Ayahuasca — visions of jungle medicine: Adam Oliver Brown at TEDxUOttawa



many people would argue that we've come to a critical time in this interface between humans and the natural world and they might rightfully argue that the state of the environment is quite poor and things may look bleak and while I agree mostly with those statements I'm not here to depress you today in fact to tell you a little bit of good news and and illustrate that we have made some progress and so I'll talk to you today about my vision for a prosperous and sustainable world which involves of course the greater understanding reverence and respect for nature now there are many ways in which we've begun to incorporate ecological and environmentally sustainable practices into our society such as through levels associated with industry for example using natural biodiversity ecosystem services in agriculture such as through pollination services or pest reduction by simply putting habitats out there instead of destroying it by promoting its environments that can sustain native biodiversity we can work with nature rather than against it and this is an example in which we can recreate a sort of harmony or equilibrium with nature after centuries of trying to eradicate and control and other means is to turn to nature for inspiration such as from this majestic creature the peregrine falcon the fastest animal on the planet who achieves speeds upwards of 300 kilometres an hour as it dives out of the air in order to kick another bird in the back as its prey now any of you who've ever stuck your head out of a car window that's racing down the highway will will know how difficult it is to breathe as that air is rushing past your nose and this would have was course been an evolutionary challenge to a fast traveling bird like the peregrine falcon and so we find there are adaptations to counter these challenges such as this little inverted cone that's in its nostril and so we can also turn to nature in order to inspire ourselves such as when engineers have began building faster and more powerful jet and one of the main limitations was being able to get the air to go into the turbine because of all the turbulence that was created at such high speeds and by inspiring themselves from the peregrine falcon they're able to insert little cones into the turbines and improve the mechanical efficiency of our technologies another way in which we can turn to nature in order to find potential solutions for our problems and so the last way I'm going to mention which will really be the body of my talk today is by referring to nature's inventions directly that is in the form of compounds and chemicals that have evolved in nature's organisms over millions of years and have biologically active effects on animals and so this story I'm going to tell you today is one in which we went down to Peru in 2010 with a film crew for the nature of things of CBS CBC television in order to make a documentary on a Vancouver doctor named dr. Gabor mate' who you see sitting here in the foreground to your left who is a doctor who treats skid row addict patients of the lower east side of Vancouver who were dealing with crippling addictions so why ayahuasca an addiction would that why would that be even a topic to discuss well we know that in the 1950s a lot of research was initiated in research institutions and academia looking into psychedelic medicine and its potential role in treating people with psychosis or various psychological illnesses and that these experiments and studies led to great promise for treating people that were afflicted with psychological burdens of course this movement was largely discredited over the course of the 60s as people discovered that the military was using psychedelics in order to conduct mind-control experiments and that of course the hippie acid parties in the Haight Ashbury neighborhoods of San Francisco somewhat deviated the seriousness of the potential for these psychedelics to help people and it's only relatively recently that it's thought to come back in the discussions in the halls and the laboratories of academia and using psychedelics to treat people who have psychological the saw now why why psychedelics and psychological disorders well psychedelics be they be they LSD the psilocybin of magic mushrooms DMT which is the active component in the ayahuasca that I'll be discussing with you today these are all chemicals that mimic serotonin and serotonin is a neurotransmitter that acts in our region the regions of our brains that are associated with mood perception and memory so it's perhaps not surprising then when we over stimulate these receptors with analog mimics of these neurotransmitters we get these mind-altering experiences now specifically what's ayahuasca ayahuasca is an amazonian psychedelic brew that is made up of two different plants the bark from a vine of the banisteriopsis genus and the leaves of the psychotria tree and these two ingredients are harvested and macerated and mixed together and boiled in these cauldrons boiled and reduced and then boiled and reduced and boiled and reduced over 24 hours until at the end you receive this dark thick molasses molasses like sludge and that is what it's used in the ayahuasca ceremonies and this ayahuasca is the most potent psychedelic that is known in fact its effects are so strong that the name itself has some kind of indication towards these effects ayahuasca is a catch you an Amazonian term which literally translates into English as vine of the soul and so these experiences with ayahuasca clearly give individuals some kind of profound insight into their own psyche so in order to document these ceremonies and these effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca we gathered up our film crew and hiked up the mountain of outside of tarapoto Peru one Saturday afternoon through thick Amazonian jungle through stinging fire ant nests and biting bullet ant nests and across raging rivers we hiked from hours before we were met at the top of the mountain by our quandaries or the shamans at this open-air ceremony hot or Tambo so we were retd warmly and we had time to prepare for the ceremony which would happen after sundown and preparation involved partly getting changed into our ceremonial white clothing which was essential because these these rites are performed in complete darkness in pitch black and so it's important for the quand eros of shaman to be able to see you through the luminescence of your clothing because they do come over and administer some rites and songs and healing practices and sometimes they have to prevent some wigged out space cadets from wandering away from their little trip out station which is basically just a little pillow against the wall and a bucket to vomit into so you see part of the preparation of course is psychological getting yourself ready for the experience to come and when it was my turn to go up and get the ayahuasca said a little salutation salut de todos to everyone wishing us all good luck for what was to come and what was to come was definitely the most terrifying and the most exciting event of my life to date so they once everybody had received their ayahuasca they turned out the lights the co and arrows began to sing some ceremonial traditional songs and not long thereafter the visual hallucinations began so the first of these visual hallucinations were that my vision began to be separated into layers away from me and then in the closest of these layers I found that they were infested with insects and snakes and bugs all scurrying around very very close in my personal space many people would have found this to be quite disturbing but I am trained as an entomologist and I therefore focused a little bit more intently on the insects and found that they were mostly carotid and tuna Brianna beetles and so therefore not really much to be concerned about and so I really did quite enjoy this aspect of the the preliminary visuals that were happening and noticed that in some of the further layers