OPEN Foundation

Indigenous use

Chemical Composition of Traditional and Analog Ayahuasca

Abstract

Traditional ayahuasca can be defined as a brew made from Amazonian vine Banisteriopsis caapi and Amazonian admixture plants. Ayahuasca is used by indigenous groups in Amazonia, as a sacrament in syncretic Brazilian religions, and in healing and spiritual ceremonies internationally. The study aimed to determine concentrations of the main bio- and psychoactive components of ayahuasca used in different locations and traditions. We collected 102 samples of brews from ayahuasca-using communities. Concentrations of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), tetrahydroharmine, harmine, and harmaline were determined by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS). Qualitative analyses for non-traditional additives (moclobemide, psilocin, yuremamine) were performed by high resolution mass spectrometry. Higher and more variable concentrations of DMT in neoshamanic ayahuasca samples compared to indigenous samples may indicate use of higher and more variable proportions of DMT-containing admixture plants. From European samples, we found two related samples of analog ayahuasca containing moclobemide, psilocin, DMT, yuremamine, and very low concentrations of B. caapi alkaloids. Some analogs of ayahuasca (Peganum harmala, Mimosa tenuiflora) were used in Europe. No analogs were found from Brazil or Santo Daime ceremonies in Europe. We recommend awareness about the constituents of the brew and ethical self-regulation among practitioners of ayahuasca ceremonies.

Kaasik, H., Souza, R., Zandonadi, F. S., Tófoli, L. F., & Sussulini, A. (2021). Chemical Composition of Traditional and Analog Ayahuasca. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 53(1), 65–75. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1815911

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Psychedelics in Western culture: unnecessary psychiatrisation of visionary experiences

Abstract

Historical research about the use of psychedelics in specific religious contexts can provide rational explanations for visionary experiences that could otherwise be cause to question the mental health of religious actors. Reversely, if historians ignore or overlook empirical evidence for the use of psychedelics, the result can be that normal and even predictable reactions of healthy subjects to the effects of psychedelic substances are arbitrarily interpreted as ‘irrational’.

AIM: To describe the meaning of the psychedelic factor in historical visionary experiences.

METHOD: Discussion based on three examples of selective use of historical sources on psychedelics.

RESULTS: This theme is of broader relevance to cultural history and scientific theory because we are typically dealing with religious practices that have traditionally been categorized as ‘magic’ and thereby classified in advance as irrational and potentially pathological. The article discusses three historical examples: the so-called Mithras Liturgy from Roman Egypt, early modern witches’ ointments, and spiritual use of hashish in the nineteenth century.

CONCLUSION: Established academics often deny the significance of psychedelics in visionary experiences. Discussion of pre-Enlightenment source material appears to be of considerable importance for the correct interpretation of important religious and cultural traditions. Critical empirical source research without prejudices or implicit agendas is the appropriate method.

Hanegraaff, W. J. (2020). Psychedelics in Western culture: unnecessary psychiatrisation of visionary experiences. Tijdschrift Voor Psychiatrie62(8), 713-720.
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Exploring ayahuasca‐assisted therapy for addiction: A qualitative analysis of preliminary findings among an Indigenous community in Canada

Abstract

Introduction and Aims

A previous observational study of ayahuasca‐assisted therapy demonstrated statistically significant reductions in self‐reported problematic cocaine use among members of an Indigenous community in Canada. This paper aims to qualitatively explore the impact of ayahuasca‐assisted therapy on addiction and other substance use‐related outcomes and elucidate the lived experiences of participants.

Design and Methods

Qualitative interviews were conducted with 11 adult Indigenous participants of the ayahuasca‐assisted ‘Working with Addiction and Stress’ ceremonial retreats (June–September 2011). Semi‐structured interviews assessed experiences of participants following the retreats at 6‐month follow up. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts was conducted.

Results

Narratives revealed that the retreats helped participants identify negative thought patterns and barriers related to their addiction in ways that differed from conventional therapies. All participants reported reductions in substance use and cravings; eight participants reported complete cessation of at least one substance at follow up. Increased connectedness with self, others and nature/spirit was described as a key element associated with reduced substance use and cravings.

Discussion and Conclusions

This analysis expands upon prior quantitative results highlighting the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca‐assisted therapy and provides important contextual insights into why ayahuasca‐assisted therapy may have been beneficial for members of an Indigenous community seeking to address their problematic use of substances. Given limited efficacy of conventional treatments for resolving addiction issues, further research should investigate the role of ayahuasca and other psychedelic‐assisted therapies in enhancing connectedness and other key factors that may improve well‐being and reduce harmful substance use

Argento, E., Capler, R., Thomas, G., Lucas, P., & Tupper, K. W. (2019). Exploring ayahuasca‐assisted therapy for addiction: A qualitative analysis of preliminary findings among an Indigenous community in Canada. Drug and alcohol review.

