About Ayahuasca

How can Ayahuasca help me heal?

Ayahuasca can serve as a powerful tool for healing, as well as spiritual and emotional growth. Today, it is the foundation for the traditional medicine systems of over 75 different cultures in the Amazon, and has spread to various regions across the globe, offering healing for many illnesses and dis-ease where modern medicine has failed.

Please see our Ayahuasca page for additional information regarding the healing effects of this medicine.

Is ayahuasca safe? 

Ayahuasca is safe when experienced in a ceremonial setting with a traditionally trained and experienced shaman with a family lineage of working with the medicine. In addition, our facilitators are experienced in ceremony to hold space and help guide your work with the medicine. 

With the proper screening, preparation, container, and integration support, it is very rare that negative psychological effects result from partaking in ayahuasca ceremony. Our center is dedicated to help guide your process before, during, and after your retreat with our various methods of support we offer. 

However, there are certain medical conditions that are contraindicated with plant medicine, including (but not limited to) schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychosis. Additionally, certain medications are contraindicated and should be discussed with your doctor to determine if an ayahuasca retreat is right for you and if it is possible to change or taper any medications. 

Interaction with pharmaceutical drugs and medications (including some over-the-counter drugs and certain herbs) can be potentially life-threatening. The combination of MAOIs and other serotonin agonists or precursors poses a particularly severe risk of a life-threatening serotonin syndrome episode. These drugs and medications can be dangerous when combined with Ayahuasca and should be discontinued at least 4 weeks prior to partaking in the medicine. 

Safety is our top priority. Each medical questionnaire is closely reviewed by our team. Any potential risks or questions are discussed and further looked at with our physician. More individual follow up may be required.

Medications that can be unsafe with ayahuasca:

  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants (and sleeping pills)
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Anti-hypertensives (blood pressure medications)
  • Other Anti-Depressants
  • Antibiotics
  • Appetite suppressants (diet pills)
  • Medicine for asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems; antihistamines, medicines for colds, sinus problems, hay fever, or allergies (Actifed DM, Benadryl, Benylin, Chlor-Trimeton, Compoz, Bromarest-DM or -DX, Dimetane-DX cough syrup, Dristan Cold & Flu, Phenergan with Dextromethorphan, Robitussin-DM, Vicks Formula 44-D, several Tylenol cold, cough, and flu preparations, and many others — any drug containing dextromethorphan/ DXM or with DM, DX or Tuss in its name.)
  • Vasodilators
  • Antipsychotics
  • Barbiturates
  • Alcohol

Illegal or recreational drugs that are VERY dangerous to combine with MAOIs:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines (meth-, dex-, amphetamine), ephedrine, MDMA (Ecstasy), MDA, MDEA, PMA
  • Opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine, and especially opium)
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM)

Additional plant medicines and recreational drugs that can be dangerous to combine with MAOIs:

  • Alcohol
  • Kratom
  • Kava
  • 5-MEO-DMT
  • Barbiturates
  • Mescaline (any phenethylamine)

Other medications that should be discontinued: decongestants, cold medications, allergy medications, antihistamines, sedatives, tranquilizers, amphetamines (including Adderall), some hypertensive medications, sympathomimetic amines (including pseudoephedrine and ephedrine), carbamazipine, methylphemidate (Ritalin), macromerine, phenelanine, tyrosine, tryptophan, asarone/calamus, and some asthma inhalers.

If you suffer from any of the following psychological conditions, please note this on your medical intake questionnaire before the retreat and our staff will follow-up:

  • Borderline peraonlisty disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Family history of mental health problems
  • Physiological conditions that should be discussed with staff;
  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Heart conditions
  • Diabetes

Also avoid the following herbs for at least 48 hours before and after:

  • St. Johns Wort (should be avoided for at least two weeks)
  • Betel
  • Boswellia
  • Carrot seed
  • Chamomile
  • Curcumin
  • Dill seed
  • Ephedra
  • Fennel seed
  • Fo-Ti
  • Ginseng
  • Horny Goat Weed
  • Kanna
  • Kava
  • Kratom
  • Licorice Root
  • Nutmeg
  • Parsley seed
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • Scotch Broom
  • Siberian Ginseng
  • Sinicuichi
  • Turmeric
  • Yerba Mate
  • Yohimbe

Please contact us with any specific questions or medical concerns. 

Is ayahuasca a purgative medicine? Does everyone purge?

It is true that ayahuasca can involve purging including vomiting and diarrhea. If you need help getting to the bathroom, our facilitators are on call to do so, and they will let you know how to easily signal them should you need assistance. It is important to note that the concept of purging can take many different forms for different people, including crying, yawning, sweating, shaking, and laughing, among other things. 

