A preliminary report from a 2015 study completed in Brazil suggests that yes, Ayahuasca does appear to help depression, and especially hard-to-treat depression. This is wonderful news, and those of us who have suspected this for years are celebrating. However, the scientific method requires many rigorous replications of this study and further research covering longer time periods. So, let’s be cautiously excited.
Those who feel relief of depression due to Ayahuasca have reported being able to see things in a new light. Sufferers of depression say they feel like their depression suddenly lifted or vanished. They say they felt a warmth and love and connection to the world that they hadn’t felt before.
DMT and Psilocybin
Current research is being conducted on whether other drugs like ketamine or MDMA or psilocybin can treat depression. Psilocybin is closely chemically related to the DMT in Ayahuasca. The big difference between psilocybin and DMT is that psilocybin has an extra oxygen atom in its molecular structure and a phosphate group attached to that atom. This minor difference in structure is why psilocybin—which is found naturally in mushrooms—is active if taken orally. That oxygen atom and phosphate group is what prevents enzymes in the stomach from breaking it down.
DMT, which lacks that extra oxygen atom and attached phosphate group, is broken down easily by stomach enzymes. This is why DMT is always mixed with another plant that has an enzyme inhibitor (MAOI) in Ayahuasca and why a typical Ayahuasca brew has several plants mixed together. DMT requires the addition of an enzyme inhibitor in order to be effective if taken orally. Otherwise DMT is broken down in the stomach, and the psychedelic effect is lost.
So, if Ayahuasca containing DMT helps depression, then it’s not a giant leap to expect psilocybin—which is very closely chemically and structurally related to DMT found in Ayahuasca—to also help depression.
Canadian researchers are leading the way in what’s now called psychedelic medicine. At the University of British Columbia, research is currently underway examining LSD, DMT, psilocybin, and MDMA, not just for depression but for anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well. Dr. Gerald Thomas of University of Victoria in British Columbia believes psychedelic drugs could be used to treat addiction.
It’s interesting to note that drugs used by shamans for centuries are now finding their way into mainstream medicine. Finally. Hopefully, in the near future science will demonstrate repeatedly the beneficial effects of Ayahuasca for people suffering not just from depression, but from anxiety, PTSD, and addictions.
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