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From Brooklyn to Australia, there is a growing demand for ayahuasca, a tribal, hallucinogenic tea said to have both spiritual and curative properties. But, like any globalization fairy tale, the world’s embrace is threatening to suffocate the tradition at its source. The herbal tea, made by combining a rare vine and shrub found in the thick of the Amazon, has become the “it” drug for celebrities like Sting and Lindsay Lohan, who rave about its spiritual properties. But for the Amazonian tribes that have used ayahuasca for 5,000 years to communicate with God on matters ranging from politics to medicine, the trend is dangerous.

“The sacred art of Indians has been transformed into entertainment”, said Moises Pianko, a member of the Ashaninka tribe of northern Brazil.

The ayahuasca tourism industry grows exponentially. An estimated 40 therapeutic retreats around the world now specialize in ayahuasca, according to Carlos Suarez, an independent researcher who writes about economic development and cultural change in the Amazon. Some researchers see the global commercialization of ayahuasca as inevitable, and think the tribes should focus on getting a cut of profits. Some tribes want to get on board, but demand for ayahuasca is surging too fast to keep up.

At the same time, the rush for ayahuasca has tribes questioning the sustainability of their own ceremonies. Because extraction of the plant is largely unregulated, foresters have found that amature ayahuasca brewers wandering the jungle often cut off a piece of the rare vine and leave the rest to rest rot. Finding the once abundant vine in Peru’s Iquitos region, where most centers are located, now takes days. (1)

Spiritual world for sale.

The epitome of western civilization.

Once again the ignorance of the many leads to misconceptions about the knowledge of the few. Shamans used this vine for their spiritual rituals, but that does not mean that whoever drinks it will have the same experience or the same spiritual journey. One needs to be prepared for the higher realms of spirit and soul – what difference would it make to drink a tea like this if your “god” is money and sex?

Prepare yourself to enter the cave.

Yes, you will see things inside.

But only what you take with you…

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