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Exploring Alternative Paths to Healing: A Peek into the Unique Therapeutic Ceremonies Around the World

In this current time and world where mental health issues are less stigmatized and are increasingly acknowledged, many individuals are seeking alternative approaches to healing beyond conventional therapies, or when these fail to address the issues at hand. This has led to the adaptation of traditional ceremonies and practices from diverse cultures, each offering a unique perspective on mental well-being and overall health. From the ancient rituals of Ayahuasca ceremonies to the intriguing realm of psychedelic microdosing, people are turning to unconventional avenues in pursuit of relief from depression, anxiety, terminal illnesses and other health challenges. Let’s all learn some of these distinctive therapeutic practices, where ancient wisdom and modern curiosity intersect in the pursuit of healing and self-discovery.

Important note: this is not an official and professional medical advice and a replacement for your current medications. Always do your research and consult with your doctors first before attempting to take any type of drug or undergo any process.

MDMA Therapy

MDMA, commonly recognized as ecstasy or Molly, is a psychoactive stimulant that induces the release of chemicals in the brain, resulting in an energizing effect, heightened senses, and amplified emotions such as self-awareness and empathy. Researchers are exploring the potential therapeutic use of MDMA for severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition impacting nearly 3.5% of adults in the United States.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arises following exposure to traumatic events like accidents, sexual abuse, injuries, or war, leading to distressing flashbacks and nightmares, and can contribute to suicidal tendencies. While there is no specific medication for treating PTSD, certain drugs may alleviate symptoms. Experts have discovered that administering a controlled amount of MDMA in clinical settings helps individuals with PTSD open up and navigate their traumatic experiences. Despite MDMA’s historical association with recreational use and its potential for harm, abuse, and addiction, the FDA recognized its breakthrough potential in alleviating PTSD symptoms in 2017.

If diagnosed with severe PTSD and considering MDMA-assisted therapy, seek expert guidance in a clinical setting. Distinguish it from recreational ecstasy, which may lack therapeutic effects and pose health risks due to unknown ingredients. MDMA-assisted therapy isn’t universally suitable, requiring physical clearance. Consult your doctor or therapist for personalized advice on its potential effectiveness for severe PTSD symptoms.


LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), derived from a fungus that commonly infects rye, is a synthetic chemical classified as an empathogen, enhancing feelings of empathy and connectedness. As a psychedelic drug, LSD alters perception, mood, and thought. In high doses, it distorts experiences of time and space, leading to visual hallucinations. Recreational use may induce extremely negative experiences or “bad trips.” However, research indicates that in a safe, therapeutic setting with controlled doses, LSD can positively shift perspectives, alleviate fears, and reduce anxieties.

Renewed interest in LSD builds on studies from 40 years ago, primarily focused on treating depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug dependency, and reducing anxiety in patients facing life-threatening diseases. The therapeutic role of LSD is associated with weakening or ‘dissolving’ the ego, allowing individuals to perceive a broader perspective beyond personal issues.

In therapeutic settings, LSD is administered under supervision, typically in a psychologist’s office. The professional provides guidance and reassurance as patients experience the drug’s effects, ensuring a safe environment.

While there’s optimistic progress in LSD-assisted therapy, comprehending its impact on the brain requires further research. A 2016 study indicated LSD’s potential to alter established thought patterns, suggesting it as a treatment for depression and anxiety. Participants without mental illness history experienced positive feelings for approximately two weeks after a single LSD dose.

Research on LSD as a therapeutic intervention for alcohol dependency showed similar outcomes, enhancing optimism and problem-solving abilities. Notably, a trial with patients facing life-threatening diseases demonstrated reduced anxiety and improved self-assurance, relaxation, and mental strength, with effects lasting around 12 months.


This is probably the most talked about ceremony and alternative healing process, based on the numerous stories you can find online by many individuals in the spiritual and personal development industry.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation AU wrote that Ayahuasca (pronounced ‘eye-ah-WAH-ska’) is a plant-based psychedelic, a decoction (concentrated liquid) made by prolonged heating or boiling of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine with the leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub. The active chemical in ayahuasca is DMT (dimethyltryptamine) and also contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Ayahuasca has been used for centuries by First Nations peoples from contemporary Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador for religious ritual and therapeutic purposes.

