How Indigenous Cultures Use Psychedelics

This article will take you through the different ways some indigenous cultures currently use psychedelics. We’ll cover the Shipibo People, Africans who practice the Bwiti religion, Yanomami People, and the Mazatec. All these cultures continue to use different entheogens.  

Today, industrialization says a lot about psychedelics. However, you should always understand that the western world wasn’t the first to start using psychedelics for healing. Most of the modern techniques applied in psychedelics have their origins in indigenous entheogenic use.

Even though it’s still unclear when indigenous cultures started using ayahuasca and magic mushrooms, it’s clear that psychedelics are a cornerstone of indigenous cultures and religions.

Continue reading to discover some interesting and multi-dimensional ways psychoactive substances are used for ritualistic and spiritual purposes.

Ayahuasca and the Shipibo People

It is commonly known as the vine of the soul and is a potent psychedelic brew. The brew is made from the Banisteriopsis caapi, the ayahuasca vine, and the leaves of Psychotria viridis, the chacruna plant.

Combining both plants in a brew yields DMT, which is a potent psychedelic substance. The brew also contains a monoamine oxidase inhibitor that inhibits the breakdown of DMT to produce a strong hallucinogenic experience.

The processes used in making the brew vary for different cultures. Most ethnic groups and cultures use the substance for ritualistic and spiritual purposes. Examples are the Shipibo people located in the Upper Amazon and span through Ecuador, Brazil, and Peru. These people use the substance to gain insight into reality.

Iboga and the Bwiti Religion

Tabernanthe iboga, also known as iboga, is a shrub common in rainforests within the Central West African rainforest. The plant contains ibogaine, a hallucinogenic compound, and a substance tested for its anti-addictive properties. When taken in lower doses, ibogaine can act as a stimulant, but it gives profound psychedelic effects in higher doses.

Iboga is commonly used in the Bwiti religion of the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Gabon. This is a religion that is practiced by the Mitsogo and Babongo people in Gabon and the Fang people of Cameroon and Gabon.

The plant is mostly used for new members of the religion. These new members are required to take iboga during their initiation ceremony. Their experience is equivalent to a near-death experience, during which healers expect them to get different visions. These visions are mostly of death and rebirth.

Iboga is applied in other ways, including healing sick people and driving out evil spirits. The interesting thing is that because the effects of ibogaine last long, the ceremony can continue for days.

Ebene and the Yanomami People

Yanomami people also use psychedelics for ritualistic purposes. These people are located on the border of Brazil and Venezuela. The group comprises up to 26,000 people across over 200 villages within the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon is known for its biodiversity, and the Yanomami people have discovered the psychedelic potential of Virola elongate. First, the bark of the plant is scraped and converted to the resin before it is cooked to a past. Combining the paste with ashes gives a powder that is referred to as ebene.

Ebene is snuffed or blown into the nasal cavity to induce altered consciousness. Analysis of the substance shows it’s rich in DMT, and 5-MEO-DMT, both of which are hallucinogenic chemicals. These chemicals can cause altered states of consciousness.

The initiation process for a new shaman involves ingesting the substance for days. However, a senior shaman will always be there to supervise them. This long initiation is aimed at allowing the new shaman to gain insight into the spiritual realm. The Yanomami people call this xapiripe. By learning about the spirits, the shaman receives a vision different from a common person’s perception.

With this new ability, they can perform healing for Yanomami members. In addition, they can also control spirits that threaten their existence.

Magic Mushrooms and the Mazatecs

Mazatec is an indigenous community in the Veracruz, Puebla, and Oaxaca regions of Mexico. For many generations, the Mazatec people widely used psilocybin mushrooms for rituals. They consume mushrooms in Veladas, which are ceremonies led by curanderos. Curanderos are healers, and the aim of the ceremony is to bring people to experience the divine.

It’s worth mentioning that the Mazatec people are the most popular indigenous culture to utilize psychedelics. In 1957, Gordon Wasson, an ethnomycologist featured in Time Magazine. He provided documentation about his trips to the curandera Maria Sabina. This was the first time the West learned about the use of psychedelics for rituals.

This increased western interest in Sabina, as everyone wanted to participate in the Veladas. However, this posed a great threat to the Mazatecs during that time. A more careful approach to exploring the ritualistic use of psilocybin mushrooms would have been a lot better. With the continuous visitation of Westerners to the Mazatec regions, Sabina eventually became ostracized by her community.


The application of psychedelics was initially for different ritualistic, spiritual, and healing purposes for many reasons. Their use did not only begin the following industrialization and research work. Their application dates back many years and this is mostly by different indigenous cultures, and we have highlighted four of these cultures.

Do you know o any culture that we have not mentioned? Feel free to contact us about the indigenous culture and how they use psychedelics. You can also check Microdose Bros’ online store if you have to buy magic truffles, which contain psilocybin. Learn more about psilocybin on our blog today.