Ayahuasca refers either to the plant Banisteriopsis caapi or a brewed liquid concoction made from this particular plant (or a close substitute) and some other plants. Ayahuasca translates to “vine of the soul.”

Banisteriopsis caapi is a vine native to the Amazon basin. The vine can be grown in USDA garden zone 10 or above.

The other plant most commonly found in the Ayahuasca drink is Psychotria viridis. This plant is a shrub, also native to the Amazon basin, and can also be grown in USDA garden zone 10 or above. Both of these plants can be cultivated easily.

Psychotria viridis contains DMT or dimethyltryptamine, and Banisteriopsis caapi contains some alkaloids that are MAOI or monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Sometimes Psychotria viridis is substituted with Diplopterys cabrerana, another local plant and also very high in DMT.

DMT is a powerful hallucinogenic medicine. If monoamine oxidase inhibitors were not included in the brew, then enzymes in our digestive tract would render the DMT inactive. This is why the Ayahuasca drink is always made from the combination of several plants and why this should only be attempted by an experienced hand. The chemical make-up of every batch of Ayahuasca (drink) can be significantly different from any other batch.

There are rumors that both of these plants have been exported and are growing in the southern United States and Hawaii, although this information has not been confirmed.

Natives of the Amazon basin have been using and drinking Ayahuasca for hundreds if not thousands of years for religious and medical reasons. Ayahuasca has only become known outside of the Amazon since about 1850.

The Amazon basin itself covers roughly 40 percent of South America and much of the north-west central areas including parts of Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil. These are all places where Ayahuasca is an integral part of the indigenous culture.

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