Learn about 5 of the most well-known plants that contain the powerful psychedelic compound DMT, their traditional use, and potential benefits.
Overview: DMT, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in various plants and animals, including humans, has been used in shamanic traditions for centuries. To activate its effects, DMT must be combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) as seen in the ayahuasca brew. Pure DMT can be obtained from plants and used for smoking or making pharmahuasca and changa. Recent research suggests DMT's therapeutic potential for certain mental health conditions. Various DMT-containing plants, such as Psychotria viridis, Diplopterys cabrerana, Psychotria carthagenensis, Mimosa tenuiflora, and Anadenanthera peregrina, are traditionally used, each with its own characteristics and DMT content. However, caution should be exercised, considering the risks and legalities associated with DMT and its plant sources.
DMT or N, N-Dimethyltryptamine is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound that can be found in many plants and animals, including humans. Some DMT-containing plants have been ingested as part of shamanic traditions for thousands of years.
DMT is orally inactive and must be combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) — a type of compound that works by inhibiting the activity of the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which is responsible for breaking down DMT — to promote its absorption into the bloodstream, as is the case with the Amazonian beverage ayahuasca.
In ayahuasca, DMT-containing plants are typically combined with the stem of the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and other ingredients to create a psychedelic decoction that is used for shamanic and spiritual purposes.
Pure crystalized DMT can be easily obtained from natural DMT plant sources using certain chemistry extraction techniques. Crystalized DMT can be smoked, snorted, and used to make pharmahuasca — the pharmaceutical version of ayahuasca — or changa — a blend of smokable herbs spiked with DMT. While it is possible to extract DMT from certain plants and create a potent enough preparation to induce a psychedelic experience, it can be difficult to do so safely and accurately, and such practices may be illegal in some jurisdictions.
Beyond its natural occurrence, DMT can also be produced synthetically. German-Canadian chemist Richard Manske conducted the original synthesis in 1931 before Hungarian psychiatrist Stephen Szara discovered DMT’s psychedelic properties when he injected it into himself in 1956, afterward describing a visionary experience consisting of “moving, brilliantly colored oriental motifs.”
Recent research has indicated promising evidence suggesting that DMT may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of certain mental health conditions.
No one knows for sure how long DMT plants have been used throughout history. Some anthropologists suggest that DMT has been ritually consumed for at least 5,000 years, asserting that ancient artistic creations, such as cave paintings, may have been at least partially inspired by DMT-induced visionary experiences.
Mentioned below are some of the most popular plant sources of DMT.
Psychotria viridis or chacruna as it is commonly called is a plant species native to Central and South America, known for its use as a source of DMT. The plant's large, green leaves contain significant amounts of DMT and have been used in traditional South American shamanic practices, including the preparation of the ayahuasca brew.
In traditional use, the leaves of chacruna are combined with the ayahuasca vine Banisteriopsis caapi and boiled to create the ayahuasca. The DMT present in chacruna and the MAOIs found in B. caapi work synergistically to produce a 4-8 hour-long psychedelic experience. MAOIs prevent the otherwise rapid degradation of DMT, facilitating its absorption in the body.
Typically, the dried leaves of chacruna contain between 0.1% and 1% DMT. However, the exact amount of DMT in a particular sample of the plant can only be determined through laboratory analysis.
Diplopterys cabrerana, also known as chaliponga, is a species of climbing shrub native to the Amazon region of South America. Chaliponga is sometimes used as a substitute for Chacruna in traditional ayahuasca preparations.
Typically, the dried leaves of chaliponga contain between 0.1% and 0.5% DMT. The leaves also contain several other psychoactive compounds, including 5-MeO-DMT — a psychedelic compound found in the venom of the Colorado River toad — bufotenine, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
Due to the presence of other powerful psychoactive molecules in the leaves, chaliponga may not be the optimal source for DMT extraction. Nevertheless, it is a common ingredient in some changa recipes as it helps to somewhat emulate an ayahuasca experience.
