In the Spirit of Guayusa

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It kind of figures, somewhere on the agenda, along the lines, if I may, that the conversation ought to wear out its welcome and elephantly touch upon the psychedelic realm – after all, we are in the Ecuadorian Amazon basin, whence many shamanic stories come. Then again, if one looks hard enough, any place will have such accounts (or at least a tapestry of fates Inquisitioned), won’t they?

Have you talked to your soul today? Excuse me, Mister, how is your spirit. “I’m in great spirit!”.

So what is there to tell, what kind of tales can we wag?

The rain came just a few minutes ago – it always comes and it – yes, “IT”, has taken some sort of, dare I say?, sentient form. One finds oneself referring to the rain as a colleague or companion, someone to be reckoned with; for it always comes, at some point, and often times violently so. And it just came like that. I could hear it in the distance, turned to look out of the window and I could see it coming in from the hills. Slowly, steadily and the volume rising threateningly, but also comforting: air condition coming up, Massa! It brings air, oxygen, space to breathe in, – and out, deeeeep in-breath. Ahhh.. The rain, my friend.

Having just medically applied some (non-conformist, afternoon) Shiva meditation to a slight, dizzying lingering feeling of perhaps two Cuba Libres too many last night, it is obvious that all channels were open, no signals crossed, and she, is it a she?, I don’t know, but s/he blazed right through me as the distant sound of the tin roofs enveloped me in a wonderful inferno of pure music (read: the horrible sound of tropical, torrential rain on tin roofs). Wow! I liked that.

That is probably the second spirit I have come across around here. For such a presence must indicate that the rain is a, has a spirit? Or, actually, come to think of it, what is a spirit?

I used to think (perhaps you could say “believe”) that spirits resided in the/a metaphorical domain, in much the same way as I read the fantastic fiction (perhaps that is literary genre: fan-fi?) of Carlos Castañeda as fables of something worth consideration. But then I met one, I think. Not like the rain, not a metaphorical spirit – en entity, rather, with proper sentience and presence, and maybe more so, with intent. Directional intent, if it needs qualification.

It came and it went, but it stayed in my mind and changed my view on spirit(ual) matters. They exist (I think that I believe). It wasn’t one of those classic “I’ve seen God” or “I felt the universe breathing through my soul moved to the rhythms of the infinite” (or something) moments. It was stone cold crazy, you know? Empirical evidence presented (itself), rationalised, validated and presented to the upper echelons of my personality (disorders). It takes one (that have seen one) to know one, maybe. So let us account for this transformation of, or should we? say expansion of my mind’s map of “the real world”.

It is late at night, it is dark and I am fast asleep. At some point the dreaming begins to take lucid form, or whatever you want to call it when you feel or experience that you have ““free” will” in your dream, when you are actually going though something much like the waking world, only of course it is still like a dream where everything is possible, where everything is legal or nothing is ruled, except by you and all the skeletons in your closet – perhaps.

I started to have these kinds of dream when I once, many years ago in another life time, withdrew abruptly from the extremely excessive, indeed obsessive use of cannabis characteristic mainly of a male homo stonus, younger than twenty-two, still on a teenage fascination trip with the psychedelic, yet, at the age of around twenty, an adult for all practical purposes: “Stone Free, you know what I mean!?” (Just had to put it on in the background to relieve the Brad Mehldau trio, Stone Free!!) It was two weeks rolling in mad sweat every night during which I learned how to exit a dream, take a piss, and enter right back into the same place in dream land where I came from – a continuity thing happened, which I don’t know if it’s normal to experience, but it felt like something, something out of the ordinary and it was addictive, hehe. In that period I also, beginning with a Danish text-book called Drømmetydning, based mainly on Freud’s The Interpretations of Dreams (?maybe that is where it all went wrong), experimented with writing down dreams in a semi-wake state in bed, sort of willing yourself to wake up when the credits roll at the end of a dream and just jot down some stuff to recall better when you wake up in the morning.

