of the '60s 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, after taking hallucinogenic or psychoactive substances, exhibit symptoms of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis or schizophrenia. The mechanisms of this are not understood, and those with a family history of those issues are more at risk. Anyone with a family history of poor psychological health, especially schizophrenic-type, bipolar or psychotic disorders, should be especially cautious about taking ayahuasca or any other psychoactive substance.

There is also a small risk that one may experience "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 . This includes marijuana, commonly considered a very safe drug. While the risk is small, it does exist.

MAOIs - The reason it is dangerous to combine medicines with ayahuasca

red jungle flower

Ayahuasca ( Banisteriopsis caapi ) contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) in the form of harmine and harmaline. Medications in the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), which includes most anti-depressants, are dangerous to take with MAOIs and 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 serotonin syndrome which can be fatal.

We have seen very strange and unpleasant experiences when clients drank ayahuasca while on medications for which no contra-indications could be found. As a result we do not allow any medications to be taken while at the center. All medications should be stopped at least 2 weeks prior to coming to the center. We 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 drinking ayahuasca at our center.

Medications and herbs dangerous to take with ayahuasca or any MAOI

The following classes of drugs are potentially dangerous when taken with MAOIs (Ayahuasca). If you are taking medications, please do your research into their half-life so you will know how long you should be off them before taking an MAIO. Some require 4-6 weeks. The Ayahuasca Safety Council has a more complete listing of medications, drugs and herbs to avoid.

  • 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

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 it in highly distorted and frightening ways, or saying they felt they had gone crazy while under the effects.  Please check with your doctor and take their advice about participation.

Non-prescription medicines such as antihistamines, dietary aids, amphetamines and their derivatives and some herbal remedies (e.g. those containing ephedrine, high levels of caffeine or other stimulants) should be discontinued for at least a week prior to and following work with ayahuasca. Please check with your herbalist or homeopath as even otherwise innocuous remedies like 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 work with ayahuasca.