A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy: Ayahuasca in the Amazon and the United States

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One country's sacrament is another's illicit drug, as officials in South America and the United States are well aware. For centuries, a hallucinogenic tea made from a giant vine native to the Amazonian rainforest has been taken as a religious sacrament across several cultures in South America. Many spiritual leaders, shamans, and their followers consider the tea and its main component - ayahuasca - to be both enlightening and healing. In fact, ayahuasca (pronounced a-ja-was-ka) loosely translated means spirit vine. In this book, de Rios and Rumrrill take us inside the history and realm of, as well as the raging arguments about, the substance that seems a sacrament to some and a scourge to others. Their book includes text from the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances and interviews with shamans in the Amazon. One country's sacrament is another's illicit drug, as officials in South America and the United States are well aware. For centuries, a hallucinogenic tea made from a giant vine native to the Amazonian rainforest has been taken as a religious sacrament across several cultures in South America. Many spiritual leaders, shamans, and their followers consider the tea and its main component - ayahuasca - to be both enlightening and healing. In fact, ayahuasca (pronounced a-ja-was-ka) loosely translated means spirit vine. Ayahuasca has moved into the United States, causing legal battles in the Supreme Court and rulings from the United Nations. Some U.S. church groups are using the hallucinogen in their ceremonies and have fought for government approval to do so. The sacrament has also drawn American drug tourists to South America to partake, say authors de Rios and Rumrrill. But they warn that these tourists are being put at risk by charlatans who are not true shamans or religious figures, just profiteers. In this book, de Rios and Rumrrill take us inside the history and realm of, as well as the raging arguments about, the substance that seems a sacrament to some and a scourge to others. Opponents fight its use even as U.S. scientists and psychologists continue investigations of whether ayahuasca has healing properties that might be put to conventional use for physical and mental health. This book includes text from the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances and interviews with shamans in the Amazon.