<slight digression>“Lasternes sum er konstant”, som man siger, som man siger ((_*very*_)insider joke), the Danish saying goes something like “the sum of the vices is a constant”, meaning that if you lose a bit of intoxication on the swings, you gain it on the merry-go-round, init?</slight digression>

So there I was dreaming away in this new, exotic and depressing place where the traces left by a ravaging economy (ours, so to speak, the whole Freedom and Democracy Commodity Circus) hit you like a hammer.

Had only arrived a few days earlier after spending a week in the other-worldly Quito. In Tena I met Guayusa (waii-oohsa). Colona had raved about it, great stuff for working. Have a cuppa, and then another, at six-seven in the morning and you’re fresh for the assembly line -or the keyboard to be more specific. It’s like caffeine, its principle drug, from coffee, with the same kind of upsides, but with added value. A slight hint of something almost towards hallucinogenic in an intellectual sense, some clarity (if you catch my drift), synchronicity, or enhanced pattern recognition – and then the icing on the cake: it has next to no jittering jigginess and spun out side-effects for quite some hours; –perhaps, for this particular metabolism it means that you can work really hard, consistently in front of the screen until the later afternoon. The traditional use is comparable to the cultural practices around (Mama) Coca in the Andes and coffee (and sugar) in capitalism. Great for work and as a stimulant for leisure. (See below how it can also be overdone! 🙂

Boil it as long as you like, twenty minutes is good, an hour makes it really dark and potent. Let it simmer for an hour in the evening, leave the leaves in and heat it up for ten minutes in the morning. Rocket fuel. Two cups (per 100Kg body weight) to begin with, perhaps a third within an hour if you are not quite fully there. Honey is your companion on this mission. Then another after a few hours and when it begins to wear off and the fresh energy enhanced morning fades to grey afternoon, then have a few more cups and add a bit of rum (needless to say, it has to be dark or golden) to stabilise, flatline, the jitter-jigger that will have occurred by then. Chill at night, do some meridian stretching, go for a swim, whatever you need to balance the static life of a (researcher) writer. Essential to unwind the brain is film watching, Hollywood stuff like crime and action or thriller where you just switch to auto-pilot and roll with it and close your eyes in the happy ending – or a good series. (Completely off-topic, hehe, we watched Six Feet Under, all of it, obsessively, the best TV series experience I have ever had.) As usual, if that’s your thing for working, add cannabis to taste.

It had been a fantastic day, the first one in the company of Guayusa. She helped me to draft half a chapter of my thesis that morning, -it all made sense, it was all in order, -and the rest of the thesis, the relations between the chapters, it all began to make sense. It was all about differentiated unity, the writing that is. The next night, or the night after, not quite sure, but it was still one of those first few nights in a new life (or more modestly, new place), a spirit came without knocking..

We were later to read, when embarking on a google mission to get to know this great tea, that Guayusa drunk late at night has been documented/reported as a catalyst for lucid dreaming. Yes, Sir, Guayusa, why not sir, it can most certainly “interfere” with your dream states.

It was still dark. “Someone” comes into the room with a commissarial attitude, with the nose of an inspector of the kind you would fear as a child, the dark side of the patriarchal world settling upon you, scrutinising your conformity – to whatever. It felt like whatever and it felt like something being confronted with something “I didn’t do“ (doesn’t it always, though?, hehe), -and if, then unwittingly so. He, I think it was clearly a he spirit, passed along the bed, which was oriented 45 degrees differently back then, off the wall, not along it, but along the passageway in from the outer door. Then suddenly slapped me in the arse really really hard, but still only in order to establish authority rather than to punish or be outright malicious or vicious, -came round and stood at the end of the bed where I could so clearly feel his presence.

I had to wake up, I think (that I didn’t think), my fear took over and in some sort of rational? defence I cried out in twisted agony to Colona: “!!Tell me that there is no one here, that there is no one at the end of the bed!!???!” which she calmly confirmed and did the old mama thing, “It was “just” a dream” and in some sort of denial and confusion and maybe incapacity to deal with episode we somehow went back to sleep. The next day she confesses that she had just woke up a few seconds before me because she was scared shitless by a non-benevolent “presence” at the foot-end of the bed.

