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What to Expect on an Ayahuasca Experience

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You may be asked to undergo a diet or la dieta,  involving psychological, dietary, and social restrictions, in the weeks leading up to your ayahuasca ceremony.

The diet typically involves abstaining from sexual relations, psychoactive substances, and events that may bring about stress or shock. You will also be asked to avoid certain foods and food groups, including:

Red meat
Spicy foods
Fermented foods

Energetically, these restrictions are put in place to help cleanse the mind and body in preparation for ayahuasca.

However, for medical purposes, the diet is also essential to help avoid physical risks from having too much serotonin in the body.

Since MAOIs found in Banisteriopsis caapi naturally increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, combining ayahuasca with serotonin-increasing medication, like antidepressants, and foods rich in the serotonin-building-block molecule tyramine could result in dangerously high levels of serotonin in the body. Tyramine-rich foods include:

Meat (particularly processed or cured meats)
Fermented vegetables
Citrus fruits

In traditional lineages, rather than being a broad set of guidelines, the dieta is something prescribed explicitly by the shaman to serve the unique healing needs of the person working with ayahuasca.

We have a complete guide on the ayahuasca diet, which you can check out here. 

The Ayahuasca Ceremony Guide

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Shaman vs. Curandero

The word shaman is derived from the word saman used by the Tungusic tribe in Siberia, meaning to heal, foresee future events, and communicate with spirits, plants, animals, and other worlds.

Although the Tungusic people aren’t associated with using plant medicines (besides limited evidence around use of the Amanita muscaria mushroom), shaman has become a commonplace term in ayahuasca ceremonies today.

For native Amazonian ayahuasca-using tribes, the word curandero is used instead. Like the shaman, a curandero is someone who heals, working with plants as part of their approach. Curanderos  interact with the spirit world in order to assist healing.

In contemporary ayahuasca culture, the terms shaman and curandero are used interchangeably.

The Role of a Guide

In traditional native ceremonies, the role of shaman is to journey into the spirit world so they can receive advice on healing. Throughout the ceremony, they will use methods such as drumming and chanting to achieve an altered state in which they’re able to do so.

In native traditions, ceremonies are typically guided by one shaman. However, in more modern ceremonies suited to Westerners, other facilitators or guides may be present in order to meet ceremony participants’ mental health or physical health needs.

Someone with a medical background, for example, would be able to advise participants on the interaction of their current medications with ayahuasca and how to wean off their medications prior to the ceremony. A therapist or coach can also offer one-to-one support to help participants process traumatic or challenging memories that may have surfaced during their ayahuasca experience.

Multiple Ayahuasca Ceremonies

It’s commonplace when working with ayahuasca to undergo multiple ceremonies, ranging from two over the course of a weekend, to more than ten in a month-long retreat.

Although you may still reap many benefits from a single ceremony, working with the medicine over multiple ceremonies allows you to go deeper into your healing journey.

Moreover, if issues remain unresolved following an ayahuasca experience, subsequent ceremonies can help make better sense of these experiences and bring about closure.


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The role of music in shaping psychedelic experiences is undoubted, intensifying and adding new emotional dynamics to the journey.

In traditional Shipibo-style ceremonies, the shaman will perform icaros, which are sacred, healing songs passed down through lineages of healers. Typically these are sung to the accompaniment of a rattle, and have improvised elements depending on what messages are being energetically transmitted.

In less traditional, modern ceremonies, you will probably hear a blend of different music types, as well as intermittent periods of silence, to help create calm and promote reflection between heightened emotional states.


For some, the notion of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea during a ceremony can be incredibly off-putting. However, purging during an ayahuasca ceremony is seen as a pivotal part of the healing process, as it involves releasing stuck energies and toxins from the mind and body.

Not everybody purges during ayahuasca. However, ceremony facilitators will do their best to ensure sick buckets are available and may encourage and help you purge if you feel something needs to be released.


Ayahuasca is a sacred medicine for many traditions. During ceremonies, prayers will be made to honor the spirit of ayahuasca, and to Mother Earth for providing healing plants.

You may also be encouraged to make your own prayers for the ceremony, such as healing wishes for yourself and others.

Other Plant Medicines

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During ceremonies, you may expect other sacred plant medicines to be offered or used. For example:

Rapé: A tobacco preparation that is insufflated to help encourage purging and bring mental clarity.
Sanaga: A juice derived from the Tabernaemontana undulata tree, applied to the eyes and used to help bring clarity and insight.
Kambo: Frog venom, which is applied through holes in the skin and causes purging. Kambo is often used in the lead-up to the ceremony to help energetically cleanse and detoxify in preparation for ayahuasca.

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