A psychedelic concoction known as yage, or ayahuasca, has been brewed in indigenous communities in the Amazon region for centuries. But now it's found a relatively new audience: Americans immersed in what Ariel Levy, writing for the New Yorker, calls "the Age of Kale," who are tapping into the mixture of Banisteriopsis caapi vines and chacruna bush leaves to seek spiritual healing and consciousness expansion. In fact, the drug some have dubbed "Grandmother" has become so ubiquitous in hipster enclaves like Brooklyn and Silicon Valley that self-help author Tim Ferriss tells the magazine it's "like having a cup of coffee here [in San Francisco]." Advocates of the hallucinogen shrug off health risks and say going on an ayahuasca trip is worth more than a decade of therapy or meditation.
Medical Daily says MRI scans show the drug slows down the part of the brain linked to depression and anxiety—and advocates embrace elaborate ceremonies built around taking it. Not that the experience is all magically marvelous: Most users vomit, and Ferriss says one of his own early trips was "the most painful experience I've ever had by a factor of a thousand," complete with grand mal seizures. It can also be dangerous to those who are already taking SSRI antidepressants, allowing too much serotonin to cause a possibly fatal condition known as serotonin syndrome. Not to mention it's illegal in the US, classified as a Schedule 1 drug, per Popular Science. The site links to a video explaining the drug's effect on the brain. (An ayahuasca ritual went fatally wrong last year.)