Drink ayahuasca and you may see yourself being eaten by a crocodile. You may find a miraculous resolution to a crippling sadness. Or, more likely, you’ll land somewhere in between. Regardless, you will definitely throw up. Author and ethnobotanist Chris Kilham says all of these things have happened to him after drinking this psychoactive Amazonian brew.
If you haven’t heard of ayahuasca, you may soon. While once consumed mainly by natives of the Amazon basin, today, thousands visit Latin American countries every year to imbibe it, with the hopes of seeing profound visions, having religious experiences and—many claim—undergoing immense healing. Ayahuasca now has devoted followers throughout the world.
Kilham, who calls himself the “medicine hunter” and has traveled to and intermittently lived in the Amazon for more than two decades, says that he is a firm believer in the healing properties of the drink, which is made from the bark of a jungle vine called Banisteriopsis Caapi, and usually mixed with other plants like the leaves of the shrub Psychotria viridis. It has been drunk by shamans throughout the region for thousands of years as a part of traditional healing processes: the visions brought on by the brew guided the shaman to the his patient’s problem.