Background: Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant tea used for ritual purposes by the indigenous populations of the Amazon. In the last two decades, its use has expanded worldwide. The tea contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine-oxidase-inhibiting properties. Acute administration induces an introspective dream-like experience characterized by visions and autobiographic and emotional memories. Studies of long-term users have suggested its therapeutic potential, reporting that its use has helped individuals abandon the consumption of addictive drugs. Furthermore, recent open-label studies in patients with treatment-resistant depression found that a single ayahuasca dose induced a rapid antidepressant effect that was maintained weeks after administration.
Widely recognized by anthropologists as the most powerful and widespread shamanic hallucinogen, ayahuasca has been used by native Indian and mestizo shamans in Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador for healing and divination for thousands of years. Made from the Amazonian vine Banisteriopsis caapi and the DMT-laden leaf of Psychotria viridis, ayahuasca is regarded as the embodiment of intelligent plant beings who can offer spiritual teachings and healing knowledge to those who respectfully engage with them. Many Western-trained physicians and psychologists now acknowledge that ayahuasca allows access to spiritual dimensions of consciousness, otherworldly realms and beings, and visionary experiences indistinguishable from classic religious mysticism.