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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2016 Mar;233(5):823-9. doi: 10.1007/s00213-015-4162-0. Epub 2015 Nov 27.

Exploring the therapeutic potential of Ayahuasca: acute intake increases mindfulness-related capacities.

Author information

Servei de Psiquiatria, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (Barcelona), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Barcelona, Spain.
Departamento de Psicologia Clínica i de la Salut, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental, CIBERSAM, Madrid, Spain.
Departamento de Psiquiatria i Medicina Legal, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
Programa de Cognición, Instituto de Fundamentos y Métodos, Facultad de Psicología, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay.
Les Corts Centre d'Higiene Mental, Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Skip Bertman Drive at River Road, Baton Rouge, LA, 70803, USA.
The Beckley Foundation, Beckley Park, Oxford, OX3 9SY, UK.
Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental, CIBERSAM, Madrid, Spain.
Centre d'Investigació de Medicaments, Servei de Farmacologia Clínica, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Barcelona, Spain.
Human Neuropsychopharmacology Group, Sant Pau Institute of Biomedical Research (IIB-Sant Pau), C/ Sant Antoni María Claret, 167, 08025, Barcelona, Spain.



Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant tea used for ritual purposes by the indigenous populations of the Amazon. In the last two decades, its use has expanded worldwide. The tea contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine-oxidase-inhibiting properties. Acute administration induces an introspective dream-like experience characterized by visions and autobiographic and emotional memories. Studies of long-term users have suggested its therapeutic potential, reporting that its use has helped individuals abandon the consumption of addictive drugs. Furthermore, recent open-label studies in patients with treatment-resistant depression found that a single ayahuasca dose induced a rapid antidepressant effect that was maintained weeks after administration. Here, we conducted an exploratory study of the psychological mechanisms that could underlie the beneficial effects of ayahuasca.


We assessed a group of 25 individuals before and 24 h after an ayahuasca session using two instruments designed to measure mindfulness capacities: The Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Experiences Questionnaire (EQ).


Ayahuasca intake led to significant increases in two facets of the FFMQ indicating a reduction in judgmental processing of experiences and in inner reactivity. It also led to a significant increase in decentering ability as measured by the EQ. These changes are classic goals of conventional mindfulness training, and the scores obtained are in the range of those observed after extensive mindfulness practice.


The present findings support the claim that ayahuasca has therapeutic potential and suggest that this potential is due to an increase in mindfulness capacities.


Ayahuasca; Decentering; Human; Mindfulness; Therapeutic potential

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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