Ayahuasca Research in its Native Environment
In September of 2017 the Ayahuasca Foundation began operations of its research facility, the Riosbo research and retreat center; a site designed to conduct scientific observations on plant medicines and their associated practices – in the heart of the Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve, near Iquitos, Peru.
Having hosted hundreds of healing retreats, courses, and seminars – observing the treatment of over 2,000 program participants – the multidisciplinary team at the Ayahuasca Foundation have developed an understanding of the healing processes unique to the indigenous medical traditions of the Amazon rainforest. The goal of the research center is to provide a site in which sophisticated scientific methods can also be employed in order to further educate us on how some of these powerful plant medicines work. In this context we accept that scientists are the uninformed ones, and that we have much to learn from ancient wisdom.
The primary goal of Riosbo is to investigate the parallels, overlaps and differences between modern and traditional medicine, whilst ensuring that the cultural heritage of ancient practices are respected. The site holds no affiliations or links with any profit-based organisation. We work alongside, and in partnership with the local community, as well as the above institutions.
In collaboration with a growing list of institutions around with world, the research team at Riosbo have begun collecting data for a number of projects.
We are pleased to announce that in 2019, the Riosbo research and retreat site collected data for the first ever government-funded project into ayahuasca (further details also on research page), funded by the Medical Research Council UK.
Research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics has reported on the importance of ‘set’ and ‘setting’. Set being the individual’s state of mind going into the experience, and setting being the physical location – comfort, safety and so on of the individual. Riosbo allows for both of these factors to be optimized, where data can be collected from a large range of participants with an array of conditions, whilst being delivered by experienced traditional practitioners of Shipibo heritage.
It is clear that of state of mind plays a large role within the process of healing. Our site provides a platform to be able to better understand how traditional elements of medical treatments may create a consciousness enhancing environment that seems to amplify the healing potential of the medicine. Through these studies, we will work to develop similar consciousness enhancing traditions to accompany medical treatments in modern settings. Our ultimate motivation is to discover optimal treatment methods that create lasting benefit in all stages of life, from personal health to community sustainability and global awareness.
Even some of the world’s leading neuroscientists today admit that we know very little of consciousness. The projects at Riosbo employ multi-dimensional approaches designed to help to provide greater insight into the human condition and it’s symbiosis with plants.
Preservation of Plant Medicine
Just a few generations ago, our ancestors (no matter who you are) relied on medicinal plants to treat illnesses and conditions. An immense body of knowledge was shared by word of mouth, and passed on from parents to children, neighbor to neighbors. Unfortunately, that knowledge has faded in most cultures, replaced by a similar body of knowledge about pharmaceutical medication. The immense wisdom of plant medicine gained from countless generations of indigenous cultures in the Amazon has not yet faded, but it is in danger of doing so. Pharmacies are on nearly every block of jungle towns, and knowledge is beginning to shift the way it has with modern cultures. We must not let this knowledge fade away.
By working together with our team of curanderos and the Mishana community where the Riosbo research center is located, we have begun assembling a compendium of medicinal plants with their properties and usages, along with recipes for preparation and use. Very few, if any, indigenous groups in the Amazon had a written language, so nothing was preserved in writing. Now, even the languages themselves are in danger of fading away. By creating this collection we will contribute to the preservation of ancestral knowledge, which western cultures already realize is so incredibly important to staying connected with the environment of which we are a part, of which we are made. We are literally made of plants. By spreading the wisdom of indigenous healing traditions, we hope to change the course of the local populations currently in the throws and challenges of a changing time, and reminding the global community of the direction we could be headed, towards greater harmony, health, and happiness.
It is estimated that there are over 60,000 species of plants in the Amazon Rainforest, yet only a tiny fraction of them have been adequately studied, including some of the most important plants utilized in the indigenous traditions practiced by our team of curanderos. By collaborating with laboratories in the US and UK, the Ayahuasca Foundation will be conducting scientific analyses of various medicinal plants in order to better understand how their effects on particular systems within the body. We may also be able to identify and name certain plants that are currently not yet known outside of the indigenous traditions. We hope these studies will contribute to the continuously growing body of knowledge about the healing potential of plants and plant medicine.
A somewhat new classification of plants with very special properties is a group called Adaptogens. Considered by many to be the future of medicine, namely for their disease preventing and immune system strengthening qualities, this rare group of plants is still quite small, and very few, if any, from the Amazon region have been officially classified. We have observed adaptogenic properties in several of the powerful medicinal plants utilized within the healing tradition and will be investigating these plants further in the hopes of properly classifying them and thus bringing more attention their ability to enhance the body’s rate of adaptation, most especially to various types of stress. Stress, in general, is one of the key causes of illness, and while the saying may be ‘survival of the fittest,’ in reality it is ‘survival of the most adaptable.’
While science has proven to be an incredibly valuable methodology for discovery, it has limitations when conducted within an ethnocentric paradigm. Cutting edge science is cutting edge because it cuts through those boundaries that limit perception and understanding. Fields like neuroimmunology, epigenetics, and quantum mechanics suggest that we must not limit ourselves solely to reductive, materialist perspectives within which the science of previous generations conducted its analyses. It would be foolish to consider our perspective superior to another, but wiser to acknowledge that through sharing and collaboration, a combination of perspectives is the best bet to delivering a view of the bigger picture.
The Ayahuasca Foundation strives to enhance our view of life, our understanding of health, and our practice of medicine by collaborating with indigenous cultures. By learning, sharing and investigating together ancestral tradition and wisdom, as well as modern ideas and methods, we plan to help provide a greater view, a more beneficial understanding, and more effective practices.
The time for a paradigm shift is here. It is happening, and we are more than happy to play a role in the expansion of awareness.