DMT extraction using lye (sodium hydroxide) and naphtha
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This tutorial documents the procedure for one of the most common methods of extracting high-purity, crystallized DMT from one of its natural plant sources, using what is known as the traditional acid-base (A/B) methodology. This technique is often recommended to beginners as a starting point to familiarize themselves with the basics of performing chemical extractions. It has been designed to balance simplicity, accessibility, and end-product quality while keeping safety in mind at all times.
Acacia confusa root bark
The root bark of the Acacia confusa tree has been shown to contain up to 1.15% DMT (also known as N,N-dimethyltryptamine). If the steps of this extraction are followed precisely on 500g of acacia root bark, one can expect a maximum theoretical yield of 5.75g of DMT. Experimental yields are highly dependent on adherence to procedure, and can also vary based on the quality and supplier of the root bark itself. Hence this extraction can produce a range of 0g - 4.5g DMT. It is recommended to run a test extraction on a lesser amount of Acacia confusa root bark (e.g. 200 grams worth). With experience, as one becomes familiar with the process, the extraction will typically produce higher yields.
Mimosa hostilis root bark (alternative)
This extraction can also be performed with Mimosa hostilis root bark (commonly abbreviated as MHRB, also known as Mimosa tenuifluora). In past studies, MHRB has been shown to contains 0.31% to 0.57% DMT content (Schultes 1977) while the inner root bark has been reported to contain up to 2% in active alkaloids. Dried Mexican MHRB has been recently shown to have a DMT content of about 1% while the stem bark has about 0.03% DMT. However, it should be noted for those in the United States that there has recently been a crackdown on imported MHRB, making it relatively more difficult to acquire compared to the root bark of Acacia confusa.
This extraction uses a traditional acid-base methodology to extract freebase DMT. The first steps (the wash using vinegar and water) acidify the solution to a pH of ~4. Vinegar reacts with the DMT in the plant material to create DMT acetate; this stage is often called the de-fat. Converting DMT to a salt form allows for easier absorption by the polar solution. Basifying the solution to a pH of 13 in the following steps allows it to be extracted from the polar solution (i.e. water) to the nonpolar solution (i.e. naphtha). The basic solution reacts with DMT acetate through deprotonation to produce the pure basic form of DMT (the freebase). A high pH solution reduces the solubility of DMT. When naphtha is added, the DMT transfers into this nonpolar solution layer. DMT is virtually insoluble in this aqueous phase, so it precipitates out of the naphtha solution via crystallization when kept at temperatures close to or at the freezing point.
- Lye/Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)
- Acacia confusa root bark or Mimosa Hostilis root bark - this is preferably bought pre-shredded but can be shredded into a powder at home if this option is unavailable.
- 2L glass container
- 2 large pots
- Glass turkey baster
- Chemical resistant gloves - This is imperative to reduce the chance of physical harm when handling the toxic solvents.
- Safety goggles - This is imperative to reduce the chance of physical harm when coming into contact with the noxious gasses given off by the naphtha and lye.
- Face mask - This is imperative to reduce the chance of physical harm when coming into contact with the noxious gasses given off by the naphtha and lye. A simple surgical face mask is sufficient.
- PH meter
Note: The measurements given are meant for an extraction using 500g acacia confusa root bark. They can be scaled up or down if running an extraction on a different amount of root bark. One can adjust the quantity of reagents used in this extraction proportionally with the amount of root bark used. For example, to extract 100g of root bark one would scale the proportions of the other materials accordingly to 20% of their original amounts. Do not scale down duration in steps such as cooking time in step 2; one should only scale the quantity of the reagents.
Risks and hazards
- Naphtha (Warning: Extremely flammable) - Naphtha is a petroleum solvent comparable in strength to paint thinner, but more volatile. The volatility of naphtha means that its vapors can accumulate in an unventilated space quickly. Naphtha has a low flash point, meaning it is highly flammable, behaving similarly to lighter fluid. Naphtha can be handled safely but is harmful if it is inhaled, swallowed, or if the liquid is breathed into the lungs. Naphtha is also an irritant to the eyes and skin. In the event of skin contact, washing your hands thoroughly with soap will prevent irritation. To prevent exposure, give ample time to let the end product fully dry. Naphtha can be found in many hardware or paint stores (e.g. VM&P Naphtha; prohibited in California).
- Sodium Hydroxide (also known as Lye or Caustic Soda) - Sodium hydroxide is very hazardous in case of skin or eye contact, ingestion, or respiration. Eye contact can result in corneal damage or blindsides while skin contact can produce inflammation and blistering. Exposure can result in chemical burns as sodium hydroxide solutions can readily decompose body tissue via hydrolysis. Exposure will leave the skin feeling soapy and will not immediately damage the skin; wash hands thoroughly if this soapy sensation or irritation is felt. Wear gloves and protective eyewear when handling this substance. Note that repeated or prolonged exposure to this substance can be toxic. When sodium hydroxide is added to the glass jar, it must be done gradually to prevent the strong exothermic (heat-releasing) reaction that can crack the container. Sodium hydroxide readily absorbs moisture from the air, so one should keep the container sealed when not in use. It can be found in many hardware stores, sold under brand names such as "Red Devil Lye."
- Start with the chosen root bark in its powdered form.
- If the root bark is unpowdered, use a coffee grinder or blender to shred the bark into fine pieces. Note that the standard coffee grinder will not be sufficient for large pieces of root bark and the root bark may have to be cut to fit into the grinder or blender. Because of this, it is advisable to purchase the bark pre-shredded if possible. The finer grain of the shredded root bark can have a large impact on extraction yields as finely shredded or powdered bark results in a larger surface area for the chemical reactions taking place during the extraction to occur.
