Ayahuasca: Drug Tourism or Spiritual Healing?


Saturday 29 April 2017

Emily Sinclair, a PhD student in the Anthropology department will be giving us a close look into the 'Vine of the Soul'. 3:45 PM in Empty Shop HQ, as usual!

Ayahuasca (“vine of the soul”) is a psychedelic plant medicine from the Amazon rainforest that has become well known across the world in recent years for its healing qualities. The growth of the counter-culture movement since the 1960s, and increasing interest in spirituality and alternative medicine coupled with the illegality of psychedelic substances in the West, has led to and been propelled by the growth of an ayahausca tourism industry in Amazonian parts of South America. The ‘hub’ of ayahuasca tourism is the Iquitos region of Peru where my Anthropology PhD research is based. As a preliminary to my PhD fieldwork, I lived and worked in a touristic ayahausca healing centre in the region, home to native shaman Don Luco Navarro, between May 2015 and October 2016. This included co-ordinating retreats, engaging in ayahausca ceremonies and shamanic diets, and conducting questionnaires and interviews with participants, including follow-up research with some participants in the months after their retreats. Based on this experience, I will describe how ayahausa is used in this context, and basic effects; discuss its therapeutic utility as a healing tool for addiction, depression and other mental health problems; and explore health and safety issues associated with ayahausca. To conclude, I will raise issues of interest and concern connected with ayahuasca tourism as a basis for wider discussion such as: the commercialisation and westernisation of shamanic practice, the globalisation of ayahausca use in different contexts, sustainability issues, and the future of ayahausca use and possible impacts.