Ayahuasca Recipes

by Christian Rätsch
v1.1 – Apr 22, 2008
Originally published in The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants
Citation:   Rätsch C. Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants. Park Street Press. 2005. pg. 703-08.

In the past, methods for preparing ayahuasca were well-protected secrets of the shamans. Only they knew the ingenious recipes. Only they knew which plants to use, where to find the lianas and herbs, which protective spirits needed to be invoked, and how to prepare the brew.

Banisteriopsis caapi stems are the basis for all ayahuasca recipes. To prepare ayahuasca, manageable-size stems of this liana must be boiled, after which chacruna leaves (Psychotria viridis) are added. The mixture is allowed to sit on the fire until a black, thick, horrible-tasting liquid results. The drink should never be prepared in aluminum pots, as it will corrode the aluminum and may in some cases produce inedible aluminum salts. Although cold-water extracts of Banesteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis will also produce the desired effects, they are only rarely made.

In the recipes of the Amazonian Indians, the liana itself is typically the main ingredient. Tests of different samples have found 20 to 40 mg, 144 to 158 mg, and even 401 mg of β-carbolines as well as 25 to 36 mg of N,N-DMT per dose. The ayahuasca prepared by the urban mestizos contains consistently higher concentrations of alkaloids (especially N,N-DMT) than are found in the Indian preparations. The highest concentrations are said to be found in the preparations of Barquinha Santo Daime church (Luis Eduarda Luna, pers. comm., 1996).

Natema Recipe of the Shuar

The Shuar shamans (uwishin) split a 1- to 2- meter-long piece of Banisteriopsis caapi stem into small strips. They place the strips in a pot along with several liters of water. They then add leaves of Diplopterys cabrerana, a Herrania species, Ilex guayusa, Heliconia stricta, and an unidentified Malphighiacea known as mukuyasku. The resulting mixture is boiled until most of the water has evaporated and a syrupy fluid remains (Bennett 1992, 486). The Kamsá, Inga, and Secoya make similar preparations (Bristol 1965, 207 ff.).

Ecuadorian Recipe

The bark of the Banisteriopsis caapi liana is peeled off and placed beneath a certain tree in the forest. The bare stems are then split into four to six strips and boiled together with fresh or dried Psychotria viridis leaves. A piece of liana approximately 180 cm long and forty Psychotria leaves represent a single dosage, although a piece of stem just 40 cm long and 3 cm thick is also said to be sufficient. In general, the less vine that is used, the easier the ayahuasca is on the stomach.

Preparation of the União do Vegetal (UDV), Brasil

Pieces from Banisteriopsis caapi vine are pounded, mixed with leaves from Psychotria viridis, and boiled for 10 to 12 hours in rust-free steel pots until all that remains is a thick liquid with globules of fat on the surface that shimmer in all colors of the spectrum.

Recipe of the Shipibo of San Francisco/Yarinachocha

A fresh piece of Banisteriopsis caapi bark is boiled together with a fresh handful of chacruna leaves (Psychotria viridis) and a flor de toé (Brugmansia suavolens flower) until a thick liquid decoction is produced. This preparation is said to have especially strong effects and to produce many visions.

Indigenous ayahuasca preparations exhibit considerable variation. Numerous plant admixtures can be used to induce psychoactive effects, and stimulating or medicinal drinks can also be produced. An Ecuadorian preparation of Banisteriopsis caapi and Ilex guayusa is purported to be a strong purgative. Recipes that cause delerium often contain tobacco and angel’s trumpets (Brugmansia). Experienced ayahuasca shamans posses a vast wealth of knowledge about the effects of many plants and may utilize more than one hundred different admixtures in order to achieve the effects they desire.

These traditional preparations are often devoid of N,N-DMT. However, it is precisely those drinks that do contain high concentrations of DMT and that do produce visionary effects that have exerted such a powerful attraction on legions of Western ethnobotanists, psychedelic cognoscenti, artists, New Age tourists, and seekers of the esoteric (Leginger 1981; McKenna 1989; McKenna and McKenna 1994; Perkins 1995). For most outsiders, experiences with Amazonian ayahuasca have tended to be rather disappointing (McKenna 1993). Westerners seeking “highs” or healing experiences are often duped by the pranks of curanderos or self-proclaimed shamans. As early as 1953, William Burroughs reported “…I had been conned by medicine men” (Burroughs and Ginsberg 1963, 15). But there are also examples of more positive experiences (Pinkson 1993; Wolf 1992).

