Hoasa is a hallucinogenic tea used by a religious group known as Uniao Do Vegetal. UDV was established in the 1950s by Gabriel de Costa, a Brazilian native and rubber tree farmer. The name of the organization means “Union of the Plants.”
Other names for the drug are: Natema, pinde, daime, caapi, mihi, dapa, vegetal, and ayahausca. The tea is a mixture of psychoactive beta carboline alkaloids: harmine, harmaline and tetrahydromine. Hoasa is not a hallucinogen using any one ingredient, but when the ingredients are mixed, it acquires its hallucinogenic effects. Additional psychoactive mixtures, such as psychotria virdis and banisteriopis caapi are added to the tea. The mixture is then used by the members of the church as a sacrament in the religious ceremonies.
Hoasa is believed to have been in use since the first aborigines in Brazil and prior to the invasion of the Spanish explorers, it was used by shaman for magic, divination, sorcery and to both detect and treat illnesses. The Mazan and Zapar Indians of South America call it “Ayahausca,” (“Quench for the vine of the souls” or the “Vine of the dead.”) It is also used by the Mestizo population of Brazil, Peru, Columbia and Ecuador.
Hoasa was first studied by Richard Spruce between 1849 and 1864.
It is thought that the use of hallucinogenic drugs have hyper suggestible effects on the groups that use them, which reinforce their belief systems, strengthen the group adhesion, facilitate culturally conditioned and syntonic visions which provide revelation, blessing, healing and ontological security to the practitioners.
There are other groups in Brazil that use Hoasa in their rituals, such as the Santa Daime, but UDV is by far the most disciplined group to use the drug. UDV has roughly about 7000 members world-wide. In 1987, the Brazilian government lifted the ban on using Hoasa for religious purposes. In 2005, the US Supreme Court decided a case about the use of Hoasa in the United States.
Some concern arose about the possible use of (and effect of) these hallucinogenic teas by foreign travellers and tourists. In 1993, an official multinational study was begun to determine exactly what the effects are on the long term users of this tea.
The scientists completed a battery of tests on 15 known long-term users, and 15 randomly chosen people who had never used the drug as a control. Of the 15 long-term users, there were 2 in the group who were previously either in trouble with the law, or who used alcohol to excess. Each of the 15 claimed that the tea and the UDV had a profound effect on their lives. Each of them said that it was not the tea alone, but the tea combined with the UDV that changed their lives, for the better. They tell stories of seeing themselves on roads to nowhere and then using those experiences to change what needed to be changed. The study group unanimously agreed that the tea had to used with responsibility.
Interestingly, the 15 long-term users outperformed the control group in several areas of the test, including the parts to do with memory. The study also found that the tea caused a remission of psychopathology in some of the subjects, with no personality deterioration.
In the United States, Dimethyltriptamine, better known as DMT, an ingredient found in the tea, is currently a schedule 1 hallucinogenic drug.