Can ayahuasca cure depression?

Maria, a volunteer, is considering taking ayahuasca at the retreat in a few weeks. Below she discusses the research she’s been doing on the relationship between ayahuasca and depression.

In a few weeks, I have the opportunity to participate in an ayahuasca ceremony happening at Aluantu. The retreat will be hosted by Wilder Sánchez Muñoz, a Peruvian shaman of the Shipibo family lineage. Right now, I’m undecided if I want to do it or not. Honestly, my curiosity is driving me towards trying it. However, I have a natural skepticism that is telling me not to take part unless I know how ayahuasca may affect me. For this reason, I’ve been doing some research of my own.

I’ve heard that ayahuasca can be a viable cure against depression. This made me wonder how ayahuasca is different from other antidepressants, how people are affected mentally by ayahuasca and if there have been scientific studies conducted exploring the potential of the vines as an effective antidepressant.

After some reading, I’ve developed the opinion that the hallucinogenic brew, used for centuries by indigenous people in South America, can be used as a healing agent for depression.

I’m aware that ayahuasca is not a miracle cure, however, my impression is that it might be able to help some of the people who suffer from depression and don’t respond positively when given standard antidepressants. According to some studies I read, between 30 and 50 percent of the at least 300 million people experiencing depression are resistant to standard pharmaceutical treatment. These findings suggest there is a significant need for alternative approaches to psychological healing.

During my research, I found that ayahuasca has a very interesting working mechanism. Neurologically, it works like conventional antidepressants, such as SSRIs, which support the brain to increase serotonin levels – a naturally occurring neurotransmitter involved in controlling our mood. People suffering from depression often have low serotonin levels. In this way, the increased level of serotonin explains why ayahuasca can rapidly improve mood.

Additionally, ayahuasca seems to stimulate and activate specific parts in the brain that allow people to recall deep-rooted memories. It also improves conscious thinking and spiritual introspection. To me, this is very interesting because it means that people will be able to remember experiences that previously have been blocked out. In this way, people will probably be able to get in touch with the underlying reasons for their depression. By bringing issues that were trapped in the unconscious mind to our conscious attention, ayahuasca has the potential to help us heal the emotional traumas and wounds we carry, help us to grow and help us to blossom towards our true potential.

In spite of the promising results, I still haven’t come to a conclusion of whether I’m going to take ayahuasca or not. However, I will continue my research and share my thoughts with you.