Documents of Interest

The documentation available in the following list gathers texts that have not been produced inside the Takiwasi Center, but due to their thematic and content, they are very related to the research that is developed within the Center.

A large-scale survey of Ayahuasca consumption in Europe: overview and perspectives

Author : Guillaume Krief, Laurent Fabre, Achraf Traboulsie

Presentation at the World Ayahuasca Conference, Ibiza, Spain, September 25-27, 2014.


There are numerous reasons to conduct well-designed clinical studies on ayahuasca and human subject: possible therapeutic applications in addictive behavior, mental illness, loss of quality of life; possible public health concerns. The use of Ayahuasca and public literature about it are exponentially growing, along with the potential for adverse reactions.

A Psychotherapeutic View on the Therapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use in the Treatment of Addiction

Author : Anja Loizaga-Velder

Published in MAPS Bulletin Special Edition, p. 36-40, Spring 2013.


The use of ayahuasca has spread beyond the Amazon in the last few decades, reaching around the globe in contexts of religious, shamanic, psychotherapeutic, and hybrid ayahuasca rituals. Many participants report gaining benefits from ayahuasca rituals in ways such as acquiring deeper knowledge of oneself, personal and spiritual development, or healing for a variety of psychological and physiological afflictions, including substance dependencies.

Ajútap/Arútam/Christ and the Jivaro victory over death

Author : Alberto Dubbini

Published in Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, March 2023.


The Awajún leader Santiago Manuín, interviewed by the author, witnesses the recent diffusion, among a part of his people, of the conscious overlap between Ajútap/Arútam, the god of the traditional Jivaro indigenous religions, and Jesus Christ. This observation raises a reflection on the central presence of death in human life, and the different symbolic solutions that arise to cope with it, proposed, on one side, by these religions and, on the other side, by the capitalist/consumerist culture of the globalized world.

Ancestral Amazonian Medicine for the XXI Century: Evidence of the impact of the ceremonial use of Ayahuasca in a healing center in Bolivia

Author : Hilvert Timmer

Originally published in Spanish: Pachakuti – political analysis magazine of the Vice Presidency of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Nº 2/2022. Translation. Fabio Friso.


Ayahuasca is an ancestral entheogenic plant of great power and great importance among the Amazonian indigenous peoples. Despite the little recognition it enjoys in Bolivia, during the last ten years it has begun to gain increasing recognition among spiritual explorers of the Western world and scientists from the branches of neuroscience and psychiatry. It is a concoction of plants that requires proper use in order to receive its benefits for physical, mental and spiritual health, which includes a preparation based on Amazonian tradition and the guidance of a healer with extensive experience within a ritual framework. Both scientific studies and the testimonies of indigenous peoples confirm this, despite the profound differences between their respective worldviews. Scientific studies unanimously confirm the great potential of Ayahuasca as a mystical, effective and safe tool for psychological and psychiatric treatments, which can generate conscious, acute, and long-lasting changes in the well-being and life of the participants in the ceremonies, without any adverse effect. In this study we confirm the evidence of therapeutic potential through an analysis of the experiences of 40 participants in Amazonian ceremonies performed in a healing center located in the heart of Bolivia. It is highlighted that the effects in the inner world of the participants, that is to say at the level of their worldview, demonstrate a long-lasting impact that is manifested in concrete and often profound changes in the daily life of the participants, that could be further reinforced through accompaniment and subsequent exercises.

Assessment of Alcohol and Tobacco Use Disorders Among Religious Users of Ayahuasca

Author : Paulo Cesar Ribeiro Barbosa et al.

Published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2018; 9:136.


The aims of this study were to assess the impact of ceremonial use of ayahuasca—a psychedelic brew containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and β-carboline —and attendance at União do Vegetal (UDV) meetings on substance abuse; here we report the findings related to alcohol and tobacco use disorder. A total of 1,947 members of UDV 18+ years old were evaluated in terms of years of membership and ceremonial attendance during the previous 12 months. Participants were recruited from 10 states from all major regions of Brazil. Alcohol and tobacco use was evaluated through questionnaires first developed by the World Health Organization and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Analyses compared levels of alcohol and tobacco use disorder between the UDV and a national normative sample (n = 7,939). Binomial tests for proportions indicated that lifetime use of alcohol and tobacco was higher in UDV sample compared to the Brazilian norms for age ranges of 25–34 and over 34 years old, but not for the age range of 18–24 years old. However, current use disorders for alcohol and tobacco were significantly lower in the UDV sample than the Brazilian norms. Regression analyses revealed a significant impact of attendance at ayahuasca ceremonies during the previous 12 months and years of UDV membership on the reduction of alcohol and tobacco use disorder.

Associations between ayahuasca consumption in naturalistic settings and current alcohol and drug use: Results of a large international cross-sectional survey

Author : Daniel Perkins, Emerita S. Opaleye, Hana Simonova, José C. Bouso, Luís F. Tófoli, Nicole L. GalvÃo-Coelho, Violeta Schubert, Jerome Sarris

Published in Drug and Alcholo Review, July 2021.


