When formulation procedures strongly matter: a case study of ayahuasca use in Centro Luz Divina, Piedade, São Paulo, Brazil

Keywords: Alkaloids, Ayahuasca, Ethnography, Ethnopharmacology, Medicinal plants


Objectives: The objectives of this study were (a) to describe the history of the formation of the Centro Luz Divina (CLD), Piedade, São Paulo, (b) to describe the plants and recipes involved in making ayahuasca, and (c) to provide information for future chemical and pharmacological studies of ayahuasca. Methods: During the 578 hours of fieldwork between 2017 and 2019, 10 interviewees were interviewed (two priests and eight CLD leaders). The methods and techniques from cultural anthropology were used to conduct a snowball sampling to select respondents and record data through unstructured interviews, participant observation and field diaries. Data on the history of the CLD’s formation, plants and beverage recipes were recorded. The plants were dry collected and deposited at the UNIFESP Herbarium. Results: The history of the formation of the CLD, which was founded in 2002, was detailed. This center produces several recipes of the ayahuasca beverage during rituals named feitios in Portuguese by using the plants Psychotria viridis and Banisteriopsis caapi. The process of making two of these recipes was detailed in the present study, and they are the “First Degree beverage” and “Second Degree beverage”, which vary in preparation time, concentration, diversity and amount of the plant used and may lead to different “potencies of the beverage”, according to the interviewees' reports. From a pharmacological point of view, higher degree beverages are probably richer beverages from the chemical and pharmacological perspectives. Conclusion: Ayahuasca recipes produced at the CLD may have different “potencies”. However, future chemical and pharmacological investigations should consider these and other types of ayahuasca found in other Daimist centers in their protocols since many studies suggest the use of the substances in this beverage for treating Parkinson’s, anxiety, depression, and other ailments, as described in the scientific literature.

Research Article