Tracy James knew the drug she’d just swallowed was working when her old injuries from high school started twitching with new life. Pressure throbbed from a forgotten busted knee. Her ankle tingled. The fingers she’d sprained roller-skating decades back began to ache. Whatever the 37-year-old had just taken, it shot feeling back into the long-gone ailments.
"When I did vomit, it was one of the most amazing moments of my life."
For the past 45 minutes, the hut had been dark and silent, the air dripping with jungle moisture. James and nearly 20 others were sitting cross-legged on ornate rugs. One by one, a pair of Shipibo shamans peered into the face of each visitor, ceremonial chants slipping from their lips.
It was June 2009. James, a pretty, curly-haired Jamaican-American woman, was then calling Los Angeles home. As a life coach, she was interested in rewiring the mind-body split. A friend had suggested she make the trip to the Peruvian jungle, where the indigenous tribes had a powerful liquid that could radically shake up one’s consciousness. Now, James was miles into the bush surrounding the town of Iquitos. Her first dose of the nasty, rust-colored liquid was blasting through her system.
Waves of nausea began crashing over James. Strange geometric shapes filled her vision. Around her, some people sobbed. Others threw up into buckets. James left the wooden hut topped with a thatched roof for the outhouse. The diarrhea hit so frequently, she just sat outside in a chair, feeling weak and terrible. Oh my gosh, she cringed, waiting for the next bout.
Two Shipibo women — tiny people with sun-cured faces wearing the tribe’s traditional sky-blue shirts — approached. As one chanted, the other woman placed her mouth against the alarmed James’ stomach. The shaman began sucking out the bad energy, a practice known as chupa. After 20 minutes, James was amazed to feel great. She walked back into the hut, was hit with another wall of nausea, and puked.
"When I did vomit, it was one of the most amazing moments of my life," she says today. "After all that purging, I just had this amazing feeling of peace."…