A Snapshot of Medical Research on Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca has been recognized as a medicinal healing agent for thousands of years by indigenous cultures along the Amazon River. Western research regarding potential therapeutic effects of ayahuasca has taken off over the past 15 years, and although still evolving, numerous studies have suggested that ayahuasca has the potential to produce a range of health and well-being effects.
Research to date, for example, has suggested possible effects including:
- Reductions in depression, anxiety and minor psychiatric symptoms (Anderson 2012; Grob et al. 1996; Barbosa et al. 2009; Rodd 2008)
- Reductions in the incidence of anxiety and depression (Fortunato et al. 2010; Da Silveira et al. 2005; Halpern et al. 2008)
- A beneficial role in overcoming trauma, panic, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Barbosa et al. 2012)
- Assistance in overcoming drug addictions (de Rios et al. 2002; Liester & Prickett 2012; Halpern et al. 2008; Fábregas et al. 2010)
- increased confidence, optimism and independence (Barbosa et al. 2009)
- Increased assertiveness (Barbosa et al. 2005; Harris & Gurel 2012)
- Improvements in overall psychological wellbeing (Bouso et al. 2012; Barbosa et al. 2009; Grob et al. 1996)
- changes in mood including being more calm, peaceful, compassionate, and loving, as well as feeling less judgemental, kinder, more grateful (Harris & Gurel 2012)
- Enhanced cognitive and creative skills (Shanon 2000; Shanon 2006)
- Long term changes in people’s belief systems (Shanon 2006)
- Increased clarity about life purpose (Harris & Gurel 2012; Halpern et al. 2008)
- Better psychosocial adaptation (Bouso et al. 2012)
International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research & Service (ICEERS)
The International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research & Service (ICEERS) is a philanthropic, tax-exempt non-profit organization (charity) dedicated to 1) the integration of ayahuasca, iboga and other traditional plants as therapeutic tools in modern society, and 2) the preservation of the indigenous cultures that have been using these plant species since antiquity on their habitat and botanical resources.
ICEERS researched the scientific literature and have composed a detailed document which includes all publications up to 2012 of clinical and follow-up research studies with ayahuasca. These reports indicate a very limited risk for harmful effects in the short, medium and long term under controlled settings. The data demonstrates long-term, therapeutic psycho-social effects in some of the studies. Comprehensive reviews of ayahuasca safety can be found in this overview of all scientific literature on ayahuasca published by ICEERS and authored by José Carlos Bouso, Ph.D
Please also see this Technical Report on Ayahuasca published by ICEERS and authored by José Carlos Bouso, Ph.D, Rafael Guimarães dos Santos, Ph.D, Charles S. Grob, M.D, Dartiu Xavier da Silveira, M.D, Dennis Jon McKenna, Ph.D, Draulio Barros de Araujo, Evelyn Borges Doering-Silveira, Jordi Riba, Ph.D, and Paulo Cesar Ribeiro Barbosa, Ph.D.
- Anderson, BT 2012, ‘Ayahuasca as Antidepressant? Psychedelics and Styles of Reasoning in Psychiatry’, Anthropology of Consciousness, vol.23, no. 1, pp.44-59.
- Andritzky, W 1989, ‘Sociopsychotherapeutic functions of ayahuasca healing in Amazonia’, J Psychoactive Drugs, vol.21, no. 1, pp.77-89.
- Barbosa, PC, Cazorla, IM, Giglio, JS & Strassman, R 2009, ‘A six-month prospective evaluation of personality traits, psychiatric symptoms and quality of life in ayahuasca-naive subjects’, J Psychoactive Drugs, vol.41, no. 3, pp.205-12.
- Barbosa, PC, Mizumoto, S, Bogenschutz, MP & Strassman, RJ 2012, ‘Health status of ayahuasca users’, Drug Test Anal, vol.4, no. 7-8, pp.601-9.
- Barbosa, PCR, Giglio, JS & Dalgalarrondo, P 2005, ‘Altered States of Consciousness and Short-Term Psychological After-Effects Induced by the First Time Ritual Use of Ayahuasca in an Urban Context in Brazil’, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, vol.37, no. 2, pp.193-201.
- Bouso, JC, González, D, Fondevila, S, Cutchet, M, Fernández, X, Ribeiro Barbosa, PC, Alcázar-Córcoles, MÁ, Araújo, WS, Barbanoj, MJ, Fábregas, JM & Riba, J 2012, ‘Personality, Psychopathology, Life Attitudes and Neuropsychological Performance among Ritual Users of Ayahuasca: A Longitudinal Study’, PLoS ONE, vol.7, no. 8, pp.e42421.
- Callaway, JC, McKenna, DJ, Grob, CS, Brito, GS, Raymon, LP, Poland, RE, Andrade, EN, Andrade, EO & Mash, DC 1999, ‘Pharmacokinetics of Hoasca alkaloids in healthy humans’, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol.65, no. 3, pp.243-256.
- Da Silveira, DX, Grob, CS, de Rios, MD, Lopez, E, Alonso, LK, Tacla, C & Doering-Silveira, E 2005, ‘Ayahuasca in adolescence: a preliminary psychiatric assessment’, J Psychoactive Drugs, vol.37, no. 2, pp.129-33.
- de Rios, MD, Grob, CS & Baker, JR 2002, ‘Hallucinogens and redemption’, J Psychoactive Drugs, vol.34, no. 3, pp.239-48.
- Doyle, R 2012, ‘Healing with Plant Intelligence: A Report from Ayahuasca’, Anthropology of Consciousness, vol.23, no. 1, pp.28-43.
- Fábregas, JM, González, D, Fondevila, S, Cutchet, M, Fernández, X, Barbosa, PCR, Alcázar-Córcoles, MÁ, Barbanoj, MJ, Riba, J & Bouso, JC 2010, ‘Assessment of addiction severity among ritual users of ayahuasca’, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol.111, no. 3, pp.257-261.
- Fortunato, J, Réus, G, Kirsch, T, Stringari, R, Fries, G, Kapczinski, F, Hallak, J, Zuardi, A, Crippa, J & Quevedo, J 2010, ‘Chronic administration of harmine elicits antidepressant-like effects and increases BDNF levels in rat hippocampus’, Journal of Neural Transmission, vol.117, no. 10, pp.1131-1137.
- Fotiou, E 2012, ‘Working with “La Medicina”: Elements of Healing in Contemporary Ayahuasca Rituals’, Anthropology of Consciousness, vol.23, no. 1, pp.6-27.
- Gable, RS 2007, ‘Risk assessment of ritual use of oral dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and harmala alkaloids’, Addiction, vol.102, no. 1, pp.24-34.
- Grob, CS, McKenna, DJ, Callaway, JC, Brito, GS, Neves, ES, Oberlaender, G, Saide, OL, Labigalini, E, Tacla, C, Miranda, CT, Strassman, RJ & Boone, KB 1996, ‘Human psychopharmacology of hoasca, a plant hallucinogen used in ritual context in Brazil’, J Nerv Ment Dis, vol.184, no. 2, pp.86-94.
- Halpern, JH, Sherwood, AR, Passie, T, Blackwell, KC & Ruttenber, AJ 2008, ‘Evidence of health and safety in American members of a religion who use a hallucinogenic sacrament’, vol.14, no. 8, pp.SR15-SR22.
- Harris, R & Gurel, L 2012, ‘A Study of Ayahuasca Use in North America’, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, vol.44, no. 3, pp.209-215.
- Liester, MB & Prickett, JI 2012, ‘Hypotheses Regarding the Mechanisms of Ayahuasca in the Treatment of Addictions’, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, vol.44, no. 3, pp.200-208.
- McKenna, DJ 2004, ‘Clinical investigations of the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca: rationale and regulatory challenges’,Pharmacology & Therapeutics, vol.102, no. 2, pp.111-129.
- Rodd, R 2008, ‘Reassessing the cultural and psychopharmacological significance of Banisteriopsis caapi: preparation, classification and use among the Piaroa of Southern Venezuela’, J Psychoactive Drugs, vol.40, no. 3, pp.301-7.
- Schmid, JT, Jungaberle, H & Verres, R 2010, ‘Subjective Theories about (Self-)Treatment with Ayahuasca’, Anthropology of Consciousness, vol.21, no. 2, pp.188-204.
- Shanon, B 2010, ‘The epistemics of ayahuasca visions’,Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, vol.9, no. 2, pp.263-280.
- Trichter, S 2010, ‘Ayahuasca beyond the Amazon the benefits and risks of a spreading tradition’, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, vol.42, no. 2, pp.131-148.
- Winkelman, M 2005, ‘Drug tourism or spiritual healing? Ayahuasca seekers in Amazonia’, J Psychoactive Drugs, vol.37, no. 2, pp.209-18.
Note: The text above is credited to the Ayahuasca Exploration Project