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MEDICAL MATTERS

Your health and safety is very important to us. We have prepared these medical guidelines to help reduce risks associated with your participation in our Ayahuasca retreats and Plant Dieta activities. For more detail, please visit our Medical Terms which form part of our legal agreement when you participate in our services. We are always working closely with our customers and staff to keep you informed of changing precautions, as appropriate. We strongly recommend you have full travel and medical insurance coverage for the duration of your participation in our retreats. 

Here are some key points to keep in mind when considering an Ayahuasca retreat or Plant Dieta at Caya Shobo:

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive entheogen made in a traditional Shipibo brewing process with two plants: Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis or Diplopterys cabrerana. The brew contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and β-carbolines known for their monoamine oxidase-inhibiting (MAOI) properties. A range of other plants (mostly non-psychoactive), are also ingested in Shipibo traditional medicine, including in Plant Dieta practice at Caya Shobo.

There are risks associated with ingestion of the Ayahuasca brew and/or other plants, including death or injury. Participation in an Ayahuasca retreat or plant Dieta practice may be physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually demanding, including dizziness, nausea or other physical upsets, such as vomiting and diarrhea, or other physical, emotional and mental changes or disturbance.

Combining ingestion of Ayahuasca or other Shipibo plant treatments with medications, substances, or even certain plants (such as tobacco) can significantly increase the risk of injury or death. That is why it is very important that when you fill in your medical questionnaire and communicate with us you provide all information about any and all medications, substances or other treatments or supplements you are taking or have recently taken.

While it is not a common occurrence, death has been attributed to consumption of Ayahuasca in South America, Europe, North America and Australia. However, this article from ICEERS (International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service) examines whether those deaths were indirectly rather than directly caused by Ayahuasca consumption. It said in August 2023:  “no toxicological analysis or forensic examination has determined that ayahuasca caused a single death by acute intoxication by consuming the traditional brew…”. 

Below is a comprehensive list of medications and substances that may be contraindicated with Ayahuasca or Shipibo Plant Dieta practice.

Certain health conditions may not be compatible with ingestion of Ayahuasca and/or other plants. Therefore, in your medical questionnaire you must let us know of any physical or mental health concerns and/or special dietary needs that may impact your participation in a retreat. It is important to be as complete and accurate as possible in your responses. If you are under medical treatment we will ask you to let your medical adviser/s know of your intention to participate in an Ayahuasca retreat and/or Plant Dieta practice, and of our recommendations for how you should prepare for your retreat.

In order to improve the quality and safety of your experience Caya Shobo requires you to maintain certain dietary restrictions. This includes abstaining from: other psychoactive plants or substances, recreational drugs and alcohol, pork, red meat, dairy (eggs are okay), salt or salty foods, vinegar, lemon juice, acidic foods (lemon, mayonnaise, pickled foods), spicy food (chili, curry, hot sauce), aged and fermented foods (miso, tofu, smoked fish), fried or oily foods, sugar or sweeteners and caffeine.

Most natural supplements are okay up to 3 days prior to a retreat. See below for more guidance about supplements, herbs and natural remedies.

The quality of Ayahuasca ceremony and Plant Dieta practice is easily affected by the ‘energy’ of certain activities and interactions. That is why sexual abstinence also takes on crucial importance prior to, and during a retreat, and this includes sexual activity with yourself.

And while we’re on the topic of ‘energies,’ it is important to understand that Shipibo traditional medicine is firmly rooted in the realm of shamanism. Caya Shobo makes no claims or promises about the curing of illness of any kind, or about the nature of any spiritual experience which is entirely personal. As noted by Albert JP and Crubézy E. in the article ‘Shamanic healing in the age of modern medicine’: “Shamanism embraces special cosmogenic beliefs…The shaman and medical doctor occupy symmetric, inversed positions. The shaman is a master in the management of social and psychoaffective health determinants. Until now the physician may have tended to overlook the human side of disease."

Guidance or recommendations that Caya Shobo may provide before, during or after our Ayahuasca retreats or other services does not constitute professional medical or mental health care or advice, and is not a substitute for such care. It should not be used in place of any form of therapy prescribed or instructed by your professional medical adviser/s and/or mental health adviser/s.

