What is Ayahuasca Made Of?
In order to undergo the spiritual “trip” associated with consuming ayahuasca tea, the brew must include components of both the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and a leaf (commonly P. viridis or Diplopterys cabrerana). It is likely that the synergistic effect of these plant compounds was discovered somewhat accidentally and was refined to make the drug used in shamanic ceremonies.
The compound that is responsible for the hallucinogenic effect of ayahuasca is dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Pharmacologically, DMT is a serotonin receptor agonist, meaning that it is interpreted by the brain as serotonin. For DMT to exert its psychoactive properties, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) must be present to prevent the rapid breakdown of DMT.
During processing, DMT is extracted from the leaves of P. viridis or other plant species, and MAOIs are extracted from the B. caapi vine. Although both of these compounds are found endogenously in the human body, artificially manipulating the levels of DMT or MAOIs can cause serious complications.