Settling Into The Uchu Sanango Space.

"It tastes better than the aya," I was telling C, another guest who would be attending the Sanango 8-Day retreat Blue Morhpo with me. 

C had done ayahuasca and San Pedro with Blue Morpho the previous year. And outside of the BM world, she'd done a few other plants as well. She is an adventurous explorer.

Even more so than me.

We were at dinner, having connected on Facebook a few days before the retreat and making plans to grab a meal the night before the retreat began. This was her first time doing Sanango.

I explained that we would be scraping branches, doing a dieta that involved a creepy fish and plantains, and that the side effects of drinking the medicine would be entertaining when looking back on them.

"My eyes crossed and I had some of my limbs go numb, which made me have trouble walking," I said to her, explaining my experience with the medicine from the summer of 2016. 

"But the after effects, months later..."

I paused before continuing.

"...I can look back on the year and a half after that tour and tell you exactly what was from Sanango."

Plant medicines work very differently.  (Which Blue Morpho explained to us, and which I can say is accurate from working with a few over the years.)

  • Ayahuasca is in your face and jumps right in, directly at you. And lasts a few hours (in my experience) in tandem with the icaros (medicine songs). It drudges up the things and brings them to your consciousness. Things you love and need to know... And also the things you fear or that which you need to deal.
  • San Pedro, a cactus, sneaks in from behind you... From the back of your mind. And it gently unfolds... Bringing color and crispness to things. And gentle thoughts.
  • Cannabis settles in from the top (in my experience), and is gentle as well. In my experience, a Sativa activates the mind and has me processing thoughts quickly. An indica just puts me straight to sleep. No hunger. No thirst.

Each of these has psychoactive aspects... Bringing visuals to some. Though for me they've never been visual. They've always been sentient and internal dialogue-driven. They're plants that act quickly.

Then there is Sanango.

Sanango is not psychoactive. And it works differently than the other plants.

You start by scraping the inner (thin, peach-fuzzy) layer of an Uchu Sanango root. You scrape just that outer layer until you have about a cup's worth of scrapings. Then you bundle it into a cheesecloth, tie it up, tuck it into a cup, and pour water into the cup... Submerging it.

It sits like that for about eight hours, steeping like Sun tea.

You awake at 3am, and drink a small amount of the steeped elixir. 

And drinking it can be unpretty.

I took my first night's dose of Sanango, threw it back... And had no issue with the taste. The immediate sweet taste was followed with the spicy note that hits the back throat... Which made me convulse as though I was going to vomit.

"Almost two years later," I noted, "And my body remembers exactly what this is and what it wants to do with it."

I sat down in my chair, shivering from the taste. It was strong.

Very strong. 

After about 45 minutes in silence and darkness in the ceremony house, we were excused by the shamans to go back to our bungalows. (We stay in the ceremony house for the first 45 minutes to allow any severe reactions to the medicine to be cared for my the shamans.)

I walked back to the bungalow, which was right next to the ceremony house. I grabbed a bucket from a table in my room and brought it into the mosquito net bed with me.

"This is probably coming out one way or the other," I said to my self. 

I really didn't want to vomit it, knowing from experience the Sanango would light my throat on fire. So I prayed it would come out the other end. And after about 30 minutes, I got up to pee, and it came out the other end.

Two minutes later, my bungalow roommate was in the bathroom with the same experience.

"This is so strong," I noted from outside the bathroom, washing my hands while she was in there.

I was wishing we could use soap. But since the plant medicine dieta had begun the moment we drank the Sanango, we would be restricted from soap, lotions, toothpaste... Anything that goes on or into the body other than the food we would be served. Also, no hot water.

I went back to my bed, and tried to sleep. But sleep wasn't coming. I suddenly felt paranoid about the space. I heard the buzzing of loud bug... Which felt like it was just outside my net. I was convinced it was trying to get into the net, though I couldn't see it. 

I just sat inside my net, staring at nothing. Time passed quickly. Soon it was almost 7am, which meant I needed to go to the main house to try to eat some fish and plantains.

I wasn't hungry.  

No other side effects had set in, and I knew I could at least get some good sleep if I went to the main house.

Walking the few hundred feet took longer than it should. I was moving slowly. When I got to the house, I ignored the breakfast dishes laid out, and grabbed a mat near a couple who were on the retreat that I'd gone to Myanmar and Jordan with last year. 

Over the next hour, more effects settled into my body. 

And for this day - and most of the week - I laid on my side, trying to sleep... With this being a typical view...


I felt a buzzing in my body, and my limbs were getting stiff. I tried to read, but my eyes kept crossing.

These were just the mild side effects... (to be continued)