Plant Hallucinogen Holds Hope for Diabetes Treatment

A potent molecular cocktail containing a compound from ayahuasca spurs rapid growth of insulin-producing cells

Plant Hallucinogen Holds Hope for Diabetes Treatment
Ayahuasca cooking.

For centuries, some indigenous groups in South America have relied on a brew made from the parts of a local vine and a shrub. The effects of this drink, called ayahuasca, would begin with severe vomiting and diarrhea, but the real reason for drinking the tea was the hallucinating that followed. These visions were thought to uncover the secrets of the drinker’s poor health and point the way to a cure.

Modern techniques have revealed that one of the compounds underlying these mystic experiences is the psychoactive drug harmine. What these first users of ayahuasca couldn’t have known was that, one day, this ingredient in their enlightening brew would be positioned as a key to treating diabetes.

Such a cure is a long way off, but researchers took another step toward it when they combined naturally occurring harmine with a compound synthesized from scratch in a lab. Together, the pair can coax the insulin-producing pancreatic cells, called beta cells, into replicating at the fastest rates ever reported, according to findings published December 20 in Cell Metabolism.

Type 1 diabetes arises when the body turns on these cells and destroys them. Type 2 diabetes develops when these same cells wear out and can no longer make insulin. Either effect is a point of no return because the beta cells we make in early life are the only ones we’ll ever have.

If this pair of compounds eventually inches into the treatment toolbox, refreshing a faded cell population could become a reality and a possible treatment for diabetes.  “Looking back 10 years or so, we questioned whether human beta cells could even be coaxed into dividing,’ says Justin Annes, assistant professor of medicine and endocrinology at Stanford University, who also works on beta cell proliferation, with a separate investigator group. “But what began as a fantasy has become aspiration, and perhaps in the coming years, will be a reality.”

One stop on the trip to that reality was a 2015 study showing that harmine treatment of beta cells in a dish promoted their increase at a rate of about 2 percent per day. A promising beginning, says study author Andrew Stewart, scientific director of the Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, but a little too slow for someone who needs a replacement population.

In this newest study, Stewart and his colleagues show that combining harmine with a synthetic inhibitor of another molecule kicks up the rate to 5–8 percent on average, and as high as 18 percent using some growth recipes. The one–two punch of this chemical pair isn’t the only possible combination, and other groups also are working on various pairings, Stewart says. Annes and his colleagues have identified several compounds that hold similar promise for pushing insulin-producing cells to reproduce.

“Basically, we’re all competing, but we all know each other so we share reagents and ideas,” says Stewart. “Different people have identified different drugs that make beta cells replicate.” His lab chose harmine because it’s the one they pulled out of their screening of 100,000 compounds in 2015, but “I don’t think harmine is especially better than any other one,” he says.

In 2006, another group of researchers plucked harmine from a molecular haystack in a search for chemicals that interact with a protein associated with Down syndrome. Studies that followed showed harmine’s role in many body systems, including the gut and the brain, explaining in part the effects of ayahuasca on its earliest adopters.

Harmine interferes with an enzyme called dual-specificity tyrosine-regulated kinase 1A, or DYRK1A. Like harmine, DYRK1A operates in a host of tissues.  It helps, for one, in shaping the central nervous system during embryonic development. First identified because of its key involvement in Down syndrome, its routine duty is to add chemical tags to molecules to switch them on or off.

The other molecule in the synergizing pair is an inhibitor of a group of proteins in the transforming growth factor-beta superfamily (TGFβSF). As with DYRK1A, these proteins are active in a large number of body processes, including cell proliferation.

Stewart and his team homed in on TGFβSF and DYRK1A after probing the secrets of cells from benign pancreatic tumors called insulinomas. They reasoned that if they could pinpoint what made these tumors grow, they could co-opt that information to encourage growth of normal beta cells. Their exploration uncovered DYRK1A and TGFβSF-related targets.

