Ayahuasca Healing

According to Dr Gabor Mate, Canadian psychiatrist specialist in addictions,  Ayahuasca can be a powerful step in healing all manners of diseases, from cancer to addictions. He sustains that for Western Medicine, diseases are “abnormalities that occur either due to external causes such as a bacterium or a toxin, or they’re accidental or due to bad luck, or their due to genetics”, recognising all these factors as external and biological, therefore causes and treatments are only in the biological field.

As previously said, the WHO(World Health Organisation) defines Health as a state of biological, psychological and social well-being as humans living in society, but we could say that we are biological, psychological and spiritual creatures by nature as individuals, contemplating in here our physical part (body), our thoughts (mind) and our emotions (soul) as a unity.
Eastern spiritual and aboriginal shamanic cultures all around the world have deeply rooted the idea that we are not our body, nor our personalities, nor our thoughts nor our emotions, but that in our essence there is a true self that in a certain way is part of all nature and creation and therefore, a disease is a loss of that connection or a loss of the unity.

Mechanisms of Action

Ayahuasca is considered as a serotonergic-acting psychotropic brew. Serotonin is a chemical created by a biochemical conversion process, that works as a neurotransmitter and it’s commonly regarded as the main component  responsible for maintaining mood balance. Manufactured in the brain and in the intestines, even though the majority can be found in the gastrointestinal tract (between 80-90%), the serotonin used in the brain must have been produced by itself. It is thought to affect mood and social behaviour, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function.

“In a recent study using the neuroimaging technique SPECT, where ayahuasca was administered to healthy volunteers, activation in frontal regions, specifically in the medial frontal and anterior cingulate cortices was found, areas implicated in somatic awareness, subjective feeling states, and emotional arousal. Parahippocampal areas, also involved in the processing of emotional arousal and memory, were also activated. This neurobiological mechanism of action may imply that ayahuasca allows subjects to “travel” throughout personal past experiences being aware of emotions, thoughts and memories that are usually difficult to access in ordinary states. Frontal areas are also involved in anticipatory and planning behaviour, and in abstract reasoning, so the activation of those areas may be the basis to explain the complex and meaningful cognitive experiences that take place under the effects of ayahuasca. Another recent neuroimaging study confirmed that results and also show that imagining a picture under the effects of ayahuasca activate the same visual areas that are activated when one is seeing the real image”. [more info]

The highly powerful psychological effects of Ayahuasca are undeniable.  Generally described as “psychedelic”, since it evokes powerful subjective perceptions and feelings, and termed “hallucinogenic” in the medical and scientific literature, Ayahuasca is considered “sacred” by all the ancient cultures. At this point we would like to make a difference between “vision” and “hallucination”. According to Oxford Dictionary, vision is “an experience of seeing someone or something in a dream or trance, or as a supernatural apparition”, to which we would like to add that this happens mostly with eyes closed; and hallucination is “an experience involving the apparent perception of something not present” and this is an experience which happens with eyes open. Since most of the imagery under Ayahuasca effects happen with eyes closed, you may conclude that is actually visionary and not hallucinogenic.

Beyond cultural differences in the terminology, according to most users, Ayahuasca experiences include the perception of coloured and vivid images, the exacerbation of emotions and  feelings, peacefulness, insights, or distressing reactions, and the triggering of deep, transformative spiritual experiences.

It´s important to understand that the complete healing effects of Ayahuasca and the result of the experience are highly dependent on the context and the meaning attributed to it, commonly known as set and setting. The set is a complex and dynamic composition of the personal motives, purposes, intentions, and beliefs of the person, as well as the physical characteristic, genetics, and the emotional and cognitive state at the time of the experience. The setting includes things such as the physical environment where the experience is to occur, the person who will be guiding the experience, and the person(s) who will be accompanying during the experience.

Ayahuasca and chronic illnesses

Dr Gabor Mate says that the emotional and behavioural patterns we adopt as children in order to survive stresses within our environment, are helpful to deal with the immediate problem, but in the long term they become sources of dysfunction and illness, if we are not able to let them go. He noticed that people ill with chronic conditions had engrained these coping mechanisms so much, that they became unconscious and compulsive, as part of their personalities, which makes it even more difficult to let them go. Quoting him, “so who got cancer and who didn’t was no accident, nor was it for the most part genetically determined. And when I say chronic illness I mean cancer, I mean diabetes, rheumatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, chronic asthma, psoriasis, eczema, almost any chronic illness you care to name.” http://www.alternet.org/drugs/gabor-mate-ayahuasca-maps-conference-2013

So, the idea of considering other variables in cancer treatment, such as set and setting, emotions, patient beliefs, cultural values, and spiritual experiences, is not a new and radical suggestion; it has been part of some alternative cancer treatment approaches for many years. Therapeutics with ayahuasca work in three domains: psychological, spiritual, and organic, where ayahuasca is a releaser of energy blockages perceived as thoughts at a mental level, as feelings at an emotional level, and as symptoms at the physical body. So, a holistic approach to cancer treatment that includes the ritualistic or religious use of ayahuasca may help not only to treat the organic aspects of the cancer but also to treat anxiety, depression, and associated psychological conditions and to improve the patient’s quality of life, survival time, and their quality of death and dying.
In relation with the main effects of active principles regarding cancer, we highly recommend you this research done by Eduardo E Schenberg.
So many cases of cancer remission have been helped with Ayahuasca, though is advisable to read the testimony of a scientist, as it´s the first and best published report, it’s the detailed case of Donald Topping, a former professor at the University of Hawaii and the president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii: http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v08n3/08322top.html