5-MeO-DMT or Ayahuasca Retreat?

Increasing your joy in life is a goal that many strive for, yet it still eludes them. Both 5-MeO-DMT and Ayahuasca offer the potential to deepen your spirituality and heal long-standing wounds, but they do so in different ways.Whichever medicine you opt to work with, you should know that a retreat is an ideal situation for you to work with the medicine. That's because you'll benefit from the assistance that a retreat offers in the form of preparation and an individual facilitator who helps you during your trip. Both medicines require deep reflection, and going on a retreat allows you to give the medicine its due, rather than mixing it with your day-to-day life.However, Ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT work better for different people and different circumstances. While both medicines can activate the 5HT1A and 5HT2A receptors in your brain, which are the brain regions typically targeted by SSRIs, these medicines are extremely unique in terms of structure and expected results. So which one should you choose? We at Tandava Retreats have written this article to help you make the right decision.

Before You Start

You have to start your journey by researching both medicines carefully. Everyone does. Given that a 5-MeO-DMT or Ayahuasca retreat is a substantial investment, mentally, spiritually, and financially, you should consider carefully your purpose. Come to the retreat with good intentions. Whether you're looking to overcome mental illness or addiction, grow your spirituality, or simply expand your horizons, you should have some justification for doing this in mind when you're evaluating retreat options.

5-MeO-DMT vs. Ayahuasca: The Main Differences

First of all, let's talk about the medicines, and how the psychedelic trips vary between the two. That will form the basis for the differences in how retreats are organized as well.Both 5-MeO-DMT and Ayahuasca originated as plant medicines, however, both have developed synthetic forms. There is no difference in experience in whichever format you decide to experiment with these medicines in, synthetic or not. Typically, 5-MeO-DMT is most commonly smoked. In the case of Ayahuasca, it's customary to drink it in the form of a beverage.Let's compare and contrast these two medicines.

5-MeO-DMT Is More Powerful

Each experience is quite intense and highly likely to disturb your typical state of consciousness, bringing you to a new one.But if you're wondering which experience is more potent, then 5-MeO-DMT is by far the winner. Almost anyone who has tried both medicines would tell you that 5-MeO-DMT brings an emotional and immersive intensity that Ayahuasca simply can't compare to. And the proof is in the pudding, a typical dose of 5-MeO-DMT, is just a small fraction of the typical Ayahuasca dose.

Ayahuasca Is Slower-Acting

Since Ayahuasca is a beverage, it takes much longer for all the chemicals that spark the psychedelic experience to work their way through your body. Meanwhile, 5-MeO-DMT works almost right away.The Ayahuasca experience usually lasts around 4 to 6 hours, taking nearly an hour to take effect. Meanwhile, 5-MeO-DMT can last anywhere between 10 to 45 minutes, taking effect almost immediately after one smokes it. That said, your perception of time will be completely unrelated to the actual duration, and the emotional intensity of the experience will make it feel a lot longer.Of course, the result of these variations in duration will also mean that it's more challenging for individuals to process the medicine one-on-one. It's a lot more challenging for a guide or a facilitator at a retreat to help you out for a long period of time than a short one. That's why Ayahuasca ceremonies are often conducted in groups, while a 5-MeO-DMT ceremony is quite easy to run individually.

5-MeO-DMT Requires Greater Caution

We recommend you exercise caution with either medicine, but given 5-MeO-DMT's intensity, it requires a little extra in terms of safety measures. 5-MeO-DMT could cause more complications and requires extremely scrupulous vetting beforehand.When you choose a psychedelic retreat, make sure that they are first-aid trained and explain exactly how they keep their center and their customer experience safe.

  • Both 5-MeO-DMT and DMT have a history of adverse effects. However, with proper screening done by experienced facilitators, the likelihood of an incident occurring is greatly reduced. Ensure that you conduct your experience with a retreat center that responsibly handles things.
  • Generally speaking though, 5-MeO-DMT implicates taking a few extra precautions. Given that the experience is more intense than DMT, more complications could potentially arise. It's best to nip these in the bud ahead of time with proper vetting.

DMT Is More Vivid And Physical

5-MeO-DMT is more of an intellectual experience that plays on your thoughts and emotions. There are some colors and patterns involved, but they will not be your central focus before or after the retreat. Rather, it's an experience of pure energyMeanwhile, DMT is known for producing incredibly sophisticated visualizations and even physical sensations. Most research into anecdotal experiences comparing the two medicines show that Ayahuasca is much more physically intense. In fact, it is common for individuals to purge during their trip, so you must be prepared for this. The purging is also what makes the experience valuable in resolving addictions.

5-MeO-DMT: The Full Rundown

What Is 5-MeO-DMT?

5-MeO-DMT is a psychedelic medicine that gained prominence due to its reputation for igniting something known as the "non-dual experience". A 5-MeO-DMT trip might completely alter someone's consciousness to the point that they are unable to make distinctions between themselves and the universe, feeling as though they have merged with God and have a connection to everything. This makes 5-MeO-DMT seem quite a bit more revelatory than just about any psychedelic we know of.