Ayahuasca can have varied effects depending on a person’s mood or the environment they are in. It tends to magnify the feelings and emotions of the user. A good, calming environment would give the user a pleasing, happy experience, while a bad, chaotic environment a negative experience. According to some studies presented by the National Library of Medicine, ayahuasca appears to be beneficial in treatment of alcoholism, depression, anxiety and addictions, and when used appropriately, does not appear to carry risks of abuse or dependence.


Named in the Nahuatl language, the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii) is a small, button-shaped cactus primarily found in Mexico and the southern U.S. With a history dating back thousands of years, Native Americans recognized its hallucinatory properties, and peyote continues to be revered in their cultures. Presently, over 40 tribes in North America and Western Canada incorporate it into sacred religious ceremonies. It is also commonly used today as a recreation drug.

Beyond its role in religious ceremonies, various Native American tribes attribute broader healing properties to peyote. Some believe it aids in alleviating toothaches, pain during childbirth, fever, rheumatism, alcoholism, and other substance addictions.

Recent academic research indicates potential mental health benefits of peyote. A study revealed that mescaline, a component of peyote, was linked to reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Individuals with histories of alcohol or substance use disorders reported significant decreases in alcohol and drug use post-mescaline experience. Additionally, up to 50% of participants considered their mescaline experience among the top five most spiritually significant moments in their lives.

A separate study from 2013 found that individuals who had used peyote/mescaline had notably lower rates of agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder linked to outdoor settings. This suggests a potential association between peyote use and reduced anxiety symptoms.


The exploration of psychedelic therapy as a potential remedy for conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and eating disorders holds promise. Additionally, microdosing, a concept involving the consumption of psychedelics in non-hallucinogenic doses for potential psychological benefits, is an under researched area within the complex field of psychedelic therapy. It’s important to note that, in numerous instances and with specific psychedelics, microdosing is illegal in the United States.

Microdosing psychedelics lacks an officially recognized medical definition or dosage, but it generally involves taking sub-hallucinogenic amounts, typically around one-tenth of a typical hallucinogenic dose. This approach, commonly associated with LSD and occasionally psilocybin and MDMA, is theorized to subtly alter the brain without inducing hallucinations. According to Harriet De Wit, a professor at the University of Chicago, microdosing entails taking these low doses every three to four days over an extended period, aiming to improve well-being over time.

Here are the common types of drugs being microdosed, the “Big Seven”, according to The Cut:

LSD – Derived from lysergic acid found in the fungus growing on rye, LSD is a drug consumed in tablets, capsules, gelatin squares, or pieces of paper.

Effects: Users report increased energy, heightened focus, and a sense of life’s meaningfulness. Microdosing LSD is frequently employed to aid in overcoming various addictions, including cigarettes and heroin. Many individuals have noted improvements in weight loss, reduced alcohol consumption, and decreased engagement in activities like playing video games.

Psilocybin – containing “magic mushrooms” are consumed by eating, brewing into tea, or coating with chocolate.

Effects: Approximately one to two hours post-ingestion, individuals report heightened focus and energy. Microdosing it is often associated with assisting in the tapering off and sustained discontinuation of antidepressants, mitigating withdrawal side effects, and alleviating depression. Additionally, many users highlight the drug’s capacity to enhance empathy.

Cannabis – a psychoactive substance derived from the cannabis plant, commonly consumed through smoking, vaporization, or in tinctures and edibles.

Effects: Microdosing cannabis has proven beneficial for various physical ailments such as chronic pain, nausea, inflammation, indigestion, fibromyalgia, and PTSD-associated insomnia, including nightmares. It also positively impacts mood by enhancing interest in one’s surroundings, fostering creativity, happiness, and focus, while concurrently alleviating stress.

DMT – the primary hallucinogenic compound in ayahuasca, typically smoked in powder form or ingested as part of a brew.

Effects: DMT boasts a rapid onset, kicking in seconds after use, with acute effects lasting approximately half an hour. Users often describe a state of introspection, where it swiftly eliminates elements not serving the present moment, allowing individuals to simply savor being in the moment, as expressed by one frequent microdoser.

