From PsychonautWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Ayahuasca cooking in the Loreto region of Peru
Molecular structure of DMT & Harmala alkaloids.
Chemical Nomenclature
Common names Ayahuasca, Aya, Caapi, Cipó, Hoasca, Vegetal, Yagé, Yajé, Natem, Shori
Routes of Administration

WARNING: Always start with lower doses due to differences between individual body weight, tolerance, metabolism, and personal sensitivity. See responsible use section.

Total 5 - 10 hours
Onset 20 - 60 minutes
Peak 1 - 2 hours
Offset 1 - 2 hours
After effects 1 - 8 hours

DISCLAIMER: PW's dosage information is gathered from users and resources for educational purposes only. It is not a recommendation and should be verified with other sources for accuracy.

Summary sheet: Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca (pronounced /eye-uh-WAHS-kuh/ and also known as Yagé) is an umbrella term that refers to a wide variety of traditional and modern brews and infusions of natural plant sources that produce powerful psychoactive or hallucinogenic effects. Of these, it most commonly consists of a DMT-containing plant source in combination with one that contains an MAOI or RIMA (typically sources like B. caapi vine or syrian rue) to produce uniquely potent, sometimes medicinal, psychedelic effects.

The co-consumption of an MAOI agent is necessary for the combination to work, as the DMT molecule (which is a monoamine closely related to serotonin) is rendered almost entirely inactive when digested by itself due to the presence of monoamine oxidase enzymes in the stomach, which rapidly degrades it.[1]

Ayahuasca is used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the Indigenous peoples of Amazonian Peru, many of whom say that they received the instructions in its use directly from the plants and plant spirits themselves. Ayahuasca was first described outside of Indigenous communities in the early 1950s by Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, who became aware of the Native communities who use it for divinatory and healing purposes.

As is the case with psychedelics in general, ayahuasca is not considered to be dependence-forming or addictive by the research and medical community.[2] Nevertheless, unpredictable adverse reactions such as anxiety, paranoia, delusions and psychotic breaks can still always occur, particularly among those predisposed to psychiatric disorders.[3] While these negative reactions or "bad trips" can often be attributed to factors like the user's inexperience or improper preparation of their set and setting, they have been known to happen spontaneously among even the most experienced of users as well. This is why despite its scientifically-backed reputation for possessing both negligible-to-no physical and neurotoxicity,[4] it is still highly advised to approach this powerful and unpredictable hallucinogenic substance with the proper amount of precaution, and harm reduction practices if one chooses to use it.

History and culture

History icon.svg

This History and Culture section is a stub.

As such, it may contain incomplete or wrong information. You can help by expanding it.

Ayahuasca ceremonies

There have been several documented cases of avoidable deaths caused by frauds pretending to be shamans during "traditional" ayahuasca ceremonies.[5][6] The ingredient known to cause problems is known specifically as brugmansia, which can cause issues when co-administered with an MAOI. An effective ayahuasca brew does not have to be more complicated than a suitable source of DMT (such as mimosa or acacia) and a reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase A (RIMA or MAOI). Using other ingredients along with the ayahuasca can potentially be dangerous; any potential interactions should be carefully researched before ingestion.

Another concern of ayahuasca ceremonies is the culture of mysticism and pseudoscience produced from centuries of mythological ritual, leading to a bias following the delusion of a single cultural narrative. There is an irrational belief that ayahuasca should only to be used in the Amazon rainforest in the presence of a shaman. This belief leads many to shun the idea of taking ayahuasca outside of this potentially toxic environment for no logical reason.[7]


Further information: Serotonergic psychedelic

Ayahuasca's psychedelic effects have been confirmed to come from its efficacy at the 5-HT2A receptor as a partial agonist.[8] However, the role of these interactions and how they result in the psychedelic experience continues to remain an object of scientific eludication.