Emerging evidence suggests that psychedelic compounds, including the Amazonian botanical decoction ayahuasca, may provide clinical benefit in the treatment of alcohol or other drug use disorders. This study investigates associations between ayahuasca consumption in naturalistic settings and current alcohol and other drug use. Online cross-sectional study of people who have consumed ayahuasca in religious, traditional and non-traditional settings in over 40 countries. A total of 8629 participants (53% male, average age 40 years) were included in the analysis. Logistic regressions were used to explore associations between ayahuasca drinking variables and the current use of alcohol and other drugs, as well as the influence of confounding factors, such as church or community membership. The number of times ayahuasca had been consumed was strongly associated with increased odds of never or rarely drinking alcohol, never or rarely engaging in ‘risky drinking’ and having not consumed a range of drugs in the past month, with these effects greater for those with a prior substance use disorder compared to those without. The strength of ayahuasca drinkers subjective spiritual experience, number of personal self-insights obtained and drinking ayahuasca with an ayahuasca church were also associated with lower substance use in some models. Consumption of ayahuasca in naturalistic settings is associated with lower self-reported current consumption of alcohol and other drugs for those with and without prior substance use disorders, with such effects present after adjusting for religious or social group effects

Ayahuasca and cancer treatment

Author : Eduardo E. Schenberg

SAGE Open Med. 2013; 1: 2050312113508389.


At least nine case reports regarding the use of ayahuasca in the treatment of prostate, brain, ovarian, uterine, stomach, breast, and colon cancers were found. Several of these were considered improvements, one case was considered worse, and one case was rated as difficult to evaluate. A theoretical model is presented which explains these effects at the cellular, molecular, and psychosocial levels. Particular attention is given to ayahuasca’s pharmacological effects through the activity of N,N-dimethyltryptamine at intracellular sigma-1 receptors. The effects of other components of ayahuasca, such as harmine, tetrahydroharmine, and harmaline, are also considered.

Ayahuasca and Public Health: Health Status, Psychosocial Well-Being, Lifestyle, and Coping Strategies in a Large Sample of Ritual Ayahuasca Users

Author : Genís Ona et al.

Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, published online: 07 Feb 2019.


Assessing the health status of ayahuasca users has been challenging due to the limitations involved in randomized clinical trials and psychometric approaches. The main objective of this study is the implementation of an approach based on public health indicators. We developed a self-administered questionnaire that was administered to long-term ayahuasca users around Spain. The questionnaire was administrated face-to-face to participants (n = 380) in places where ayahuasca ceremonies were occurring. Public health indicators were compared with Spanish normative data, and intergroup analyses were conducted. Long-term ayahuasca use was associated with higher positive perception of health or with a healthy lifestyle, among other outcomes. Fifty-six percent of the sample reported reducing their use of prescription drugs due to ayahuasca use. Participants who used ayahuasca more than 100 times scored higher in personal values measures. The main conclusion of this study is that a respectful and controlled use of hallucinogenic/psychedelic drugs taken in communitarian settings can be incorporated into modern society with benefits for public health. This new approach, based on the use of health indicators that were not used in previous ayahuasca studies, offers relevant information about the impact of long-term exposure to ayahuasca on public health.

Ayahuasca is Helping the Global North to Discover the Sacredness of Tobacco

Author : Leonardo Rodríguez

Published in the blog, July 9, 2020.


The sacred use of tobacco is being rediscovered by both Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous individuals. This has been possible thanks to the global expansion of ayahuasca and local processes of ethnic identity recovery. Social groups who did not previously see themselves as Indigenous, now claim an Indigenous identity based on the production and consumption of sacred plants. Indigenous Muisca (*) people in central Colombia have exploited their links with Huitoto People from the Amazon to adopt ambil and tobacco snuff, also known as rapé among urban ayahuasca drinkers. The Muisca people utilize the name hosca instead of rapéin an attempt to recover the Chibcha language’s pre-Colombian word for tobacco. Tobacco is part of the purga (body cleaning) that precedes ayahuasca consumption in northern Peru. In Colombia, the purge with tobacco is part of the learning process for people who are being prepared to blow tobacco powder during ayahuasca ceremonies.

Ayahuasca use and reported effects on depression and anxiety symptoms: An international cross-sectional study of 11,912 consumers

Author : Jerome Sarris, Daniel Perkins, Lachlan Cribb, Violeta Schubert, Emerita Opaleye, José Carlos Bouso, Milan Scheidegger, Helena Aicher, Hana Simonova, Miroslav Horák, Nicole Leite Galvão-Coelho, David Castle, Luís Fernando Tófoli

Published in Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, Volume 4, April 2021.


Ayahuasca is a psychoactive Amazonian brew which has emerging data indicating that it has antidepressant and anxiolytic properties. This paper uses data from the Global Ayahuasca Project (GAP), which was undertaken across 2017–2020 and involved 11912 people, to examine the perceived effects of Ayahuasca consumption on affective symptoms. The study focused on the subsample reporting depression or anxiety diagnoses at time of Ayahuasca consumption. Of participants reporting depression (n = 1571) or anxiety (n = 1125) at the time of consuming Ayahuasca, 78% reported that their depression was either ‘very much’ improved (46%), or ‘completely resolved’ (32%); while 70% of those with anxiety reported that their symptoms were ‘very much’ improved (54%), or ‘completely resolved’ (16%). A range of factors were associated with greater reported affective symptoms improvement, including subjective mystical experience, number of Ayahuasca sessions, and number of personal psychological insights experienced. 2.7% and 4.5% of drinkers with depression or anxiety, respectively, reported worsening of symptoms. This study is recognized as a cross-sectional analysis which cannot assess treatment efficacy. Selection bias may exist due to survey-respondents with favorable experience being potentially biased towards participation. Drinkers of Ayahuasca in naturalistic settings perceived remarkable benefits for their affective symptoms in this survey assessment. There is no obvious evidence of negative mental health effects being associated with long-term consumption. Additional randomized controlled trial evidence is required to establish the efficacy of Ayahuasca in affective disorders, and to understand the worsened symptoms reported by a small percentage of drinkers.

