Ayahuasca(Vine of the Dead)
Found all over Amazonia, this vine, when cooked with other leaves, can be made into a brew containing the hallucinogenic alkaloids harmaline, harmine, and often N,N-dimethyltryptamine(n,nDMT). Supposedly, those who take this concoction are bestowed with the ability to commune with spirits, diagnose illness, treat disease, and even predict the future.
This medicine has been used for millennia in order to enter the sacred supernatural world, to heal, divine, and worship. The shamanic use of ayahuasca is to diagnose the nature of the patient's illness through distortion of their energy pattern, which can be seen after consumption of the ayahuasca brew. The patient would then be treated by massage or hydrotherapy.
The main ingredients of the Ayahuasca (or Yage) brew are the bark and stems of Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca), the source of harmine and harmaline and the leaves of Psychotria viridis (chacruna), the source of N, N-dimethyl-tryptamine, or DMT. There may be variations among plant species, but the alkaloids are always consistent.
The Science Behind the Magical Brew:
Neither one of these plant substances is psychoactive by itself, but DMT is orally active in combination with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. This principle is precisely what makes ayahuasca effective; the harmala alkaloids in the ayahuasca vine are short term MAO inhibitors which synergize with the DMT-containing chacruna leaves, so that DMT passes through the digestive tract and makes its way to the brain. The structure of DMT is very similar to that of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter, so there is confusion in the brain, which results in a state of transcendent emotion and psychedelic hallucinations.
The Future of Ayahuasca:
Various MAO-inhibitors are used in western medicine as anti-depressants, so ayahuasca could be developed for pharmaceutical use, once further research into the psychotherapeutic benefits of tryptamines has been done. Also, ayahuasca could help with research into the biochemistry of consciousness and the genetics of pathological brain function.
All in all, ayahuasca is a unique plant-based medicine. The fact that its traditional use by Amazonian Indians has survived centuries of western influence is testimony to the central role it plays in their lives. To them it is the supreme medicine, and a true gift from the gods. Harmine (7-methoxy-1-methyl-b-carboline)