OPEN Foundation

Close this search box.

Gas chromatographic analysis of dimethyltryptamine and beta-carboline alkaloids in ayahuasca, an Amazonian psychoactive plant beverage

Share This Post


Introduction: Ayahuasca is obtained by infusing the pounded stems of Banisteriopsis caapi in combination with the leaves of Psychotria viridis. P. viridis is rich in the psychedelic indole N,N-dimethyltryptamine, whereas B. caapi contains substantial amounts of β-carboline alkaloids, mainly harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine, which are monoamine-oxidase inhibitors. Because of differences in composition in ayahuasca preparations, a method to measure their main active constituents is needed.

Objective: To develop a gas chromatographic method for the simultaneous determination of dimethyltryptamine and the main β-carbolines found in ayahuasca preparations.

Methodology: The alkaloids were extracted by means of solid phase extraction (C18) and detected by gas chromatography with nitrogen/phosphorous detector.

Results: The lower limit of quantification (LLOQ) was 0.02 mg/mL for all analytes. The calibration curves were linear over a concentration range of 0.02–4.0 mg/mL (r2 > 0.99). The method was also precise (RSD < 10%).

Conclusion: A simple gas chromatographic method to determine the main alkaloids found in ayahuasca was developed and validated. The method can be useful to estimate administered doses in animals and humans for further pharmacological and toxicological investigations of ayahuasca.

Pires, A. P. S., De Oliveira, C. D. R., Moura, S., Dörr, F. A., Silva, W. A. E., & Yonamine, M. (2009). Gas chromatographic analysis of dimethyltryptamine and β‐carboline alkaloids in ayahuasca, an amazonian psychoactive plant beverage. Phytochemical Analysis, 20(2), 149-153. 10.1002/pca.1110
Link to full text

OPEN Foundation

Join ICPR 2022 Online!

ICPR features world-leading experts from many academic disciplines, including psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, ethnobotany, and philosophy who come together to give a scientific conference for academics, therapists, researchers, clinicians, policymakers, and members of the public. Get your ICPR 2022 livestream ticket today and use the code OPENLIVE30 at checkout for a €30 discount.

Learn More


Subscribe to our new OPEN-Minded newsletter to stay in the loop, hear about our events, and become a part of a community dedicated to advancing psychedelics.

By clicking subscribe, I confirm to receive emails from the OPEN Foundation and agree with its privacy policy.

16 July - NDE's and Psychedelic Experiences: Commonalities & Insights