Shortly after there were garlics and chilis in the windows and over the bed, the remains of which still guard our sleeping lives from intruding spirits.

A spirit had visited to check on the new comers.

That it was a collective experience/hallucination/perception/psychedelic moment somewhat lends it a kind of, for want of a better word, credibility; it is as if it moves from subject(ive perception) to object(ive reality) more easily, like there is some sort of empirical data verified by someone else, something that you can have a dialogue around, rather than just a sort of therapeutic talk about. That might be an unhelpful way to classify it, and to take as a rule for anything, but it does nevertheless feel a bit like that. It might be a yet defence mechanism – to remove it a little bit from my head, as it if was too close for sanity comfort if you had to live it by your self.

It is a shame, at least so it feels now, half a year later, that we were so scared – since we have had no visitors of this spiritual form (and certainly not with such a harsh arse-slapping touch), and who knows, if he just gave up on us, a bunch of mama-skirtie dangling gringos, and published in Spirit News that we were no fun to dance with. I wish I had just begun interacting with the presence and seen what had happened, I wish that Colona has been less scared and not performed this transcending, reflexive defence and instead confronted us with the matter at hands. But it could have been devastating, for it was not some sort of fluffy airy-fairy angel that had come for tea, it was mean, lean business of the dark side.

Later we also learned that Guayusa is ritually used before drinking Ayahuasca to mentally focus better and more confidently when entering into the trip, and also mixed in with the Ayahuasca to better the horrible taste.

Did the spirit come to check on our intentions, now that we so strongly drew upon the force of the Guayusa, was he accounting on the force field and wanted to check our access privileges and intentions? Was he warning us – “this is what it’ll be like if you rummage around here being nosy”. Perfect paranoia is perfect awareness.

…..to be continued………

Some links to the world of Guayusa:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilex_guayusa
http://leda.lycaeum.org/?ID=16051
http://leda.lycaeum.org/?ID=2738

And some “random” information for self medicators:

Title: holly, Columbia Encyclopedia:

holly, common name for members of the Aquifoliaceae, a family of widely distributed trees and shrubs, most numerous in Central and South America. The evergreen English holly (Ilex aquifolium), the common holly of Europe, cultivated also in North America, is closely associated with Christmas tradition. The American holly (I. opaca), native to the E United States, is very similar; both are so popular for their decorative spiny leaves and red berries that they are becoming scarce. The hard white wood of both species is used for cabinetmaking and related purposes; it is close grained and polishes easily. Maté, Yerba maté, or Paraguay tea (I. paraguariensis) is very important commercially in S South America as the source of a popular tea like beverage. Guayusa (I. guayusa) is similarly important in Ecuador. Teas and medicinal preparations are also made from some other members of the family, e.g., yaupon and winterberry, or feverbush, both of E North America. Wild or mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronata) is a deciduous shrub of E North America. Many species of this family are cultivated as ornamentals. Holly is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Celastrales, family Aquifoliaceae.

Another abstract reads:
“In Amazonian Peru and Ecuador leaf decoctions of the rainforest holly Ilex guayusa with high caffeine concentrations are used as a morning stimulant. After daily ingestion, ritualistic vomiting by male Achuar Indians, better known as Jivaros, reduces excessive caffeine intake, so that blood levels of caffeine and biotransformed dimethylxanthines do not cause undesirable CNS and other effects. Emesis is learned and apparently not due to emetic compounds.”

This article is talked about here:
Many people start each day with a steaming mug of coffee to sweep away the last cobwebs of sleep. But coffee just doesn’t pack a big enough punch for the male members of a remote Amazonian tribe called the Achuar Jivaro, report two ethnobotanists from Washington University in St. Louis.

Walter H. Lewis and Memory Elvin-Lewis found that Achuar Jivaro tribesmen — who live in the Amazonian regions of Peru and Ecuador — each morning quaff an herbal tea that contains the caffeine equivalent of five cups of coffee. But even more interestingly the two researchers discovered that the men routinely vomit up most of the tea in order to avoid caffeine-overdose symptoms such as headache, profuse sweating and a bad case of the jitters.

