Ayahuasca: National Cultural Heritage

On June 24, 2008, the Peruvian National Institute of Culture resolved that indigenous ayahuasca rituals — “one of the fundamental pillars of the identity of Amazonian peoples” — are part of the national cultural heritage of Peru, and are to be protected, in order to ensure their cultural continuity. The National Institute of Culture is charged by statute with recording, publishing, and protecting the Peruvian national cultural heritage.

The resolution explicitly differentiates the traditional use and sacred character of indigenous ayahuasca rituals from “decontextualized, consumerist, and commercial western uses.”

The resolution is based on a May 29, 2008, report originally submitted by Rosa Giove Nakazawa, a physician at the Takiwasi Center in Tarapoto, to the Regional Bureau for Economic Development, a local governmental entity in the departamento of San Martin. The Takiwasi Center is a medical facility investigating the treatment of addictions using traditional Amazonian medicine, including ayahuasca.

The Resolution states that ayahuasca is "a plant species with an extraordinary cultural history, by virtue of its psychotropic qualities and its use as a drink combined with the plant known as chacruna.” This plant, the Resolution says,

is known to the indigenous Amazonian world as a wise or teaching plant, which shows to initiates the very foundations of the world and its components. The effect of its consumption is to enter into the spiritual world and its secrets … The effects of ayahuasca, widely studied because of their complexity, differ from those usually produced by hallucinogens. Part of this difference consists in the ritual which accompanies its consumption, which leads to a variety of effects which are always within culturally defined limits, and with religious, therapeutic, and culturally affirmative intentions.

It is not clear to me what legal effect this resolution has, or what powers the National Institute of Culture has to enforce it, or whether this means that support is available for additional research and publication on ayahuasca rituals, or whether the resolution is intended to encourage or discourage ayahuasca tourism.

It is also not clear what impact — if any — the resolution might have on drug prosecutions in the United States; but, given the specific disclaimer language cited above, it might make it more difficult for North Americans to claim religious exemptions from US drug laws.

The complete text of the resolution is here.


  1. Hello Steve,

    I am french and there has been a TV program about Ayahuasca, last week. It was about the center "espiritu de anaconda" near Quito. Since this, there is an animate debate on the net about the "lightness" of the rules following and patient screening that is practiced by this center. This program clearly shows a tendency to go towards tourism more than cultural respect and protection.
    In this matter, this text is a good start, for international recognition and at least, to open the debate. Takiwasi plays a leading role in this respectfull and yet opened way to consider this medecine. But when you see the new-age pan-shamanic facination that raises, I doubt this type of serious center, or this type of legal text will suffice to show that there is more than cash to be made here. But there is hope!

  2. I was in Takiwasi last year making an anthropological research between the patitents of the Centre and I'm aboslutely amazed of the progress they have made in the last few moths.
    The text prepared by dr. Rosa Giove seems to me like a great leap in the preservation strategy of the ancient ayahuasca ritual. Of course it's hard to distinguish the form of administration of medicine from drug abuse in this era of consumerism and drug tourism, but something has been already done. Hope the way won't be more bureaucratic as it's typical in Peru.

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  4. Outlawing it doesn't concern me so much. I experimented with Salvia while doing the pineal gland full-lotus practice. I first chewed. Then smoked. Then smoked stronger stuff and I had no visions but kept blacking out, coming to with the sensation that my whole life had been a dream. Finally I came to while maintaining self-awareness and heard myself saying, "my third eye is finally open!" The room was pitch dark, a hat was over my heads, my eyes were closed and I held my hands out: rainbows around my hands. Then the drug wore off but I dreamt about these Mola fabrics from the Kuna people who smoke pot religiously. Salvia supposedly works like pot.

    What I like about salvia is that it's the strongest psychoactive drug and therefore it kicks the ass of the other visionary drugs, thereby undermining their "spiritual" force. For example there's this dude online who did Salvia and DMT at the same time -- the machine elves of DMT were taken over by the Salvia elves, so that the DMT elves had Salvia elf body parts and clothes. Others online who've done DMT and Salvia say that Salvia is stronger -- and that's the real threat of Salvia.

    Modern science states that visionary drugs just shut down the thalamus so that the cerebellum directly downloads phosphenes into the prefrontal cortex. With the magnetized pineal gland I was able to over-ride this process so that no visions occurred although a nice aura experience happened. That's why the Bushmen didn't use drugs for healing -- alchemy creates electromagnetic fields while drugs are still in the realm of electrochemical energy. That's what I got from taking classes at

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