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Canadian’s death highlights dangers of Peru’s purging ceremonies

WATCH: The family of a Canadian woman is planning her funeral, after her tragic death in Peru. Jennifer Logan went to what was supposed to be a rejuvenating retreat in the rainforest. Now her death has become a cautionary tale. Mike Le Couteur reports.

They call it a healing process; the act of ingesting traditional Amazonian medicinal plants to the point of hallucinating and becoming violently ill. Purging rituals at jungle retreats in Peru have become a tourism industry niche.

One of the popular plants used is ayahuasca. It contains DMT, a psychedelic compound of the tryptamine family.

Devotees swear the seemingly bizarre ritual can change, and even save lives.

Canadian woman, Jennifer Logan, died at a Peruvian retreat in January after taking part in a similar ceremony. The 32-year-old had consumed a tea brewed to cleanse and purge the body.

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READ MORE: Questions and answers about the Canadian death in Peru

Joe Eigo, 34, travelled to Peru in 2011 where he used ayahuasca. He said the “sacred medicines” must be handled carefully.

“A lot of people will experience purging,” said Eigo. “People will end up vomiting or going to the washroom.”

The basic idea is clearing blockages of “negative energy” to heal the body. People have used the treatment for anxiety, stress, drug addiction and even cancer. The experience is supposed to lead to a level of clarity.

“It’s like being in a dream but you’re awake,” said Eigo of using ayahuasca.

“These plant medicines help release these [negative energies] if you’re in the right setting” said Eigo, who works with clients in the GTA practicing energy healing. “[Shamans] help people go through the journey.”

He cautions that you must be careful to work with experienced shamans, or ritual leaders, especially as tourism in Peru increases for the services.

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READ MORE: British teenager dies in Colombia after drinking hallucinogenic drug

Logan’s family says the tea that is believed to have lead to her death was not ayahuasca. The tea she consumed is described as a “tobacco purge.”

Logan had a severe reaction, vomiting uncontrollably. The Canadian Press reported that initial autopsy results found Logan died of pulmonary edema, which can cause respiratory failure when fluid accumulates in the lungs.

Logan’s obituary described the Saskatoon native as a vibrant, healthy vegetarian and avid traveller.

“She was also on a spiritual quest, meeting gurus and spending long stints at ashrams practising yoga and meditation.”

People are travelling from all over the world to take part. One website offering ayahuasca retreats in Peru shows a schedule fully booked for months. Another lists the countries of origin of visitors, with 60 listed from Canada. Testimonials on the site list glowing reviews from Canadian visitors.

“I had some problems that I couldn’t deal with myself,” wrote one, purportedly a Canadian visitor from June 2014. “I’ve heard many stories of people being healed from Ayahuasca. So I thought I would give it a try. The environment here is so beautiful and relaxing. Everything I wanted to address has been answered or I gained insight on the topic.”

The Government of Canada website urges visitors to Peru to exercise a high degree of caution, but does not list anything specifically regarding medicines or drugs. Global news has reached out for comment but has not yet received a response.

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