OPEN Foundation

Janine Schmid – Self-therapy with ayahuasca

The often-used term ‘healing ritual’ for nearly all kinds of ayahuasca rituals (Santo Daime rituals, neo-shamanistic rituals, and even do-it-yourself-rituals) attracts people searching for an alternative method for treatment. In this study, fifteen people with first-hand experience with ayahuasca ‘therapy’ for a special disease (like chronic pain, cancer or tumours, asthma or allergic reaction to food, depression, alcohol abuse, Hepatitis C, tinnitus, glaucoma) were interviewed twice about their ideas and beliefs on ayahuasca and healing, and about their subjective theories on the etiology of disease and change. In most cases, people were convinced their illness was influenced in a positive way by ayahuasca. ‘Healing’ is not limited to the cure of physical and mental diseases but extends to a lot of psychological and even spiritual problems. Often ‘ self-transformation’ and ‘self-healing’ went hand-in-hand.

Although ayahuasca was an important help for all people coping with illness and self-actualization, it is clearly not a ‘universal remedy’ which provides healing for free – it involves a lot of personal work to succeed. Therefore there must be a critical discussion of some healing concepts and their implications. An idea commonly found – not only in the field of ayahuasca users – was that so-called ‘positive and negative thinking’ can influence the course of a disease. Likewise, ancient wisdom (“millennial indigenous knowledge”) was taken for granted and often used for legitimation and to deny negative effects or difficulties. These and other problematic issues will be questioned and discussed.