Ayahuasca: Psychological And Physiologic Effects, Pharmacology And Potential Uses In Addiction And Mental Illness

Author : Jonathan Hamill, Jaime Hallak, Serdar M Dursun, Glen Baker

Published in Current Neuropharmacology, 16, 1-19, 2018.


Objective: To review ayahuasca's behavioral effects, possible adverse effects, proposed mechanisms of action and potential clinical uses in mental illness. Method: We searched Medline, in English, using the terms ayahuasca, dimethytryptamine, Banisteriopsis caapi, and Psychotria viridis and reviewed the relevant publications. Results: The following aspects of ayahuasca are summarized: Political and legal factors; acute and chronic psychological effects; electrophysiological studies and imaging; physiological effects, safety and adverse effects; pharmacology; potential psychiatric uses. Conclusion: Many years of shamanic wisdom have indicated potential therapeutic uses for ayahuasca, and many present day studies suggest that it may be useful for treating various psychiatric disorders and addictions. The side effect profile appears to be relatively mild, but more detailed studies need to be done. Several prominent researchers feel that government regulations with regard to ayahuasca should be relaxed so that it could be provided more readily to recognized credible researchers to conduct comprehensive clinical trials.

Ayahuasca’s entwined efficacy: An ethnographic study of ritual healing from ‘addiction’

Author : Piera Talin, Emilia Sanabria

Published in International Journal of Drug Policy, Volume 44, Pages 23–30, June 2017.


Ayahuasca’s efficacy in the treatment of addiction blends somatic, symbolic and collective dimensions. The layering of these effects, and the direction given to them through ritual, circumscribes the experience and provides tools to render it meaningful. Prevailing modes of evaluation are ill suited to account for the particular material and semiotic efficacy of complex interventions such as ayahuasca healing for addiction. The article argues that practices of care characteristic of the ritual spaces in which ayahuasca is collectively consumed, play a key therapeutic role.

Back to animism

Author : Antoine Fratini

Notes on the lecture of the book “Medici che incontrano gli spiriti", April 2021.


Alberto Dubbini, professor of Natural Sciences and expert in religions, has chosen to center his book around the experiences of three doctors out of the ordinary. Over the pages, these unique stories let us glimpse very significant points in common that enlighten the reader on the traditional therapeutic practices of the peoples of Central Africa and the Peruvian Amazon.

Classical hallucinogens as antidepressants? A review of pharmacodynamics and putative clinical roles

Author : David Baumeister, Georgina Barnes, Giovanni Giaroli and Derek Tracy

Published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology 2014, Vol. 4(4) pp. 156–169.


Hallucinogens have been part of spiritual practice for millennia, but controversy surrounding their mind-manifesting effects led to their proscription by the mid-20th century, largely without evidence of harm or toxicity and despite nascent data suggesting therapeutic utility in treating depressive illnesses. This review explores their pharmacodynamic actions and the current limited data on their clinic effectiveness.

Cultural Biases and Psychedelic Experiences: Western Scientific Perspectives about Amazonian Mestizo Therapeutic Traditions

Author : Alberto Dubbini

Published in OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine, 08 (03), september 2023.


This article aims to analyze how Western researchers can be influenced by their epistemic and ethical foundations, which are also expressed through a culturally shared idea of therapy, and how this influence can significantly hinder the understanding of a different cultural reality and its resources in terms of knowledge and practices. While examining a collection of research cases in the field of psychedelic therapy, the present paper focuses on the obstacles created by ethical and epistemic conflicts in the mind of researchers with Western scientific training and their consequent difficulty in exploring the situations induced by psychedelic substances in a context of articulation and integration between their therapeutic know-how and that of a spiritual hundreds-year-old psychedelic tradition like Amazonian mestizo vegetalismo. Such obstacles may offer a chance to increase awareness of the cultural bias and limitations of the scientific gaze and highlight the importance of therapeutic and research contexts in which declared independence, neutrality and effectiveness of human alert thinking as undebatable ethical and epistemic value are under discussion.

DMT Models the Near-Death Experience

Author : Christopher Timmermann, et al.

Original research article published in Frontiers in Psychology 9:1424, 15 August 2018.


Near-death experiences (NDEs) are complex subjective experiences, which have been previously associated with the psychedelic experience and more specifically with the experience induced by the potent serotonergic, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Potential similarities between both subjective states have been noted previously, including the subjective feeling of transcending one’s body and entering an alternative realm, perceiving and communicating with sentient ‘entities’ and themes related to death and dying. In this within-subjects placebo-controled study we aimed to test the similarities between the DMT state and NDEs, by administering DMT and placebo to 13 healthy participants, who then completed a validated and widely used measure of NDEs. Results revealed significant increases in phenomenological features associated with the NDE, following DMT administration compared to placebo. Also, we found significant relationships between the NDE scores and DMT-induced ego-dissolution and mystical-type experiences, as well as a significant association between NDE scores and baseline trait ‘absorption’ and delusional ideation measured at baseline. Furthermore, we found a significant overlap in nearly all of the NDE phenomenological features when comparing DMT-induced NDEs with a matched group of ‘actual’ NDE experiencers. These results reveal a striking similarity between these states that warrants further investigation.