The daily vomiting, or emesis, “is simply part of [an Achuar Jivaro] macho ritual, passed down through the ages,” says Lewis. “The tea is so pleasing that they overindulge, vomit to rid themselves of the excess caffeine, then go about their business,” he says.

The Achuar Jivaro make their jolting beverage from the leaves of a South American holly Ilex guayusa, which contains the highest percentage of caffeine by dry weight of any plant in the world, Lewis says.

Through biochemical studies, the Washington University team determined that the holly does not contain any naturally occurring emetic, which would have explained the tribesmen’s vomiting.”

Good stuff, ehh?

Another abstract (from http://content.apa.org/journals/pha/6/1/87 )“Behavioral effects of caffeine and other methylxanthines on children”, published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 6(1), Feb 1998, 87-95.

“Subjective, performance-enhancing, dependence-producing, and adverse effects of methylxanthines are examined, based on computerized searches (i.e., Medline and PsycLIT). High doses (> 3 mg/kg) of caffeine in children who consume little caffeine produce negative subjective effects such as nervousness, jitteriness, stomachaches, and nausea. Whether lower doses produce positive subjective effects has not been adequately tested. Caffeine appears to slightly improve vigilance performance and decrease reaction time in healthy children who habitually consume caffeine but does not consistently improve performance in children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Early studies suggest caffeine self-administration and withdrawal can occur in some adolescent soda drinkers.”

17 thoughts on “In the Spirit of Guayusa

    labrador tea said:
    Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 21:01 (917)

    Thanks for the info! Please email me if you are aware of a supplier of this herb.

      Nichole said:
      Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 10:22 (473)

      This is a witchcraft plant with dark energy…beware. It is very powerful and highly addictive in spirit and physical. You dance with the devil when you play with this spirit. It is added to ayahuasca by dark shamans who are looking for targets. Always be careful who you choose as a shaman, know whats in the brew and PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE OPENING PRAYER PRIOR TO CEREMONY. Scary that guayusa is being mass marketed. If you are interested in hearing my experience related to this, feel free to email me. Thanks and much love.

    harry said:
    Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 07:54 (371)

    Hi
    I was wondering if you could put me in contact with a person who can speak some English and Kichwa or Spanish as I am looking to buy indigenous art and foods for export.

    Thanks

      colono responded:
      Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 16:25 (725)

      Sorry, we don’t really support production for “export” as it undermines the local economy and generates a lot of other problems…

        Tim said:
        Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 03:34 (190)

        Please check the Runa website. They are helping hundreds of local Kichwa families to produce organic guayusa while paying fair trade prices and reforesting the Amazon, as guayusa needs shade to grow. Happy to discuss in any level of detail required.
        FYI, Many of our employees speak Kichwa, Spanish and some English…

          colono responded:
          Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 11:56 (539)

          What would you like to discuss?

        kim said:
        Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 12:58 (582)

        My hubby, 9 month baby and I just came to Pucallpa and have been working with a reputable Shipibo medicine family as our family needed to heal our mind and bodies. My hubby and baby have been dealing with eczema and rashes for the past 9 months for babe and 2 yrs for my hubby. After a ceremony our maestro realized the spirit of Guayusa is extremely angry and felt disrespected by our intake and probably just pissed in general because of her misuse. All three of us are going through extreme skin detox but my baby is getting it the worse because his lack of immunity so PLEASE stop drinking Guayusa as we are unaware of her spirit and essence and are not guided by proper medicine people! Her spirit of the plant is absolutely pissed and we’ve abused her for marketing and human pleasure. I am not making this up I can send you pictures. And Guayusa is not used with Ayahuasca. The Shipibo lineage is one of the original lineage for Aya and they never mix or use any form of tea to enhance or change the taste. They only use the two ingredients and have their ancient teachings. Please learn from me and respect ALL plants, we have disconnected from nature that we all come from our mind and concepts when we need to connect to their spirits and medicine people that know them.
        Sincerely,
        Kimberlee
        Contact me for more of my experience if you like!
        I’m in Peru until May 7th 2015

      Nichole said:
      Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 10:26 (476)

      I would investigate the spiritual nature of this plant before you sell it to the masses…that is if you care about the consequences it will have on others.

