Ayahuasca retreats – USA and beyond – are becoming increasingly popular. People who attend them seek healing and spiritual exploration. But, ayahuasca is still an illegal substance under federal law. Let’s explore the availability of ayahuasca ceremonies in the USA and where such retreat centers can operate legally.

TL;DR

  • Ayahuasca retreats (USA) are found throughout the country, including in California, Colorado, Florida, Washington, New York, Kentucky, and New Mexico 🌎
  • They can operate legally via membership in religious societies, such as the União do Vegetal and Santo Daime ✔️
  • Other ayahuasca retreat options are appearing as well, but the legal status of such new churches may vary ⚠️

Where Is Ayahuasca Legal in the USA?

Under federal law, the DMT in ayahuasca is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no accepted medical use and is generally prohibited. Still, ayahuasca retreat centers exist in the USA, so is there a loophole to that? Yes – there are two Brazilian religions that have legal protections for using ayahuasca brews in their shamanic ceremonies. Other churches are trying to follow in their footsteps.

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Legal ayahuasca in the USA: shamanic ceremonies, Native or contemporary
Uniao do Vegetal – throughout the country
other "ayahuasca churches" – in certain places, e.g., Oregon, California, Washington

Some shamans extend their ayahuasca healing ceremonies to outsiders who want to participate in them. Thus, ayahuasca healing retreats are born in big and medium-sized cities throughout the United States. The religious society União do Vegetal has legal rights to hold ayahuasca ceremonies throughout the country. There’s also Santo Daime, a syncretic religion whose members can participate in ayahuasca experiences in Oregon, California, Massachusetts, and Washington State.

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Ayahuasca Retreats – USA Centers

If you’d like to participate in an ayahuasca journey, you need to find a healing center that is permitted to use the brew in ceremonies and/or spiritual counseling. Some of the best ayahuasca retreats – USA locations and close by – include (in 2023):

  • Behold Retreats (Costa Rica and Mexico);
  • Origen Sagrada (California, Colorado);
  • Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church (Florida);
  • Sacred Therapy (Washington);
  • The Sanctuary – Shamanic Healing Center (New York);
  • Aya Quest (Kentucky);
  • The União do Vegetal (New Mexico).

Each retreat offers transformative ayahuasca ceremonies, sacred plant medicine and various other services, e.g., shamanic breathwork, relaxation in the forest, and home-cooked vegan meals. Some are led by traditional shamans who strive to recreate Native American ceremonies, while others are holistic sanctuaries with modern healers who have worked with ayahuasca enough to guide others in their first ayahuasca experience.

Good to Know 💡

Often, private retreats will require you to join a particular church before you’re able to partake in their shamanic healing practices. This is due to the law, which only permits ayahuasca use for religious and spiritual purposes. Typically, joining the religious society is simple paperwork – you can even do it via an online form. It’s only a formality so that everything stays legal.

How to Choose a Retreat and Stay Safe

Choosing an ayahuasca retreat (USA) and staying safe can be challenging. First, consider the location of the retreat and make sure that you won’t be breaking any laws by attending it. Additionally, think about where you feel most comfortable. Are you looking for a remote jungle or mountain retreat? Or would you rather stay at a beach-side resort? 

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ayahuasca retreat checklist:
- legal retreat
- certified, experienced staff
- medical personnel
- info on potential adverse reactions

Next, make sure that the ayahuasca retreat has reliable, certified staff members who can provide support for those who experience adverse reactions from taking ayahuasca. Ask questions about their qualifications and experience before deciding on a specific retreat center. If they only talk about the healing power of the ayahuasca vine and shrug off your concerns, or if they don’t tell you how to prepare your body for the deep healing, it’s a red flag.

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Finally, research their safety protocols. Find out what measures they have in place to protect participants from any potential risks associated with taking ayahuasca plant brew (such as dehydration or overheating). It’s also wise to inquire into what medical personnel and other resources are available in case of emergency response and aftercare assistance if necessary.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is an Ayahuasca Retreat?

An ayahuasca retreat (USA or beyond) is a spiritual and healing experience where participants partake in psychedelic ceremonies led by experienced shamans. These retreats typically take place in natural settings, often in the Amazon rainforest, and involve consuming a powerful brew containing the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and a DMT-containing plant, such as chacruna. The brew can induce intense visions and introspection.

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How Does Ayahuasca Change You?

Ayahuasca can induce deep introspection and emotional healing through its psychoactive effects. The intense visions and altered states of consciousness may lead to personal insights, a greater connection to nature, and a sense of interconnectedness with others. These revelations often result in lasting changes in one’s mental well-being, self-awareness, and outlook on life.

Where Is New Life Ayahuasca?

New Life Ayahuasca is located in Costa Rica. It’s an oceanside resort offering ayahuasca ceremonies, yoga, swimming pools, and more.

What Country Is Known for Ayahuasca?

Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil are all known for their centuries-long ayahuasca use. Other medicinal plants, such as the coca leaf, are also found there.

What Are The Risk Factors of Ayahuasca?

There can be negative interactions with prescription medications or pre-existing medical conditions, particularly mental health or heart problems. The intense experience can be psychologically overwhelming, potentially leading to short-term distress or exacerbation of existing mental health issues. Additionally, the lack of regulation and oversight in some retreats could lead to inadequate preparation or care during the ceremony.

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