Traditional Ayahausca Admixtures

(from Ayala Flores and Lewis 1978; Bennett 1992; Bianchi and Samorini 1993; Faust and Bianchi 1996, Luna 1984b, 1986; Ott 1993, 269 ff., Ott 1995, Pinkley 1969; Schultes 1972; modified and expanded).

Botanical Name Common Name Active Constituents
ACANTHACEAE

Teliostachys lanceolata var. Crispa Nees

toé negro
AMARANTHACAEA

Alternantha lehmannii Hieronymus

picurullana quina, borrachera
Irisene sp.

Pfaffa iresinoides

marosa
APOCYNACEAE

Himatanthus sucuuba (Spruce) Woodson

bellaco-caspi, sucuuba, platanote fulvoplumieron
Malouetia tamaquarina (Aubl.) DC. cuchura-caspi, chicle indole alkaloids conessine, dihydrokurchessine, kurchessine, tetramethylholarhimine
Mandevilla scabra Schumann
Prestonia amazonica (Benth.) Macbride [syn. Haemadyction amazonicum] yajé; Older texts claim that Prestonia contains N,N-DMT; this information is unfortunately incorrect. The common name yajé; probably refers solely to the fact that the plant is used as an ayahuasca admixture (Schultes and Raffauf 1960).
Tabernaemontana sananho Ruíz et Pav. tzicta
Tabernaemontana sp. uchu-sanango alkaloids
Thevetia sp. cabalonga blanca cardiac glycosides
AQUIFOLIACEAE

lex guayusa Loes,

guayusa, wais caffeine
ARACEAE

Montrichardia aborescens Schott

ryay balsa, camotillo
BIGNONIACEAE

Mansoa alliacea (Lam.) A. Gentry

ajo sacha
Tabebuia heteropoda (DC.) Sandwith
Tabebuia incana A. Gentry clavohuasca
Tabebuia sp.
Tynanthas panurensis (Burman) Sandwith clavohuasca
BOMBACACEAE

Cavanillesia hylogeiton Ulbrich

puca lupuna, embirana
Cavanillesia umbellate Ruíz et Pav. lupuna, kapok, ceiba
Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn.
Chorisia insignis H.B.K. lopuna, yuchán, palo borracho resin
Chorisia speciosa St.-Hil samohú, ceiba
Quararibea sp. ishpingo (see espingo)
BORAGINACEAE

Tournefortia angustiflora Ruíz et Pav.

CACATACEAE

Epiphyllum sp.

pokere, wamapanako
Opuntia sp. thai mescaline
CARYOCARACEAE

Anthodiscus pilosus Ducke

CELASTRACEAE

Maytenus ebenifolia Reiss.

chuchuhuasi
Maytenus laevis Reiss. chuchuasca caffeine (?)
CLUSIACEAE

Tovomita sp.

chullachaqui caspi
CONVOLVULACEAE

Ipomoea carnea (cf. Ipomoea spp.)

oé; ergot alkaloids
CYCLANTHACEA

Carludovia divergens Ducke

tamshi
CYPERACEAE

Cyperus digitus Roxb.

chicorro
yperus prolixus H.B.K.
Cyperus spp. piripiri ergot alkaloids
DRYOPTERIDACEAE

Lomariopsis japurensis (Martius) J. Sm.

shoka, dsuiitetetseperi
ERYTHROXYLACEAE

Erythroxylum coca var. ipadú Plowman

ipadú cocaine
EUPHORBIACEAE

Alchornea castaneifolia (Wild.) Just. (cf. Alchornea spp.)

hiporuru alkaloids (?)
Croton sp. (?) tipu, tipuru morphine
Euphorbia sp. ai curo
Hura crepitans L. catahua, assacu piscidides, lectins
GNETACEAE

Gnetum nodiflorum Brongn.

tap-kam’, hoo-roo’, itua
GRAMINEAE

Arundo donax

carrizo tryptamines, DMT
GUTTIFERAE

Clusia sp.

miya, tara
HELICONIACEAE

Heliconia stricta Huber

Heliconia sp. winchu
LABIATAE

Ocimum micranthum Willd.

pichana, abaca essential oil
LECYTHIDACEAE

Couroupita guianensis Aubl.

ayahuma indole alkaloids (couroupitine A, B), stigmasterol, campesterol
LEGUMINOSAE

Bauhinia guianensis Aubl.