Effects of ayahuasca on the development of ethanol-induced behavioral sensitization and on a post-sensitization treatment in mice

Author : A.J. Oliveira-Lima, R. Santos A.W. Hollais, C.A. Gerardi-Junior, M.A.

Physiology & Behavior, Volume 142, 1 April 2015, Pages 28-36.


Hallucinogenic drugs were used to treat alcoholic patients in the past, and recent developments in the study of hallucinogens led to a renewal of interest regarding the application of these drugs in the treatment of addiction. In this scenario, accumulating evidence suggests that the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca (Aya) may have therapeutic effects on substance abuse problems.

Embracing a mystical approach to Christianity in the Peruvian jungle

Author : Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak

Article published in the blog Traveling & Living in Peru, February 2019.


Dr. Jacques Mabit works at Takiwasi, treatment center that embraces medicinal plants to help visitors overcome serious addictions. This is an exploration into why this is a spiritual path that deeply resonates with me.

French Plant Spirits: Exploring the Use of the Amazonian Plant-diet Practice in France

Author : Giorgia Tresca

Published in The Ethnobotanical Assembly, June 2019.


In Amazonian indigenous cosmologies, plants have padres or madres, spirits with agency and anthropomorphic traits, which are respected for their power to heal and harm people. The skill of a healer rests on his or her ability to form relations with plant spirits and to receive knowledge from them (Škrabáková 2014). A particularly powerful method of developing relations with plants is through the practice of dieting (Jauregui et al 2011). This refers to the ritual ingestion of specific medicinal plants, which usually takes place in isolation in the forest for an extended period of time, whilst abstaining from sex and abiding by dietary restrictions.

Giving up the green bitch: reflections on cannabis, Ayahuasca and the mystery of plant teachers

Author : Graham Hancock

The experiences described in this article were also the subject of TEDx conference in London. january 2013.


I have some personal stuff to share here and I intend to do so with complete openness in the hope that my experiences will prove helpful to some, thought-provoking to others, and might stir up discussion around issues of consciousness and cognitive liberty that are often neglected in our society.

Hypotheses regarding the mechanisms of ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions

Author : Mitchell B. Liester, James I. Prickett

Published in Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 44:3, 200-208, 2012.


Ayahuasca is a medicinal plant mixture utilized by indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon River basin for healing purposes. The "vine of the soul" or "vine of death," as it is known in South America, contains a combination of monoamine oxidase inhibitors and N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). When ingested together, these medicines produce profound alterations in consciousness. Increasingly, ayahuasca is being utilized to treat addictions. However, the mechanism of action by which ayahuasca treats addictions remains unclear. We offer four hypotheses to explain possible biochemical, physiological, psychological, and transcendent mechanisms by which ayahuasca may exert its anti-addiction effects.

In Brazil, some inmates get therapy with hallucinogenic tea

Author : Simon Romero

Article published in the New York Times, March 28, 2015.


As the night sky enveloped this outpost in Brazil’s Amazon basin, the ceremony at the open-air temple began simply enough. Dozens of adults and children, all clad in white, stood in a line. A holy man handed each a cup of ayahuasca, a muddy-looking hallucinogenic brew. They gulped it down; some vomited. Hymns were sung. More ayahuasca was consumed. By midnight, the congregants seemed strangely energized. Then the dancing began.

Indigenous women conserving Nuwas Forest and medicinal plants

Author : Rebecca Lazarou

Published on Takiwasi's website, february 2021.


It is no secret that deforestation and the exploitation of the Amazon has left many lives and cultures devastated. Many watch in despair as companies mutilate the land and extinguish indigenous peoples’ homes for that one nefarious capitalist gain-profit. Profit over sustainability, profit over safety, profit over respect and profit over morals.

Influence of context and setting on the mental health and wellbeing outcomes of ayahuasca drinkers: results of a large international survey

Author : Daniel Perkins, Violeta Schubert, Hana Simonová, Luís F. Tófoli, José C. Bouso, Miroslav Horák, Nicole L. Galvão-Coelho and Jerome Sarris

Published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, February 2021.


Ayahuasca is a traditional plant decoction containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and various β-carbolines including harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine, which has been used ceremonially by Amazonian Indigenous groups for healing and spiritual purposes. Use of the brew has now spread far beyond its original context of consumption to North America, Europe and Australia in neo-shamanic settings as well as Christian syncretic churches. While these groups have established their own rituals and protocols to guide use, it remains unknown the extent to which the use of traditional or non-traditional practices may affect drinkers’ acute experiences, and longer term wellbeing and mental health outcomes. Hence, this study aimed to provide the first detailed assessment of associations between ceremony/ritual characteristics, additional support practices, and motivations for drinking, and mental health and wellbeing outcomes. The paper uses data from a large cross-sectional study of ayahuasca drinkers in more than 40 countries who had used ayahuasca in various contexts (n=6,877). It captured detailed information about participant demographics, patterns and history of ayahuasca drinking, the setting of consumption, and ritualistic practices employed. Current mental health status was captured via the Kessler 10 psychological distress scale and the mental health component score of the SF-12 Health Questionnaire, while reported change in prior clinically diagnosed anxiety or depression (n=1276) was evaluated using a (PGIC) Patient Global Impression of Change tool. Various intermediate outcomes were also assessed including perceived change in psychological wellbeing, number of personal self-insights attained, and subjective spiritual experience measured via the spirituality dimension of the Persisting Effects Questionnaire (PEQ) and Short Index of Mystical Orientation. Regression models identified a range of significant associations between set and setting variables, and intermediate and final mental health and wellbeing outcomes. A generalized structural equation model (GSEM) was then used to verify relationships and associations between endogenous, mediating and final outcome variables concurrently. The present study sheds new light on the influence of ceremonial practices, additional supports and motivations on the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca for mental health and wellbeing, and ways in which such factors can be optimized in naturalistic settings and clinical studies.

Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice

Author : Antoine Lutz, Lawrence L. Greischar, Nancy B. Rawlings, Matthieu Ricar

PNAS 2004 November, 101 (46) 16369-16373.


Practitioners understand “meditation,” or mental training, to be a process of familiarization with one's own mental life leading to long-lasting changes in cognition and emotion. Little is known about this process and its impact on the brain. Here we find that long-term Buddhist practitioners self-induce sustained electroencephalographic high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations and phase-synchrony during meditation. These electroencephalogram patterns differ from those of controls, in particular over lateral frontoparietal electrodes. In addition, the ratio of gamma-band activity (25-42 Hz) to slow oscillatory activity (4-13 Hz) is initially higher in the resting baseline before meditation for the practitioners than the controls over medial frontoparietal electrodes. This difference increases sharply during meditation over most of the scalp electrodes and remains higher than the initial baseline in the postmeditation baseline. These data suggest that mental training involves temporal integrative mechanisms and may induce short-term and long-term neural changes.

Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science

Author : Gary E. Schwartz, Mario Beauregard, Lisa Miller

International Summit On Post-Materialist Science, Spirituality, And Society. Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, February 7-9, 2014.


A group of internationally known scientists, from a variety of scientific fields (biology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, psychiatry), participated in an international summit on post-materialist science, spirituality and society. The purpose was to discuss the impact of the materialist ideology on science and the emergence of a post-materialist paradigm for science, spirituality, and society. This Manifesto summarizes the conclusions of the meeting.

Methadone fails 97% of drug addicts

Author : The Scotsman

Published on 29/10/2006.


A key government drugs policy has been exposed as a shocking failure after it emerged that giving methadone to heroin addicts has a 97% failure rate. In a damning indictment of the Scottish Executive's 'softly softly' approach to managing the heroin problem, research found that three years after receiving methadone only 3% of addicts remained totally drug-free. The same study, by Scotland's leading drugs expert, found that there was a 29% success rate among addicts who went 'cold turkey' in a rehabilitation centre.

N,N-dimethyltryptamine compound found in the hallucinogenic tea ayahuasca, regulates adult neurogenesis in vitro and in vivo

Author : Jose A. Morales-Garcia, Javier Calleja-Conde, Jose A. Lopez-Moreno, Sandra Alonso-Gil, Marina Sanz-SanCristobal, Jordi Riba & Ana Perez-Castillo

Published in Translational Psychiatry volume 10, september 2020.


N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a component of the ayahuasca brew traditionally used for ritual and therapeutic purposes across several South American countries. Here, we have examined, in vitro and vivo, the potential neurogenic effect of DMT. Our results demonstrate that DMT administration activates the main adult neurogenic niche, the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, promoting newly generated neurons in the granular zone. Moreover, these mice performed better, compared to control non-treated animals, in memory tests, which suggest a functional relevance for the DMT-induced new production of neurons in the hippocampus. Interestingly, the neurogenic effect of DMT appears to involve signaling via sigma-1 receptor (S1R) activation since S1R antagonist blocked the neurogenic effect. Taken together, our results demonstrate that DMT treatment activates the subgranular neurogenic niche regulating the proliferation of neural stem cells, the migration of neuroblasts, and promoting the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus, therefore enhancing adult neurogenesis and improving spatial learning and memory tasks.

Post-Materialist Integral Ecology. Experiments in the Peruvian High Amazon

Author : Frédérique Apffel-Marglin

Published in Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology, Volume 22: Issue 1, pp 56–83, March 2018.


This essay is an example of a post-materialist science in the work of molecular biologist Candace Pert. Post-materialist science supersedes materialist-reductionist science and integrates spirituality with materiality. This discussion is motivated by the author’s experience as an academic in a New England institution. Integral ecology is entangled with post-material science as in the work of cosmologist Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry and Mary-Evelyn Tucker. The last part discusses the author’s creation of a non-profit organization in the Peruvian Upper Amazon. The work of her center is a response to requests by the local indigenous leadership for an alternative to their slash and burn form of agriculture. The alternative is the regeneration of a pre-Columbian anthropogenic Amazonian soil known as Terra Preta do Indio (black earth of the Indians) in Brazil, which integrates materiality and spirituality and offers the possibility of food security and sovereignty as well as climate mitigation.

Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms

Author : Robin L Carhart-Harris, Leor Roseman, Mark Bolstridge, Lysia Demetriou

Published in Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 13187, October 2017.


Psilocybin with psychological support is showing promise as a treatment model in psychiatry but its therapeutic mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, cerebral blood flow (CBF) and blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) were measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after treatment with psilocybin (serotonin agonist) for treatment resistant depression (TRD). Quality pre and post treatment fMRI data were collected from 16 of 19 patients. Decreased depressive symptoms were observed in all 19 patients at 1-week post-treatment and 47% met criteria for response at 5 weeks. Whole-brain analyses revealed post-treatment decreases in CBF in the temporal cortex, including the amygdala. Decreased amygdala CBF correlated with reduced depressive symptoms.

Psychedelic experience as a catalyst of psychotherapeutic process in the treatment of addiction

Author : Mina Paš

Article published in the web page of the Rabbit Hole Institute for psychotherapy and research of healing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness.


