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Brazil's ayahuasca boom

June 30, 2024

For generations, Brazil's indigenous people have incorporated ayahuasca, a powerful psychedelic, into their rituals. Researchers say it can serve as an alternative to anti-depressants and be used to treat drug addiction.


Ayahuasca translates as "spirits of the woody vine.” In Brazil, consuming it as part of religious rituals has been legal for decades. In the village of the Huni Kuin tribe, the plants needed to make the sacramental drink grow right next to the river. Villagers gather once a month to drink the brown liquid from a small glass. It’s a bitter brew made by boiling a special type of vine with the leaves of a coffee plant. It puts the Huni Kuin people into a rapturous, hallucinatory state that lasts hours. It’s a cleansing, healing journey of self-discovery, says tribal elder Ibã Huni Kuin. A growing number of foreigners and Brazilians are traveling to the state of Acre to join in these spiritual experiences. But in Rio de Janeiro - not far from the Sugarloaf Mountain - there’s an ayahuasca church that’s existed for decades. Several times of month, a religious congregation gathers at the church for an intoxicating ayahuasca ceremony that goes on for hours and involves dancing and the recitation of verses celebrating nature and the Catholic faith. Back in the ayahuasca heartlands of Brazil, chief Ibã Huni Kuin uses art to capitalize financially on his ayahuasca ceremonies. This money, in turn, goes to help protect the rainforest.

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