Ayahuasca | Contraindications and Risks of Use

Published: Jan 27, 2023 | Revised: Feb 4, 2023
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Ayahuasca | Contraindications and Risks of Use

Taking Ayahuasca is thought to have a range of physical, psychological, and spiritual health benefits, but there are quite a series of risks involved when ingesting the brew. Apart from that, there are some contraindications of use.

For instance, Ayahuasca raises blood pressure and heart rate, and for people with cardiovascular issues it’s not a good idea to drink Ayahuasca because it may aggravate those phenomena and even lead to cardiac arrest.

People with diabetes, kidney, gallbladder, pancreas, and/or liver health conditions are advised to avoid Ayahuasca, because the exact implications are yet unknown.

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Pregnant or lactating women should not use Ayahuasca. Neither should people who suffer from glaucoma, tuberculosis, fractures, recent surgeries, gastritis, convulsions, or epilepsy.

Those with serious mental health issues, such as people who suffer from borderline, schizophrenia, psychosis, or bipolar disorder should stay away from Ayahuasca, because it can gravely intensify the issues.

People who are on medication should be extremely careful with Ayahuasca; there’s still not enough knowledge about what medication may act adversely in combination with Ayahuasca, and as such it’s advised to not consume the brew if one structurally takes pharmaceuticals.

People who are addicted to recreational drugs should not consume Ayahuasca, because it can lead to unexpected, life-threatening effects.

Another issue is that each individual Ayahuasca retreat facilitator, Shaman, or Curandero uses their own specific brew, usually adding extra ingredients to the tea. It’s strongly advised to inquire what extras will be added to the brew and to do research on the risks of (mixing) those ingredients.

In general, keep in mind that people can have different experiences taking Ayahuasca on different occasions, which, for instance, depends on the strength of the dose, the preparation of the participant for the retreat or session, and the number of consecutive ceremonies participated in.

Additionally, one needs to be aware that consuming Ayahuasca typically results in a psychedelic experience, which can cause fear, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, and distress. Some people may get stuck in a “bad trip,” and it’s important to receive proper aftercare to avoid enduring long-term psychological damage.

Finally, mind that some cases of seizures, respiratory or cardiac arrest, and coma have been reported after ingesting Ayahuasca, including death. As a whole, the risks of adverse effects are larger for physically or psychologically vulnerable people, and for those who use Ayahuasca in an unsupported context.

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