(de) The Yagé Medicine, her way into western society and the preservation of traditional knowledge – Dr. Ing. med. Heiner Dörfler

The dissertation examines the Ayahuasca practice in the medical and psychotherapeutic setting in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. Five case studies show the intercultural symbiosis of knowledge and practice that takes place in the collaboration between traditional healers and physicians.
Three general practitioners, a psychiatrist and a psychologist, who integrate ayahuasca into their treatment concepts were interviewed. Ayahuasca can promote processes of reflection, as well as the awareness and acceptance of the self, which can lead to improved management and cure of diseases. The effects of ayahuasca rituals mentioned by patients include increased clarity and composure, as well as an improvement in self-esteem and interpersonal relationships. The current trend toward integrative medicine encourages further exploration of the ritual use of ayahuasca, its psychological effects and legal issues. Establishing research in complementary and traditional medicine and integrating social and cultural approaches can contribute to the destigmatization of ayahuasca as a drug and to the acceptance of traditional ways of acquiring knowledge.

The use of ayahuasca is spreading in the world. Traditionally, only Taitas (healers) are allowed to perform ayahuasca ceremonies. Training as a healer takes many years. The Elders of the Amazon are concerned about the commercialization and inappropriate ayahuasca use by “false taitas”. Similarly, traditional communities are threatened by factors such as land grabbing, mining, oil exploration or the war on drugs. They are forced to adapt to western culture in order to survive. During trips to the Putumayo region (Colombia) in 2015 and 2016, these issues were discussed with Taitas, political representatives and teachers from six different indigenous communities.
The interest of Western mainstream culture in this potential medicine is increasing. How to do research while respecting traditional knowledge and culture? In order to preserve traditional knowledge of medicinal plants and ecosystems, and to adequately address this ancient medicine, we need to work with indigenous communities.