that were more distant away from me there were actually orbs of pastel colored lights bobbing around and I remember thinking to myself well that's weird because we're sitting here in the dark where does this light come from and little did I know there would be a lot more light yet to come one of the other aspects of course as I hinted with the bucket is that there's vomiting at this point and this is a form of purging in which the body is expelling this nasty bitter liquid in your stomach but it's not just the physical purge it's also a psychological one now it seemed like there was a lot of vomiting going on in retrospect there wasn't because afterwards I looked in the bucket and there were only a few drops of spit and some torn up petition paper that I'd used to wipe my face but at the time it really felt like there were these torrents of vomit coming out and not to disgust you too much for one because it wasn't even vomit it was snakes so there were snakes losing out of my nose and my mouth and this is quite literally what I was experiencing however despite this sort of somewhat fake freaky nature it was very cathartic because these snakes were felt like they were bringing demons up from inside and were cleansing my soul in the process so in fact I felt quite good after this purge good as you can in the experience and of course it helped me prepare for what was to come next because that was a lot more intense so not long after say 45 minutes into this the first couple of layers of insect grits began to dissipate and they move closer towards these bobbing pastel colored orbs of light and managed to spend a little bit of time in that weird strange cartoon kind of world until all of a sudden they came rushing at me and I found myself blasted off into the universe on the back of some kind of fractal fireworks roller coaster so I was traveling through the universe at light speed with the visuals becoming much much more intense at this point with colorful mandalas the fractals opening and closing and spiraling around each other like clockwork so quickly I couldn't take it all and in fact at this point I was also physically being thrown around by the violent turbulence of the wild ride on this comet that I was traveling through the universe on and again I had to say to myself this is so weird because rationally I was able to recognize that there shouldn't be any lights I'm in the dark in a hut in Peru and why am I feeling like my body's being thrown around so this was a really all-encompassing experience at this point and I have to admit at this point it was a little much for me and I started to panic thinking I don't like this anymore I wanted to get off but of course you can't the you are on this ride until the very end and at some point I admitted that to myself and said well we're just gonna have to ride it out and so I did and thankfully this really intense part of the trip only lasted for another hour or so and so that was fun but when that's subsided we came down into this really thick quiet warm emotionally Laden place it wasn't a room it was like more of a zone and this zone was bordered by a big red velvety curtain that reminded me essentially of this the black Lodge in the Twin Peaks television series but in this hallucination there were no backwards talking dwarves however what did come next was truly astonishing to me the curtain pulled back and revealed to me a scene a forgotten scene from my own childhood that was somewhat troubling emotionally and I had forgotten about that scene probably since the very day it happened but as soon as that curtain pulled back and I was witness to it again I recognized it immediately as having been an important event in my life that I somehow had repressed and what was interesting about this is while I was reinstated on a t'k scene from my childhood I wasn't revisiting any of the emotional trauma associated with it it was like I was a third party observer impartially and objectively being able to watch my life story and to be a to determine why or how it was important to me becoming who I was as an individual it was almost like I wasn't seeing what was happening but I was being told why what I was seeing was important to how I became as an individual later on in my life and so over the course of the next hour or so these curtains continued to part and presented me with these astonishingly vivid memories that I had forgotten about since those times but that allowed me to incorporate somewhat troubling experiences from my past objectively into my life story and to be able to move forward without having the emotional burden of those events continue to nag at my conscience and my subconscious throughout the rest of my life so the point here folks is not a story about recreational drug tourism it's about illustrating the potential for these chemicals to help us to help us heal ourselves our health our psychology and our societies and to recognize that let me tell you straight I had a pretty happy childhood I was not burdened with a lot of emotional trauma but even in my experience with ayahuasca I came out with a profound understanding of the events that led up to me behaving the way I do nowadays and most importantly the way I behaved when I don't like the way I'm behaving and usually it that those behaviors come from some kind of psychological nagging that is recessed somewhere in the back of your brain that we all carry with us more so those people that have experienced serious dramas and have much more emotional burdens that they carry and we've already heard from some people here today that have Illustrated that they have experienced those emotional traumas and they continue to carry those burdens well ayahuasca is clearly a tool that can be used to allow people to come to grips with those nagging forgotten memories to be able to incorporate them into their life story and then to move on more happy and healthier psychologically speaking and therefore these experiences as well as the academic research indicate that there is great potential in the psychedelic medicine to allow people to deal with and drama that has led to behavioral problems such as addictions or syndromes such as post-traumatic stress disorder where people are haunted by their memories and can't let go and move on so it's very interesting of course these chemicals exist and have that effect and as an evolutionary ecologist I don't suggest that they were put here to help us or to inform us they'd rather evolved in order to deter the more pervasive insect herbivores but insects have essentially the similarly structured nervous systems as we do and whereas these neurotransmitter mimics may cause convulsions and paralysis in the motor system of a simplified animal like an insect in a more higher evolved animal whose neurotransmitters are clustered into networks the effects can be profound in terms of giving us insights into our own psyche of course accompanied with the greatest light show on earth so the message here is that the potential for turning to nature for help and cut-in finding solutions to our problem is great this potential could be related to working in harmony with nature such as in the agricultural or other industrial sectors it could be in terms of turning to nature for inspiration when we're looking to create the next mind-blowing technology or it could be turning to nature in order to utilize some of the pre-existing structures that have evolved in nature's organisms over millions of years and that can help us as a society but of course nowadays the environment is in peril ecosystems are under threat from human advances and habitat destruction and toxic pollution and as we lose these ecosystem functions we don't just lose integral fabrics of our nature we also lose the potential for these discoveries that can help human society in the future and so that is why I say that part of my vision for a prosperous and sustainable future involve a deep understanding and respect and preservation of the natural world hope that you would agree