Caesalpinia echinata Lam. cumaseba
Calliandra angustifolia Spruce ex Benth. bobinsana, quinilla blanca, chipero alkaloids (harmane)
Calliandra petandra (cf. Calliandra anomala) harmane, DMT (?)
Campsiandra laurifolia Benth. huacapurana
Cedrelinga catenaeformis Ducke huairacaspi, cedrorana
Erythrina fusca Lour. amasisa, gachica erythraline, erythramine, erythratine
Erythrina glauca Willd. amasisa
Erythrina poeppigiana (Walpers) Cook (cf. Erythrina spp.) amaciza, oropel alkaloids
Pithecellobium laetum Benth. remo caspi, pashaquillo, shimbillo alkaloids
Sclerobium setiferum Ducke palisangre, palisanto
Vouacapoua americana Aubl. huacapo, hucapù
LORANTHACEAE

Phrygilanthus eugenioides (L.) H.B.K.

miya, ho-ho-ho
Phrygilanthus eugenioides var. robustus Galz.
Phtirusa pyrifolia (H.B.K.) Eichler suelda con suelda
MALPIGHIACEAE

Banisteriopsis rusbyana (Niedenzu) Morton

oco-yagé; DMT, β-carbolines
Diplopterys cabrerana (Cuatr.) Gates yaco-ayahuasca, yajé;, yaji DMT
Diplopterys involuta (Turcz.) Niedenzu [syn. Mezia includens (Benth.) Cuatr.]
Mascagnia psilophylla var. antifebrilis Niedenzu [syn. Cabi paraensis (Juss.) Griseb., syn. Callaeum antifebrile (Grisb.) Johnson]
Stygmaphyllon fulgens (Lam.) Jussieu ki-ria, kairia
MARANTHACEAE

Calathea veitchiana Veitch ex Hook. Fil.

pulma
MELIACEAE

Trichilia tocacheana C. DC.

lupuna latex
MENISPERMACEAE

Abuta grandifolia (Martius) Sandwith

abuta, trompetero, sanango palmatine
MORACEAE

Coussapoa tessmannii Mildbread

renaco
Ficus insipida Willd. renaco, hojé;, huito, bamba
Ficus ruiziana Standl.
Ficus sp.
MYRISTICACEAE

Virola surinamensis (Roland) Warb.

caupuri, cumala blanca neolignans
Virola spp. cumala DMT
NYMPHAEACEAE

Cabomba aquatica Aubl.

mureru, murere
PHYTOLACCACEAE

Petiveria alliacea L.

muckra, mucura, chanviro coumarins (nineteen), isoarboriol, trithiolan, trithiolaniacine
PIPERACEAE

Peperomia sp.

tsemtsem essential oil
Piper sp. essential oil
POLYGONACEAE

Triplaris surinamensis Chamisso

tangarana
Triplaris surinamensis var. chamissoana Meissner tangarana
PONTEDERIACEAE

Pontederia cordata L.

amarrón borrachero
RUBIACEAE

Calycophyllum spruceanum (Benth.) Hook. Fil.

vapirona negro
Capirona decorticans Spruce capirona negro, kashi muna
Guetarda ferox Standl. garabata
Psychotria carthaginensis Jacq. yagé;-chacruna, rami appani, sameruca DMT
Psychotria carthaginensis Jacq. yagé;-chacruna, rami appani, sameruca DMT
Psychotria psychotriaefolia (Seem.) Standl. chacruna DMT
Psychotria viridis Ruíz et Pav. chacruna
Psychotria spp. batsikawa, kawa kui, nai kawa, pishikawa, rami appane
Rudgea refifolia Standl.
Sabicea amazonensis Wernham chà-dê-kê-na, kana, koti-kana-ma
Uncaria guianensis (Aubl.) Gmelin garabata indoles: angustine, isohynchrophylline, rhynchophylline-N-ozide, dihyrocorynantheine hirsutine, hirsutein
Uncaria tomentosa (?) una de gato indole alkaloids
SAPINDACEAE

Paullinia yoco Schultes et Killip (cf. Paullinia spp.)

