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Safety

In case of emergencies, the center is located about 40 minutes by combination of road and boat from Iquitos. Emergencies are rare or never but we are prepared in the event of one. Please fill out the medical questionnaire honestly when you apply and the shamans will work closely with you to make sure you are safe during your time with us. Take the information below very seriously.

Ayahuasca by itself is generally safe, but there are some people who should not take it. Anyone with heart disease (heart failure, recent heart attack, angina, valve disease, arrhythmia, uncontrolled hypertension), kidney disease, or schizophrenia is discouraged from taking it. The experience you have when drinking ayahuasca can be very stressful, increasing your blood pressure and heart rate and temporarily throwing your electrolytes out of balance. It can also trigger psychosis in schizophrenics. The physical stress is fine for someone in good health, but it could potentially be too much and even lethal for someone who is already having problems with their blood pressure, heart, or kidneys.  For this reason, we request anyone over 40 (or who has fully recovered from a past heart attack and is now healthy) to get a medical screening by their doctor to be sure they haven’t unknowingly developed any medical conditions that would make ayahuasca dangerous for them. We recommend, in addition to checking blood pressure, that the screen include an electrocardiogram and blood work to check your liver and kidney function. If you fail to follow these precautions, you accept full responsibility for any damage you might experience from doing ayahuasca, including your possible death. If you need to cancel your retreat due to a doctor finding that you are not healthy enough to participate, we will refund your deposit.

Anyone with active prostate cancer should not take ayahuasca. Ayahuasca can inflame the prostate and make it worse.

We also ask that you wait 6 months to drink ayahuasca if you have had any surgery that required general anesthesia.

A note about menstruation. When women drink ayahuasca while menstruating, it can make the experience extremely intense, even dangerous, for the woman, the other visitors and especially the shamans. For this reason, many centers will not allow women to participate if they are menstruating. The shamans at Selva Madre understand how devastating this can be, so they have found a way to let you participate, but with some modifications. So please, for everyone's sake, let the shamans know as soon as possible if you start your period.

About sex and Dietas. Ayahuasca retreats involve a fairly strict diet, called a Dieta. While you are in retreat, you will be limited to certain foods that keep your body as clean as possible. This helps you to be sensitive and open to Aya. Some foods, including salt and sugar, can block her healing energy. The same is true for sex. Any kind of sexual activity, including masturbation, should be strictly avoided. Controlling your mind is not always easy, but you should also do your best to redirect any sexual thoughts you might have. Giving in to temptation and masturbating during your Dieta or eating something forbidden can have grave consequences. If you do fail, please let the shamans know so that they can repair your Dieta.

 

List of Medications to Avoid When Drinking Ayahuasca

  • Antihypertensives/high blood pressure medicine  - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat and resume the day you get home. Ayahuasca will impact your blood pressure. Therefore, you must be able to control your blood pressure (120 systolic and below) through diet and exercise for the month leading up to your retreat. To do this, we recommend a raw diet with no added sugar or salt and no caffeine. If your blood pressure is found to be elevated at the retreat, you will not be able to drink that day.

  • MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • SSRIs (any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) - stop 6 weeks prior to retreat, resume 4 weeks after

  • Antibiotics - stop 72 hours prior to retreat

  • Appetite suppressants (diet pills) - stop at least 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • Antihistamines, medicines for colds, sinus problems, hay fever, or allergies (Actifed DM, Benadryl, Benylin, Chlor-Trimeton, Compoz, Bromarest-DM or -DX, Dimetane-DX cough syrup, Dristan Cold & Flu, Phenergan with dextromethorphan, Robitussin-DM, Vicks Formula 44-D, several Tylenol cold, cough, and flu preparations, and many others) - stop 2 weeks prior to retreat

  • Any drug containing dextromethorphan/ DXM or with DM, DX or Tuss in its name.) - stop 2 weeks prior to retreat

  • CNS (central nervous system) depressants (xanax, ativan etc) - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • Vasodilators - discuss with us prior to reserving a retreat. You likely have a medical condition that is not safe with ayahuasca

  • Antipsychotics - discuss with shaman prior to reserving a retreat

  • Medicine for asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems (may use, but should discuss with shaman)

  • Foods containing  tyramine (aged cheese, cured meats, and pickled foods) - stop 2 weeks prior

Vaccines

Please wait at least 2 weeks after receiving tetanus to start ayahuasca. All other vaccines do not require a wait time.

Antimalarials

Selva Madre does not tend to have a lot of mosquitoes, but most governments recommend prophylaxis for the general area and you will likely not be at the center 100% of the time. The shamans understand this and have said that you may take antimalarial medication if you wish, but please let them know you are on it so that they can make modifications if necessary. Malarone seems to be the least problematic with ayahuasca.

Illegal or recreational drugs that are VERY dangerous to combine with MAOIs. You must be honest about any use:

  • Amphetamines, ephedrine, MDMA (Ecstasy), MDA, MDEA, PMA - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • Opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine, kratom and especially opium) - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • Dextromethorphan (DXM) - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • Mescaline (any phenethylamine) - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • Cocaine - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • Barbiturates - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

  • Kava - stop 4 weeks prior to retreat

 

Cannabis use is not dangerous, but it significantly alters the anticipated effects of ayahuasca and can interfere with the work of the shamans on retreat, especially if you are a heavy user. The shamans thus feel that it is very important for you to stop using 4 weeks prior to the retreat. We respect Cannabis itself as a Master Plant and its use ceremonially in places where it is legal; however, it is illegal in Peru and therefore should also not be brought to Selva Madre. 

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