- Freeze the root bark, then let it thaw out. Repeat this three times. Freeze and thaw cycles cause the plant cells to undergo lysis (the destruction of the cell wall and membrane) which results in the disintegration of the cell. Decomposing the cell membrane allows for higher absorption of DMT from the plant matter in the following steps.
1. In a large pot (pot A), add 1800mL of distilled water and 200mL of vinegar. This brings the pH of the solution to approximately 4.0. This will convert the DMT in the plant material in its acid salts (which are soluble in water). Most other alkaloids from the plant material are not soluble and will not be absorbed by the solution. This step helps remove impurities by separating the DMT from the other plant alkaloids. These other alkaloids are not physically harmful, but lower purity product is reported to result in an increased body load. Add the 500g of root bark, then boil with a lid on the pot for at least an hour and 30 minutes. This gives sufficient time to separate the DMT from the plant material.
2. Strain the solution into another large pot (pot B). Refill pot A with 1800mL of water and 200mL of vinegar, then add the root bark back into pot A. Boil for another cycle of an hour and 30 minutes. The desired end result is 1000mL (but some excess is fine).
3. Repeat step 2 one more time. Repeatedly transferring the solution to pot B and adding fresh water and vinegar to pot A encourages increased reaction of DMT with the solution. This helps prevent the reaction from reaching equilibrium with the solution, causing more DMT to react out of the plant material.
4. Now, reduce the contents of pot B (a total of somewhere around 4000mL) down to 1200mL by boiling without a lid. The liquid should now be a rusty red color while it is hot. This process will take approximately 40 minutes. Reducing the volume of liquid at this stage increases the concentration of DMT within the solution by evaporation. This serves to make the following steps easier by requiring less reagents.
5. Allow the liquid in pot B to cool, then pour it into a 2L glass container and allow it to completely cool in the refrigerator. This will take at least two hours. Allowing the liquid to cool helps prevent excess heat from the sodium hydroxide reaction from damaging the jar in the following steps.
6. For the following steps, take appropriate safety precautions and wear safety goggles and chemical resistant gloves. Sodium hydroxide can cause chemical burns and blindness. Maximum care should be taken while handling.
7. Weigh out 120 grams of sodium hydroxide. Slowly add it in small increments to the solution in the glass container. The contents of the container will heat up rapidly with the addition of the sodium hydroxide. It is important to add it slowly to prevent the glass container from exploding from the exothermic reaction. A safe guideline is adding 20g every 2 minutes and stirring in between. The contents will turn gray and then black as the pH increases. This step aims to reach a pH of 13; at this pH level, the solution will be black. This step converts DMT into its freebase form, which can be extracted with naphtha.
7a. (Optional) Measure the pH of the solution with a pH meter. For ideal results, the solution should reach a pH of 13.
8. The contents of the jar should still be warm from the previous step. If not, double boil the jar to warm the solution. To do this, fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Now, hold the jar suspended in the boiling water. Keep the jar suspended in the boiling water so that it doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. A double boil allows even heat distribution by heating through contact with the water surrounding the jar instead of heating it through contact with the bottom of the pot. Then add 500mL of naphtha to the jar and seal it.
9. Shake vigorously for 3 minutes and then let the contents separate for 10 minutes. Repeat this step 4-5 times, keeping the jar contents warm throughout the process. Shaking the jar encourages maximum dispersion of its contents; this allows more DMT freebase to be pulled into the layer of naphtha.
10. Now allow the naphtha layer to separate fully. This may take up to several hours.
11. Using a glass turkey baster, carefully transfer the top naphtha layer into an appropriately sized crystallization jar. Avoid transferring any of the black basic layers underneath. Err on the side of caution as it is preferable to prevent contamination by leaving the remnant of the naphtha layer. It can be difficult to prevent contamination as the naphtha layer left in the solution jar is transferred. A wide mouth jar for crystallization will be easier to scrape the DMT out of.
12. Place the jar into the freezer for at least 48 hours. The DMT will gradually precipitate out of the naphtha solution. 72 hours gives ample time for it to crystallize completely. DMT is insoluble in the naphtha solution at low temperatures so it will precipitate out. If the naphtha solution is left at room temperature before the DMT is separated from it, the DMT can potentially dissolve back into the naphtha.
13. To separate the DMT from the naphtha solution, pour the contents of the crystallization jar through a funnel with a pipe screen or coffee filter. Allow the extracted DMT to dry for at least ten hours. It should dry into powderized crystals or a waxy consistency based on the purity of the extraction. The remaining naphtha can be reused in additional pulls. Steps 7-13 can be repeated about 5 times for maximized yields. A pull can result in 200mg-1g of DMT dependent on the success of the extraction. Using pH strips and accurate/sufficient equipment is beneficial to increase yields.
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- Study of the composition of the root bark of the Thoughtful Tree, Liu et al, Chemistry (Chinese Chemical Soc, Taiwan) #1:15-16, 1977.
- Mimosa hostilis. (2011). In DMT-Nexus Wiki. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from https://wiki.dmt-nexus.me/Mimosa_hostilis
- Naphtha MSDS http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9926175
- MSDS Naphtha, Nova Chemicals (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) NOVA-0025, 2013.
- Sodium Hydroxide MSDS http://www.certified-lye.com/MSDS-Lye.pdf
- MSDS Sodium Hydroxide, Scienelab.com, Inc. (Houston, Texas) CAS 1310-73-2, 2014.
- Thermo Scientific Pierce Cell Lysis Technical Handbook Featuring Cell Lysis Reagents and Detergents https://tools.thermofisher.com/content/sfs/brochures/1601757-Cell-Lysis-Handbook.pdf