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The Potential Role of Epigenetics in Ayahuasca Shamanism
Joe Tafur, M.D.
Friday, April 21, 2017 • 3:30 PM - 4:00 PM • Jr. Ballroom
Continuing Education


joe tafur

Drawing from my first hand experience at Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual, a traditional healing center near Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazon, I review a few case studies in which clients showed marked improvement in symptoms related to PTSD, depression, migraine headaches, and Crohn's disease after treatment with traditional Amazonian plant medicine and ayahuasca shamanism. Linking physiology common to these cases and drawing upon modern medical research, the presentation argues that emotional trauma often underlies each of these conditions and is associated with maladaptive epigenetic imprinting and related dysfunction. At the same time, I suggest that deep emotional healing is associated with subsequent improvements in epigenetic function. In summary, by attempting to bridge empirical experience in shamanism and western medical research, the presentation attempts to demonstrate that the potential benefit of ayahuasca shamanism and other psychedelic assisted therapies may be in part due to their ability to induce relevant changes in epigenetic imprints associated with emotional trauma stored in the psychoneuroendocrine immunologic network.

Joe Tafur, M.D., is a Colombian-American family physician originally from Phoenix, Arizona. After completing his family medicine training at UCLA, Dr. Tafur spent two years in academic research at the UCSD Department of Psychiatry in a lab focused on mind-body medicine. After his research fellowship, over a period of six years, he lived and worked in the Peruvian Amazon at the traditional healing center Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual. There he worked closely with master Shipibo shaman Ricardo Amaringo and trained in ayahuasca shamanism. He has recently published a book about his unique experiences and developing theories entitled: The Fellowship of the River: A Medical Doctor's Exploration into Traditional Amazonian Plant Medicine. To learn more about his work, visit and

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