Inhibiting these molecules in human beta cells in a dish shuts down the cell regulators that usually keep the brakes on cancer’s out-of-control cell growth. Because harmine and TGFβSF inhibitor release this brake and DYRK1A and TGFβSF are active in many tissues, any treatment involving the pair of inhibitors must be closely targeted. “Certainly, we have a long way to go before these medications can be used in humans,” says Annes, calling the concern about cancer risk “reasonable.”

Adding to that concern is that harmine affects other cell types, says Klaus Kaestner, professor of genetics and associate director of the Penn Diabetes Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study. In 2016, his group reported that harmine triggers many types of hormone-producing cells to divide, including other cells in the pancreas.

Stewart and his colleagues are sorting through a number of potential chemical tags that might help guide the inhibitors to the right location. But for now, says Stewart, “we are Amazon and have a bunch of parcels, and we know that they’re for you, but we don’t know the address.”

Type 1 diabetes poses another hurdle. Although the immune system targets and destroys these cells in this form of diabetes, a small pool of beta cells often remains, Stewart says. What’s unknown is if a new population grown from these cells would simply attract further immune destruction. Stewart says that if the harmine-TGFβSF inhibitor combination ever makes it to trials, the population it might initially suit best are those who have type 2 diabetes. Then the journey from a South American rainforest to a clinical treatment would be complete.

Meditation and the psychedelic drug ayahuasca seem to change the brain in surprisingly similar ways.

At the end of a dark earthen trail in the Peruvian Amazon stands a round structure with a thatched roof that appears to glow from within.

In the Temple of the Way of Light, as it is known, indigenous healers called Onanya teach visitors about the therapeutic uses of ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic brew that’s been used by locals for thousands of years.


Across the Atlantic, researchers in an ornate blue-tiled hospital in Barcelona, Spain are studying ayahuasca’s physical effects on the brain.

The teams in those two disparate locations approach the study of the psychedelic drug very differently, but researchers at each one are coming to similar conclusions about the way ayahuasca affects the mind.

Among volunteers who take ayahuasca for studies, scientists have documented a rise in certain key traits that mirror those of experienced meditators. These changes include increases in openness, optimism, and a particularly powerful ability known as decentering.

Amanda Feilding, the founder and director of the UK-based nonprofit Beckley Foundation, collaborates with scientists around the world to understand how psychedelic drugs affect the brain.

Feilding describes decentering as “the ability to objectively observe one’s thoughts and feelings without associating them with identity”.

Decentering might sound esoteric, but it’s one of the key aims of mindful meditation and is also a goal of successful depression treatments in some cases.

In volunteers who’ve taken ayahuasca as part of Beckley’s research, decentering has been linked with higher scores on questionnaires designed to measure well-being and happiness and lower scores on measurements of depressive or anxious thoughts and symptoms of grief.

“It’s interesting because even though our research out of Peru is based on surveys, while in Barcelona it’s based on more traditional scientific research, our results out of both places are showing an increase in these traits,” Feilding says.

“It seems patients are finally able to liberate themselves from the emotional pain they have long been suffering from. To calmly observe one’s thoughts and feelings in an objective way in order to become less judgemental and more self-accepting.”

Since the findings out of Peru are based on surveys, they can’t prove that ayahuasca caused the reduction in symptoms of depression and grief – only that there’s a connection between the two.

But in Spain, as part of a collaboration between Beckley and Sant Pau hospital, neurologist Jordi Riba is looking at the brain activity in depressed volunteers who are given ayahuasca.

His findings indicate that in addition to people simply reporting that they feel more decentered and less depressed after taking ayahuasca, there is a corresponding neurological change in their brain activity.

One small study of 17 depressed volunteers who took ayahuasca saw a decrease in activity in areas of the brain that tend to be overactive in conditions like depression and anxiety.

And a new study of regular ayahuasca users suggests a physical shrinking in these parts of the brain, though that work has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

These findings are bolstered by other research on the potential therapeutic effects of psychedelics. Studies out of New York University and Johns Hopkins suggest that the psychedelic drug psilocybin – the ingredient in magic mushrooms – elicits similar effects among depressed people.