Purging (via vomiting or other means) is the beginning of healing with Ayahuasca and master plants, and is an integral part of the process. It is the stage of detoxification, cleansing or decodification; of letting go and surrendering. Likewise all genuine spiritual paths must begin with the stage of purification; letting go of beliefs, ego, and other limitations to our understanding.

It is common to purge during Ayahuasca ceremonies, and should be seen as part of the healing process, and approached with humility and gratitude for what is being cleansed and let go.

Does everyone have visions?

Ayahuasca works in different ways, in different people. Visual imagery, while it can be part of some people’s experience, is often less common than one might think from reading or hearing experiential accounts of others. Oftentimes ayahuasca works on a much more energetic level than we may consciously be able to perceive. The experience itself can take many forms, such as physical/energetic work – bodily sensations, physical purging through yawning, laughing, crying, sweating, vomiting, or shaking, to name a few – or deep thought, emotions coming to the surface, mental imagery, reliving past experiences, or a feeling of oneness and connectedness. It can be different not just for every person but for every individual experience. In some cases, the visions can simply be a distraction. In others, they can be a helpful way for the mind to understand the narrative of the healing being done. We encourage guests to surrender to the healing work, let go of expectations, and trust that they will get what they need, even if it isn’t in the way they expected.

Who is your lead Maestra/Shaman?

Our lead Shaman, Maestra Vilma, is from the native community of San Francisco in Ucayali, Pucallpa.

The San Francisco native community is a community of the Shipibo-Conibo people belonging to the Pano culture and interlinguistic family, located in the Yarinacocha district on the left bank of the Yarinacocha lagoon in the central Amazon of Peru. It is the oldest and most numerous town of the nearby communities in the area.

Maestra Vilma comes from a long lineage of healers. Her father was a shaman, and her mother also worked with the medicine. She was introduced to ayahuasca and started her first dieta at the age of 16. She began healing her local people at the age of 22, after four years working with the medicine.

Currently, Maestra Vilma has over 20 years of experience working with and dieting a variety of master plants and plant medicines. 

What brings her joy? 

“From my heart I was born to do this work. To sit with the medicine brings me joy. When I sit with the medicine, she can become powerful in a way that helps people, and to help and to heal their disease - this brings me joy.”

Supporting Plant Medicines

What additional sacred medicines are served at Willka Runa?

At Willka Runa Healing Center, along with Ayahuasca, you also have the opportunity to work with Rapé and Wachuma (San Pedro). The Bufo toad (5-MeO-DMT) medicine is also available as an optional add-on. 

What is Rapé?

In the Shipibo tradition, rapé, pronounced "ha-pay" or "rah-pay," is prepared by soaking mapacho (sacred jungle tobacco) in a small quantity of water and leaving it to macerate until it turns into a dense and dark tint. 

As a master plant and grandfather spirit, tobacco has been used sacredly for thousands of years. The medicine clears the sinuses, moves through the lymphs, and begins a detox process. Energetically, Rapé has protective, grounding, and clearing properties. It works on the chakras to remove energetic blockages and activates the pineal gland.

Mapacho liquid has been used to cure diseases, fight insomnia, and heal depression, stress, and various emotional conditions. The inhaled tobacco liquid helps to expulse phlegm, which is considered to be the materialization of sadness and accumulated trauma. It also opens the mind and strengthens intuition.

This ritual is often performed prior to an Ayahuasca ceremony to prepare the body and spirit of the participant to receive the healing. As it removes layers of blocked energies, the patient starts noticing an opening of the mind, mental clarity, and an overall increase in energy and strength.

What is Huachuma?

Huachuma is the Quechua word for the Andean plant commonly known as San Pedro cactus, a fast growing cactus native to the Andes of Peru and Ecuador. In its natural environment, Huachuma grows up to 20 feet high and is multi-branched. Huachuma contains a number of psychoactive alkaloids, including Mescaline, a phenethylamine chemically related to MDMA.

 Native to the Andean mountain range of South America, huachuma is also known as San Pedro (Saint Peter) because it is said to be the key that opens the gates of heaven. It is a heart-opening, heart consciousness medicine with the potential to catalyze deep healing at many levels.

What is Bufo/Sapo?

Bufo alvarius is a toad that lives in the Sonoran desert of Northern Mexico and Arizon and comes from indigenous group in the Sonoran Desert. The toad produces a secretion that contains 5-MeO-DMT, a tryptamine that is naturally occurring in the human brain at life and death. The use of 5-MeO-DMT can be traced back thousands of years from different plant and animal sources that many cultures used as a direct connection to God.

During a ceremony, the secretion from the toad is vaporized and inhaled. Your experience can last from ten minutes to over an hour, depending on dosage, retention, and your ability to let go. 

