Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is the name of a psychoactive beverage that has its origin in the Amazon region. The name means "vine of the souls" in Quechua, a Native American language of South America. Traditionally, Ayahuasca is prepared by boiling or soaking the stems and barks of Banisteriopsis caapi together with various plants containing the psychoactive alkaloid N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The most commonly used plant containing DMT is Psychotria viridis. DMT is a potent sort-acting hallucinogenic agent but is not active following oral ingestion of doses up to 1000 mg. After parenteral administration of more than 25 mg, DMT shows psychoactive effects [21]. The alkaloid is metabolized via monoamine oxidase (MAO) to inactive metabolites.

The stems and bark of B. caapi contain P-carbolines such as harmine and harma-line. These carbolines are not psychoactive, but they are inhibitors of the enzyme MAO. The combination of these plants leads to psychoactive effects because the breakdown of the psychoactive DMT is inhibited [22]. This pharmacological "trick" is common today also using other MAO-inhibiting drugs. Such combinations are often called pharmahuasca [6]. Figure 19.1 shows the chemical structures of DMT (7), harmine (8), and harmaline (9).

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