Plant Medicine: An Introduction to Ayahuasca, Mushrooms, and Yopo
The use of plants for healing and medicinal purposes predates recorded history, forms the foundation of shamanic healing, and serves as the origin of modern medicine.
Most of our pharmaceutical drugs today come from plant sources, as pharmaceutical firms earn continual inspiration from ancient medical cures and herbal practices to fabricate modern drugs. Aspirin is derived from willow bark. Cocaine comes from coca leaves. And morphine is manufactured from the opium poppy.
Yet there are some botanical wonders that whose inherent medicinal and nutritional values have yet to be fully understood or accepted by western medicine because their function elicits a psychedelic experience – the healing value of which is yet to be fully embraced by mainstream society.
There are many such plant medicines which have been utilized in ancient cultures the world over. Ayahuasca, peyote, bufa, yopo, psilocybin, DMT… are powerful entheogens known to produce unprecedentedtherapeutic effects when administered medically or ceremonially. Below you will be introduced to the basics of three of our favorites: Ayahuasca, Mushrooms, and Yopo.
What Is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is an ancient plant medicine that is blended from two plants Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis which, when combined, are known for their hallucinogenic properties.
Initially, this psychoactive brew was consumed by the native dwellers of South America for its influence on the mind that opened them to transformational healing experiences. Because of these deeply healing effects, Ayiahuasca became a staple in their spiritual and cultural practices.
Based on evidence unearthed in 2010, archaeologists believe the use of Ayahuasca dates back to no less than 1000 A.D. With widespread practice integrated among indigenous tribes in the Amazon Basin and persisting well into the modern age.
With the advent of modernity, and a Western longing for meaningful healing experiences, there is an unprecedented global expansion in consumption of this sacred tea, which has recently stepped to the forefront of biomedical interest and research.
How Does Ayahuasca Work?
The main psychoactive constituent in Ayahuasa is N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) present in th e leaf of Psychoptria virids, which is activated for oral absorption by the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) extracted from the Banisteriopsis vine. When combined, these two chemicals together produce a therapeutic psychedelic effect that elevates mind, aids emotional processing, and fundamentally shifts brain chemistry. The benefits of ayahuasca are Spiritual introspection and enhancement of emotions occur due to a stimulation of senses while medicinal properties treat both mental and physical issues through the chemical realignment of the nervous, endocrine, and digestive systems.
Ayahuasca Health Benifits
1. Kills Parasites
Ayahuasca clears the digestive tract and gut of human
2. Alleviates Mental Illness
Ayahuasca acts on regions of the brain associated with
motivation and emotion processing.
Several clinical studies claim that ayahuasca has helped cope with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The anti-depressive effects are sustained and almost instant. Ayahuasca helps increase blood flow to brain regions responsible for moods emotional states. As a result, it helps alleviate a myriad of mental ailments.
3. May Help Overcome Drug
Ayahuasca, being a hallucinogen, induces personality change and triggers anti-addictive effects. Ayahuasca use could aid in substance addiction recovery through a series of spiritual, body-oriented, and psychological experiences, all of which lead to reduced cravings and a reframed world view.
What Are Psilocybin Mushrooms?
All mushrooms are Fungi. Thechnically “mushroom” (also known as the toadstool) refers only to the fleshy and spore-bearing body of the fungus that’s present above the ground, be they gilled, stemmed or stemless. Many mushrooms are edible, with a range of culinary and health benefits. However, others are psychoactive, with the ability to induce intense psychedelic hallucinations… while still others are poisonous altogether.
How Do psychedelic Mushrooms Work?
Mushrooms contain massive amounts of the antioxidant nutrients selenium and ergothioneine. Such antioxidants protect and defend your cells from damage, consequently, strengthening the immune system.
Psychedelic mushrooms also contain psychotropic tryptamines – namely, psilocybin and psilocin although some species also contain other, weaker psychotropic compounds like baeocystin or norbaeocystin – which act on the central nervous system to reshape the our perception of life and reality.
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
1. Enhance Vitamin D Production
Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D boosts the immune system, fights depression, increases serotonin uptake, and improves calcium absorption. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to depression, and a range of other physical and mental disorders.
Mushrooms enable the body to secrete more Vitamin D, and thus indirectly strengthens teeth and bones as well as supporting serotonin uptake and relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety.
2. Enhances Immunity
Regular consumption of mushrooms helps build immunity by
triggering antiviral and protein production by cells. As a result, your body
fights stronger against possible infections and damages.
3. Alleviates Mental Illness
Psilocybin and psilocin both act on the central nervous system to alter and augment (at least temporarily) the way we perceive the world. First, the brain itself become “hyper connected”, facilitating increased communication between varying regions of the brain that may otherwise be disconnected via physical/structural impairment, mental illness, or trauma. A 2014 clinical study found that patients who received a therapeutic dosage of psilocybin experienced a fundamental reorganization of neoronal structure that linked previously unconnected regions of the brain. Additionally, the chemicals bind to serotonin receptors in the brain and encourage mood alteration and neurological changes that last well over a year. All of which suggests an unprecedented ability for Psilocybin (“magic mushroms”) to HEAL the foundation of the brain structure that causes disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD among other mental illnesses.
What is Yopo?
Yopo is a powerful amazonian plant medicine created from the seeds of Anadenanthera peregrina – perennial tree natively found in South America and the Caribbean. Yopo is prepared by mixing the seeds of the Ananthethera Peregrina plant with ashes before it’s inhaled.
How Does Yopo Work?
Yopo is famous for its therapeutic and spiritual effects. For those familiar with traditional plant medicine, Yopo’s effects are like a fusion of Bufo Alvarius and Ayahuasca. Inhalation produces a spiritual and clean connection, that soothes the mind. The effects of which are contributed to the presence of 5-MEO DMT and Bufotenin, both of which are powerful psychedelics that act on the central nervous system to produce entheogenic therapeutic effects on the mind and body.
Health Benefits of Yopo
1. Detoxifies the Body
Inhalation of Yopo gives off a tingling sensation, followed by increased bodily awareness. A sense of discomfort accompanied by vomiting helps detoxify the body while unlocking various meridians and energy channels.
Much like Ayahuasca, this purgative experience can have valuable physical effects by cleansing the digestive tract of human parasites, supporting healhty gut function, and increasing detoxification of the liver and kidneys.
2. Boosts Mental Health
Due to it’s neurochemical effects, Yopo helps clear the mind and instill calmness amidst chaotic thoughts, allowing the participant to rationalize more clearly, process emotion more freely and evaluate life (past and present) from a more balanced mental prespective.
Among other effects, feelings of gratitude and understanding, self-discovery, universal love and deep empathy are often reported.
There are also multiple testimonies involving a liberation of
self-limiting beliefs that are often the leading causes of depression or
Ayahuasca, mushrooms, and yopo are more than just ordinary plants. They are spirits of transformation that possess numerous health and spiritual benefits, that have been used in Shamanism for thousands of years. While Ayahuasca and Yopo help fight depression and promote mental health, mushrooms rewire the brain to experience life more fully and accept the interconnection of life as we know it. Incorporating one or more of these plants into your spiritual practice will irrevocably change the way you view and engage with the world and the god of your understanding. Watch for the next articles on peyote vs mushrooms and ayahuasca vs peyote
Kristin is an ordained priestess, herbalist, and published author with an extensive background of spiritual and mythological studies. As a practicing witch and global educator, they funnel this lifetime of experience into defining a new paradigm for teaching holistic spiritual healing that empowers personal identity and lived experience with myth and metaphor to initiate deep, lasting transformation through living ritual.