– Discontinuation Prior to a Retreat / For Your Safety –

Many medications, drugs and substances are contraindicated when working with Ayahuasca or other plants. It is imperative to discontinue use of the following substances, with ample time to allow them to be sufficiently cleared from your body. Please note, that any changes to prescribed medications or medical treatment must be done under the guidance of your professional medical adviser/s for your safety, stability and well-being.

If you are taking the following medications, recreational drugs or substances, it is not safe to work with Ayahuasca, and they must be fully discontinued (under the guidance of your professional medical advisers) prior to attendance in a retreat (and sometimes weeks prior; we will suggest timelines for discontinuation for you to discuss with your doctor):

  • Other MAOIs
  • SSRI’s (any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), SNRI’s (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
  • Decongestants
  • Cold and sinus medications, Nasal sprays
  • Medicine for asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems
  • Antihistamines, Hay fever or allergy medications
  • Appetite suppressants (diet pills)
  • Pain medications
  • Heart medications
  • CNS (central nervous system) depressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Barbiturates
  • Opiates or sedatives
  • Amphetamines, Cocaine, MDMA (Ecstasy), etc
  • Ketamine or other anesthetics
  • Mescaline, datura, peyote, LSD, DMT, mushrooms, or other psychedelics
  • Kambo, Bufo, other psychoactive medicines from animal products
  • Kratom, Kava, and other natural plant opioids or relaxants.
  • Marijuana, vapes, e-cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine (ingested)
  • Caffeine

– Use of marijuana, mushrooms, kambo or other entheogens –

Ingesting marijuana (in any form), psychedelic mushrooms, kambo or other entheogens before an Ayahuasca retreat or Plant Dieta practice can be highly dangerous, or potentially lethal. These substances present a serious impediment to ensuring the best benefits from your retreat and may negatively affect your experience, as well as potentially affect other participants in the retreat, the maestros or the support staff/facilitators.

– Use of natural supplements and non-psychoactive herbs –

Ayahuasca and the master Dieta Plants are very easily affected by what we put into our bodies, including other strong plants such as garlic, or many herbs. Likewise, many natural supplements can affect the Dieta practice. We recommend that you discontinue all supplements and herbs by at least 3 days prior to a retreat, or longer, particularly for very potent supplements (such as oregano oil), or highly acidic ones (like Vitamin C), or those that contain animal products (such as many iron supplements), or supplements or herbs that affect brain chemistry (such as St John’s Wort). If you are taking supplements or herbs under professional medical guidance, you should discuss any changes or discontinuation with your doctor beforehand.

– A Note about Mental Health Conditions –

If you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition it is imperative to fully disclose this in your medical questionnaire. Any history of mania, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizophrenic episodes, psychosis/psychotic episodes, depersonalization or other debilitating symptoms are especially important to share with us prior to attending a retreat. You should seek guidance from your professional mental health adviser/s if you have any questions pertaining to your personal situation and whether working with Ayahuasca and Plant Dieta is the right choice for you.

– Other Contraindications/Conditions –

If you have heart or liver/hepatic conditions, or if you are pregnant, or if you have any other health condition that may impact your participation in an Ayahuasca retreat or Plant Dieta practice at Caya Shobo, you must consult with us and provide more information about your condition.
In some cases it may be possible for you to attend a retreat without ingesting Ayahuasca or other plants, and instead receive the powerfully healing Icaro treatments from our maestros. Even today, this is the traditional approach to shamanic healing amongst the Shipibo people: the maestro Onanya healers diet the Teacher Plants so as to receive the songs that carry their healing power, and then they transmit that energy to the patient. Icaro treatment is an important part of the healing that happens at Caya Shobo.

For your own safety and the wellbeing of all guests, maestros and facilitators, if we suspect that any of the above listed medications, recreational drugs or substances have been consumed just prior to, or during a retreat, or if you have not been truthful in your communication with us, we reserve the right to exclude you from continued participation in the retreat and we will require you to leave Caya Shobo.

Please visit our Medical Terms for more detailed information about the terms that all guests of Caya Shobo retreats and services must agree to.

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