What Is Iowaska and Ceremonial Plant Medicine?

Commonly referred to as “Ayahuasca.”  It is an Amazonian plant medicine that has been used in a sacred context by indigenous and mestizo healers in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years. Made from the mixture of 2 (or more) plants found in the Amazon jungle – the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi), and the chacruna leaf (Psychotria viridis), which contains the powerful psychoactive dimethyletryptamine (DMT), it is a brew capable of inducing altered states of consciousness. The word ayahuasca is based in the Quechua language and translates to “vine of the soul” or “vine of the spirits”. It goes by many different names according to region, such as caapi, natema, yajé, yagé, nepe, shuri, kamalampi, kaji and others throughout the Amazon Basin1.

Traditionally, ayahuasca has been used in a variety of contexts: as a therapeutic tool to diagnose and treat illness; as a means of shamanic communication; and for the communal purposes of hunting magic, warfare, and collective ritual2. While the true origins of ayahuasca have been lost to history, with no written records prior to the 16th century Amazon invasion of Spanish conquistadors, archaeological evidence suggests its use stretches back at least two millennia. Its practice and spread since appears to be as complex and diverse as the people who use it, embodying and blending various cultural frameworks, spiritual belief systems, economic and political landscapes, and social hierarchies. Today, it is the foundation for the traditional medicine systems of over 75 different tribes in the Amazon, and has spread to various regions across the globe, offering healing for many illnesses and dis-ease where modern medicine has failed.

Addressing Root Cause – Healing the Emotional, Energetic, and Spiritual Bodies

Far from being part of the “New Age” movement, plant medicine healthcare has existed for thousands of years and was a well-established system long before Western medicine developed in the last few hundred years. Just as modern medicine has excelled at getting to the physical causes of illness, plant medicine – in particular, ayahuasca – offers a chance to get at the emotional, energetic, and spiritual roots of dis-ease by opening channels of communication to our subconscious inner landscapes.

From a shamanistic point of view, most illnesses and diseases are manifestations of blockages or “knots” in the energy of a person, or where excess or insufficient energy creates imbalance in the overall system. This often happens throughout our life from trauma in its various forms. Shock trauma – often the result of abuse, attack, or loss – is one form, but trauma can result from many common hallmarks of life: surgery, accidents, illnesses, injuries, relationships, financial difficulties, cultural and societal pressures, betrayal or anger from close ones, even difficulties from birth we may be unaware of – just to name a few.

With the help of ayahuasca, trained and ethical healers can address and correct these imbalanced energies through healing ceremonies.  This is contrary to Western medicine, which focuses on the physical body and outward symptoms of an illness. Such an emphasis can end up blocking our innate healing process by suppressing these symptoms without addressing the root energetic cause, denying or invalidating the experience and associated emotions, or over-emphasizing adjustment or control. As a result, insufficient importance is placed on the energetic body, which encompasses the mental and emotional well-being of a person.

Learn more about Ayahuasca & Plant Medicine