Transformative Psychopharmacology: the Case of 5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine

Abstract

Since the 2nd part of last century neo-shamanic rituals using mind-altering extracts from plants or animals have become increasingly popular in Europe and the USA. The first rituals coming to the west were based on drinking a special Amazonian tea, Ayahuasca, based on 2 different plants, with active compounds belonging to the class of the beta-carbolines (harmala alkaloids) and tryptamines. The use of such compounds will be described from the perspective of the transformative psychopharmacology: that part of psychopharmacology studying the use of psychoactive compounds to achieve a new balance, a transformation or healing and sometimes even leading to a cure. Examples of curing are meanwhile well documented, for instance the positive influence on drug abuse and addiction, alcoholism. The importance of the healing aspects of these rituals however are often neglected or overlooked. For users, these are key however. As medicine becomes more and more personalized and postmodern, it will be relevant to understand why patients and healthy people decide to participate in healing rituals based on psycho-active compounds. We will present the pharmacology, the transformative psychopharmacology, the effects and adverse events of 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) and its place in postmodern medicine.

Jan M Keppel Hesselink (2019) Transformative Psychopharmacology: the Case of 5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research – 1(3):9-15., 10.14302/issn.2574-612X.ijpr-18-2503
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Classic Psychedelics: An integrative review of epidemiology, mystical experience, brain network function, and therapeutics

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to provide an integrative review and offer novel insights regarding human research with classic psychedelics (classic hallucinogens), which are 5HT2AR agonists such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, and psilocybin. Classic psychedelics have been administered as sacraments since ancient times. They were of prominent interest within psychiatry and neuroscience in the 1950s to 1960s, and during this time contributed to the emergence of the field of molecular neuroscience. Promising results were reported for treatment of both end-of-life psychological distress and addiction, and classic psychedelics served as tools for studying the neurobiological bases of psychological disorders. Moreover, classic psychedelics were shown to occasion mystical experiences, which are subjective experiences reported throughout different cultures and religions involving a strong sense of unity, among other characteristics. However, the recreational use of classic psychedelics and their association with the counterculture prompted an end to human research with classic psychedelics in the early 1970s. We review recent therapeutic studies suggesting efficacy in treating psychological distress associated with life-threatening diseases, treating depression, and treating nicotine and alcohol addictions. We also describe the construct of mystical experience, and provide a comprehensive review of modern studies investigating classic psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences and their consequences. These studies have shown classic psychedelics to fairly reliably occasion mystical experiences. Moreover, classic psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences are associated with improved psychological outcomes in both healthy volunteer and patient populations. We also review neuroimaging studies that suggest neurobiological mechanisms of psychedelics. These studies have also broadened our understanding of the brain, the serotonin system, and the neurobiological basis of consciousness. Finally, we provide the most comprehensive review of epidemiological studies of classic psychedelics to date. Notable among these are a number of studies which have suggested the possibility that nonmedical naturalistic (non-laboratory) use of classic psychedelics is associated with positive mental health and prosocial outcomes, although it is clear that some individuals are harmed by classic psychedelics in non-supervised settings. Overall, these various lines of research suggest that classic psychedelics might hold strong potential as therapeutics, and as tools for experimentally investigating mystical experiences and behavioral-brain function more generally.

Johnson, M. W., Hendricks, P. S., Barrett, F. S., & Griffiths, R. R. (2018). Classic Psychedelics: An integrative review of epidemiology, mystical experience, brain network function, and therapeutics. Pharmacology & therapeutics., 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2018.11.010

 
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DARK Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Ibogaine.

Abstract

The West African iboga plant has been used for centuries by the Bwiti and Mbiri tribes to induce hallucinations during religious ceremonies. Ibogaine, the principal alkaloid responsible for iboga’s psychedelic properties, was isolated and sold as an antidepressant in France for decades before its adverse effects precipitated its removal from the market. An ibogaine resurgence in the 1960s was driven by U.S. heroin addicts who claimed that ibogaine cured their opiate addictions. Behavioral pharmacologic studies in animal models provided evidence that ibogaine could blunt self-administration of not only opiates but cocaine, amphetamines, and nicotine. Ibogaine displays moderate-to-weak affinities for a wide spectrum of receptor and transporter proteins; recent work suggests that its actions at nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes may underlie its reputed antiopiate effects. At micromolar levels, ibogaine is neurotoxic and cardiotoxic and has been linked to several deaths by cardiac arrest. Structure-activity studies led to the isolation of the ibogaine analog 18-methoxycoronaridine (18-MC), an α3β4 nicotinic receptor modulator that retains ibogaine’s anticraving properties with few or no adverse effects. Clinical trials of 18-MC treatment of nicotine addiction are pending. Ibogaine analogs may also hold promise for treating anxiety and depression via the “psychedelic-assisted therapy” approach that employs hallucinogens including psilocybin and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“ecstasy”).
Wasko, M. J., Witt-Enderby, P. A., & Surratt, C. K. (2018). DARK Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Ibogaine. ACS chemical neuroscience9(10), 2475-2483., 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00294
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Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Mescaline