    Tim said:
    Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 12:48 (575)

    Runa is making a real positive impact on indigenous populations in the Amazon while reversing deforestation. The founders of Runa are in the process of doing this by making guayusa readily available to the rest of us at http://www.runa.org Test results at Advanced Botanical Labs in California show that guayusa contains not only high levels of caffeine in a unique combination that gives the smooth lift but also amino acids and 150% of the antioxidants of green tea. Video on Kichwa and Runa mission: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRjlgu3ZHaQ&feature=related

      colono responded:
      Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 16:24 (725)

      This is just advertising? I thought you wanted a discussion in detail?

      For what it is worth, we have been aware of this project from its very early days, since we lived in the region when it began and one of the tecnicos is a close friend that we have worked and travelled with on various occassions. I think the founder or a friend of his originally contacted us through a mutual friend…

      We are very familiar with fair trade market mechanisms, “sustainable” development practices and so on. Done all the research on both sides: the advocating and the critical side. There is a degree to which it offers empowerment to the empowered, but in most cases it creates dependencies on the market and the distributing apparatus. Fair trade is just another term for market expansion.

      I wonder if the people running this project are familiar with the work that has been done on subsistence farming, market expansion and enclosures etc. (Maria Mies, Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, Silvia Federici, Massimo De Angelis etc.) and whether the larger body of literature on social history (EP Thompson, Linebaugh) rings a bell? If not, the case has most likely only been reviewed from one side: from within the Euro-American perspective of development as economic growth, – as long as it is done “fairly”.

      This is a rather naive and ignorant perspective that lends itself to colonial mastery, but it is hidden from view in the liberal do-good myths and needs to be explored from the perspective of living outside the measure of capital. One of the key words here is food sovereignty – this is a good starting point: http://ipcca.info/blog/2010/10/07/towards-food-sovereignty/

      Basically, having watched the video, I think that you are asking the wrong question: you are looking to push people further into the cash economy – which means pushing others out – but the real interesting question and challenge for development projects is to establish autonomy and self-determination. The situation that people in Napo are in is problematic because of too much market, not too little.

      That said, we do not have sufficient information to even assess the Runa project on those terms, for the do-good foundation is separated from the capital business. So, in order to see how fair this trade is (i.e. if we disregard the systemic problems that any such initiative – no matter how “good” – brings with it), we would still have to see the accounts of the company and the wages of its employees, as well as the living standards of those who work and profit from the scared plants. For instance, where do they live? What do the eat? Do they travel the world? Do they watch TV on 40 inch screens? Do they drive fancy cars?

      Finally, we do not suggest that there are any bad intentions in the Runa project, but there is only a superficial, mainstream analysis behind it. Too easy. Dig deeper. Find more.

        kim said:
        Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 12:56 (580)

        My hubby, 9 month baby and I just came to Pucallpa and have been working with a reputable Shipibo medicine family as our family needed to heal our mind and bodies. My hubby and baby have been dealing with eczema and rashes for the past 9 months for babe and 2 yrs for my hubby. After a ceremony our maestro realized the spirit of Guayusa is extremely angry and felt disrespected by our intake and probably just pissed in general because of her misuse. All three of us are going through extreme skin detox but my baby is getting it the worse because his lack of immunity so PLEASE stop drinking Guayusa as we are unaware of her spirit and essence and are not guided by proper medicine people! Her spirit of the plant is absolutely pissed and we’ve abused her for marketing and human pleasure. I am not making this up I can send you pictures. And Guayusa is not used with Ayahuasca. The Shipibo lineage is one of the original lineage for Ayahuasca and they never mix or use any form of tea to enhance or change the taste. They only use the two ingredients and have their ancient teachings and chosen by the plant. Please learn from me and respect ALL plants, we have disconnected from nature that we all come from our mind and concepts when we need to connect to their spirits and medicine people that know them. Only drink Guayusa if you have a medicine person to guide you or even marijuana.
        Blessings and sincer
        Contact me for more of my experience if you like!

