The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook
The Essential Guide to Ayahuasca Journeying
The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook provides a practical guide to ayahuasca use, aiding seekers in making right—and safe—decisions about where to go, who to drink with, and what to expect.
Ayahuasca, the Amazonian psychoactive plant brew, has become vastly popular. Once the sole purview of shamans and indigenous native people in the great Amazon rainforest, ayahuasca is now becoming well known—and widely used—around the globe. Today, foreigners from all over the world flock in ever-burgeoning numbers to the steamy Amazon, drinking bitter ayahuasca with shamans and curanderos in order to access its potent healing and spirit-enlivening effects. What began as a mere trickle of visitors in the 1980s has become a surging riptide of seekers.
Chris Kilham (Fox News’s “Medicine Hunter”) has worked closely with South American shamans for two decades and has sat in ayahuasca ceremonies with at least 20 different shamans. Through his “Ayahuasca Test Pilots” program, Kilham has brought numerous people to the Amazon to engage in ceremonies with maestro ayahuasceros. Clear, concise, straightforward, and well informed, The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook is an indispensable guide for anyone curious about this unusual plant medicine.
About the Author
—Wade Davis, author of One River
"In the engaging style that those familiar with Chris Kilham's work have come to know and love, the Medicine Hunter provides a dense but entertaining overview of the magic Amazonian brew ayahuasca. He discusses the history, botany, chemistry, pharmacology and ethnographic context of ayahuasca, and and, true to the spirit of the title, gives readers an informative 'flight manual' describing the physical and psychological effects of the brew. Kilham also describes the dimensions and entities ayahuasca voyagers can expect to encounter in their shamanic explorations and provides a few pointers on how to keep their spirit ship sailing smoothly. The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook is an excellent introduction for those new to the ayahuasca experience and a solid reference for grizzled veterans. Highly recommended!"
—Dennis McKenna, author of Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss
“Chris Kilham writes convincingly and eloquently about some of his—and my—favorite medicinal plants from the Amazonian rainforest, my ‘second home’ for nearly twenty-five years. Like Chris, I have a great respect for the ayuahuasca, the entheogen.”
—Dr. Jim Duke, author of Herbistatins and The Green Pharmacy
"Chris Kilham continues to shine the light on nature’s medicines. In this book, he has provided the ayahuasca traveler with an essential and practical guide that is well-informed, personal, and fun. I highly recommend this book to those who want to learn from the wisdom of the plants.”
—Joe Tafur, MD
“People testing ayahuasca will gain much from reading this book before take-off. Chris Kilham knows his plants, his writing is fun, and the book itself is packed with knowledge.”
—Jeremy Narby, author of The Cosmic Serpent
“A worthy primer for anyone interested in learning about ayahuasca. Well researched, well written, on target. Chris Kilham has added another important book to the ayahuasca bookshelf.”
—Peter Gorman, author of Ayahuasca in My Blood—25 Years of Medicine Dreaming
"Chris Kilham is one of the world’s leading advocates of the medicinal use of traditional Amazonian ayahuasca. This book unveils the mysteries surrounding Ayahuasca and provides a strong foundation for anyone interested in journeying to the Amazon to participate in these extraordinary ceremonies or understanding the emerging Western fascination with visionary plant medicine.”
—Hamilton Souther, master Ayahuasca shaman and founder of Blue Morpho Tours
"When I first moved to New York City I bought a copy of that famous black subway guidebook, and I carried it everywhere for my first six months in the city. Chris Kilham has created the equivalent for the equally vast cosmic landscape of ayahuasca shamanism. From lodge and shaman reports to the history of South American shamanism, and including veteran tips for navigating both terrestrial and celestial Amazonian terrains, this one-of-a-kind guidebook is a must-read for all spiritual seekers who are being called to work with or learn more about the ayahuasca tradition."
—Adam Elenbaas, author of Fishers of Men: The Gospel of an Ayahuasca Vision Quest
“I can’t imagine that anyone besides Chris Kilham could write the definitive guide to using ayahuasca. In this book, Chris shares his vast knowledge base and experience with la medicina in a way that’s informative, entertaining, and enlightening. When it comes to explaining this ancient, powerful medicine to Westerners, Chris is the man!”—Robyn Griggs Lawrence, natural-living advocate and former editor of Natural Home magazine
“In his latest book, Chris Kilham provides fascinating and engaging context on the traditional utilization of one of the New World’s most powerful plants, Ayahuasca, bringing the reader on an ethnobotanical journey of learning about the past and present use of this sacred Amazonian vine.”
—Michael J. Balick, author of Rodale’s 21st Century Herbal
“Chris Kilham is a brilliant adventure storyteller with the gift of gab, and he shares fringe explorations, intense inspirations, wild-ride revelations, and intimate healings that will make you feel like laughing, crying, nodding, twisting your head, and marveling at the vast mystery that is spirit.”
