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J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2011 Dec;31(6):717-26. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e31823607f6.

Autonomic, neuroendocrine, and immunological effects of ayahuasca: a comparative study with d-amphetamine.

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1
Human Experimental Neuropsychopharmacology, IIB Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain.

Abstract

Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychotropic plant tea combining the 5-HT2A agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and monoamine oxidase-inhibiting β-carboline alkaloids that render DMT orally active. The tea, obtained from Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis, has traditionally been used for religious, ritual, and medicinal purposes by the indigenous peoples of the region. More recently, the syncretistic religious use of ayahuasca has expanded to the United States and Europe. Here we conducted a double-blind randomized crossover clinical trial to investigate the physiological impact of ayahuasca in terms of autonomic, neuroendocrine, and immunomodulatory effects. An oral dose of encapsulated freeze-dried ayahuasca (1.0 mg DMT/kg body weight) was compared versus a placebo and versus a positive control (20 mg d-amphetamine) in a group of 10 healthy volunteers. Ayahuasca led to measurable DMT plasma levels and distinct subjective and neurophysiological effects that were absent after amphetamine. Both drugs increased pupillary diameter, with ayahuasca showing milder effects. Prolactin levels were significantly increased by ayahuasca but not by amphetamine, and cortisol was increased by both, with ayahuasca leading to the higher peak values. Ayahuasca and amphetamine induced similar time-dependent modifications in lymphocyte subpopulations. Percent CD4 and CD3 were decreased, whereas natural killer cells were increased. Maximum changes occurred around 2 hours, returning to baseline levels at 24 hours. In conclusion, ayahuasca displayed moderate sympathomimetic effects, significant neuroendocrine stimulation, and a time-dependent modulatory effect on cell-mediated immunity. Future studies on the health impact of long-term ayahuasca consumption should consider the assessment of immunological status in regular users.

PMID:
22005052
DOI:
10.1097/JCP.0b013e31823607f6
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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