Ayahuasca is a mixture of Amazonian plants - vines, bark, and roots - traditionally drank as a tea in indigenous cultures and valued for its hallucinogenic properties. The concoction started to reach a more mainstream audience in the 2000s, particularly in the Western world. Users laud it for the psychedelic and deeply spiritual experiences it provides. Unsurprisingly, more than a handful of famous people have done ayahuasca.
Because the drug is illegal in the United States, both civilians and celebrities who have tried ayahuasca typically travel to South America for the experience, where a trained shaman guides them. After ingesting ayahuasca, people usually vomit... a lot. But this is a crucial part of the overall event, as the purging supposedly releases negative energy and opens the door for spiritual and creative revelation.
Despite controversy over whether drug and spirituality "tourism" is exploitative, most people who have tried the drug - celebrities and everyday folks alike - say they've found ayahuasca is mind-expanding, consciousness-raising, and creatively enriching. Many of these celebrity ayahuasca stories suggest the drug had a positive effect on their lives.
Paul Simon's ayahuasca experiences provided the source material for his 1990 song "Spirit Voices:"
Some stories are magical, meant to be sung
Songs from the mouth of the river
When the world was young
And all of these spirit voices rule the night
It's not known whether Simon had more than one ayahuasca session, but his encounter was a profound one. As is typical in an ayahuasca trip, Simon had some unsettling run-ins during his visions; in one, he squared off against a python.
- Photo: Chelsea Does/Netflix
Chelsea Handler took ayahuasca for an episode of her Netflix series, Chelsea Does. After Handler first gulped down the ayahuasca tea, nothing happened. She tried again the following night, this time with a shaman at her side. The results, she found, were revelatory:
I had all these beautiful imageries of my childhood and me and my sister laughing on a kayak, and all these beautiful things with me and my sister... So [my experience] was very much about opening my mind to loving my sister, and not being so hard on her.
Handler's ayahuasca experience was not without its side effects, but the evening made for an original episode.
In 2017 Jim Carrey prepared for the role of psychonaut Terence McKenna. To get in the right frame of mind, Carrey embarked on a magic mushroom trip - but this was not the actor's first time experimenting with psychedelics. According to lore related by The Hollywood Reporter, the actor was on ayahuasca when he refused "to get off a mountain until he believed he could earn $10 million a picture - which, eventually, he did."
No one could ever accuse Tori Amos of being unoriginal, and at least some of her unique musical voice stems from ayahuasca encounters. The singer/songwriter/pianist told the Huffington Post she'd done ayahuasca "many, many times," and the experiences have played a central role in her music. She explained ayahuasca gave her the visions that inspired some of her songwriting. But as far as the process of crafting the music itself, for that, Amos said, "You have to be in control."