Research - Ongoing Projects

In the following list you can find the projects that are currently being developed within the framework of the research protocol of the Takiwasi Center.

The Effectiveness of Ayahuasca for the Treatment of Addictions in Latin America

Researcher / Responsible : Brian Rush, Fernando Mendive, Sara García

Partner Institutions: Center for Addiction and Mental Health - Camh, Nierika.

The objective of this research is to systematically evaluate the therapeutic effects and effectiveness of the treatment for additions developed and applied for more than 20 years by the Takiwasi Center, in the San Martín region, Peru, which is based on the complementation of Traditional Amazonian Medicine with modern psychotherapy. It is an observational and longitudinal study of a prospective cohort that includes mixed methods. A sample of 30 resident patients of Takiwasi will be included. Participants will complete quantitative measures and conduct qualitative interviews at the beginning and at the end of treatment, and at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after medical discharge. The instruments measure severity of addiction, quantity and frequency of consumption, motivation for treatment, mental health, quality of life, spirituality and satisfaction with the service. The interviews will explore in depth the subjective experiences of the patients about the treatment and about the possible explanatory mechanisms regarding the effectiveness of the treatment. In addition, this research will include an ethnography of Takiwasi's therapeutic context describing both the physical location and the cultural ideas about the problem and the healing processes among the Takiwasi staff. This research is part of an international research project called ATOP in which several American countries collaborate (Brazil, Canada, Peru, Mexico and Argentina). The results of this research will be shared with those carried out by other countries in order to jointly evaluate the effectiveness of the use of traditional Amazonian medicine for the treatment of addictions at a transcultural level. See the full presentation: Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project

Intercultural transdisciplinarity in Guatemala and Peru: A North-South-South learning platform for culturally pertinent public health provision systems for indigenous populations

Researcher / Responsible : Caroline Maake (Principal Investigator, Switzerland), Tatiana Paz Lemus (Guatemala), Juan Rubén Ruiz Zevallos (Peru)

Partner Institutions: The University of Zurich (Faculty of Medicine) steers the project in collaboration with local boards in Peru and Guatemala, composed of academic partners, indigenous associations, traditional health practitioners, as well as stakeholders from public health sectors of the different countries.

Despite efforts in the past, the health care of indigenous people in Latin America remains precarious. This is shown, inter alia, in their higher disease probability and mortality rate compared to the rest of the population. The underlying causes are complex. However, a lack of co-operation between divergent medical systems practiced in parallel, namely western biomedicine and traditional indigenous medicine, can be seen as a major obstacle to improved health care in these countries. In our project, which concentrates on Peru and Guatemala we will, thus, create the conditions for a comprehensive, intercultural learning platform that considers both the concepts of traditional indigenous medicine and conventional biomedicine. As a prerequisite for that, an initial project focus will for the first time comprehensively examine and document the fundamentals of indigenous medicine on health, illness and therapy from a medical and socio-scientific point of view. A next step will comprise patient-centered approaches, in which western medical staff and traditional medical practitioners will be setting up joint medical collaborations. Accompanying workshops will be organized for the involved interest groups as a framework for the exchange of experience, transdisciplinary communication and the development of future, efficient, integrative medical concepts. In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we hope that our project will sustainably strengthen local traditions, reduce social inequities, strengthen the right to health and education, and, thus, promote the establishment of peaceful and inclusive societies. This project is financed by the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d programme).
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Detail the use of plantas de purga in Takiwasi from a botanical and cultural perspective

Researcher / Responsible : Nahuel Simonet

Partner Institutions: Bachelor's programme in Biochemistry, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