yoco caffeine
SCHIZAEACEAE

Lygodium venustum Swartz

tchai del monte, rami
SCHROPHULARIACEAE

Scoparia dulcis L.

amellin, triterpenes. 6-methoxybenzoxo-zolinone
SOLONACEAE

Brugmansia insignis

toa-toe, sacha-toe, danta borrachera tropane alkaloids
Brugmansia suaveolens (flor de) toe. Tsuak, borrachero, floripondio tropane alkaloids
Brunfelsia chiricaspi Plowman chiricaspi, chiricsanango scopoletin
Brunfelsia grandiflora d. Don chiricaspi, chiricsanango scopoletin
Brunfelsia grandiflora sp. schultesii Plowman (cf. Brunfelsia spp.) sanango, chiricsanango scopoletin
Capsicum sp. catsi, aji capsaicin
Iochroma fuchsioides (H.B.K.) Miers Borrachero, guatillo, paguando, campanitas alkaloids (tropane derivatives)
Juanulloa ochracea Cuatre ayahuasca, bi-ti-ka-oo-k, na-ka-te-pê parquine (?)
Markea formicarium Dammer ree-ko-pa scopoletin (?)
Nicotiana rustica L. tabaco nicotine
Nicotiana tobacum L. mapacho nicotine
STERCULIACEAE

Herrania sp.

kushibiap alkaloids (?)
VERBENACEAE

Cornutia odorata (P. et Endlicher) Poeppig Vitex triflora vehl.

shunguarana, ulape, tal, tahuari, taruma
VIOLACEAE

Rinorea viridiflora Rusby

chacruna, amanga, capinuri, ayahuasca

References #
  1. Ayala Flores F, Lewis WH. “Al Ayahuasca y el Curandero Shipibo-Conibo del Ucayali (Perú)”. America Indigena. 1978;46(1):147-61.
  2. Bennett BC. “Hallucinogenic Plants of the Shuar and Related Indigenous Groups in Amazonian Ecuador and Peru”. Brittonia. 1992;44:483-93.
  3. Bianchi A, Samorini G. “Plants in Association With Ayahuasca”. Yearbook for Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness. 1993;2:21-42.
  4. Bristol ML. Sibundoy Ethnobotany. PhD diss. Harvard University. 1965.
  5. Burroughs W, Ginsberg A. The Yage Letters. City Lights Books. 1963.
  6. Faust and Bianchi, 1996 [(?) no reference source provided in Rätsch’s book]
  7. Leginger T. Urwald: Eine Reise zu den Schamanen des Amazonas. Triokont-dianus. 1981.
  8. Luna LE. “The Healing Practices of a Peruvian Shaman”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1984;11(2):123-33.
  9. Luna LE. Vegetalismo: Shamanism Among the Mestizo Population of the Peruvian Amazon. Almqvist und Wiskell International. 1986.
  10. McKenna TK. Wahre Halluznationen. Sphinx. 1989.
  11. McKenna TK. “Bei den Ayahuasqueros”. In Das Tor zu Inneren Raumen, ed. C. Rätsch, 105-39. Verlag Bruno Martin. 1993.
  12. McKenna DJ, McKenna TK. The Invisible Lanscape; Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching. HarperSanFrancisco. 1994.
  13. Ott J. Pharmacotheon. Natural Products Co. 1993.
  14. Ott J. “Ayahuasca; Ethnobotany, Phytochemistry and Human Pharmacology”. Integration. 1995;5:73-97.
  15. Perkins J. Und der Traum Wird Welt: Schamanische Impulse zur Aussohnung mit der Natur. Integral Volkar-Magnum. 1995.
  16. Pinkley HV. “Plant Admixtures to Ayahuasca, the South American Hallucinogenic Drink”. Lloydia 1969;32(3):305-14.
  17. Pinkson T. “Amazonian Shamanism: The Ayahuasca Experience”. Psychedelic Monographs and Essays. 1993;6:12-19.
  18. Schultes RE. “De Plantis Toxicariis e Mundo Novo Tropicale Commentationes X: New Data on the Malpighiaceous Narcotics of South America”. Botanical Museum Leaflets. 1972.23(3):137-147.
  19. Wolf FA. The Eagle’s Quest.A Touchstone Book (Simon & Schuster). 1992.

Revision History #
  • 1.1 – Apr 24, 2008 – Rätsch – Transcribed by Justin Case, coded by Erowid.

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