Ayahuasca Reexamined

28 minutes

I’m always open to listener feedback on Far From Home, and I heard from someone recently who’s given me a new perspective on one of my past stories and forced me to see things in a new light, so I wanted to share it with all of my listeners.

Several years ago on the show, I featured a series of stories about Lucho, a traditional medicine man from Peru who describes himself as a "curandero," or someone who heals. Using medicinal herbs, archaeological relics, and hallucinogenic plants, he claims to have rid himself of diabetes and his father of cancer. He regularly travels around his country treating people with all sorts of ailments.

In part one of my series, I joined Lucho as he embarked on a journey up the coast, searching for a star-shaped stone with supposed magical powers that he saw in a vision.

Then I accompanied him to a healing ceremony in a shantytown on the outskirts of Lima where he served participants a hallucinogenic brew called ayahuasca. I’d originally planned on simply observing and documenting the event, but once I was there, I decided to take Lucho up on his offer to consume a small amount of the potion myself to understand what the experience was like for everyone else. It didn’t seem to have much of an effect on me, however, and I wondered in the story whether I might be somehow immune.

In a bonus episode, I also shared the story of my friend Dennis, who similarly tried ayahuasca during his visit to Peru and felt like it didn’t live up to his expectations.

But after chatting recently with Nora Dunn, I’ve realized that perhaps my takeaways from my experience as well as my presentation of the topic might not have been entirely fair. Nora’s been traveling the world as a digital nomad for the past 17 years, blogging as The Professional Hobo, and she also spent several years working with shamans in Ecuador and Peru. On this episode, I revisit my previous reporting and get Nora’s insights on what I might have gotten wrong.


On Far From Home, award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian documents fascinating stories from far-flung places like Iran, Chernobyl, and Mongolia. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org

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