—Zoe Helene, founder of Cosmic Sister
"Kilham writes clearly and compellingly on a complicated topic. Some will appreciate the history, context, and chemistry of la medicina, while all of us who love healing plants will delight in this literary immersion into a sacred journey. Reading this handbook triggered belly laughs of recognition and body memories of spirit flights with trusted shamans such as those this primer describes."
—Amanda McQuade Crawford, MA, Dip. Phyto., RH (AHG), MNZAMH, MCPP
“Chris Kilham takes us on an easy-to-read journey into the Amazonian world of ayahuasca, eloquently covering the history, science, and experience of the visionary and healing jungle brew that the Western world is only now discovering.”
—Chris Bennett, author of Cannabis and the Soma Solution
“Kilham is the best person today to authentically tell the ayahuasca story because he embodies all things necessary to take us on that journey: he is a botanist, a widely recognized plant-medicine explorer, a close friend of tribal peoples, a historian, a storyteller, and one who has had a great many journeys with the medicine. With a brilliant, open mind and endless spiritual energy, Chris has pulled together the knowledge and stories of ayahuasca in a way that will help guide anyone into and through the wonder of it.”
—Linda Sparrow, author, filmmaker, and natural-products marketer
“All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Ayahuasca but Didn’t Know What or Whom to Ask: Chris Kilham, aptly named the Medicine Hunter, is the ultimate storyteller: wise, funny, articulate, and wonderfully charming, in the best possible sense. He takes us on a magical journey spanning all aspects of the ayahuasca experience—the plant, the people involved (shamans and participants), the outer journey, the inner journey, and how to navigate the intricacies of it all. His kindness, warmth and spirit shine throughout. You can’t help loving this book—and its most captivating author.”
—Hyla Cass, MD, psychiatrist, author of 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health
“Written from personal experience and in his typical delightful storytelling style, Chris Kilham’s The Ayahuasca Test Pilot’s Handbook: The Essential Guide to Ayahuasca Journeying is just that. The use of hallucinogenic substances for this type of journeying or healing requires cultural guides. Chris provides a bridge from the ancient to the modern, interweaving the culturally shamanic understanding of the experience with that of the modern seeker. It is a delightful read for those interested in the psycho-spiritual use of plants and truly is a guide for those seeking the experience.”
—Roy Upton, RH, DipAyu, Executive Director, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia
“I have known Chris Kilham for nearly forty years, and it was my good fortune to be part of a small group that went with Chris to drink La Medicina and be in ceremonies with several wonderful shamans. In this book, Chris Kilham has proven himself to be the foremost messenger of the plants. The images are accurate and the experiences he shares are heartfelt, humorous, and savvy. Any attempt to educate and inform about natural products and their value, and about the importance of the indigenous cultures from which they come, pales when compared to one simple lecture from Chris Kilham.”
—Andy Levine, author and founder of Yellow Emperor Herbs
"There is a pandemic of suffering from psycho-spiritual illnesses that modern healthcare is not able to address. An ever-increasing number of people yearn for ‘something more’ in life. In answer, ayahuasca is reaching out across the globe to offer its significant benefits. But with the substantial growth in interest in the medicine, there is more and more need to foster an educated, reverent, and cautious approach to drinking ayahuasca. The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook is a candid and at times humorous book packed with important information to help people consciously navigate their way into and through their first experiences with ayahuasca. I highly recommend this book as a valuable resource for people interested in beginning a path of healing and self-discovery with ayahuasca.”
—Matthew Watherston, founder of Temple of the Way of Light
“Most experts would agree that for psychedelic plant adventures, a good guide is essential, and a great guide can make this journey truly life-altering. In The Ayahuasca Test Pilot’s Handbook, Chris Kilham becomes our great guide in understanding the phenomena of ayahuasca, informing and enlightening us on this most personal of plant journeys. Kilham covers the requisite basics of any thorough plant investigation, but also skillfully and reverently handles the concept of communication with ‘plant spirit’ and describes in detail—and with open-minded humor—the wide range of experiences a human can have on the ayahuasca journey. If this is your next plant adventure, don't 'leave home' without this helpful and all-inclusive guide.”
—Lynda LeMole, consultant to herbal businesses; former president of Traditional Medicinals
"Chris Kilham has written a true handbook for anyone interested in Ayahuasca. If you are brand new to ayahuasca and searching for real information into this interesting plant medicine, then this book is the ideal place to go. If you have partaken in ayahuasca ceremonies in the past, you’ll find clear details that may help you better explain and understand what you experienced but had never found the right words to share with others."
—Malcolm Rossiter, shaman at Blue Morpho
"Finally, a well-researched and well-written book on that most powerful of all Amazonian plants! The best book on ayahuasca since Jeremy Narby's The Cosmic Serpent "
—Mark Plotkin, ethnobotanist, author of Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice.