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Q: I am interested in ayahuasca and I am wondering what the differences are between using Psychotria viridis and Mimosa tenuiflora (= M. hostilis) in brew preparations. Most of the experiences posted on the Erowid site seem to be by those who used M. tenuiflora. Can you tell me what the differences are between these two plants as ayahuasca ingredients?

A: Both P. viridis leaves and M. tenuiflora root bark ("MTRB" in analogy with the commonly used "MHRB" for "Mimosa hostilis root bark") contain the entheogenic principle N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Published analyses of the DMT content in P. viridis leaves have reported between 0.0% and 0.34% DMT,1 while analyses of MTRB have found a DMT range from 1% to 11%.2 Neither plant has yet been found to contain 5-HO-DMT (bufotenine) or 5-MeO-DMT, two psychoactive substances that often accompany DMT in tryptamine-containing plants but have distinct effects. So, at first glance, one might expect the effects of ayahuasca analogues made using these two sources of DMT to be quite similar. Experience reports on Erowid seem to bear out that there is no apparent difference in the character of the psychoactivity of brews made from P. viridis and M. tenuiflora. A likely reason that more reports describe experiences with MTRB is that it is usually less expensive per dose than P. viridis.

One difference between these DMT-source plants is that MTRB typically contains high levels of tannins, and therefore may induce more nausea and vomiting than P. viridis leaves. Some people report ingesting capsules of ground MTRB to avoid the bitter taste of the tannins, but Jonathan Ott points out that the traditional use of water extractions of MTRB does not constitute proof that the roots or their bark are themselves safe for direct consumption, since the extraction process may separate out non-water-soluble toxins.3 In one example, Ott reports that a colleague experienced toxic effects from ingesting ground MTRB and no such effects after ingesting an extract of the same batch of material.

Unlike P. viridis and other traditional DMT sources in ayahuasca, MTRB has been reported by Ott to be orally active even without the addition of an MAO inhibitor (MAOI).2,4 Ott conjectures that MTRB may contain an unknown non-ß-carboline MAOI or some other, as yet unidentified, psychoactive substance(s). Vinho da jurema, an entheogenic beverage used traditionally in Brazil, is prepared from a cold water extract of MTRB without the inclusion of an additional known MAOI-containing constituent. Some have hypothesized that the beverage must have, at one point, included an MAOI-containing plant that was ultimately lost. However, Ott suggests that vinho da jurema may never have included an MAOI, given the oral activity of simple MTRB extracts and the lack of any solid evidence that an MAOI constituent was traditionally used.2

Indeed, in 2005, Vepsäläinen et al. reported the isolation of a novel phytoindole from the stem bark of Mimosa tenuiflora.5 Dubbed "yuremamine", Vepsäläinen et al. suggest this substance may be an inhibitor of MAO, which could explain the oral activity of M. tenuiflora, but as of October 2007 this has yet to be confirmed.6 While yuremamine’s pharmacology is not yet known, Ott has reported the effects of a cold water extract of MTRB alone to be "quite distinctly visionary and pharmahuasca-DMT-like" and David Aardvark described it as being "indistinguishable from smoked DMT".4 However, not all investigators report definite oral activity from MTRB. Forays by Dale Pendell into the consumption of MTRB extracts without an additional MAOI produced only nausea, and no visionary effects.7 If cold water extracts of MTRB are fully effective, Pendell questions why "a wave of ecstatic and confirmatory reports [] have not materialized".

Another difference between the use of P. viridis and MTRB is that harvesting the leaves of P. viridis rarely endangers the plant, while harvesting M. tenuiflora root bark can lead to the plant’s death. In fact, one of the goals of Vepsäläinen et al. was to demonstrate the potential usefulness of the stem bark, because of concerns that harvesting root bark may damage the plant.6 Although M. tenuiflora stem bark has been reported to contain merely 0.03% DMT,8 there are indications that these results may under-represent the amount of DMT normally present.6 Analysis of additional samples from several regions is needed to better characterize the alkaloid content.

Regardless, concerns expressed by some authors about potential over-harvesting of M. tenuiflora may be outdated, since it appears that much of the MTRB available on the international market is either wild-harvested in a sustainable manner within its large range (it grows from Mexico to South America), or cultivated on farms specifically for resale. Maurice de Graaf of Maya Ethnobotanicals describes that, of their two suppliers, one uses a plantation and the other harvests wild M. tenuiflora by "selecting mature trees/bushes, digging the roots only from the sunny side, and leaving a majority of the base roots intact. A few weeks after the harvest, new shoots grow from the cut roots and the shoots are commonly cut and replanted nearby."9

Further complicating these issues, not all M. tenuiflora sold in North American and European markets is correctly identified. Some of the botanical material sold as MTRB may be from an active related species, Mimosa verrucosa, which also has a history of traditional use in South America. According to one knowledgeable ethnobotanical vendor, a majority of what is sold on the international market as MTRB may be something else: "I know of at least five huge [MTRB growing] operations. I have obtained seed from three of these farms and none of the seed turned out to be M. hostilis [tenuiflora]. [] There is ample speculation that it is indeed M. verrucosa. If my guesses are correct, this material would account for over 80% of the MTRB currently on the market in 2007."10

Personal cultivation of traditional ayahuasca plants and adjuncts, such as Mimosa tenuiflora, Psychotria viridis, Diplopterys cabrerana, and Banisteriopsis caapi, can alleviate the above concerns, promote self-reliance, and facilitate the formation of relationships with the plants. Indeed, these issues are what prompted Jonathan Ott to write Ayahuasca Analogues11 and K. Trout to write Ayahuasca: Alkaloids, Plants & Analogs.12

References #

Revision History #

Asked By : raggaMuffin
Answered By : Zhah & Erowid
Published Date : 1 / 14 / 2008
Last Edited Date : 11 / 12 / 2009
Question ID : 1773

Categories: [ Ayahuasca ] [ Mimosa hostilis ] [ Psychotria viridis ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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