Abstract

Archeological studies in the United States, Mexico, and Peru suggest that mescaline, as a cactus constituent, has been used for more than 6000 years. Although it is a widespread cactus alkaloid, it is present in high concentrations in few species, notably the North American peyote ( Lophophora williamsii) and the South American wachuma ( Trichocereus pachanoi, T. peruvianus, and T. bridgesii). Spanish 16th century chroniclers considered these cacti “diabolic”, leading to their prohibition, but their use persisted to our days and has been spreading for the last 150 years. In the late 1800s, peyote attracted scientific attention; mescaline was isolated, and its role in the psychedelic effects of peyote tops or “mescal buttons” was demonstrated. Its structure was established by synthesis in 1929, and alternative routes were developed, providing larger amounts for pharmacological and biosynthetic research. Although its effects are attributed mainly to its action as a 5-HT2Aserotonin receptor agonist, mescaline binds in a similar concentration range to 5-HT1A and α2A receptors. It is largely excreted unchanged in human urine, and its metabolic products are apparently unrelated to its psychedelic properties. Its low potency is probably responsible for its relative neglect by recreational substance users, as the successful search for structure-activity relationships in the hallucinogen field focused largely on finding more potent analogues. Renewed interest in the possible therapeutic applications of psychedelic drugs may hopefully lead to novel insights regarding the commonalities and differences between the actions of individual classic hallucinogens.
Cassels, B., & Sáez-Briones, P. (2018). Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Mescaline. ACS chemical neuroscience. 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00215
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Plant Knowledges: Indigenous Approaches and Interspecies Listening Toward Decolonizing Ayahuasca Research

Abstract

The ayahuasca research community is familiar with the concept of plant intelligences; however, they have yet to be adequately accounted for by commonly used research practices. This chapter is a call to examine the ontological and epistemological assumptions that underlie research practices and how these practices and assumptions may reinforce hierarchies of knowledge and animacy. The first part of this chapter describes some absences created by following a “methods as usual” approach when researching ayahuasca, based on ethnographic fieldwork at the World Ayahuasca Conference in 2016 (AYA2016). This highlights the need for researchers to acknowledge the methodological, disciplinary, and identity-based limitations on our abilities to produce and represent certain knowledges. Secondly, this chapter is a call to seriously and humbly engage with Indigenous sciences and epistemologies. This requires an honest reckoning with how research has contributed to colonial appropriation and marginalization of Indigenous knowledges. Indigenous ways of knowing have precedent for collaborating with teacher plants in producing knowledge and have much to contribute to discourse on multispecies perspectives. Lastly, I discuss possibilities for including multispecies sensibilities and Indigenous standpoints in research practices to create more collaborative and decolonial knowledges.

Dev, L. (2018). Plant Knowledges: Indigenous Approaches and Interspecies Listening Toward Decolonizing Ayahuasca Research. Plant Medicines, Healing and Psychedelic Science: Cultural Perspectives, 185-204. 10.1007/978-3-319-76720-8_11
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Bubbling with Controversy: Legal Challenges for Ceremonial Ayahuasca Circles in the United States

Abstract

The use of ayahuasca has been spreading rapidly worldwide; however, no current statistics are available to provide a comprehensive understanding of the scope or pace of this expansion. In the United States, the expansion has included the appearance of the Brazilian ayahuasca religions Santo Daime and União do Vegetal (UDV), underground ceremonial circles, workshops with itinerant Amazonian shamans, and spiritual retreat centers. This trend has included the recent emergence of groups and organizations that publicly advertise “legal” ayahuasca ceremonies and retreats. This chapter maps the existence of a series of organizations and actors who have controversially claimed legal protection through incorporation as “branches” of the Native American Church (NAC). The legality, religious character, and sincerity of these churches are reviewed in light of governing law, such as the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and pertinent court cases involving the UDV and the Santo Daime, as well as ethnographic accounts of the historical Native American Church. Finally, it examines a petition for a religious exemption from the CSA from Ayahuasca Healings and speculates on the possibilities of the future of ayahuasca legality in the United States.

Feeney, K., Labate, B. C., & Hudson, J. H. (2018). Bubbling with Controversy: Legal Challenges for Ceremonial Ayahuasca Circles in the United States. Plant Medicines, Healing and Psychedelic Science: Cultural Perspectives, 87-111. 10.1007/978-3-319-76720-8_6
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Undiscovering the Pueblo Mágico: Lessons from Huautla for the Psychedelic Renaissance

Abstract

The people of the Sierra Mazateca region of Mexico became internationally known in the 1950s for their ritual use of psilocybin mushrooms, and the Mazatec town of Huautla became a destination for mushroom seeking visitors. This chapter provides an overview of changing Mazatec and “outsider” discourses about mushrooms and the Sierra Mazateca over the last 60 years. It argues that “outsider” representations of the Sierra Mazateca and mushroom use—whether framed in terms of spiritual journeys or scientific research—tend to recapitulate some consistent patterns common to other forms of cultural tourism that owe more to the role of substances in marking distinctive cultural identities than to the effects of the substances themselves. It concludes by suggesting lessons from this history for the current moment, in which a discourse framing the use of psychedelic substances through universalizing narratives of science and individual health is becoming ascendant.

Feinberg, B. (2018). Undiscovering the Pueblo Mágico: Lessons from Huautla for the Psychedelic Renaissance. Plant Medicines, Healing and Psychedelic Science: Cultural Perspectives, 37-54. 10.1007/978-3-319-76720-8_3
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