Largest-ever study of aya

April 11, 2017

Two research organizations are partnering with an ayahuasca center in Peru for the largest-ever study of aya — hundreds, possibly thousands of drinkers. Most past studies find aya helps more than it hurts, but no one's ever surveyed hundreds in a semi-controlled setting. How ambitious is this new study? It has a Hollywood-style trailer. The head of one of those organizations rounds up recent science here

Some substances make men infertile. But aya probably doesn't, a study suggests. Rats given a helluva lot of ayahuasca showed no reproductive problems. However, rats given a whole crazy muck ton of ayahuasca — like, more than anyone could ever do — did have some problems. And, though maybe it doesn't mean anything, rats given ludicrously large quantities of ayahuasca grew bigger stomachs and bigger brains. Although, when these big-dose, big-brain rats started to realize the next uber-heroic dose was coming, just two days after the previous dose, they appeared worried. Regular drinkers may identify.



Business Insider writes aya changes the brain the way meditation does. 


Australian TV covered the 2015 death of a young Kiwi at an ayahuasca retreat where no one seemed to have medical training. Buried deep in the sensational story: the guy died after drinking a tobacco-based brew, not ayahuasca. 


Women's fashion magazine Marie Claire sent a correspondent to the Amazon, who rightly notes that ayahuasca is "safe in comparison to alcohol." 


In the arts, the tea has become shorthand for "a life-changing experience." The rapper Future boasted his songs were "three minute ayahuasca trips." And the New Yorker went so far as to call our time in history "the age of anxiety and ayahuasca" while profiling an artist inspired by aya. I especially liked this part: "the altered states experienced through the ingestion of psychedelics provide far more questions about the nature of consciousness, and about the nature of reality itself, than it does answers. (Those who assert otherwise are most likely selling something.)" 


Speaking of ... The Daily Beast headlined an article "New Business Fad: Tripping on Ayahuasca." It profiles a Silicon Valley dude who says entrepreneurs drink the tea together, then network, shmooze, and provide each other "cash investments that propel the business forward."


The Guardian had at least three ayahuasca-related articles this month: One calls ayahuasca "the future of PTSD treatment." A second mentions that a British celebrity says ayahuasca "cured my depression." And (a very good) article profiles a Texas journalist they called the "ayahuasca king" who runs tours to the Amazon and also gives out ayahuasca at his Texas house. The author of the article did not drink aya, slyly noting that "this is not one of those articles where a journalist drinks ayahuasca and then experiences either almost nothing or a gradual life transformation that involves giving up alcohol and joining CrossFit."


A new book called "Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction, Anxiety and PTSD" is getting good reviews, including from the great Jim Fadiman. 


I mentioned ayahuasca in a story about psilocybin retreats in Jamaica and elsewhere. As I keep reporting for Rooster, a magazine for millennials in Boulder, a molecule in aya is shaped like serotonin, and people keep telling me that similar serotonin-shaped molecules have some very similar, serotonin-like effects. Serotonin is like Valvoline for the engine of the brain. 


Here are new fun rundowns of aya on screen and aya memes


There are more ayahuasca-related videos uploaded to YouTube every month than I can skim, mostly selfie-videos of drinkers gushing. On other social media, "ayahuasca" is now shorthand for amazing, life-changing and world-peace creating. Some suggest putting ayahuasca in the water supply; this would be unethical and taste terrible. 



As always, Ayamundo, Aya Advisors and Open Mind Trips list retreat centers. Beckley and MAPS are good on the science. Talk to your doctor before you try it. Seriously. Doctors know about this stuff, or can find out. 




Psychedelic Science 2017 starts April 19 in Oakland and has a whole plant medicine section. Hit me up if you're there. Phone number below. I'll write about the conference next month. Prepare for a long email. 



That's it. Thanks for reading. Email me if I missed something big. 


If you have a friend who wants to be added to this newsletter, have them email me at Email addresses are kept super private. 


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Ayahuasca is a  jungle vine that allows your brain's natural psychedelic, DMT, to persist and affect you. I first encountered it when Karla took me to visit her family in the Amazon nine years ago. Her tribe, the Shipibo, has used it for hundreds, thousand of years, and her mom drank it for stomachaches as a little girl. So it's either children's Tylenol or uber-LSD, or both. But for unknown reasons, it helps depression, drug addiction and acedia — at least it did for me.

Reilly Capps // reporter
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