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Ayahuasca

The meaning of «ayahuasca»

Ayahuasca[note 1] is a South American entheogenic brew commonly made out of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, the Psychotria viridis shrub or a substitute, and possibly other ingredients;[1] although, in the West, a chemically similar preparation also known and sold as ayahuasca, but occassionally also known as "pharmahuasca", can be prepared using illictly manufactured N,N-dimethyltryptamine and a pharmaceutical monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) such as isocarboxazid.[2][3] The brew is used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin.[4]

B. caapi contains several alkaloids that act as MAOIs, which are required for DMT to be orally active.[5] The other required ingredient is a plant that contains the primary psychoactive, DMT. This is usually the shrub P. viridis,[5] but Diplopterys cabrerana may be used as a substitute.[6][7] Other plant ingredients often or occasionally used in the production of ayahuasca include Justicia pectoralis,[8] one of the Brugmansia (especially Brugmansia insignis and Brugmansia versicolor, or a hybrid breed) or Datura species,[9] and mapacho (Nicotiana rustica).[10]

Ayahuasca is known by many names throughout Northern South America and Brazil.

Ayahuasca is the hispanicized (traditional) spelling of a word in the Quechuan languages, which are spoken in the Andean states of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia—speakers of Quechuan languages who use the modern Alvarado orthography spell it ayawaska.[11] This word refers both to the liana Banisteriopsis caapi, and to the brew prepared from it. In the Quechua languages, aya means "spirit, soul", or "corpse, dead body", and waska means "rope" or "woody vine", "liana".[12] The word ayahuasca has been variously translated as "liana of the soul", "liana of the dead", and "spirit liana".[13]

In Brazil, the brew and the liana are informally called either caapi or cipó; the latter is the Portuguese word for liana (or woody climbing vine). In the União do Vegetal of Brazil, an organised spiritual tradition in which people drink ayahuasca, the brew is prepared exclusively from B. caapi and Psychotria viridis. Adherents of União do Vegetal call this brew hoasca or vegetal; Brazilian Yawanawa call the brew "uní".[14]

The Achuar people[15] and Shuar people[16] of Ecuador and Peru call it natem, while the Sharanahua peoples of Peru call it shori.[17]

Evidence of ayahuasca use dates to at least 1000 A.D., such as a bundle containing the residue of ayahuasca ingredients and various other preserved shamanic substances in a cave in southwestern Bolivia, discovered in 2010.[18][19]

In the 16th century, Christian missionaries from Spain first encountered indigenous western Amazonian basin South Americans (modern Peru/Ecuador) using ayahuasca; their earliest reports described it as "the work of the devil".[20] In the 20th century, the active chemical constituent of B. caapi was named telepathine, but it was found to be identical to a chemical already isolated from Peganum harmala and was given the name harmine. Beat writer William S. Burroughs read a paper by Richard Evans Schultes on the subject and while traveling through South America in the early 1950s sought out ayahuasca in the hopes that it could relieve or cure opiate addiction (see The Yage Letters). Ayahuasca became more widely known when the McKenna brothers published their experience in the Amazon in True Hallucinations. Dennis McKenna later studied pharmacology, botany, and chemistry of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, which became the subject of his master's thesis.

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