What is ayahuasca? It’s an entheogenic or psychotropic tea or “spirit medicine” typically made from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine often in combination with other plant(s) containing dimethyl tryptamine (DMT). The name Ayahuasca (pronounced EYE-UH-WAHS-KUH), comes from Quechua, the language of the Incan people in South America. It roughly translates as “vine of the soul.”
This dark, foul tasting tea is traditionally administered by an indigenous shaman in healing ceremonies in and near the Amazon, but also now through a variety of Brazil-based churches as well as non-religious organizations. It has relatively recently become known outside South America and is being used by more and more people around the world to treat all manner of medical conditions – including cancer.
Some who have tried ayahuasca swear by its healing properties. Western scientists have begun to study it and some health professionals are including it as an integral part of their protocol to treat cancer.
Ayahuasca & Cancer: What’s The Connection?
One personal example of healing cancer was shared back in 1998 in the Bulletin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in an article titled “Ayahuasca and Cancer: One Man’s Experience.” In the article, Donald M. Topping, PhD, shared that after his colorectal cancer metastasized to his liver Western doctors had essentially condemned him to death, so he came to ayahuasca for a second opinion.
In the article he gives a first-hand account of four ayahuasca ceremonies, including his inner experience. The first two experiences were with a Santo Daime group in Hawaii, and the next two were with a man who claimed to have been trained by Peruvian Ayahuasceros. Topping stated that a week after his fourth ayahuasca session, his CEA count – a cancer activity indicator – was completely normal.
A year later in 1999 he wrote another article “Ayahuasca and Cancer: A Postscript” in which he says his “cancer appears to be in complete remission” and attempts to explain how he thinks ayahuasca worked on his cancer. Although he credited ayahuasca with curing his cancer, Topping made it clear he was not proposing ayahuasca as a miracle cure.
Four years later at the age of 73, Topping passed away, ending a 16-year bout with cancer. Considering that fewer than 4% of patients with colorectal cancer survive for five years after it has metastasized, Topping’s seven-year survival was remarkable. But did it have anything to do with his four ayahuasca experiences?
It seems that no study has ever been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal linking ayahuasca with cancer remission. In fact, it has been studied very little, as the legal restrictions in place in many countries make studying DMT and ayahuasca both taboo and more difficult.
However, ayahuasca, which is legal in Brazil, is now being researched for its healing properties with cancer.