The use of psychedelic experience in the treatment of addictions is far from new. In the late sixties the benefits of LSD psychotherapy for alcoholism was well known and thanks to Stanislav Grof, also very well documented. Stanislav Grof was a Czech psychiatrist who conducted and wrote about several thousand LSD psychotherapies on psychiatric patients, including LSD therapies as a treatment of alcoholism. His excellent book LSD psychotherapy (The healing potential of psychedelic medicine) offers a comprehensive and systematic review of the practical applications of LSD psychotherapy and Grof dedicated a whole chapter about the potential of LSD psychotherapy in the treatment of alcoholism (Grof, 2001).

Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity

Author : Calvin Ly et al.

Published in Cell Reports 23, 3170–3182, June 12, 2018.


Ly et al. demonstrate that psychedelic compounds such as LSD, DMT, and DOI increase dendritic arbor complexity, promote dendritic spine growth, and stimulate synapse formation. These cellular effects are similar to those produced by the fast-acting antidepressant ketamine and highlight the potential of psychedelics for treating depression and related disorders.

Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized placebo-controlled trial

Author : Fernanda Palhano-Fontes, Dayanna Barreto, Heloisa Onias, Katia C. Andrade, Morgana M. Novaes, Jessica A. Pessoa, Sergio A. Mota-Rolim, Flávia L. Osório, Rafael Sanches, Rafael G. dos Santos, Luís Fernando Tófoli, Gabriela de Oliveira Silveira, Mauricio Yonamine, Jordi Riba, Francisco R. Santos, Antonio A. Silva-Junior, João C. Alchieri, Nicole L. Galvão-Coelho, Bruno Lobão-Soares, Jaime E. C. Hallak, Emerson Arcoverde, João P. Maia-de-Oliveira, Dráulio B. Araújo

Published in Psychological Medicine 49, pp. 655–663, 2019.


Background. Recent open-label trials show that psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, hold promise as fast-onset antidepressants in treatment-resistant depression. Methods. To test the antidepressant effects of ayahuasca, we conducted a parallel-arm, double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial in 29 patients with treatment-resistant depression. Patients received a single dose of either ayahuasca or placebo. We assessed changes in depression severity with the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and the Hamilton Depression Rating scale at baseline, and at 1 (D1), 2 (D2), and 7 (D7) days after dosing. Results. We observed significant antidepressant effects of ayahuasca when compared with placebo at all-time points. MADRS scores were significantly lower in the ayahuasca group compared with placebo at D1 and D2 ( p = 0.04), and at D7 ( p < 0.0001). Between-group effect sizes increased from D1 to D7 (D1: Cohen’s d = 0.84; D2: Cohen’s d = 0.84; D7: Cohen’s d = 1.49). Response rates were high for both groups at D1 and D2, and significantly higher in the ayahuasca group at D7 (64% v. 27%; p = 0.04). Remission rate showed a trend toward significance at D7 (36% v. 7%, p = 0.054). Conclusions. To our knowledge, this is the first controlled trial to test a psychedelic substance in treatment-resistant depression. Overall, this study brings new evidence supporting the safety and therapeutic value of ayahuasca, dosed within an appropriate setting, to help treat depression.

Revisiting LSD as a treatment for alcoholism

Author : SAGE Publications

Article published March 8, 2012.


Several decades ago, a number of clinics used LSD to treat alcoholism with some success. But until now, no research has pulled together the results of these trials to document exactly how effective LSD was. Now a new meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the drug provides evidence for a clear and consistent beneficial effect of LSD for treating alcohol dependency.

Teacher plants — Indigenous Peruvian-Amazonian dietary practices as a method for using psychoactives

Author : Ilana Berlowitz, David M. O’Shaughnessy, Michael Heinrich, Ursula Wolf, Caroline Maake, Chantal Martin-Soelch

Published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 286, 114910, December 2021.


Indigenous groups of the Amazon have developed intricate methods for the application of psychoactives, among which particularly the dieta or diet method of Peruvian-Amazonian traditional medicine stands out. It is a retreat-like intervention involving lengthy periods of social, behavioural, and alimentary restrictions, while ingesting specially prepared plant substances. The interplay of the dietary conditions and plants ingested sensitizes the dieter to receive healing, strength, guidance, and knowledge. From a clinical scientific point of view, the method has remained largely underexplored, but seems more pertinent than ever given the increasing interest in Amazonian psychoactive preparations including ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the burgeoning field of psychedelic-assisted therapies in general. This study offers a descriptive account and emic interpretation of the Peruvian-Amazonian dieta. More specifically we document in detail the procedure, its context and purpose of application, effects, modes of action, adverse effects, and risks, from the perspectives of a sample of Peruvian traditional healers. The Peruvian-Amazonian dieta is a multi-purpose method for making use of medicinal plants, many of which (but not all), are psychoactive; the current work especially focuses on its therapeutic applications in conjunction with psychoactives. We interviewed 16 healers working in the Ucayali, San Martín, and Loreto provinces of Peru using a semi-structured interview approach. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The extensive data derived from these interviews were analysed by means of computer-assisted manifest qualitative content analysis using a theory-advancing approach. Over 500 coded text segments were categorized, resulting in 7 main theme clusters and corresponding sub-themes. The interviewed healers described a complex intervention with multifaceted applications (treatment, prevention, training) and effects in various domains (body, mind, spirit, energy). The process was portrayed as transformative, with benefits attributed to the effects of the so-called teacher plants in conjunction with the diet's conditions, along with the skill of the healer guiding the intervention. Further, a detailed risk assessment revealed sophisticated safety measures and tools designed to address adverse responses. The importance of adequate training of the healer that administers the diet was particularly highlighted in this context. The dieta is a central therapeutic concept and tool in Peruvian-Amazonian traditional medicine and a unique method for using psychoactive plants. Multidisciplinary health research that includes traditional treatment methods from Indigenous cultures, Amazonian and other, should not be neglected in the current global interest in psychedelic therapies; such research may in the long-term contribute to a more inclusive psychedelic research paradigm as well as healthcare practice in countries where rich traditional healing systems exist, and perhaps beyond. It may also contribute to the recognition of the Indigenous healers as not only historical forerunners, but also current leading experts in psychedelic medicine.

