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Ment Health Clin. 2018 Mar 23;7(1):39-45. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2017.01.039. eCollection 2017 Jan.

Ayahuasca: An ancient sacrament for treatment of contemporary psychiatric illness?

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Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Western University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy, Pomona, California,
Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy and Associate Dean for Assessment and Accreditation, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, California; Residency Program Director, PGY2 Psychiatric Pharmacy Residency, University of California at San Diego Health, San Diego, California.


Ayahuasca is a traditional psychoactive sacrament that's been used in Amazonian shamanic rituals for hundreds of years. Ayahuasca is notorious for its psychedelic properties produced from the combination of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) found in the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and N-N-dimethyltryptamine from Psychotria viridis or Diplopterys cabrerana. Recently, ritual use of ayahuasca has increased and garnered attention for its potential in treating mental illnesses, such as substance use and depressive disorders. Due to its MAOI properties, there are serious drug interactions that may be of concern among patients who participate in ayahuasca use. The objectives of this paper are to describe ayahuasca's pharmacology, potential drug interactions, and clinical data for its treatment potential in psychiatric illness.


ayahuasca; dimethyltryptamine; harmine; monoamine oxidase; sacrament

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosures: Benjamin J. Malcolm has no relevant conflicts of interest or financial relationships to disclose. Kelly C. Lee is a consultant for Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. Kenneth W. Tupper, PhD, is an adjunct professor, School of Population & Public Health at the University of British Columbia, and works in public health policy at the British Columbia Ministry of Health. He provided manuscript review for accuracy pertaining to anthropological, legal, and policy approaches regarding ayahuasca. He has no relevant conflicts of interest or financial relationships to disclose.

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