“With the psilocybin, you get an appreciation – it’s out of time – of well-being, of simply being alive and a witness to life and to everything and to the mystery itself,” Clark Martin, a patient who participated in one of the Johns Hopkins trials, previously told Business Insider of his experience.

David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College London, has been working with Feilding, and says the brains of people with depression or addiction get locked into patterns of thinking driven by the brain’s control centre.

“Psychedelics disrupt that process so people can escape,” he says.

The Dose Will See You Now: The Astonishing Life-Saving Potential of Psychedelic Therapy in Modern Medicine

What is your impression after reading the results of this recent study on the potential of a promising new treatment for depression?

‘The main takeaway is that the effects are well-tolerated in this population, and not just that—the antidepressant potential of the treatment seems to be pretty considerable,’ […] ‘All 12 of the patients reported a reduction in the severity of their depression for one week after the psilocybin experience, and for most this was true after three months. At week one, eight patients met standard criteria for remission, with five remaining in remission at three months.’

Encouraging results, no? On the surface, it seems like more people could benefit from a treatment like this.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, they can’t. They’d be considered criminals, for the chosen treatment in this study is currently illegal. In fact, it’s a Schedule 1 substance as classified by the DEA, with “no accepted medical value,” “a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision,” and “a high potential for abuse”.

The study was conducted using psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, when given to patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression.

Despite seeing encouraging results such as the above study more frequently, psychedelic therapy remains a taboo topic in both general society and the medical community at large, partially due to the many myths still surrounding the psychedelic experience.

Why is this the case? Let’s dig deeper.

What Is Psychedelic Therapy?

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy offers us an unparalleled medical opportunity. Currently, it is typically reserved for ‘treatment-resistant’ illnesses (when standard methods of therapy or medical treatment have previously proven unsuccessful).

The term ‘psychedelic’ comes from a Greek term, essentially translating to ‘mind-revealing’. For anyone suffering from unfamiliar mental illness or trauma, the definition is seemingly self-explanatory.

However, for the uninitiated, it’s helpful to refer to N. Crowley’s definition of ‘psychedelics’ as noted in The British Journal of Psychiatry (“A role for psychedelics in psychiatry?”):

The difference between psychedelics (entheogens) and other psychotropic drugs is that entheogens work as ‘non-specific amplifiers of the psyche,’ inducing an altered or non-ordinary state of consciousness (Grof, 2000). The content and nature of the experiences are not thought to be artificial products of their pharmacological interaction with the brain (‘toxic psychoses’) but authentic expressions of the psyche revealing its functioning on levels not ordinarily available for observation and study.

Psychedelic therapy combines traditional psychotherapy sessions with a trained practitioner, and injects selected sessions with a measured, monitored dose of a psychoactive substance. A placebo is used for some sessions if necessary, and not all sessions are paired with a psychedelic experience.

As with all entheogenic experiences, preparation and post-experience integration are just as, if not more important, than the experience itself.

A typical treatment may look like:

  1. 2-3 regular therapeutic sessions with the doctor.
  2. Preparation (discussion or low-dose introduction) for the experience.
  3. 1 session with a measured dose, under medical supervision/guidance with therapeutic discussion using points derived from preparation stage.
  4. Post-experience discussion and integration.
  5. The cycle of psychedelic session > integration session, can continue as necessary based on the therapist’s recommendation. This is also called psycholytic therapy.
  6. Post-treatment follow-up and monitoring of habits/insights integrated into daily life afterward.

The value of psychedelic therapy is that it can induce in patients a state of being where they can make genuine progress with their struggles. That might mean being able to discuss deep-rooted trauma without judgment or fear, feeling self-compassion for the first time, or removing the general anxieties associated with mental illness.

Remember that at this point in time, these treatments are being used only on patients who have already resisted all other forms of treatments, such as medication, therapy, or some combination thereof.

Psychedelic therapy is proving itself to provide effective treatment for patients who have already been deemed untreatable.

Many patients of these experiences have rated them “the most important [of their lives], or if not, in the top 5 most important experiences of their lives.”