Psychotria carthagenensis, also known as amyruca, is a species of South American rainforest shrub in the coffee family, Rubiaceae. Like chaliponga, amyruca is often referred to as a “compañero” (companion plant) as it may be used in the preparation of ayahuasca in place of its close relative, chacruna, though its use is less common.
Amyruca is also used in traditional medicine for a variety of other purposes, including treating digestive problems, skin conditions, and fevers.
Interestingly, amyruca was bred with chacruna by a scientist named Darren Williams resulting in a new plant called Nexus which was created in 2008 and is currently sold by a plant nursery called Herbalistics. It has been reported that this new plant may have some advantages over the original plants, including being better able to tolerate cold temperatures, growing faster, and having a higher amount of DMT. .
Mimosa tenuiflora, syn. Mimosa hostilis, also known as Jurema, is a species of perennial tree native to South America also known for its use as a source of DMT which can be extracted from its root bark. In fact, the first time DMT was isolated from a plant source in 1946 by Brazilian chemist and ethnobotanist Gonçalves de Lima, he used jurema.
The root bark of jurema has been used in traditional shamanic and indigenous medicinal practices in South America and is considered to be one of the most commonly used natural sources of DMT for the purpose of making a healing water extract decoction that is primarily used by indigenous cultures in northeastern Brazil. Jurema is also commonly used for DMT extraction due to the relative ease at which large quantities of the drug can be obtained.
Typically, the dried root bark of jurema contains between 0.3% and 1% DMT. Interestingly, although we know that jurema is used in conjunction with other plants, there have yet to be any detections of MAOI alkaloids in jurema decoctions, which presents a challenge to understanding the pharmacological process enabling oral activation of the DMT.
Preliminary studies have suggested that certain other compounds found in jurema may have medicinal properties. The root bark of the tree has been used in traditional South American medicine as a treatment for wounds, as an anti-inflammatory agent, for pain relief (specifically tooth pain), and has shown potential in one clinical study to treat venous leg ulcerations.
The beans of the perennial tree Anadenanthera peregrina, used in a psychoactive snuff called yopo, also contain trace amounts of DMT. A. peregrina is native to the Caribbean and South America, specifically in the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela.
The use of yopo as a mind-altering substance in South America appears to date back at least 4,000 years. Pipes made from puma bone were found with Anadenanthera beans at a site in Argentina called Inca Cueva. Radiocarbon dating of the material suggests that this use of Anadenanthera beans dates back to around 2130 BC.
In traditional settings, yopo seeds are roasted and turned into a powder known as cohoba, which is then snorted.
The exact DMT content of the beans is not well documented and can vary widely depending on the age of the plant, growing conditions, and other factors. Some studies have reported trace amounts of DMT in the beans, while others have found none.
The feasibility of extracting DMT from yopo seeds is uncertain and it is unlikely to result in significant yields compared to other commonly used plants like M. hostilis or P. viridis.
As you can see, DMT is present in a whole host of interesting plants, many of which, like the constituents of ayahuasca, for example, have a long history of traditional medicinal and shamanic usage. Many DMT-containing plants are of crucial cultural and spiritual importance in indigenous societies, particularly those indigenous to South and Central America, where they have reportedly been used sacramentally for thousands of years.
It is important to note, however, that regardless of the source or method of consumption, consuming DMT without proper understanding and caution carries important risks. If one is interested or feels called to experiment with DMT or DMT-containing plants, it is strongly advised that one prepare meticulously, and experiment informedly by researching potential risks and benefits.
Additionally, the legality of acquiring plants that contain DMT varies based on geographical location. In some areas where DMT is illegal, it may still be possible to purchase DMT-containing plants as long as they are not being used for extracting DMT or creating psychedelic substances like ayahuasca. For example, it is illegal in many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, to possess or use DMT or plants that contain it.
However, laws regarding these plants can be complex and open to interpretation, and it is possible to face prosecution even if possessing the plants is not explicitly prohibited by law.
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