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Ayahuasca : Benefits & Side Effects

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a brew that is made from ingredients that have hallucinogenic properties. The leaves of the Psychotria Viridis shrub and stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine are used in making Ayahuasca. Other plants and ingredients can also be used.(1) It can be beneficial for brain health and well-being and is associated with several potential risks.

This drink is also used for spiritual and religious purposes by ancient Amazonian tribes.

The ingredients present in Ayahuasca are known to have hallucinogenic properties.(2)

Psychotria Viridis contains N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a psychedelic substance occurring naturally in plants. It is a powerful hallucinogenic chemical. It has low bioavailability and is easily broken down by enzymes called monoamine oxidase in the liver and gastrointestinal tract.

Banisteriopsis caapi contains potent MAOIs called beta-carbolines, that is known to have psychoactive effects of their own.(3) DMT can be combined with substances containing MAOIs.

Combining these two plants makes a powerful psychedelic brew that can be beneficial for the nervous system. It can alter the state of consciousness and include hallucinations and euphoria.

Benefits of Ayahuasca

The benefits of Ayahuasca told by people were that it leads to positive and life-altering changes, which may be due to the effects of Ayahuasca on the neurological system.

  1. Benefits Brain Health

    The main active ingredients present in Ayahuasca are known to exhibit neuroprotective and neurorestorative qualities. These ingredients regulate the production of antioxidant compounds that protect the brain.(4) The study stated that DMT protected human brain cells from damage caused by the lack of oxygen and encouraged cell survival.

    Ayahuasca is also known to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective and memory-boosting effects.(5)

    A test tube study demonstrated exposure to harmine increased the growth of human neural progenitor cells by 70%. These cells help in generating neural cells in the brain.(6)

  2. Improves Psychological Well-being

    Ayahuasca may increase the mindfulness capacity of the brain and improve overall psychological well-being. A study was done on 20 people who indicated that consuming Ayahuasca once weekly for 4 weeks was as effective as an 8 weeks mindfulness program.(7)

    Another study had similar results. It found that Ayahuasca may be helpful in improving mood and emotional regulation.(8)

    One more study was done on 57 people. They demonstrated that the rating of depression significantly reduced immediately after consuming Ayahuasca.(9)

    Most of these positive effects of Ayahuasca were attributed to the presence of DMT and beta-carbolines in it.(10)

  3. May be Helpful in Treating Addiction, Anxiety, Treatment-Resistant Depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

    There is research that suggests that Ayahuasca can be beneficial in those with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction disorders.

    A study done on 29 people with treatment-resistant depression showed that Ayahuasca in a single dose led to significant improvements in depression severity.(11)

    Also, a review of 6 studies showed Ayahuasca to be effective in treating depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and drug dependence.(12)

    One more study was done in 2013 on 12 people with severe psychological and behavioral issues for 12 days. It included 2 Ayahuasca ceremonies. In a 6 month follow-up, it was demonstrated that there was a significant improvement in mindfulness, hopefulness, empowerment, and overall quality of life.(13)

Consideration and Potential Side Effects of Ayahuasca

Consuming this psychedelic brew can lead to serious side effects as well.

It may interact with a few medications including antidepressants, psychiatric medications, weight loss medications, and many more.(2)

In people with a history of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, usage of Ayahuasca should be avoided as it may worsen the psychiatric symptoms.(14)

Ayahuasca may also increase the heart rate and blood pressure in those with heart conditions.(14)

There are also reports of deaths from Ayahuasca consumption. But they may be due to other ingredients in it and dosing issues.(2)

Ayahuasca is a brew that is made from the parts of the Psychotria Viridis shrub and Banisteriopsis caapi vine. It is well known for its powerful hallucinogenic properties but has negatives linked to it as well. Those interested in its consumption should be well aware of its positives as well as negatives even is prepared or given by experienced personnel.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 21, 2022

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