31 comments

  1. I think people should drink 30 times plus and then wait a few years before they start educating others on ayahuasca. It’s not a cure all. It’s not instant and it’s way to much to process in a short time. Takes years.

  2. I would never take ayahuasca. I’m not down with hallucinating for hours and taking a trip down my most scariest memories. But The main reason I would never try this is the vomiting.

  3. There is ☝️ thing wrong here, the ayahuasca trip is not the same for everyone. He says he visited the past and I never had that with ayahuasca…be careful with ayahuasca, you don’t have to try that way, there are many ways

  4. Ya
    Trip out…? To concur a Global dysfunction?
    A bunch of Stoned Out hippies never did conquer anything in the 60s why would it now?

  5. When did Ted become so politically correct that they began deleting REAL programs about conscious, simply because the content involved drug use.

  6. I think I would definitely go to the Costa Rica one and just take a little half bit and do some writing and self exploration. I wouldn't try to contact God on dmt. That seems forced almost and could all be just a hallucination for sure. But I would use the experience for mind expansion and mental healing. I would avoid taking so much to have constant hallucination . The bible says God's voice is upon the waters, so go to the beach after and talk it out with him. In a peaceful place. It also says Gods voice is a still voice. That means intuitive not a actual voice. There is enough dmt in small amounts of aya to do some soul search healing.

  7. I had the same insights. I watched my whole life. I could remember things From the time I was in my mother's belly

  8. Dr Gabor Mate's work (mentioned in the talk) is remarkable. I recently saw his long interview with Tim Ferriss that was really insightful

  9. "Potent" refers to the dosage required to achieve the effects.
    At several 100 milligrams of DMT for a full dose, ayahuasca is not very potent.
    In contrast, LSD for example is fully active for most people at 0.1 milligram.

    He probably meant "powerful", in which case, many people would agree. Especially if the life-changing quality is taken into account, rather than "only" the experience itself.

    However, if we're talking about the raw absolute transcendental universe-shattering power of the experience, most will testify that 5-MeO-DMT is more powerful than ayahuasca. (If it makes sense to compare such ultimate experiences)

  10. He did a horrible job explaining the ritual and use of the brew. The passing swipes at the brew shows his mind set he had even before the journey.

