Right before my first ayahuasca ceremony, one of the facilitators told us that the substance can bring on the “moontime,” AKA your period.
At the time, I was dealing with a number of health issues, and my period was all over the place. I’d often go two, three, or even four months without getting it, and it would come on with no rhyme or reason.
I did not get my period during that ceremony, but about a year later during an iboga ceremony, after only about a month since my last period (it was unheard of for me to get my period every month at the time), I was surprised to see blood on my underwear when I went to the bathroom.
I was even more surprised that the blood was pitch black.
“That’s old blood,” the facilitator, Tricia Eastman, told me. In the same way that iboga or ayahuasca may cause you to throw up, menstruation can also be a way of “purging” the body, she explained. She also told me the iboga was likely “resetting my hormones.”
This kind of an assessment may sound unscientific, but it was after that ceremony that my period started coming almost every month for the first time in years.
Even as my period became more regular over time, I noticed that psychedelics sometimes seemed to bring it on early, whether I was microdosing mushrooms at home or had just come back from a 5 MEO DMT ceremony.
Dessy Pavlova, a 32-year-old in Toronto who serves as executive director at a PR and marketing firm and runs the site Psillow.com, has noticed something similar with mushrooms. “If I take a microdose at the tail end or even a day or two after my period, it’ll usually come back in spotting,” she says. “It won’t usually bring it on early, but if it’s late and I microdose, it tends to bring it on.” When she takes mushrooms during her period, it’ll often become heavier.
Peekaboo Collins, a 32-year-old writer in New York City, had her period come on a few days early during an acid trip. “The only time I have ever bled through my pants in my life,” she remembers. “Shit was aggressive.”
During the psychedelic retreats Eastman runs through Psychedelic Journeys, participants have shared that their periods come on early, particularly after taking iboga. Eastman herself has had menstruation come on during an iboga ceremony, and afterwards, her medical hormonal tests began to show that her hormonal imbalances had improved.
“Many of these powerful psychoactive plants move a lot of things in the body,” she says. “If someone has some type of trauma or stagnation in their womb space, then it might be moving that energy for the purpose of the individual’s healing.”
What Does Science Have To Say About This?
While he wouldn’t use the same terminology, James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, agrees that psychedelics can alter your hormones in a way you could call “resetting.”
“In some women, psychedelics can affect your hormonal balance — sort of like adjusting the volume and booting it up again,” he says. “In this way, it can affect the neurochemical control of your hormonal regulation.”
Most psychedelics act by binding to certain subtypes of serotonin receptors, which then modify the many physiological processes in which the serotonin system plays a role, Giordano explains. The most prominent effects of this take place in brain areas responsible for vision and other kinds of perception, but there are also serotonin receptors and networks in areas of the hypothalamus that control the pituitary gland, which in turn controls the release of hormones. Consequent changes in estrogen and progesterone could then cause your uterine lining to shed, or make your period thicker if it’s already happening.
However, this doesn’t mean psychedelics would be likely to bring on your period if you’re nowhere close to it, in which case you probably wouldn’t have any endometrial lining to shed. “If you’re early-cycle or mid-cycle, it would be pretty rare for the psychedelics to bring on your period,” Giordano says. “If you’re within a few days of your period anyway, that would not be unusual.”
“It doesn’t happen to everyone,” he adds. “Some people are more sensitive to it than others.”
Whether a psychedelic experience can “clear out old blood” or bring on menstruation as a form of purging is more questionable scientifically, but the belief has been espoused in some indigenous traditions.
“Many of the indigenous systems that work with master plants involve deep purification rituals, and the period is considered in many of these traditions a part of purification,” says Eastman.
Regardless of its cause or its potential benefits, this effect of psychedelics isn’t usually a problem. If you’re very sensitive to it, there’s a chance that repeated psychedelic use might cause hormonal disruption, says Giordano. But in general, it’s not something to worry about — just one of the many mysteries of psychedelics that we can ponder and revel in.