        Nichole said:
        Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 10:32 (480)

        Well said! Thank you for that perfectly articulated expression! I have found the experience that you have expressed to be very helpful! Thanks!

    Tim said:
    Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 17:36 (775)

    Colono, Good questions all, far too many for me to answer here. Not the least as alas I am very green at this having only been to Ecuador this year for the first time. Sorry if my enthusiasm translated as an advert. My personal belief is the the Runa / Runatarpuna mission intent is pure.
    As you no doubt know guayusa is not a mono crop, it is just one element of the indigenous peoples agro-forestry that has been going on for thousands of years. The Runa story began when the founder who at the time was studying and living in one of the villages with the Kichwa got to know them for their values and culture. Every morning they woke early, held the morning guayusa ceremony, then the men went into the jungle to clear land for crops. Not a way to sustain the culture and society. As guayusa was always just there the Kichwa place no monetary value on it. However, it was Don Vincente who suggested that it be shared with the world. Since guayusa is grown amongst the other crops required for a families daily sustenance, it does not crowd out other culturally important crops.
    My guess is that that Silverio is the tecnico you speak of, rather than letting me defend in my naive manner maybe he would be willing to discuss with you there on the ground. Some others more in tune with Kichwa culture you might speak to regarding Runa, Leo Cerda (Rising Tide Ecuador) or Michael Uzendoski for their thoughts on the project. If you wish to make the journey up from Tena to Archidona to see firsthand Runatarpuna’s little operation I am sure you would be welcome. There are no 40″ TVs, automobiles, hot water etc. From first hand experience the founder owns little more personal property other than what he can carry. He lives in Ecuador under the same conditions as the employees. They are a small group struggling to make positive change in the Amazon. Will they get it perfectly correct every time? Not likely, but that is not an excuse not to work at it.

    One other thing…
    Pardon my ignorance, but I have to confess with a background in economics I do not understand the zero sum reference regarding ‘the cash economy’, I recognize EP Thompsons Marxist background may influence, but zero sum economics does always not add up. I believe that there are ways to improve societies productive capacity with humans co-exiting not just with but in nature. The issue is we humans have gotten it wrong more often than right, so point taken there.

    (PS: I did not speak to or copy any of the named above feel free to hide names to protect their privacy etc.)

      colono responded:
      Monday, November 8, 2010 at 12:55 (580)

      Good answers, too!

      Firstly, we are not in Ecuador at the moment! Secondly, we are really busy with other projects, so little time to devote to this, unfortunately.

      I do not understand your economics questions?!?!

      colono responded:
      Monday, March 7, 2011 at 22:26 (976)

      There are rumours going round – as always – that Pepsi is coming in on the Guayusa. Neither surprised to hear the rumours nor would I be to learn they were true. Happy would I be to hear that it was not true at all!

        Tim said:
        Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 21:46 (948)

        colono,
        No, not with Runatarpuna anyway. As there are no big growers, it would be very hard for them to start from scratch.

      Nichole said:
      Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 10:59 (499)

      I find the kichwa tribe’s relationship with guayusa quite perplexing…I may be incorrect in my research…since research is not a substitute for experience… But from what I understand…due to genetic selection by the kichwa tribe, the plant can no no longer reproduce on it’s own…it requires the intervention of the kichwa to perpetuate it’s existence… Interesting cycle…very dependent and obligatory in nature on both ends…additionally, one element required to be classified as living by biologists is the ability to reproduce. I think that we tend to hold “authentic” indigenous ways of life on a pedestal…I think indigenous peoples may possess a lot of wisdom… But we must remember that there is a spectrum in all things and it seemingly holds true that purity and altruism continues to lay within the 5% outskirts. If my research is correct regarding the replication of guayusa being dependent on the kichwa…I can only deduct that the plant as it is now, is not in harmony with how nature originally intended. Opinions and information would be very appreciated and valued, since I am just starting to learn about this plant as was inspired by a run in with a highly and manipulative and deceptive shaman who adds it to his ayahuasca and claimed that the mix made “regular” ayahuasca look like child’s play. He also mentioned that ayahuascderos are not accepted by guayusa to work with guayusa.

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