The ayahuasca ceremony is going under the scientific-method microscope

Author : Shelby Hartman

Published in Quartz, April 20, 2017.


Standish, a professor at the Bastyr University Research Institute in Seattle, is one of several scientists hoping more governments around the world will begin approving research into the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in the next year. Neuroscientist Jessica Nielson at the University of California-San Francisco plans to submit protocol this month to the FDA for a study on ayahuasca as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. In the next three months, Jordi Riba, a researcher at the Sant Pau Institute of Biomedical Research in Barcelona, plans to seek approval from the Spanish government for his own study into ayahuasca as a PTSD treatment. If he succeeds, it will be the first trial in Europe looking at the brew’s therapeutic potential.

The Bitter Side of Ayahuasca

Author : Itzhak Beery

Published online on Lucid News, July 23, 2020.


The missing piece in today’s dialogue around the rampant popularity of plant medicines such as ayahuasca and other hallucinatory rituals in the Western world is one simple word: greed. In our technologically driven Western culture, many push the idea that the ayahuasca experience is a gift from its spirit to humanity. They claim that the spirit of ayahuasca decided that this is the time to spread its healing wisdom to a world suffering from emotional pain and spiritual emptiness. Maybe. Or maybe there is another motive behind this trend.

The Impact of Ayahuasca on Suicidality: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial

Author : Richard J. Zeifman, Fernanda Palhano-Fontes, Jaime Hallak, Emerson Arcoverde, João Paulo Maia-Oliveira, Draulio B. Araujo

Frontiers in Pharmacology, 19 November 2019, DOI:


Suicide is a major public health problem. Given increasing suicide rates and limitations surrounding current interventions, there is an urgent need for innovative interventions for suicidality. Although ayahuasca has been shown to target mental health concerns associated with suicidality (i.e., depression and hopelessness), research has not yet explored the impact of ayahuasca on suicidality. Therefore, we conducted secondary analyses of a randomized placebo-controlled trial in which individuals with treatment-resistant depression were administered one dose of ayahuasca (n = 14) or placebo (n = 15). Suicidality was assessed by a trained psychiatrist at baseline, as well as 1 day, 2 days, and 7 days after the intervention. A fixed-effects linear mixed model, as well as between and within-groups Cohen's d effect sizes were used to examine changes in suicidality. Controlling for baseline suicidality, we found a significant effect for time (p < .05). The effect of the intervention (i.e., ayahuasca vs. placebo) trended toward significance (p = .088). At all time points, we found medium between-group effect sizes (i.e., ayahuasca vs. placebo; day 1 Cohen’s d = 0.58; day 2 d = 0.56; day 7 d = 0.67), as well as large within-group (ayahuasca; day 1 Cohen's d = 1.33; day 2 d = 1.42; day 7 d = 1.19) effect sizes, for decreases in suicidality. Conclusions: This research is the first to explore the impact of ayahuasca on suicidality. The findings suggest that ayahuasca may show potential as an intervention for suicidality. We highlight important limitations of the study, potential mechanisms, and future directions for research on ayahuasca as an intervention for suicidality.

The Psychedelic State Induced by Ayahuasca Modulates the Activity and Connectivity of the Default Mode Network

Author : Fernanda Palhano-Fontes, Katia C. Andrade, Luis F. Tofoli, Antonio C. Santos, Jose Alexandre S. Crippa, Jaime E. C. Hallak, Sidarta Ribeiro, Draulio B. de Araujo

Published in Network. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0118143, 2015.


The experiences induced by psychedelics share a wide variety of subjective features, related to the complex changes in perception and cognition induced by this class of drugs. A remarkable increase in introspection is at the core of these altered states of consciousness. Self-oriented mental activity has been consistently linked to the Default Mode Network (DMN), a set of brain regions more active during rest than during the execution of a goal-directed task. Here we used fMRI technique to inspect the DMN during the psychedelic state induced by Ayahuasca in ten experienced subjects. Ayahuasca is a potion traditionally used by Amazonian Amerindians composed by a mixture of compounds that increase monoaminergic transmission. In particular, we examined whether Ayahuasca changes the activity and connectivity of the DMN and the connection between the DMN and the task-positive network (TPN). Ayahuasca caused a significant decrease in activity through most parts of the DMN, including its most consistent hubs: the Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC)/Precuneus and the medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC). Functional connectivity within the PCC/Precuneus decreased after Ayahuasca intake. No significant change was observed in the DMN-TPN orthogonality. Altogether, our results support the notion that the altered state of consciousness induced by Ayahuasca, like those induced by psilocybin (another serotonergic psychedelic), meditation and sleep, is linked to the modulation of the activity and the connectivity of the DMN.

