How Does It Work?
The Science of Ayahuasca
The CBC television series, The Nature of Things, with David Suzuki, featured Canadian Dr Gabor Mate’s use of Ayahuasca to treat addiction. The 45-minute documentary, The Jungle Prescription, produced by Mark Johnston, Mark Ellam, Amanda Handy, Robin McKenna and Jeronimo Mazarrasa, does an amazing job of explaining the effects of Ayahuasca on the brain.
At the University of Saint Pau in Barcelona, Leading researcher of the neuroscience of Ayahuasca experiences, Dr Jordi Riba shares some of his findings with Dr Mate:
“Dr Riba and his team have found that Ayahuasca hyper-actives the highly evolved neo-cortex, the area of the brain that makes us human. This is where we perceive, reason and make decisions.
Ayahuasca also activates regions like the amygdala, which acts as a storehouse for early emotional memories, specifically the most traumatic orsignificant ones, like the loss of a parent.
Finally, Ayahuasca activates the insula [also known as the insular cortex], which is believed to create a bridge between our emotional impulses and our decision making capacities.
According to many neuroscientists, our decision making process has a powerful emotional component. When any stimulus enters the brain, the brain tries to understand it based on previous experience.
In early life, powerful or traumatic events, create an imprint on the brain, a pattern. This pattern is like a shortcut, activated every time we face a similar situation. For example, if we were once attacked by a dog, our brain might harbour a set of these pathways that associate that dog with all dogs, making us fear them in general. We might even react adversely to a distant bark. Repeated events cause these neural patterns to reinforce their connections, binding them with protein, and building them up like scar tissue.
If this is how these traumas are rooted in our brains, how does Ayahuasca affect those ingrained patterns? Ayahuasca hyper-activates the entire brain region where we store and process emotional memory, often uncovering long forgotten memories. This hyper-activation enables the conscious part of the new brain to temporarily override previously entrenched patterns, allowing new connections to be made. Dogs, for example, may no longer be feared as these new connections are created and memories, reevaluated. In field studies, Ayahuasca users typically describe having new perspectives on past experiences, and deeply rooted patterns of behavior.”
On a Deeper Level
There is a mystical element to life and our health. Western medicine views everything as if the physical world is all that exists and therefore looks at everything from one end of reality. It seems to barely recognize the mind and emotions and not at all the spirit.
Ayahuasca comes from the spirit first, looks next toward the mind and heart, and lastly addresses the physical. Whereas Western medicine seeks to change the physical to change the rest, Ayahuasca changes the spirit/energy to change the rest. Major mental/emotional healing can be done with Ayahuasca. For the things that the Western approach can’t find answers, Aya possibly could. Some cases that make no sense from the Western view, make total sense from the Ayahuasca view and sometimes a condition can only be treated from one end or the other. Western medicine and Ayahuasca are complimentary. If only people really understood what it was about. With Ayahuasca you can learn things about the mind, the heart, mysticism, and psychism that have medicinal value. The truth is that Ayahuasca’s value goes far beyond just medicinal.
Learn more about the workings of Ayahuasca through the following resources:
The Jungle Prescription (45m13s)