  11. Guys you dont have to go to the Himalayans to smoke weed, and you dont need to go to South America and pay $1000 to try ayahuasca. If you have a half of a brain, you can make it yourself and do it in your living room. It's not about the ritual, the medicine does all the work.

  12. So.."tripping" is a human right, is what I'm getting, and the USA is a massive human rights violator. Not even economic sanctions can stop medicine and this is CLEARLY medicine.

  13. for all of you that somehow brought jesus in this conversation..pls do your selfs a favor and enlighten the rest of us by naming one single historical evidence that jesus existed outside the bible..also pls try to name the establisher of the religion and the location where its was established and when is the first time that someone contemporary to christians names them in text for the first time… i guarantee you you ill be astounded..also pls try to explain why flavius joseph contemporary to jesus doesnot mention him once in his accords for palestine after the turmoil that was generated in his biblical infamous entry in jerusalem with his followers and his death on the cross and resurection while he gave in record detail so mauch informationa bout various criminals that died on trhe cross..and pls elaborate whty the apologists inserted fake text in his books to overcome this defeaning silence about jesus..i can give a lot of indicators about historical absense of jesus..can you do the opposite and name a few???????????????????????????????????????

  14. The Mother Vine gives you he truest knowledge of yourself. The experience can be harsh, the way a severe mother teaches a child, but it’s done with the purest intentions. Only one correction: the Tambo is the hut where you sleep at night, the ceremonial Hut is called Maloca. Also, the part of the vine that it’s used is not the bark, but what inside, the core of the vine, which is like smaller vines interwoven as to recreate human DNA

  15. I'll probably just stick with Heavenly Blue morning glory seeds from my local Walmart. Warning : Seed contained herein is for planting purposes only!

  16. People need to go to Peru ! Evrything outside is fake ! Ayahuasca is not joke ! The amazon basin holds the secret. It’s like WiFi you can’t have the same effect outside the range ! Stop going to fake placebo bs !

  17. lol, these compounds have a psychological effect that temporally kills your ego. if a person who seeks power takes them, they will be very heavily damaged from it

  18. When I took ayahuasca first I got sick, I threw up and had diarrhea. I know this is common but my experience wasn't that deep. I had 2 short hallucinations but other than that I couldn't get out of my head.
    I took 2 (small) glasses. Should I have taken more?
    Also I stopped smoking weed 2 weeks prior (not a heavy smoker. I smoke 2-10 a month). Could this be of influence?

  19. I have seen the insects that he was discussing on psilocybin and they were primarily beetles and inside of those beetles, I could make out other patterns. I have even seen the alien archetype. The first time I saw this mental being, I became afraid because it surprised me. It resembles a lotus flower and as I was moving into the mandala, the lotus began to open more and more, inviting me to come closer and closer. I could never get to the lotus being but I found it almost as a game of chase. Very interesting stuff. The most I have taken is 2.2 grams on an empty stomach. I do not think I would go as high as 3.5 even though the heroic dose is always in the back of my mind. These organic chemicals are teaching tools in my opinion. I found that understanding the septenary nature of man as described by the Eastern Mahatmas has helped me tremendously in my experiences. Its as if it connects you directly with your soul and works out things through the vehicles from which the soul controls the body. The constitution of man is described in two sections: A triad that is immortal and moves on from body to body and a lower quarternary that is impermanent. According to the teaching the higher triad consists of:

    #7. ATMA – The Divine Part

    #6. BUDDHI – The Spiritual Part

    #5. MANAS – The Intellectual Part

    then to the impermanent parts:

    #4. KAMA – The Passional Part

    #3. PRANA – The Vital Part

    #2. LINGA SHARIRA – The Astral Part

    #1. STHULA SHARIRA – The Physical Part

    For more information on these, you can read some of Blavatsky's works or Manly P Halls works. Very interesting stuff and even though this could never be proven from a scientific standpoint, it is a framework that allows us to understand our constitution and how we grow and unfold through time.

  20. Psylocibin is also a very good plant for your consciousness…i did both here in Brazil… ahyuasca is a stronger experience in every sense, more intense…
    You people who are paying for ahyuasca be aware of the people who are providing intention. If your shaman has duality in their mind, the trip maybe more unstable.
    And go to meditation…do something like the vypassana course and do it everyday..ahyuasca can cure, but education and discipline is something for everyday in our lives.. the ill mentality of not seeing we are not separate from nature…and the ill mentallity of wanting to obtain a certain drug ( so you can be happy forever) its ignorance. It is temporary illusion and you might end up feeding the sick side of society again and again

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