When researching what to expect after drinking a consciousness-modifying brew, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask how long the experience lasts. Sometimes a simple question doesn’t have a simple answer….
When the specific question is ‘how long does ayahuasca last?, the answer ‘somewhere between 4 hours and a lifetime’, is both totally accurate and far too vague to be useful. It’s necessary to define the question a little more precisely to come up with some more helpful guidelines.
How Long Does Ayahuasca Stay in Your System?
The principal ingredient of ayahuasca is Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). If ingested orally DMT has no effect at all, as it’s broken down in the digestive tract by monoamine oxidase. Ayahuasca contains DMT and a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. This prevents the DMT from being broken down, meaning that it lasts much longer. An ayahuasca trip lasts from 2 up to 15 hours, 4 to 6 hours being the average duration for most people.
What Happens During This Time?
Dosage and individual chemistry are factors, but so is ‘set and setting’.
Setting refers to the place where you take the ayahuasca, be it a dark underground London basement or a lovingly prepared ceremony room, (maloca) in the home of the plants – the jungle. Setting also includes the people around you, and even the sounds and smells.
Set is more about your internal environment at the time when you partake of the tea. Your fears, hopes and expectations will all have a profound effect on your ayahuasca experience, but some experiences are common to most people. Another important part of the ‘set’ is the preparation for the ceremony, if partaking in a good retreat, they should guide you on how to navigate the ayahuasca experience.
You’re likely to experience sounds, colors and sensations differently. You will probably vomit, you may become tearful or experience other purging effects, and there may be times when you feel frightened, overwhelmed or elated. All of these things will pass in a matter of hours.
You may find yourself reliving old experiences and seeing them in a new way, or gain insights about yourself and the life you’ve been living. This is the part that has the potential to stay with you for a long period.
The Longer Lasting Effects of Ayahuasca
When used with the aim of spiritual development, personal transformation, or for the purposes of mental, emotional or spiritual healing, the whole question of how long does ayahuasca last becomes a deeply individualized one. People often refer to an afterglow effect that lasts from three to six months, others report that the new perspectives gained during their ayahuasca ceremony stay with them much longer.
Those who report the most benefits are generally those who allow time after the active experience to process and integrate what they’ve learned from ayahuasca into their daily life. This is a powerful factor for taking ayahuasca at a properly guided retreat where time for this reflection and integration is built into the program and the facilitator can help with interpreting the visions and messages to apply them to make changes in the daily life, whether it is to change self-limiting habits or to accept certain aspects of ourselves which we do not wish to see.
Those who can learn to look at themselves impartially can make lifelong changes to reach a deeper level of contentment and connection with their essence.