History of 5-MeO-DMT

5-MeO-DMT has been used for thousands of years as a plant medicine. Beginning around 3,000 years ago in South America, shamans and other recreational users experimented with the medicine and altered their consciousness. By grinding up the seeds of various plants, they could smoke or chew on them to receive the benefits. Currently, 5-MeO-DMT is thought to be present in 9 different plants.However, 5-MeO-DMT was pretty much unknown outside of this context until the 20th century. Japanese scientists made a massive breakthrough in the 1930s when they managed to synthesize the 5-MeO-DMT compound. Afterwards, it became easier to distribute the medicine around the world, allowing for more experimentation, and consequently, more notoriety.

What A 5-MeO-DMT Retreat Is Like

A 5-MeO-DMT retreat can take several different forms. In our practices at Tandava, we have created shamanic experiences that draw from ancient wisdom or experiences that merge Western and Eastern philosophies with a psychological underpinning. You can work with 5-MeO-DMT in anything from a spiritual to a formal therapeutic setting if you desire.Much of the 5-MeO-DMT retreat concentrates on relaxation and preparing you for the intense mental breakthroughs that could occur during your psychedelic trips. All the focus is meant to be on that, and nothing else. Hence, you are likely to develop a close relationship with your retreat guides, who help you mold your experience and make it fully your own. Given the power of medicine, it's essential to relax before and afterward.It's also worth noting how the 5-MeO-DMT trip is known to unfold. The experience usually begins with fear and resistance, which can be troubling for some. It's also why the facilitator can play a pivotal role in helping you surrender to the medicine. Once you do surrender, that is the point at which your consciousness supposedly merges with the infinite. From that point on, the experience takes a more joyous character usually as you receive revelations from all sorts of different facets of your life. Then you will wake up, likely wishing you could return to the revelatory state, but satisfied that you have new information about yourself to bring clarity and focus to your life.

The Scientific Background on 5-MeO-DMT

Skeptics often claim that the 5-MeO-DMT experience and its benefits are purely subjective and anecdotal. However, scientists around the world have already begun to corroborate some of these benefits, such as improved mental health, and formulated in-depth studies on the matter.Here are a few examples to validate these claims.

Griffiths et al. (2019)

In a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, researchers investigated the effects of 5-MeO-DMT on mental health outcomes. They surveyed with participants who had used 5-MeO-DMT in naturalistic settings, such as psychedelic retreats, and found significant improvements in their rating of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress after using the substance. Participants also reported positive changes in life satisfaction, well-being, and spirituality.

Uthaug et al. (2020)

Often considered a hallmark example of groundbreaking research into the 5-MeO-DMT experience, this study by Davis and colleagues at Johns Hopkins explored the therapeutic potential of 5-MeO-DMT in a clinical setting. It involved a small sample of roughly 40 participants who received the substance under supportive conditions. The participants were to rate their symptoms of depression and general life satisfaction immediately before and after their psychedelic experience with 5-MeO-DMT.The researchers observed acute improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms immediately after the 5-MeO-DMT session. These improvements were sustained for up to four weeks, suggesting potential therapeutic benefits.

Barsuglia et al. (2018)

In a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, researchers investigated the psychological and mystical effects of 5-MeO-DMT in a naturalistic setting. They found that the substance was associated with mystical-type experiences, increased life satisfaction, and positive changes in attitudes, mood, and behaviour. Participants reported enduring positive effects on mental health and well-being.

Ayahuasca: The Full Rundown

What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a potent psychoactive beverage that contains DMT, among other psychoactive substances. However, when you hear someone refer to DMT, they are often referring to Ayahuasca.The medicine is usually inactive when it's in liquid form, it only later gets broken down by the enzymes in your stomach once you imbibe this medicine orally. This is part of why it takes longer for Ayahuasca to take effect, it needs time to reach the brain and induce its famous psychedelic effects. These effects range from perceptual changes and altered state of consciousness to introspection and emotional catharsis. Many who have worked with Ayahuasca claim the medicine has been extremely transformative for them.

History of Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca has been consumed for at least 1000 years, dating back to pre-colonial South America. Much later, psychonauts in Western countries began to take an interest in Ayahuasca for its transformative potential.In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential therapeutic applications of Ayahuasca, particularly in the field of mental health. Research suggests that Ayahuasca may have antidepressant, anxiolytic, and anti-addictive properties, although further studies are needed to fully understand its effects and mechanisms of action.

What An Ayahuasca Retreat Is Like

The use of Ayahuasca outside of traditional ceremonial contexts and without proper guidance can carry risks, and it is recommended to approach it with caution and respect. Hence a shaman is preferred.Thus, Ayahuasca ceremonies typically involve a shaman or experienced guide who leads the ceremony and oversees the experience. The brew itself is consumed in a group ceremonial setting, often in the form of multiple doses throughout the evening or night.

The Scientific Background On Ayahuasca

Like 5-MeO-DMT, some limited research has been conducted into the efficacy of Ayahuasca in terms of improving life quality and reducing symptoms of various addictions and mental illnesses. Here's a quick rundown of the literature.