Harmala alkaloids are classed as MAO-inhibiting beta-carbolines. The three most studied harmala alkaloids in the B. caapi vine are harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine. Harmine and harmaline are selective and reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), while tetrahydroharmine is a weak serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI).[9]

This inhibition of MAO-A allows DMT to diffuse unmetabolized past the membranes in the stomach and small intestine, eventually crossing the blood–brain barrier (which, by itself, requires no MAO-A inhibition) to activate receptor sites in the brain. Without RIMAs or MAOIs of MAO-A, DMT would be oxidized (and thus rendered biologically inactive) by monoamine oxidase enzymes in the digestive tract.[10]

Subjective effects

The effects listed below are based upon the subjective effects index and personal experiences of PsychonautWiki contributors. The listed effects should be taken with a grain of salt and will rarely (if ever) occur all at once, but heavier doses will increase the chances and are more likely to induce a full range of effects. Likewise, adverse effects become much more likely on higher doses and may include injury or death.

Physical effects

Visual effects

Cognitive effects

Transpersonal effects

Experience reports

Anecdotal reports which describe the effects of this compound within our experience index include:

Additional experience reports can be found here:

Natural plant sources



Traditional ayahuasca is made by brewing the MAOI-containing Banisteriopsis caapi vine with a DMT-containing plant, such as Psychotria viridis. Pharmahuasca refers to a similar combination that uses a pharmaceutical MAOI instead of a plant. There are two types of MAOIs, reversible and irreversible. It is important to note that irreversible MAOIs remain active for two weeks rather than a matter of hours. This is particularly noteworthy because in addition to drug interactions, there is co-interaction with tyramine-rich foods and potential to cause a hypertensive crisis. For this reason, it is strongly advised to use a reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase A, or RIMA, rather than an irreversible MAOI. In addition, reversible MAOIs are pharmacologically closer to the Harmala alkaloid used in traditional ayahuasca.


Main article: Changa

Changa (pronounced /tʃɑːngɑː/) is a DMT-infused smoking blend. Typically, extracts from DMT-containing plants are combined with a blend of different herbs and ayahuasca vine and/or leaf to create a mix that is 20–50% DMT, akin to a smokeable ayahuasca.


For pharmahuasca, 50 mg N,N-DMT and 100 mg harmaline is usually the recommended dosage per person. However, combinations of 50 mg harmaline, 50 mg harmine, and 50 mg, N,N-DMT have been tested with success. As a rule, the fewer the β-carbolines, the less nausea there is; the more DMT, the more spectacular the visions. The constituents are put into separate gelatin capsules. The capsules with harmaline/harmine are swallowed first and then the capsule containing the DMT is taken 15 to 20 minutes later. The purely synthetic MAO inhibitor isocarboxazid (Marplan) is suitable in place of harmaline and harmine, although caution should be taken as this is an irreversible MAOI, marking several drug-drug and drug-food interactions.[14]

Recipes and preparation methods

Potential therapeutic applications

Potential antidepressant effects

A 2015 preliminary report has found a significant reduction of up to 82% in depressive scores following ayahuasca administration.[15] The report concludes that "these results suggest that [ayahuasca] has fast-acting anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in patients with a depressive disorder." Its acute and fast-acting effects show promise for the treatment of depression as common antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), take weeks to show significant effects and are simply ineffective for many users.

The mechanism by which ayahuasca produces antidepressant effects is not well known, but studies have hypothesized that the MAO-inhibitor and weak serotonin reuptake inhibitor effects of ayahuasca alkaloids may be of relevance. Research on the antidepressant potential of psilocin suggests that the subjective effects of 5-HT2A agonism also contribute to antidepressant effects, but further research is required to understand the effects of psychedelic drugs on depressive disorders.

Toxicity and harm potential

Ayahuasca is non-addictive, is not known to cause brain damage, and has extremely low toxicity relative to dose. Similar to other psychedelic drugs, there are relatively few physical side effects associated with ayahuasca. Various studies have shown that it presents no negative cognitive, psychiatric or toxic physical consequences of any sort when taken in reasonable doses and a careful context.[16][17]

Lethal dosage

The only available study that tried to estimate the lethal dose (LD50) of ayahuasca in rats failed to do so due to the enormous amount of brew necessary for the procedure. The authors estimated, however, that ayahuasca's LD50 is around 50 times a regular dose. This speaks for the safety of ayahuasca usage.[18]

It is strongly recommended that one use harm reduction practices when using this substance.

