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Ayahuasca: alkaloids, plants & analogs
assembled by Keeper of the Trout
Section 2 :
Ayahuasca: The Reported MAOI Source Plants

    Banisteriopsis caapi and Banisteriopsis inebrians are the most commonly used source plants for brewing ayahuasca.

    The alkaloid content of B. inebrians is similar to B. caapi but differences have been noted. Expert taxonomists usually consider them identical species. More work is needed.

    For most intents and purposes ayahuasca, caapi and yagé are synonymous although the composition/ definition of the drink may vary substantially from one area, or even practitioner, to the next.

    [For example: The Shuar in the Peruvian Amazon recognize 3 types: red, black and white; based on color of the resulting beverage.(Schultes 1986a)]

    The most common forms incorporate the stems or stem-bark of Banisteriopsis caapi or Banisteriopsis inebrians combined with the leaves of a Psychotria spp. or Diplopterys cabrerana. The first plants contain alkaloids such as harmine (nonhallucinogenic) and the second contain DMT (hallucinogenic) which is orally active only in the presence of MAO inhibiting compounds such as harmine.

    We should diverge for a moment:
    The above comment very much depends on what the definition of a hallucinogen is.

    For the largest part a generalization can be made;

    If experienced with hallucinogens: Harmine and/or harmaline is not a hallucinogen; If not experienced with hallucinogens: Harmine and/or harmaline is a hallucinogen.

    There are a few quite notable exceptions such as Albert Most, Claudio Naranjo and Richard Evans Schultes but the difference is one of semantics; namely how they define that pesky misnomer "hallucinogen".

    Harmine and harmaline enhance closed eye imagery and contemplative states of awareness but they are clearly not `hallucinogenic' in the sense that DMT is. They do show mildly hallucinogenic effects at extremely high doses (when somatic distress is also nearing a maximum. This worker's highest point of reference was 15 grams of Peganum harmala seeds; vomiting was projectile.). Even when used at such high levels, they still do not approach what an average dose of DMT will do.

    Even in the case of DMT and LSD it can be argued that neither is a true hallucinogen as a sane and/or informed subject is usually aware what he is seeing is produced by the drug and not physically present. (This qualification is made as a psychotic individual or someone to whom the drug is surreptitiously given might well be exceptions.)

    A true hallucination is generally perceived and believed (at least transiently) to be real by its observer.