Download the Ayahuasca Dialogues Report

The ESC is proud to announce our first major publication…

The Ayahuasca Dialogues Report: Preliminary research and prospects for safer and more sustainable ayahuasca

Foreword by Dennis McKenna. 

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Report Highlights:

Ayahuasca culture is at a turning point: We need to seize the opportunity to further protect and revitalize ayahuasca cultures, increase environmental conservation, and bring benefits to traditional knowledge holders in the Amazon.

Amazonian cultures face serious threats to their survival: Unsustainable industrial development, village assimilation policies, and lures of modern life are tearing apart the ecosystems and cultures of the Amazon and imperiling the medicine traditions that have evolved there.

We must address direct threats to ayahuasca’s legitimacy: The rapid growth of new types of ayahuasca activity, changes in international drug policy, and reports of charlatanism, sexual assault, or even death threaten ayahuasca’s reputation, its stewards, and its vaulted place in Amazonian culture. These threats, then, also present opportunities to recognize established good practices that can protect ayahuasca’s legal, cultural, and medical status.

Key Ayahuasca Stakeholder GroupsAyahuasca can help protect the Amazon: When used with other sustainable development approaches like sustainable tourism, carbon offsetting, sustainable forestry management, medicinal plant cultivation, and/ or the development and certification of other sustainable non-timber forest products (NTFP), the planting and harvest of ayahuasca and admixture plants can compete economically and culturally with industrial development to be part of the solution to protecting the Amazon and improving the lives of Amazonian peoples.

Cultural misunderstandings are often at the heart of safety and sustainability issues: During encounters between indigenous/local and foreign/ non-local peoples, both sides have the potential for misunderstanding. Many indigenous interviewees said this stems from a lack of respect for and implementation of indigenous beliefs, as outside seekers often lack context or knowledge. This dynamic has practical impacts on the efficacy of treatment, safety, and reciprocity of ayahuasca exchanges, which all impact the future of ayahuasca and its traditions.

sustainability: people, prosperity, planetMore must be done to improve ayahuasca cultivation: More can and should be done to enhance and preserve ayahuasca’s genetic diversity, knowledge of its cultivation, and benefits to people who grow the plants. Ayahuasca churches have become pioneers in ensuring sufficient supply of sustainably grown ayahuasca and admixture plants, and we have much to learn from their efforts.

Ayahuasca’s preservation depends on our cooperation beyond the ayahuasca community: Ayahuasca cultures’ continued vibrancy depends on forging and strengthening connections to wider communities and professionals focused not on ayahuasca alone, but on environmental protection, cultural revitalization, indigenous rights, FairTrade practices, traditional medicine, sustainable economic relations, and other issues that will determine the future of the Amazon and ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca “tourism” can be part of the solution: Shifting from “ayahuasca tourism” to “sustainable ayahuasca tourism” or “ayahuasca eco-tourism” – with an emphasis on positive social, environmental, and economic benefits – promises to add further resilience to the cultures, economies, and forests where ayahuasca is esteemed.

Forest in Peru where ayahuasca is being planted  with a partner cooperative

Forest in Peru where ESC is working with local cooperative to plant ayahuasca and pilot test safety protocols to keep visitors safer.

Learning from and respecting traditional knowledge is crucial: The ESC’s governance, outreach, and consensus building approaches are designed to learn from and respect traditional knowledge holders.

We must act together: Rapid changes in ayahuasca cultures call for a formalization of safety protocols and best practices – and an ongoing partnership between Amazonian and western stakeholders – to help protect and preserve the medicinal treasures of the Amazon. (Note: We refer to a stakeholder as anyone who could affect or be affected by the ESC’s activities.)

We aim to facilitate dialogue to achieve agreement and adoption, and to monitor the impacts of our work over time, to demonstrate replicable results.

Our success in building a global community of knowledge exchange and best practices also depends on you: The ESC is already becoming part of the community of knowledge and exchange that is a crucial part of the solution, but our success depends on collective and individual efforts—from donors to volunteers, from policy makers to cultivators, from indigenous leaders to ayahuasca seekers, and beyond.

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The ESC is very grateful to the hundreds of supporters who made this report possible, especially the hundreds of donors via our Ayahuasca Dialogues Indiegogo campaign. (Supporter names coming soon).

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Due to sustained opposition from a small but significant portion of stakeholders, we have dissolved the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council.

We are grateful for your support in increasing dialogue, learning with one another, and raising awareness about safer, more sustainable, and more reciprocal traditional plant use practices.

For a summary of our work, please see our 2014 financial report or our Dialogues Report.

If you are interested in learning more about ethnobotanicals, please visit ICEERS.