At Takiwasi, center for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and research on traditional medicines, in Tarapoto, Peru, some specific plants known as “plantas de purga”, have both purging and emetic effects and are used with healing purpose. The aim of this project is to carry out an ethnobotanical research on the preparation and employment of these plants in Takiwasi, as this is a topic which has not yet been addressed in depth in ethnobotanical literature focusing on Takiwasi. Ethnobotanical literature on traditional Amazonian medicine has given limited attention to the use of emetic and purging plants beyond ayahuasca. The overall aims of this research are to: a) carry out the botanical identification of the plants used in purges; b) describe how they are harvested or where they are purchased; c) describe how they are prepared; d) describe how they are administered; e) describe the effects of the plants, their purging and healing implications; f) describe why and when they are administered, in which cases they are recommended. Informed consent will be obtained with the Takiwasi staff. Fieldwork will be conducted for a total of 3 months. Data will be collected through a series of semi structured interviews with therapists, healers and plant preparers at the Takiwasi Center. These interviews with therapists and healers will be aimed at recording data on the effects of plants and their purpose of use. The method of participant observation will be employed to complement data on the preparation of medicinal plants and on their administration in purging rituals. Data will be registered through the use of a field diary. Names of research participants will be kept anonymous. Interviews will be recorded with an audio recorder and transcribed verbatim. They will then be coded identifying the main themes related to plant efficacy and properties. The analysis of the data will be aimed at capturing the understanding and use of each plant, including the spiritual healing dimensions and how they are used and the role they play in the ceremony. Concerning the botanical aspect, the plants will be identified with their scientific name, local name, part used, mode of preparation and administration. In this herbarium plants or parts of the plants will be collected, framed by date, location and some further observation, dried and sent to Peruvian botanists for identification. To get the local name and to describe how the plants are cultivated, harvested and prepared, participant observation will be carried accompanying staff members as they are engaged in the process of plant cultivation and harvesting.

Music and Ayahuasca Shamanism: The Politics of Indigeneity and Cultural Tourism in the Huallaga of Peru

Researcher / Responsible : Owain J. Graham

Partner Institutions: PhD Candidate, Ethnomusicology, University of California Riverside, United States.

Tourism is an integral pillar of Peru’s economy and its importance is forecast to continue to grow. As such, it is increasingly important to study and understand the cross-cultural encounters that tourism engenders and the effects of these encounters on the local and international level. To this end, the current project focuses on shamanic tourism centered around the city of Tarapoto, Peru and the nearby town of Lamas, at the northern end of the Huallaga valley region. This study seeks to understand how shamanic tourism is operating (as a circular process or otherwise) in the case of Peru’s Huallaga valley. Thus, the purpose of this study is to (1) investigate the motivations of tourists and hosts participating in shamanic rituals and ceremonies, (2) to investigate the specifics of changes to ritual music and structure and the logic behind these changes, (3) to investigate the processes of shamanic tourism both locally, in the area around Tarapoto, and in the lives of tourists as they return home. The primary questions guiding these research goals are the following: Given that these rituals are being exported through the networks of tourism, what factors active in the local community and encounters within ritual spaces determine the version(s) of shamanic practices that are exported? What are the political, cultural, and economic concerns influencing these determinations in each phase of the tourism process? If the data gathered in this study suggest a circular process at work within shamanic tourism, how does the on-tour phase affect and overlap with the post-tour and pre-tour phases, shaping how tourism is practiced as the process propagates forward? How does tourism shape international discourses and understandings of South American shamanism and indigeneity? How does shamanic tourism figure into current processes of “re-indigenization” as the Huallaga region is recovering from not only a history of colonization but more recent political violence that drove expressions of indigeneity underground. By focusing on the role of music and ritual in the process of cultural production in the border zone of shamanic tourism this research seeks to ameliorate a number of gaps within the existing literature on ayahuasca shamanism and tourism in the contemporary moment. This project is based in participant-observation ethnography. It is primarily a qualitative study, though it will collect demographic information from participants to better understand who is involved in shamanic tourism and why.

Description of the diet in the Takiwasi Center from the point of view of the participants

Researcher / Responsible : Tereza Rumlerová

Partner Institutions: PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic.

