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An exploratory study of experiences with conventional eating disorder treatment and ceremonial ayahuasca for the healing of eating disorders

Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity Aims and scope Submit manuscript



Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian medicine that is currently being researched for its potential in treating a variety of mental disorders. This article reports on exploratory qualitative research relating to participant experiences with ceremonial ayahuasca drinking and conventional treatment for eating disorders (EDs). It also explores the potential for ayahuasca as an adjunctive ED treatment.


Thirteen individuals previously diagnosed with an ED participated in a semi-structured interview contrasting their experiences with conventional ED treatment with experiences from ceremonial ayahuasca. The interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis.


Participant reports were organized with key themes including that ayahuasca: led to rapid reductions in ED thoughts and symptoms; allowed for the healing of the perceived root of the ED; helped to process painful feelings and memories; supported the internalization of greater self-love and self-acceptance; and catalyzed spiritual elements of healing.


The results suggest that ayahuasca may have potential as a valuable therapeutic tool, and further research—including carefully controlled clinical trials—is warranted.

Level of evidence

Level V, qualitative descriptive study.

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  1. Analyses were first conducted separately according to diagnosis (anorexia nervosa vs bulimia nervosa); however, minimal differences emerged after the first round of analysis by three raters. As such, the analyses were completed with the total sample.


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Correspondence to Adele Lafrance.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Ethical approval of the study was granted by Laurentian University and the University of British Columbia.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Renelli, M., Fletcher, J., Tupper, K.W. et al. An exploratory study of experiences with conventional eating disorder treatment and ceremonial ayahuasca for the healing of eating disorders. Eat Weight Disord 25, 437–444 (2020).

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