Bufo offers powerful life changing possibilities, by profoundly uprooting stored trauma in a way that feels expansive and liberating. 5-MeO-DMT is proficient at revealing and freeing the shadow, while transmuting it to light. Many can share on its extraordinary way of activating the divine remembrance of who you are and why you are here. You will have a clear chance to let go of any illusions that are standing between you and your true dharma.

Together, in a safe setting, our practitioner will guide you through the doorways of the infinite as you experience this short but profound medicine. This experience is the utmost primal, and sacred release, relative to birthing, dying, and being born, it has promising results for anyone looking to have a full mind, body, and soul restructure. 

Because of the potency and power of this medicine, our center intentionally approaches serving this medicine very seriously and carefully. Our main practitioner has been working with the medicine for many years. Prior to sitting with the medicine, you will sit with our practitioner to discuss if it is right for you at this point in your journey.


What sort of dietary preparation is required before, during, and after working with the sacred medicines?

We outline the dietary requirements on our Preparation and Integration pages. Please be aware that some foods are contraindicated with the plant work, so it is important to follow the preparatory diet. 

We highly recommend and encourage you to follow our recommended dieta. It will allow for your work with the medicine to be more beneficial if you prepare your body well in advance to receive the medicine and the teachings.

The traditional dieta cleanses and clears the senses and heighten your sensitivity to the more subtle consciousness of the spirit plant medicines. The purpose of the dieta is to purify the whole organic and energetic system and open the senses to the energy and spirit of nature.

On the most basic level, please abstain from salt, refined sugar, alcoholic beverages, red meat, fats and most oils, hot spices, and sexual activity for a minimum of 3 days before to 2 days after the final Ayahuasca ceremony (the longer the better). Pork should be abstained for 2 weeks before and after Ayahuasca. This will avoid potential interactions and blockages, and help you to retain the clear state of consciousness in which you will emerge from this work.

If you use Cannabis, we recommend that you abstain for at least 2 weeks before (1 month if you use this plant consistently) and after working with Ayahuasca in order to maintain a proper reset. Recent use of Cannabis can diminish one’s energetic connection with Ayahuasca.

Temporary sexual abstinence is an important aspect of the traditional vegetalista dieta. This can be seen as an offering to the spirit of Ayahuasca which conserves essential energy and helps to guide your mental and spiritual focus in more esoteric realms. Many people find their libido enhanced following work with the sacred plants.

How do you support us in preparing for the retreat?

Included in your retreat is an Intention Setting Video Call with a member of our team. We also provide a pre-retreat zoom Q&A to answer any of your questions.

What other forms of preparation do you recommend? 

Please see our Preparation page for additional information and suggestions. 

What resources do you recommend for learning more about the medicines you work with at the center?

Please visit our Resource page for additional information.


How do I get help with integrating at home after my retreat? 

Please see our Integration page for additional information and suggestions. 

What do you support us with integration?

One month following your retreat, we will host a group zoom call to support you in your integration process. 

We will also create a WhatsApp group so that you can stay connected with the participants from your retreat. The importance of healthy connection and community can not be underestimated, and this will serve as a safe and supportive space for you to further your integration process. 

Retreat Arrival & Practicalities

Where is your retreat located?

Our center is located in the uniquely tranquil village of Arin, nestled at the foot of the majestic mountain Pitusiray, near beautiful waterfalls that are accessed by walking. We are 15-20 minutes south of Urubamba and an hour and 15 minutes from Cusco.

Which airport do I fly into? How do I get to the retreat?

Your final destination is Cusco, Peru. The airport code is CUZ.  When flying from another country, you’ll have to fly to Lima first (LIM)and then take a connecting flight to Cusco.  

We will provide transportation from Cusco to Willka Runa on the morning that your retreat begins.

You will receive more detailed information on how to arrive upon registration. 

When should I arrive? Where should I stay before the retreat?

Please arrive no later than Saturday the day before your retreat. We will meet at 3:30pm for check-in and meet and greet. The meet-up will take place in the courtyard of hotel Antigua Casona San Blas. 

The bus will leave the hotel the following morning (Sunday) at 10am. Please be on time. If you are not staying at Antigua Casona San Blas, we recommend being at the hotel on Sunday morning no later than 9:40am.

Do I need a visa to travel to Peru?

Traveling from most countries (North & South America, Europe, Australia) you do not need a visa, but if you are not sure, please visit the website of your local embassy for more information. 

When you enter Peru, you will get a stamp and a handwritten number with the allowed length of your stay (usually 90 days). The maximum length of stay is 183 days, so if you plan to travel more than 3 months, you’ll need to extend your visa for another 90 days.

Do I need a passport that is valid 6 months after entry into Peru?

Yes. On January 1, 2019, the Government of Peru started enforcing an existing law that requires all foreign travelers to have a passport valid for a minimum of 6 months past the time of entry into Peru. Peruvian authorities will deny entry into Peru for travelers not meeting this requirement. In short, please verify that your passport will be valid for at least 6 months from your planned date of entry into Peru.

