The term “ayahuasca” (also sometimes called yagé ) denotes a tea-like brew used by shamans in the jungles of Amazon-basin countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil to enter into altered mental states. Historically this has been done for a variety of reasons: to diagnose patients with medical disorders, locate lost items, find the best hunting or fishing grounds, or resolve personal disputes.
In recent decades ayahuasca has been sought out by spiritual seekers for its visionary properties as well as for healing. Traditionally, it was the village shamans who would drink the ayahuasca brew and then diagnose the “sober” patient, with the plant spirit directing the shaman to the correct plants to use as medicine and the course of treatment for healing.
Many visitors to ayahuasca retreats today seek this kind of healing, and may stay for weeks or months to be cured of afflictions that range from chronic depression, drug addiction or alcoholism, to physical illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, psoriasis and cancer.
Clinical researchers are investigating claims, some of which remain anecdotal. There’s compelling evidence that shamanic healing works and is especially effective for emotional and psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).