A pinboard by
A S M Mainul Hasan

A current PhD student in Molecular Plant Genetics who has a masters in Agrobiotechnology


What science is actually being amalgamated from the amazonic Banisteriopsis caapi vine?

Ayahuasca is a popular tea being prepared by the indigenous people in South America since 5000 BC in order to raise spirit and consciousness. Ayahuasca means “vines with a soul” in the local Quechua languages of Latin America.

One of the most common way of preparing such a drink is to boil vines of an Amazonic plant Banisteriopsis caapi (Ayahuasca) together with leaves of Psychotria viridis (chacruna) or rootbark of Mimosa tenuiflora (Jurema) which contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) present in B. cappi makes DMT active and is needed for downstream psychotherapeutic action of the mixture. Various receptor sites in the brain are triggered as the DMT passes through the stomach and small intestine membranes upon inhibition of MAO by harmaline alkaloids (belonging to beta carbolines) of B. cappi.

Psychedelic medicines are known to reduce suicidal thoughts, severe anxiety and emotional collapse among mentally distressed patients. Therefore, ayahuasca has gained popularity in the western countries due to its medicinal properties in the recent past. Based on physiology of the drinker, effects of ayahuasca starts within 30 minutes of consumption that may last from 4-8 hours. Initially, the person could feel like vomiting which is seen positive among the indigenous people as the body gets rid of toxins and germs through such process. The traditional shamans (brewers) of South America use ayahuasca in order to find out the illness of the person at the spiritual level. In most cases, people use it to increase their psychotropic sensation, which ultimately results in enhanced visual imaginations and hearing. Such a state of mind creates feelings of self-reflection with subtlety and assists the person to gain an affirmative energy through confrontation with his/her greatest fears or depression. Besides, studies have shown that ayahuasca reduces conventional convergent thinking whereby stimulates creative divergent thinking. Moreover, the chemical properties of ayahuasca is being viewed as a tool for cancer treatment which could contract rapid growth rate of aberrant cells and flow of blood into such cancerous cells through activation of apoptotic process and alteration of energetic metabolic disparity within the cells.

To conclude, the potentiality of ayahuasca as a cure of clinical diseases definitely looks promising, but further research is needed before its full fledged pharmacological exploitation in modern time.


Ayahuasca: Pharmacology, neuroscience and therapeutic potential.

Abstract: Ayahuasca is the Quechua name for a tea obtained from the vine Banisteriopsis caapi, and used for ritual purposes by the indigenous populations of the Amazon. The use of a variation of the tea that combines B. caapi with the leaves of the shrub Psychotria viridis has experienced unprecedented expansion worldwide for its psychotropic properties. This preparation contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) from P. viridis, plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine-oxidase-inhibiting properties from B. caapi. Acute administration induces a transient modified state of consciousness characterized by introspection, visions, enhanced emotions and recollection of personal memories. A growing body of evidence suggests that ayahuasca may be useful to treat substance use disorders, anxiety and depression. Here we review the pharmacology and neuroscience of ayahuasca, and the potential psychological mechanisms underlying its therapeutic potential. We discuss recent findings indicating that ayahuasca intake increases certain mindfulness facets related to acceptance and to the ability to take a detached view of one's own thoughts and emotions. Based on the available evidence, we conclude that ayahuasca shows promise as a therapeutic tool by enhancing self-acceptance and allowing safe exposure to emotional events. We postulate that ayahuasca could be of use in the treatment of impulse-related, personality and substance use disorders and also in the handling of trauma. More research is needed to assess the full potential of ayahuasca in the treatment of these disorders.

Pub.: 16 Mar '16, Pinned: 10 May '17

Ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking while decreasing conventional convergent thinking.

Abstract: Ayahuasca is a South American psychotropic plant tea traditionally used in Amazonian shamanism. The tea contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine oxidase-inhibiting properties. Increasing evidence from anecdotal reports and open-label studies indicates that ayahuasca may have therapeutic effects in treatment of substance use disorders and depression. A recent study on the psychological effects of ayahuasca found that the tea reduces judgmental processing and inner reactivity, classic goals of mindfulness psychotherapy. Another psychological facet that could potentially be targeted by ayahuasca is creative divergent thinking. This mode of thinking can enhance and strengthen psychological flexibility by allowing individuals to generate new and effective cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies. The present study aimed to assess the potential effects of ayahuasca on creative thinking.We visited two spiritual ayahuasca workshops and invited participants to conduct creativity tests before and during the acute effects of ayahuasca. In total, 26 participants consented. Creativity tests included the "pattern/line meanings test" (PLMT) and the "picture concept test" (PCT), both assessing divergent thinking and the latter also assessing convergent thinking.While no significant effects were found for the PLMT, ayahuasca intake significantly modified divergent and convergent thinking as measured by the PCT. While convergent thinking decreased after intake, divergent thinking increased.The present data indicate that ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking. They suggest that ayahuasca increases psychological flexibility, which may facilitate psychotherapeutic interventions and support clinical trial initiatives.

Pub.: 21 Jul '16, Pinned: 10 May '17

Bringing ayahuasca to the clinical research laboratory.

Abstract: Since the winter of 1999, the authors and their research team have been conducting clinical studies involving the administration of ayahuasca to healthy volunteers. The rationale for conducting this kind of research is twofold. First, the growing interest of many individuals for traditional indigenous practices involving the ingestion of natural psychotropic drugs such as ayahuasca demands the systematic study of their pharmacological profiles in the target species, i.e., human beings. The complex nature of ayahuasca brews combining a large number of pharmacologically active compounds requires that research be carried out to establish the safety and overall pharmacological profile of these products. Second, the authors believe that the study of psychedelics in general calls for renewed attention. Although the molecular and electrophysiological level effects of these drugs are relatively well characterized, current knowledge of the mechanisms by which these compounds modify the higher order cognitive processes in the way they do is still incomplete, to say the least. The present article describes the development of the research effort carried out at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, commenting on several methodological aspects and reviewing the basic clinical findings. It also describes the research currently underway in our laboratory, and briefly comments on two new studies we plan to undertake in order to further our knowledge of the pharmacology of ayahuasca.

Pub.: 10 Sep '05, Pinned: 10 May '17

Ayahuasca and cancer treatment.

Abstract: Comprehensively review the evidence regarding the use of ayahuasca, an Amerindian medicine traditionally used to treat many different illnesses and diseases, to treat some types of cancer.An in-depth review of the literature was conducted using PubMed, books, institutional magazines, conferences and online texts in nonprofessional sources regarding the biomedical knowledge about ayahuasca in general with a specific focus in its possible relations to the treatment of cancer.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.The proposed model, based on the molecular and cellular biology of ayahuasca's known active components and the available clinical reports, suggests that these accounts may have consistent biological underpinnings. Further study of ayahuasca's possible antitumor effects is important because cancer patients continue to seek out this traditional medicine. Consequently, based on the social and anthropological observations of the use of this brew, suggestions are provided for further research into the safety and efficacy of ayahuasca as a possible medicinal aid in the treatment of cancer.

Pub.: 01 Jan '13, Pinned: 10 May '17