The Unorthodox State of Psychedelic Therapy In Modern Medicine

The state of psychedelic therapy in modern medicine can best be summarized in one word: Taboo.

Taboo as defined as ‘a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.’

In many countries around the world, particularly North America, entheogens are classified as a ‘Schedule 1’ substance. This means that they are considered “highly dangerous to user/society” and have “no applicable medical value”.

As we’ll continue to see, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, studies have shown that psychedelics are not linked to the development of mental health issues or suicidal behavior.

As a result, it’s deceptively difficult to begin studies into any potentially applicable values. Scientists, doctors, and therapists, excitedly exploring these treatments, can be ostracized, shunned, disbanded, or fired.

Without valid study opportunities, psychedelic therapy cannot move away from its current taboo state into a more socially and medically viable option to increase a patient’s overall quality of life.

As a result, previous work has happened in the shadows—in therapists’ homes for private, under-the-table sessions.

This coercion to the outer edges paints psychedelic therapy as a dark art, akin to voodoo from witch doctors, instead of the valid and tangible treatment it should be recognized as.

Recently, however, psychedelic therapy has begun to move out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Recognition from notable figures and interest from major institutions like John Hopkins Universityhave started to emerge. One organization at the forefront of these efforts is MAPS (The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies), which is spearheading fundraising and medically-valid studies into the value and treatment of entheogens as a whole. The New York Times, Vice, The Guardian, and many others have begun to openly analyze the practice, and a more general discussion is emerging.

Early-stage results have come to fruition from initial studies, with outstanding results. Treatments are being shown as successful, and patients are retaining the benefits long-term.

Patients are getting their lives back.

No accepted medical value?

The successful treatment of ‘treatment-resistant’ patients should be considered outstanding medical value.

Of course, the psychedelic community at large has been saying this for years. Impressive anecdotal reports can be found by the hundreds from psychonauts online and in-person. Users who have effectively combatted depression, OCD, and persistent negative thought patterns.

So what exactly are these entheogens patients are using? How are they administered, and what do they address? The following are some of the substances being studied or advocated for in the psychedelic community currently.

Psychedelic Therapy

The Psychedelic Family and Their Therapeutic Applications

There are a plethora of entheogens with promising practical applications. The entheogens in point include psilocybin, ibogaine, LSD, and ayahuasca.

There are other, less prominent, psychedelics also being looked into on a smaller scale. These include DMT, mescaline, and 2C-B.

As each substance is unique in its biochemical composition, it fits that they each have their own neuropsychological effects. We can take a closer look at the proposed or proven benefits of each psychedelic in its therapeutic context.


Psilocybin is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. It is quickly claiming its stake as one of the most important substances to pair with traditional therapeutic techniques, due to its proven success at tackling treatment-resistant cases.

 Promising scientific and anecdotal evidence is emerging promoting the ability of psilocybin to alleviate or lessen the symptoms of depression, general anxiety, end-of-life anxiety, and trauma.

Coincidentally, psilocybin can also be effective in the context of couples therapy. It may be possible to save a marriage, or provide a deeper connection to your loved one if this was re-scheduled and introduced to society properly.

Who knew, magic mushrooms might just save your marriage!

Psilocybin is the focus of many emerging studies, and the results are beyond promising (see image below). The quote shared at the beginning of this article was in reference to terminal patients who had undergone their first treatment sessions with psilocybin.

Many ranked it as their most important life experience to date, with some putting on the same level or above the birth of their own child.

Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy has helped to reduce symptoms and onset of chronic depression, with the effects for most patients lasting between 6-12 months after the experience. This can be extended with effective post-experience integration techniques and follow-up sessions.


Ibogaine hasn’t had it’s big break yet. It remains on the outer edges to this day, even in the psychedelic community. However, ibogaine is shaping up to be one of the most promising treatments available for patients suffering from opiate addiction or withdrawals.

A single treatment of ibogaine can eradicate the addiction completely, with little to no withdrawal symptoms.

This is something no medical treatment or pharmacological approach has been able to replicate to date.

Ibogaine outperforms any approach to intense addiction currently known to modern science.