The role of Indigenous knowledges in psychedelic science

Author : Evgenia Fotiou

Published in the Journal of Psychedelic Studies, february 2020.


This paper reflects on potential contributions from anthropology to the field of “psychedelic science.” Although the discipline’s beginnings went hand in hand with colonialism, it has made significant contributions to the understanding of Indigenous knowledge systems. Furthermore, recent calls to decolonize our theoretical frameworks and methodology, notably the “ontological turn,” open up the space for engaging meaningfully with Indigenous worldviews. At this critical juncture of the “psychedelic renaissance,” it is important to reflect on whether the current model is satisfactory and on ways to decolonize psychedelic science. What we need is a shift in paradigm, one that will acknowledge the validity of Indigenous worldviews as equal partners to scientific inquiry. Acknowledging the contributions of Indigenous knowledges to psychedelic science is necessary and needs to go hand in hand with attempts to revise biomedical models to be more inclusive in substantial ways. The paper does not argue for the abandonment of the scientific paradigm, rather for the abandonment of its privileged position. Decolonizing psychedelic science will require allowing multiple perspectives to coexist and contribute equally to our efforts going forward.

Traditional pharmaceutical recipes from a metabolomics perspective: Interviews with traditional healers in Mali and comparison with modern herbal medicines

Author : Matteo Politi, Lelia Pisani

Advancement in Medicinal Plant Research Vol. 2(1), pp. 1-6, January 2014.


Scientific data on traditional pharmaceutical recipes are largely missing in the literature, despite the relevance of this information within the process of herbal medicine preparation; the chemistry of the finished product in fact, can be dramatically affected by the recipes adopted. A fieldwork on the topic of traditional pharmaceutical recipes was performed in Mali; traditional and modern practices to prepare herbal medicines were compared. The nascent scientific discipline named metabolomics identify a new paradigm in natural product chemistry. Under the umbrella of metabolomics, the traditional practices recorded during the field survey in Mali were interpreted from a biochemical perspective and presented in this paper.

Well-being, problematic alcohol consumption and acute subjective drug effects in past-year ayahuasca users: a large, international, self-selecting online survey

Author : Will Lawn, Jaime E. Hallak, Jose A. Crippa, Rafael Dos Santos, Lilla P

Published in Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 15201, November 2017.


Ayahuasca is a natural psychedelic brew, which contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Its potential as a psychiatric medicine has recently been demonstrated and its non-medical use around the world appears to be growing. We aimed to investigate well-being and problematic alcohol use in ayahuasca users, and ayahuasca’s subjective effects. An online, self-selecting, global survey examining patterns of drug use was conducted in 2015 and 2016 (n=96,901).

What motivates medical students to learn about traditional medicine? A qualitative study of cultural safety in Colombia

Author : Juan Pimentel, Iván Sarmiento, Germán Zuluaga, Neil Andersson

Published in International Journal of Medical Educaction 11: 120-126, 2020.


This study explored motivation dynamics of medical students engaging with traditional medicine in Colombia. Five key learning dynamics emerged from the analysis: (1) learning from/with communities as opposed to training them; (2) ownership of medical education as a result of co-designing the exercise; (3) rigorous academic contents of the program; (4) lack of cultural safety training in university; and (5) previous contacts with traditional knowledge.

“Tobacco Is the Chief Medicinal Plant in My Work”: Therapeutic Uses of Tobacco in Peruvian Amazonian Medicine Exemplified by the Work of a Maestro Tabaquero

Author : Ilana Berlowitz, Ernesto García Torres, Heinrich Walt, Ursula Wolf, Caroline Maake and Chantal Martin-Soelch

Published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, 07 October 2020.


Introduction: Harmful usage of tobacco is a public health problem of global concern and, in many countries, the main risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Yet, in the Peruvian Amazon, the geographical region believed to be tobacco’s historical birthplace, this plant is associated with a strikingly different usage and repute: Tobacco (especially Nicotiana rustica L.) in this area is described as a potent medicinal plant, used topically or via ingestion to treat a variety of health conditions. The goal of this transdisciplinary field study was to investigate clinical applications of the tobacco plant as per Amazonian medicine exemplified in the practice of a reputed Maestro Tabaquero, an Amazonian traditional healer whose medical specialization focuses on tobacco-based treatments. Methods: Using a transdisciplinary clinical approach, we conducted in-depth interviews with the tabaquero applying the systematizing expert interview method, in order to map modes of preparation and administration, indications, contraindications, effects, risks, adverse effects, and systemic aspects of tobacco-based remedies. Results: The informant’s descriptions revealed refined knowledge on this plant’s therapeutic properties and scope, safety profile, and application techniques. The main indications mentioned included “problems of the mind,” of the respiratory system, parasitic illnesses (intestinal/skin), gout, and Amazonian epistemic conditions described as spiritual-energetic in nature. A liquid remedy taken orally was his most commonly used preparation, with acute/sub-acute effects involving a pronounced psychoactive component (altered state of consciousness) and physiological response (emesis, nausea). A skilled tabaquero that knows how to dose, administer, and intervene in case of adverse effects was considered imperative for safe treatment delivery. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study employing a transdisciplinary clinical approach to examine therapeutic applications of tobacco by an Amazonian tabaquero. Our findings significantly contribute to the growing research literature on Amazonian medicine and emergent psychedelic-assisted therapies and could, in the long-term, open new treatment avenues in several domains. Forthcoming studies should assess toxicity/safety and clinical outcomes of patients receiving Amazonian tobacco-based treatment.

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