Tolerance and addiction potential

Ayahuasca is not habit-forming and the desire to use it can actually decrease with use. It is most often self-regulating.

Similar to DMT, tolerance to the effects of ayahuasca do not build up with repeated usage and this compound can, therefore, be used repeatedly to any extent. Ayahuasca does not present a cross-tolerance with other psychedelics, meaning that after the consumption of ayahuasca psychedelics will not have a reduced effect.

Dangerous interactions

As a result of its MAOI effects, ayahuasca is more likely to induce serotonin syndrome or general neurotransmitter overload (especially at high dosages) than other serotonergic psychedelics. This makes it dangerous to combine it with other MAOIs, stimulants and certain substances which releases neurotransmitters such as serotonin or dopamine. These substances include but are not limited to:


  • International: Under the UN 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, DMT is classified at Schedule I, meaning that use of DMT is supposed to be restricted to scientific research and medical use.
  • Brazil: The religious (but not therapeutic or recreational) use of ayahuasca is legal. However, the production, distribution or possession of DMT is illegal.
  • Canada: DMT is a Schedule III drug.[19]
  • Estonia: DMT is a Schedule I drug.
  • Germany: The production, distribution, or possession of DMT is illegal.
  • New Zealand: DMT is a Class A drug.
  • Norway: DMT is a Schedule I drug.
  • Peru: The traditional use of ayahuasca for therapeutic purposes ("vegetalismo") is legal.
  • Russia: The production, distribution, or possession of DMT is illegal.
  • United Kingdom: DMT is a Class A drug.
  • United States: DMT is a Schedule I drug, however, rules are relaxed regarding the religious use of ayahuasca.
  • Latvia: DMT is a Schedule I drug.[20]

See also

External links


  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040402006012373
  2. Lüscher, C., & Ungless, M. A. (2006). The Mechanistic Classification of Addictive Drugs, 3(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030437
  3. Strassman, R. J. (1984). Adverse Reactions to Psychedelic Drugs: A Review of the Literature. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 172(10), 577-595. PMID: 6384428
  4. Nichols, D. E. (2016). "Psychedelics." Pharmacological Reviews, 68(2), 264-355. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.115.011478
  5. British backpacker dies after taking hallucinogenic brew in Colombia | http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/apr/27/british-backpacker-dies-hallucinogenic-drug-colombia
  6. Kiwi traveler in Peru dies after Amazon drug ritual | http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11516673
  7. http://psychedelicfrontier.com/entities-plant-spirits-real-skeptics-guide-tripping/
  8. The Visual Effects of Ayahuasca in Humans: The First Study to Employ a Ketanserin Blockade | http://www.beckleyfoundation.org/2016/03/the-visual-effects-of-ayahuasca-in-humans-the-first-study-to-employ-a-ketanserin-blockade/
  9. Pharmacokinetics of Hoasca alkaloids in healthy humans (ScienceDirect) | http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874198001688
  10. RIBA, J. Human Pharmacology of Ayahuasca. Doctoral Thesis: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2003.
  11. Don Jose |title=The Shaman & Ayahuasca: Journeys to Sacred Realms |year=2011 |pages=81–85
  12. Sociopsychotherapeutic Functions of Ayahuasca Healing in Amazonia | http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02791072.1989.10472145#.UeQ_9o03vMc
  13. Some folk uses of Peganum harmala in India and Pakistan | http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02860378
  14. Ott J. Ayahuasca Analogues: Pangaen Entheogens. Natural Products Co.. 1994. 34
  15. Antidepressant effects of a single dose of ayahuasca in patients with recurrent depression: a preliminary report - http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-44462015000100013&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en
  16. Safety and side effects of ayahuasca in humans--an overview focusing on developmental toxicology. -- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23662333
  17. Health status of ayahuasca users. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22761152
  18. Pic-Taylor et al (2015). Behavioral and neurotoxic effects of ayahuasca infusion (Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria Viridis) in female Wistar rat. Behav Processes (PubMed.gov / NCBI) | http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26049017
  19. Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of Canada
  20. Noteikumi par Latvijā kontrolējamajām narkotiskajām vielām, psihotropajām vielām un prekursoriem (2.6.punkts) | http://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=121086