DMT in Ayahuasca

Image retrieved from Banisteriopsis caapi on December 29, 2012.

"Ayahuasca is highly sophisticated jungle chemistry. The Amazonion potion usually consists of two ingredients, the bark of the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi, which grows in thick double-helix-shaped coils around rain forest trees) and the leaves of Psychotria viridis or some other plant. The vine contains a class of psychoactive and sedating drugs called beta-carbolines, which include harmine and harmaline. The leaves have dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in them,a highly potent hallucinogen that is also produced within the human body, found in the base of the spine and the brain. Although powerful when extracted and smoked, DMT is not orally active. Monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes in the gut breaks down before it reaches the brain. You can eat pounds of the stuff without feeling any effect. However, the beta-carbolines in the vine are natural MAO inhibitors, which mean they allow the DMT to work. The ayahuasca brew, according to Santo Daime, a Brazilian religion that takes yage as its sacrament, is a combination of the "force" of the vine and the "light" of the leaves.
DMT, smoked alone, creates a rapid-fire visionary experience, an overwhelming immersion in an extremely alien world that lasts less than ten minutes. the beta-carbolines, taken alone, create subtle, monochromatic hallucinations that are soft, warm and humanized. A friend of mine described seeing compassionate maternal faces floating above him after a strong dose. Mixed together in the ayahuasca brew, the beta-carbolines seem to have a pacifying and humanizing effect on the DMT visions, acting like an interface, and they stretch the experience out from a few minutes to a few hours. It is unknown how Indians, living among hundreds of thousands of plants in the forest, learned to combine these botanical ingredients, which are usually boiled together for several hours. The Indians say that the ayahuasca vine taught them how to do it."

-140-141 Breaking Open The Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism by Daniel Pinchbeck (2002)

Banisteriopsis caapi, ayahuasca, DMT