What are the current COVID requirements for Peru?

As COVID regulations are constantly changing, please see here for updated restrictions and travel requirements: https://amazonas-explorer.com/is-there-coronavirus-in-peru/

Currently, unvaccinated travelers can still travel to Peru, however, must adhere to the following testing requirements:

  • Those traveling to Peru who are not fully vaccinated must present a PCR molecular test with a negative result (within 48 hours) prior to boarding an incoming flight to Peru, in accordance with current health regulations.
  • For domestic flights within Peru, travelers must present a negative PCR molecular test (with results no longer than 72 hours old) when traveling between provinces.
  • For additional information about traveling in Peru while unvaccinated, please reference the following link.

*Please check for any specific country requirements before booking your trip.

Do I need additional vaccinations?

Peru does not require any vaccinations. This is more of a personal choice. If you choose to do so, the popular vaccines people get are against Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Rabies, and Hepatitis A&B. We recommend getting these at least 3 weeks prior to your retreat.

What happens in case of a medical emergency?

Although medical emergencies with ayahuasca are extremely rare, we are committed to your safety, health and wellbeing. Our priority is to provide a safe and sacred space for healing, growth and transformation where you can relax into the experience knowing you will be well cared for. 

Prior to the retreat, all of our guests will be asked to meet medical guidelines to ensure all physical and mental health protocols can be met.

We also work with responsible, experienced Shamans and facilitators, who will guide you through safe ceremonies. 

At the beginning of your first ceremony, we always serve a conservative ‘starter dose’ of ayahuasca. If the experience is not as strong as you desire, there is an opportunity to drink more later in the ceremony. This approach allows us to identify those who are highly sensitive to the medicine or who’s bodies may be having an unusual reaction to these plants.

Our facility also has a fully stocked first aid kit. In the unlikely event of a medical emergency, we are situated 25 minutes away from the closest hospital, and one hour away from the major hospital in Cusco. 

What electrical outlets are used in Peru?

The outlets in Peru are very similar to those found in the US, although the voltage is different. Peru uses 220V (as opposed to 110V in the US), but nowadays, nearly all electrical devices are designed to use both so there is no need to bring or buy an adapter. If you are unsure, there should be some information printed on the plug or device stating what voltage it can use (110 – 240V is most common). The only adapter you will need is if your device does not have a flat or round two-prong plug.  

Retreat Details & Structure

Retreat structure

The schedule and structure of our retreats is explained in detail on our Retreats page

What is the typical group size for your retreats?

Our group size varies depending on the week, but we will not have more than 15 guests during a retreat.

What is included and what is not included in the cost of registration?

Your retreat includes:

  • Food and accommodation
  • Local transportation from Cusco to Willka Runa Healing Center
  • 3 Ayahuasca ceremonies
  • 1 Rapé ceremony
  • 1 San Pedro ceremony
  • Breath work, yoga, and sound healing sessions

What is not included in the cost of registration?

  • Air travel/flights
  • Add-on excursions
  • Therapies/massages
  • Optional Bufo/Sapo ceremony (5-MeO-DMT)
  • Optional tips/gratuities 

What is the weather like at the center?

We sit at 2,800 m. (9,500 ft high), meaning the air is usually cool and dry during the night and sunny during the day. You can check weather.com for an accurate 10-day forecast for your ayahuasca retreat.

The rainy season is typically from December through March. The dry season runs from the end of March to November. However, the weather can be very unpredictable, so it is always useful to have a rain jacket on you.

Bring warm clothes for the evenings, as it is chilly and bring a hat and/or sunblock for during the day. A rain poncho is essential if you’re coming in the rainy season (Dec – Mar). 

What are the lodging accommodations?

We offer single, double, and triple occupancy rooms. Images are available on our retreat page. Our accommodations are similar to what you can expect at a resort in the Sacred Valley. Our luxurious and spacious rooms all come with private bathrooms, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Is there wifi at the center?

While we highly recommend "unplugging" while at our center, we do have wifi available in common areas.

What sort of food do you serve at the center?

Our chef prepares vegetarian food served in accordance with a traditional ayahuasca dieta. All of our food is sourced directly in the valley. Chicken and fish options are also available, and your dietary specifications will be discussed during your intention call.

What sort of clothing and things should I bring with me?

Please refer to our packing list for a complete recommended list.

Do I need to bring extra money?

We have items and gifts available for purchase at the center, so we do recommend bringing some additional cash in case you want to buy something during your retreat.

We also offer optional ceremonies (Bufo) and excursions.

What is the refund and cancellation policy?

At this time we do not offer refunds after booking on our website. If for any reason you are unable to make the retreat, please notify our team via email within 90 days of the first day of your retreat. If you do so, you will receive a credit to use at a future retreat within the year.