Ayahuasca to Pharmahuasca to Anahuasca
Copyright © 2001, Jonathan Ott
All Rights Reserved / Reproduced by Permission
Scientific study of the South American shamanic potion ayahuasca commenced in the mid-19th century, and by 1970 had clarified its botany and chemistry. Stems of the major source-plant, Banisteriopsis caapi, imbued the brews with P-carboline alkaloids, especially harmine. This is an inhibitor of the enzyme monoamine oxidase (an MAOI), and itself a Valium like sedative. Numerous medicinal plants are combined with B. caapi extracts, including the most important South American shamanic inebriants: Nicotiana tabacum (nicotine); Erythroxylum coca (cocaine); and Brugmansia species (scopolamine), among others. Given contemporary fixation on psychoptic tryptainines, especially N,N-DimethylTryptamine (DMT), research has focused on various leafen additives especially amirucapanga or chacruna, Psychotria viridis, which endow B. caapi potions with this potent entheogen. Inasmuch as DMT is inactive orally in human beings at doses up to one gram, and such potions contained merely 2 5-35 Mg DMT per dose, it was suggested the MAOI harmine also present in the potions served to inhibit metabolism of DMT by MAO, so allowing it’s transport to the brain, thus accounting for the fantastic visionary experiences catalysed by them. However, 26 years passed before this intriguing theory was put to the only valid test – human psychonautic bioassays. In I993 I published the first rigorous and comprehensive bioassays of PHARMAHUASCA – pure harmine in combination with pure DMT, showing conclusively that amounts typically found in the potions (average of 175mg harmine-alkaloids plus 29mg DMT) indeed provoked visionary DMT-activity orally, and neatly accounted for the ethnopharmacognosy of these particular potions. This ‘psychonautic modeling’ of B.caapi + P. viridis potions is presently being extended to study interactions of harmine with nicotine, cocaine, scopolamine and other psychotropic alkaloids from other plants likewise combined with Banisteriopsis [Ott 1993,1994, 1999].
The term PHARMAHUASCA has now entered scientific and everyday language, and I am about to publish my psychonautic modeling of kindred shamanic snuffs: PHARMEPÉNA (epéna or Virola snuff: harmine + 5-methoxy-N,N-DMT); PHARMAÑOPO(ñopo or Anadenanthera snuff. harmine + bufotenine or 5-hydroxy-N,N-DMT); PHARMAMBÍL (ambíl or Nicotiana pastes/snuffs: harmine + nicotine) [Ott 2000A, 2000B, 2OOOC, 2OOOD]. Only via human bioassays (which, ethically, must be self-experiments) can we hope to understand shamanic inebriant pharmacology, and optimize it for adaptation to non-traditional use, whether therapeutic or ludible.
Exemplary of this is ANAHUASCA or ANAlogues of ayaHUASCA. Understanding now the basic pharmacology underlying oral activity of DMT in shamanic potions, and studying the extensive phytochemical literature, we can conceive of combinations of other plants which can give the so-called ayahuasca-effect. This is so because we now know some 74 plants from I4 familes (mainly the pea-family, Leguminosæ; the citrus-family, Rutaceæ; the nutmeg-family, Myristicaceæ; and the grass-family, Gramineæ)-including even a seaweed!-to contain DMT and/or its close cousin, 5-methoxy-DMT, the latter likewise shown orally-active in combination with harmine in PHARMAHUASCA. A similar number of plants from 19 families are known to contain harmine or another maoi ß-carboline, and more plants from both categories are being discovered each year (in 1994, when I published Ayahuasca Analogues, there were 61 species known to contain DMT or 5-MEO-DMT; my 1999 revisions for a Castillian translation lists 13 more, mostly discovered in the intervening 5 years!).
Accordingly, visionary ANAHUASCA has now been made with non-traditional plants from various continents and ecosystems, some legal and cheaply available commercially, such as seeds of peganum harmala, which contain some 10-fold more MAOI harmine-alkaloids than do stems of banisteriopsis. Numerous plants have been employed successfully as tryptamine-sources, the most popular being mimosa tenuiflora orjuremapreta (= M hostilis), root-bark ofwhich contains at least 5-fold the DMT-content of psychotria viridis leaves-this has been marketed worldwide since 1996, specifically for preparing ANAHUASCA. Finally, our understanding of the synergy between natural maoi alkaloids and DMT in ayahuasca has led to successful use of medicinal maoi in PHARMAHUASCA preparations – notably isocarboxazide, Marplano and moclobemide, Aurorix.We have here a sterling example of the felicitous combination of modern chemical science and archaic shamanic science, in keeping with my exhortation of 1993:
May the shaman and the scientist now join hands and work together … may the psychonaut henceforth be accepted and cherished as a brave explorer of the great unknown, beyond yet somehow within, as vast and uncharted (and fraught with peril) as the trackless voids of interstellar space!
1 Ott, J. I993. Pharmaeotheon: Entheogenic Drugs, their Plant Sources and history. Natural Products Co., Kennewick, WA, USA
2 Ott, J. I994. Ayahuasca Analogues. Pangtan Entheogens. Natural Products Co., Kennewick, WA, USA
3 Ott, J. 1999. Pharmahuasca: Human pharmacology of oral DMT plus harmine, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 31(2): I7I-177.
4 Ott, J. 2000A. Shamanic Snuffs or Entheogenic Errhines. Entheobotanica, Solothurn, Switzerland.
5 Ott, J. 2OOOB. Pharmañopo-psychonautics: Human intranasal, sublingual, intrarectal, intravaginal, pulmonary and oral pharmacology of bufotenine. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, in press.
6 Ott, J. 2000C. Pharmepéna-psychonautics: Human intranasal, sublingual and oral pharmacology of 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, in press.
7 Ott, J. 2OOOD. Pharmambíl-psychonautics: Human intranasal, sublingual and pulmonary pharmacology of nicotine. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, in press.