Ayahuasca is used largely as a treasured aid to spiritual practice. People who work with ayahuasca in non-traditional contexts often align themselves with the philosophies and cosmologies associated with ayahuasca shamanism, as practiced among indigenous peoples like the Urarina of the Peruvian Amazon. While non-native users know of the spiritual applications of ayahuasca, a less well-known traditional usage focuses on the medicinal properties of ayahuasca.
When used for its medicinal purposes, ayahuasca affects the human consciousness for less than six hours, beginning half an hour after consumption and peaking after two hours. In some cases, individuals experience significant psychological stress during the experience.
Ayahuasca also has cardiovascular effects, moderately increasing heart rate and diastolic blood pressure. It is for this reason that extreme caution should be taken with those who may be at risk of heart disease.