The path toward the knowledge of oneself, of their own experiences, dreams and mission of life, is something that many people seek today. Some embark on a journey to self-awareness by going to several centers that offer yoga, meditation and much more. Other forms of self-knowledge are the methods that induce altered states of consciousness. Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic drink belonging to traditional Amazonian medicine that is often used in the Czech Republic. Some travel to the Amazon to experience it. But if we want to learn about traditional Amazonian medicine, we find that most healers perceive the diet as the key to treat many physical and mental health problems. The diet is a practice that so far has not been studied much in the scientific field and includes the intake of master plants that play a key role in the process, and are ingested in isolation in a small hut, where participants spend seven days with a very strict diet. This research will provide a complete description of this method, focusing on the effects perceived in the process, the experiences during the diet and its long-term perception. Data acquisition will be carried out through semi-structured interviews, analysis of written documents (letters of motivation and protocols), and own observations.

Exploring perceptions about ‘the purge’ within Ayahuasca rituals in the context of drug addiction: a qualitative study with healers and therapists in a drug rehabilitation center in Peru

Researcher / Responsible : Svet Lustig Vijay

Partner Institutions: Master's student in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UK.

Through face-to-face interviews with therapists, healers and plant preparers at the Takiwasi Center, and a secondary analysis of data from the lived experiences of patients with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), the proposed study aims to investigate the perceptions and narratives of therapists, healers, and patients about "the purge" within the Ayahuasca ceremony in the context of drug addiction. To the best of the author's knowledge, no such study has yet been conducted to date. Given that the proposed study aims to explore perceptions and narratives around purging during Ayahuasca rituals in healers, therapists, and patients with SUD, it seems reasonable to refrain from formulating specific hypotheses, as is often the case in conventional research of mostly quantitative hypothesis testing. However, preliminary analysis of the material published by the Takiwasi Center and the researcher's previous experience at Takiwasi suggests that therapists, healers, and plant preparers may perceive "the purge" in terms of its effects on (A) the "physical body ", detoxifying the body of addictive substances (B) the "psycho-emotional body", through emotional relaxation after intense vomiting, which is reported to release psychological charges, negative emotions or attitudes (C) the" spirit " or the "energetic body", "cleansing" the body of evil spirits that are sometimes reported to possess the patient.

Treating the addiction with the Amazonian medicine: Protocol for assessing the process of the 6 key points of this therapy

Researcher / Responsible : Anne Denys

Partner Institutions: French Ethnopharmacology Association, Public Health School at the Nancy University and APEMAC research Laboratory at Metz – France.

In South America, therapies using techniques of traditional medicine for the treatment of addictions have expanded. Literature suggests that 6 key points underpin one of these therapies: an experience of initiatory death; the release of an emotional charge; the discovery of one's purpose; the acknowledgement of its responsibility; of the sacred aspect of life or nature and that only the ritual use of natural psychoactive substances can be beneficial. The objective is to test the validity of the 6 key points of this therapy and to demonstrate, for each key-point, that patients reaching the key point have better follow-up results than other patients after one year post-treatment.


Researcher / Responsible : Antoine Renard

Partner Institutions: Independent researcher with the support of the National Center of Plastic Arts - CNAP, France.

After having participated in a two-week seminar offered by the Takiwasi Center during which he was able to experience the work methodology and treatments with plants offered by the center, the researcher and plastic artist was impressed by the importance of the role of perfumes and smells in healing techniques. Therapists, here called Curanderos (healers), are divided into several categories and names according to the type of products they use and their level of experience. The so-called Perfumeros are healers specialized in the manufacture and use of perfumes for therapeutic purposes. The objective of this research project is to travel to the Amazon region to closely observe the work of Perfumeros within the Takiwasi Center and in the surrounding communities. Perfumeros from the San Martín region are traditional healers who use plants and perfumes as healing tools in the treatment of serious behavior and personality disorders, such as addiction and other psychological traumas. The plants, through perfume, constitute a tool to travel and explore the deep memory of the body in order to locate and extract the emotional nodes, which are often the expression of traumas related to oppressive situations and injustices, whether of family, social or cultural origin. During the investigation visual, sound and olfactory material will be collected while the implications of these rituals in the organization of the life of the inhabitants of the region and in the individual development of the patients of the center will be observed.

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