Yopo is a visionary snuff used by various tribes in South America for over 4000 years! Nowadays, it’s mostly used by the tribes in the Amazonian Jungle – Yanomami and the Piaroa – who have managed to fend off the influence of the western world, for their spiritual and healing purpose. Even to this day, they continue to hear the wisdom of the jungle in the form of Yopo snuff.
The base of the snuff is prepared with dried seeds of the tree Anadenanthera Peregrina. The dried seeds are lightly roasted and then ground into a fine powder that is mixed with ash (it helps to bring about the alkaloids), tobacco, honey and other ingredients that vary, usually to give the substance a pleasant odor. The scientific name of the Anadenanthera Peregrina makes clear reference to the Sanskrit word ‘ananda’ meaning bliss. There are other variations of the tree which also have similar properties such as Anadenanthera Colubrina.
It can be said that yopo is a cousin of the sacred vine, Ayahuasca in two ways. One is that it also contains DMT. Secondly because yopo is usually ingested along with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, one of the two plants that are used to prepare the ayahuasca brew. Although yopo can have a powerful effect by itself, when combined with Banisteriopsis caapi its effects are potentiated.
This happens because the vine contains MAOi (monoamine oxidase inhibiting), a chemical compound that our own body produces in order to break up substances such as DMT, allowing thus, the DMT to remain much longer in the system. The Yopo snuff also contains a combination of Bufotenin, and 5-MeO-DMT, molecules that are similar to DMT in chemical structure and produces a visionary experience.
The result of chewing Banisteriopsis caapi, is a very mild. There could be a tingling sensation in the mouth and a general numbness.
In contrast Yopo’s effect is sudden and intense. It can be inhaled by oneself with a sniff pipe or be blown into one’s nostrils by another person using a blow pipe (the idea being that when another person helps, much more of the substance reaches the mucous membranes, from where it gets absorbed into the bloodstream).
In the first five minutes, there can be a set of strong discomfort, mainly on the upper respiratory system. The nasal cavity and most of the pharynx swells up causing an itchy sensation that is accompanied by a lot of snort. After this, one can feel some pressure in the head and feel extreme nausea, which can also lead to vomiting.
After this short initial period of discomfort, the hallucinogenic effects kicks in suddenly. From ideas, time travel and abstract geometrical patterns, yopo gives you a memorable visionary experience. Personally, I was caught in a maelstrom of insights, battles, vision and realizations that left me quite tired and serene.
It is very abrupt making it hard to know what to expect. Personally I think the plant helps one finding their inner self, naked and pure with whom it dialogues like a doctor does: It reviewed my life and pointed out things that I needed to improve in a voice that sounded something like this: change this attitude here, put this confidence there, and keep walking your path. Now that I look back I can say that It was a beautiful spiritual tune-up.
During the intense part of the voyage people can get “hard to reach” (kind of like people under the effect of Salvia Divinorum), especially if they are inexperienced: the bombardment of visions makes it difficult to connect with the other world in a coherent manner. This initial spike of hallucinogenic potency does not last very long and subsequently fades away in a couple of hours.
Autana – Yopo shaman ceremony
In a traditional setting, the sessions are guided by a shaman who sings and plays instruments such as the rattle or a pan flute. Like with other entheogens, sounds greatly influence the dynamics of the experience, just like the environment and our mindset.
Yopo shamans describe this experience as an opening of the 3rd eye, and being able to perceive into the light of the non-physical spiritual dimensions.
While some people prefer to do it in daylight other favor pitch black conditions (the strongest visual effects happens with the eyes shut). As for myself, I ponder not the amount of the ideal luminosity, but rather, whether or not I’m ready to be spiritually dissected by Yopo (because of its potency).