Ayahuasca is a brew from the Amazon, actually a mix of two plants: Chacruna leaves, also known as Psychotria viridis and the strain of the plant Banisteriopsis caapi. Chacruna contains a substance called dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a substance very similar to the structure of serotonin. DMT, the compound that is responsible for the psychoactive effects of ayahuasca, is also a compound our brain produces while sleeping and dreaming. Consumed as such, the substance does not have psychedelic effect because monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes in the intestine decompose DMT before it reaches the bloodstream.
Ayahuasca has beta-carboline alkaloids including harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine that block the action of monoamine oxidase enzymes and allow DMT to remain active. Once ingested, the substance passes the blood-brain barrier and it is only a matter of time until DMT reaches the receptors in the brain, triggering the reaction of the neurons. The drink’s effect occurs approximately half an hour after consumption and persists for about six hours.
For centuries, the indigenous communities of the Amazon basin have been using ayahuasca in their ceremonies. The uniqueness of the Amazonian shamans is that they gained their wisdom from their environment regarding the properties of plants, as well as how to use the plants in order to heal certain illnesses, with the help of the ayahuasca and the diets of master plants.
Through traditional way of practicing shamanism, people often reported that they gained profound insights for solving problems and resentments of the past and reaching a new level of inner peace. However, the ayahuasca in itself is less effective without the diet. It could be said that the diet is the key in understanding of the visions of the plant world thus gaining their wisdom.