Osório et al. (2015)

Published in the journal Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, this study investigated the effects of ayahuasca on depression. The researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial involving individuals with treatment-resistant depression. The results showed that a single dose of ayahuasca led to significant improvements in depressive symptoms, with effects lasting up to 21 days. However, it's worth noting this study had a small sample size.

Soler et al. (2016)

In an exploratory study, Soler and colleagues studied the psychological mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of ayahuasca.The sample was small: 25 individuals were assessed before and after an ayahuasca session using two questionnaires that measure mindfulness capacities. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and non-judgmental in the present moment. The questionnaires measured different aspects of mindfulness, such as non-reactivity to thoughts and experiences, and the ability to observe thoughts without getting caught up in them.The results showed that after the ayahuasca session, participants had significant increases in certain aspects of mindfulness. They showed reduced judgmental processing of past experiences, in particular, decreased inner reactivity to outside events, and an increased ability to decouple from their thoughts. These changes are similar to what conventional mindfulness training aims to produce.These findings suggest that ayahuasca may enhance mindfulness capacities, which could explain its potential therapeutic effects. The study supports the idea that ayahuasca has therapeutic potential and provides insight into the psychological changes that may contribute to its positive effects.

The Decision: 5-MeO-DMT vs. DMT

First things first, 5-MeO-DMT and DMT are not mutually exclusive. You can always try one first and then the other later. The only thing we want to emphasize in this case is that you space your experience out. Wait a few months in between trying one or the other. That way, you'll get every opportunity to process the lessons you learn from the medicine. This is what is known as integration. The lessons you learn from the medicine will likely have extreme depth to them.

What Each Medicine Is For

Ayahuasca is a medicine that will often help bring a resolution to something in your past. This is particularly pertinent if you went through some significant childhood trauma.You can also benefit from the purging that Ayahuasca usually produces if you have some sort of need for physical healing like in the case of addiction. Ayahuasca can help a lot with detox.However, those two use cases are pretty specific. If you're up to the emotional and spiritual challenge that 5-MeO-DMT provides, then you're likely better off embarking on that journey. You might have a set of psychological issues that need healing. Or you're curious about the earth-shattering journey that could lie on the other side. 5-MeO-DMT is good if you want to make a paradigm shift since it often allows you to see things that were previously hidden, and uproot your entrenched belief patterns.


Both medicines require a great deal of integration work. Usually, a retreat facilitator can accompany you during this process. For instance, we conduct Zoom calls following our 5-MeO-DMT retreats to ensure that past attendees are still maintaining the benefits of the medicine afterwards. Once you make a realization, you need to permanently anchor the benefits and make a conscious effort to change your life. Otherwise, you'll be stuck in the same thought processes as before.With any psychedelic medicine, 80% of your work will be done before and after the psychedelic trip. That's why we say that each medicine deserves your full attention. And frankly, no medicine requires more attention than 5-MeO-DMT. So for that reason, we recommend you mentally and emotionally commit to the time investment that the medicine requires.

Assistance Is Required

Don't even think about working with one of these medicines individually. There are several risks that you are unequipped to handle when experiencing the altered state either medicine produces.With both medicines, you need a significant degree of assistance from a facilitator to get through your psychedelic trip as safely as possible. However, the unique nature of 5-MeO-DMT allows you to get a degree of focused assistance otherwise unseen in other psychedelic medicines. Group sessions can be enlightening, but it's possible that the experience of others could detract from your own. And group ceremonies are the typical course of action for Ayahuasca. After all, the experience lasts several hours. How can a shaman carry out several ceremonies efficiently by only going one by one? 5-MeO-DMT doesn't suffer from this problem. In fact, we usually have two facilitators assist you during your ceremony with us.

How A 5-MeO-DMT Retreat Looks Like At Tandava

As you can tell, we would endorse a 5-MeO-DMT retreat in most cases, so what does a 5-MeO-DMT retreat look like?To us, it's a retreat that completes the perfect balance of relaxation and self-reflection. Rest will help you prepare emotionally for the 5-MeO-DMT trip, and self-reflection, of course, is the whole reason why you're with us.We curate your experience from the moment we first meet with you over the phone. In that scenario, we'll help you prepare mentally for the retreat and set some objectives for your 5-MeO-DMT experience. That will put you in the right frame of mind for the retreat.Once you get to our retreat center in Mexico, everything is taken care of for you. From meals to saunas, we maximize your comfort.Then, your 5-MeO-DMT ceremony will be conducted in a sunlit room led by two experienced facilitators who you'll have become familiar with beforehand. After smoking 5-MeO-DMT. They will lie you down on a flat pad and help make you comfortable throughout the turmoil of your trip. You'll wake up from the experience in the perfect environment for contemplation. Surrounded by the gorgeous views that our retreat center offers, you'll be able to process your new revelations in peace.Then, following your experience, you'll have 4 dedicated Zoom calls with us to help you through the tough lessons that you'll need to apply in your daily life.Have any questions about 5-MeO-DMT or our retreats? Let us know!