And yet it remains a Schedule 1 drug.

Let that sink in.

Despite its unparalleled efficacy, the persistent unpopularity of ibogaine may be due to the fact that the experience is intense. A visceral, multi-day exploration that surfaces key decisions and moments of an addict’s life can be profoundly jarring; it is not something to be taken lightly.

This isn’t your average club drug or even a casual full-day trip in the forest with your friends.

Specifics of the trip aside, the profound efficacy of ibogaine should not be passed up, and fortunately, there are a few organizations (here and here) around the world working to surface these incredible results. Ibogaine is not illegal around the world and is, in fact, a right of passage for some youth in select African countries.

With effective post-experience integration and therapy, addicts who just a few weeks ago had succumbed to the sensual allure of serious drugs are now able to move forward successfully and reclaim the life they may have lost.

Ibogaine can help a user take their lives back from the deathly, devilish clutches of addiction.


LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), more commonly referred to as acid, has been in the spotlight for some time. Known to most people as a substance that brings beautiful visual benefits and a deep sense of interconnectedness, when applied in a therapeutic setting, LSD can overhaul cemented opinion structures, altering the individual’s outlook on life and the potential they have in the future.

Due to the incredible introspection, openness, and lucidity LSD provides, there are a plethora of illnesses or vindications that LSD-assisted psychotherapy can effectively combat.

Among these illnesses are: alcoholism, quitting smoking, depression, and general/end-of-life anxiety.

As with the aforementioned substances, LSD is proving both in scientific studies and anecdotal reports to offer profound, life-altering benefits to the user.

Follow the white rabbit, reclaim your life.

A pretty good trade-off if you ask me.

A common report of LSD is its ability to offer a ‘third-person’ perspective on yourself. To sit outside of yourself as a spectator, rather than exist as the voice inside your head. Viewing life from this perspective can pull you away from self-destructive patterns, open your eyes to new ways of living, and bring about a level of acceptance you may not have experienced before.

To dismiss psychedelic experiences as childish, or without practical medical applications, is to say that reclaiming a firm hold on your life has no value.

All life has value. We should enable everyone to take hold of it again.


Ayahuasca is finding its footing now in modern culture. This ‘jungle juice’ has been growing in popularity amongst psychonauts, consciousness explorers, or even just the ever-explorative startup employee on their vacation to South America.

The active ingredient in Ayahuasca is DMT, commonly referred to as the ‘God molecule.’ In a similar fashion to the ibogaine experience we discussed earlier, Ayahuasca teleports users back to critical moments in their lives, often in their formative years of childhood, to come to terms with and face highly traumatic or unresolved issues in their lives.

In being able to approach highly traumatic experiences with love, sensibility, and receptiveness, patients can quite literally change their past.

What does this mean?

Jason Silva does a great job at explaining this. Your past, your personality, your life story, are made up of two things: the memories you have, and the language you use to describe them.

Ayahuasca, and the psychedelic experience in general, allows you to revisit experiences of your past and change the internal dialogue of these moments. In re-framing trauma as a catalyst for growth, or being able to view abuse as misdirected love, patients can heal deep-seated wounds that they could not tackle through traditional therapy.

Why are users able to do this in psychedelic therapy, but not in traditional sessions? Because the experiences are often blocked off, regressed, or the individual is hesitant to reopen these wounds through discussion. They are unable to arrive at an appropriate emotional state to effectively re-frame the problem and re-direct these misplaced emotions. Through no fault of the individual or the therapy structure, this is just a limitation we as a society face.

Psychedelics offer us a solution.

By inducing a state of profound love and tolerance, incredibly damaging experiences can be reframed and addressed at a level significant enough to allow for true therapeutic breakthroughs to occur.

This is the value of Ayahuasca, and this is why it is quickly becoming so popular in Western psychonautic culture. As a result, Ayahuasca is being studied in the treatment of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), persistent negative thought patterns, and chronic depression/suicidal tendencies.

Being able to re-frame personal problems and come to a place of unconditional self-acceptance is a goal of most therapy. Why then, are entheogens that are being proven to allow this, still so taboo in modern and medical culture?