Ayahuasca – a plant blend from the Amazon containing the psychoactive substance DMT, typically ingested as a tea.

Effects: Microdosing ayahuasca heightens sensitivity and openness in users, often leading to a dissolution of boundaries and defenses. However, it may not be conducive to work, as it can make both physical and mental tasks more demanding, inducing a passive feeling, as indicated by one user who found it challenging to handle emails, write queries, or conduct research.

Iboga – a challenging-to-obtain perennial rainforest shrub, is rarely microdosed, with some individuals taking it in premade TA (total alkaloid) powder.

Effects: In small doses, Iboga induces introspection, clarity, thoughtfulness, and a sense of connection to people and the world. One user expressed feeling “excessively introspective,” often engrossed in thoughts and uninterested in small talk. Moreover, in larger doses, Iboga is recognized for resetting opiate receptors, aiding in the reduction of cravings.

Ketamine – originally used for anesthesia maintenance, is a drug commonly snorted and occasionally injected.

Effects: Microdosing ketamine induces a physical high and a reduction in physical sensation, as reported by users who claim that minor pain, such as knee discomfort, becomes imperceptible. Additionally, it alleviates stress and depression. Larger doses extend these anti-depressive effects, with reports suggesting the effects can last for days, weeks, or even a month.

The true benefits of microdosing remain uncertain. While it’s suggested that microdosing may assist in treating conditions like depression, conclusive evidence is lacking. Some studies suggest potential benefits, such as improved mood, reduced anxiety, enhanced cognitive abilities, increased focus, and decreased substance use. However, the evidence is mixed, often relying on self-reported symptoms, and some users report higher anxiety and lower mood. Limited evidence hints at possible benefits for migraines, cluster headaches, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but randomized controlled trials are lacking. The significant placebo effect associated with microdosing suggests that expectations may influence perceived benefits. Further clinical trials are essential to distinguish between a placebo effect and genuine health benefits, emphasizing the need for more research to establish the true advantages, if any, of microdosing.


The potential benefits of microdosing and these alternative healing paths are intriguing, but remain enigmatic. The decision to take part in these is still up to individuals’ personal preferences and lifestyle choices. However, amidst the curiosity surrounding these rituals, it is imperative for everyone to be fully aware of both the potential risks and benefits. Prior to embracing any alternative therapies, including microdosing or other rituals, consulting with healthcare professionals is paramount. This ensures informed and responsible choices aligned with each individual’s safety and well-being.


Ayahuasca – Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (n.d.). https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/ayahuasca/

Hamill, J., Hallak, J. E. C., Dursun, S., & Baker, G. B. (2019). Ayahuasca: psychological and physiologic effects, pharmacology and potential uses in addiction and mental illness. Current Neuropharmacology, 17(2), 108–128. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159×16666180125095902

Johnson, J. (2020, June 24). What to know about peyote. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/peyote

Kitchens, S., & Nerys, M. (2018, May 3). Microdosing’s micromoment. The Cut. https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/microdosing-guide-and-explainer.html

Lewis-Healey, E. (2021, April 26). The benefits of Peyote: Ancient wisdom, modern medicine. Psychedelic Spotlight. https://psychedelicspotlight.com/the-benefits-of-peyote/

LSD as a therapeutic treatment – Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (n.d.). https://adf.org.au/insights/lsd-therapeutic-treatment/

Migala, J. (2023, August 10). Potential health benefits of microdosing Psychedelics. EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/integrative-health/potential-health-benefits-of-microdosing-psychedelics/

Sreenivas, S. (2021, May 13). MDMA-Assisted therapy for PTSD: What to know. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-mdma-assisted-therapy-ptsd

Ivana Biong

Ivana, a multi-passionate freelance graphic designer and writer from Manila, Philippines, is the new editor of The Best You magazine. Having been in the design and content writing industry for many years, she loves to bring her unique knowledge and experience to the various clients and companies she works with. As an avid fan of history and culture, she also has an educational background in archaeology and volunteered in heritage advocacy groups.

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