Lindsay Lohan called it "eye-opening," "intense," and said that it helped her in therapy because it made her let go of past hurt. Sting said it made him feel like he's "wired to the entire cosmos " and called it "the only genuine religious experience" he has ever had.
A "witchcraft" plant, also known as toé or brugmansia , is a member of the nightshade family, according to Men's Journal. It used to be taken only by shamans, but now, pilgrims flock to rainforests and villages hoping that this hallucinogenic plant will cure depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideations, addiction, autism or other mental ails.
"Toé is a heavy, dark plant that's associated with witchcraft for a reason: You can't say no," a toé tourist told Men's Journal. "Toé makes you go crazy. Some master shamans use it in small quantities, but it takes years to work with the plants. There's nothing good to come out of it."
Lisa Ling traveled to Peru for an episode of "This is Life" for CNN where she met former Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan LeCompte, who organizes trips to Peru for other veterans who are hoping to cure PTSD and stop any desire to kill themselves. LeCompte told Ling that taking ayahuasca is "a calculated risk."
"Ayahuasca is a way to give relief to those who are suffering," LeCompte told Ling.
"The ayahuasca medicine is a way to, instead of sweeping your dirt under the rug, you know, these medicines force you to take the rug outside and beat it with a stick until it's clean," LeCompte explained to Ling. "And that's how I prefer to clean my house."
Those who tout the mental health benefits of ayahuasca still say talk therapy is a must, just like with any anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.
"If you think you're just going to take 'joy juice' ... you're nuts," Peter Gorman, author of "Ayahuasca in My Blood," said to Ling. "The five years of work to get rid of [mental trauma] is still going to be on you."
Ayahuasca used to be the drug of the shaman who would bestow answers upon the less blessed.
"Traditionally, the shaman drinks [ayahuasca], he accesses other realms of reality to find out where the dissonance is, that if the shaman corrects, will eliminate the [symptoms] -- could be physical, could be emotional, could be bad luck," Gorman told Ling. "[Then] we Americans come, and we said we insist on drinking the damn stuff -- we want our lives changed and we want that experience, so that certainly set things right on its head."
If you don't want to travel to Peru, you can purchase ayahuasca powders online, but you don't know where it is from or even what it will be, according to CNN. The increase of nonreligious interest in ayahuasca has Gorman worried.
"I've had this feeling in my bones for five or six years that something could go slightly wrong here that could sour a lot of stuff," Gorman told Ling.
And things have soured.
Multiple ayahuasca-related deaths have been reported and even sexual abuse and rape by shamans, according to CNN.
Some want to regulate ayahuasca and legalize it, so that only certified and regulated centers would be up and running.
"At a time when drug policy is being reevaluated, when marijuana looks like it's on the road toward legalization, when psychedelic medicine is moving forward through the FDA and we can envision a time when psychedelics are available as prescription medicines, how ayahuasca should be handled in a regulatory context is really up in the air," Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, told CNN.
Roberto Velez, ex-Marine and subject of the pro-ayahuasca documentary "Stepping Into The Fire," is no longer an advocate of ayahuasca use, after seeing wrong doses handed out and deaths that the shamans don't want found out. "It's of life-and-death importance," Velez warned, according to Men's Journal, "that people don't get involved with shamans they don't know. I don't know if anyone should trust a stranger with their soul."