Everyday Improvement: The Magic of Micro-dosing

Closely related to the value of psychedelic therapy are the potential upsides presented by micro-dosing.

 Micro-dosing is the act of taking sub-perceptual doses of a psychedelic substance on a recurring schedule to promote overall vitality and quality of life. You can read more on micro-dosing here.

Just as important, if not more important than the experience itself, is being able to integrate the learning and progress made on the psychedelic journey into everyday life.

One of the incredible potential upsides to psychedelic therapy is that unlike modern pharmacological approaches, the user need not take a daily pill or participate in the experience on a recurring schedule.

One or two single experiences can provide enough revelatory insight to fundamentally change the habits and performance of the patient.

There is, however, a way to derive the profound benefits of the psychedelic experience on a smaller scale in everyday life: micro-dosing.

Simply, micro-dosing is taking a sub-perceptual dose and going about your day as normal. Sub-perceptual means the experience does not cross the threshold of conscious perception. Though you experience the benefits of the substance, you do not ‘feel’ different than your default state.

The benefits of micro-dosing are endless; you can read some of the effects on users here.

Reports from users who have been micro-dosing on a set schedule indicate elevated mood, increased strength, a deeper connection to others, increased endurance, lessened anxiety/fear, and improved communication, just to name a few benefits. Although the direct experience is sub-perceptual, its benefits find their way into everyday life when applied correctly.

Micro-dosing is incredibly important because it can help maintain euthymia or what is known as ‘normal mood’ in the medical community.

In addition to micro-dosing, meditation and mindfulness training can help you maintain a regular, consistent mood. For patients suffering from mental illness, reaching a normal, functional state is the end goal of therapy and treatment, as depression and anxiety are negative deviations from this norm.

Once again, post-experience integration and maintenance are just as important as the experience itself, micro-dosing can be a valuable tool for self-regulation and sustaining the benefits derived from psychedelic therapy.

MDMA: A Notable, Non-Psychedelic Opportunity

As we know, “psychedelic” refers to the altered state of consciousness reached by ingesting or imbibing these different entheogens. MDMA does not fall into the psychedelic category, as it only amplifies existing characteristics, behaviors, and biochemical levels. It is often included by many publications as a psychedelic, but renowned psychedelic explorer James Fadiman, when speaking with Tim Ferriss, offers a succinct differentiation here:

It’s not exactly a psychedelic because you don’t leave your identity behind, but it is the single best way to overcome intractable post-traumatic stress disorder.

Known on the street as the ‘love drug’, MDMA can put users into an unconditional state of love and respect for themselves and for others. Legalization could be a pivotal moment. As we noted with Ayahuasca, this can be instrumental when working to address traumatic experiences, from depression, to rape, to PTSD.

MAPS is also funding research into MDMA, and it is currently moving into Stage 3 trials. Successful Stage 3 trials allow the drug to be administered by credentialed parties, a monumental leap for patients and therapists alike. This is incredibly promising, and users who have participated in the early trial studies came out with remarkable results.

Integrating Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy Into Current Psychiatric Care

We’ve shown that there are multiple entheogens available today that are proving, under scientific scrutiny, that they provide value and effective treatment to patients and situations that have already been deemed ‘treatment-resistant.’

According to the authoritative definition of “Schedule 1 drug,”, these experiences have “no applicable medical value.”


Do we, as a society, consider the effective treatment of treatment-resistant illnesses lacking any practical value?

At the very least, this should be up for discussion and intelligent debate in academia and modern psychiatric care.

Now, of course, we aren’t advocating to make these available at every corner store in each major city. No, not at all. We are discussing psychedelic therapy, and the use of psychedelics to augment therapeutic treatment when administered by an accredited, accomplished therapist or doctor.

In these environments, studies are showing that psychedelic therapy can be incredibly effective, and in the case of ibogaine, able to accomplish things previously unseen in the medical community.

If it is worth giving psychedelics their well-deserved shot in society, how do we go about doing this? MAPS can point you in the right direction here. What we need is for psychedelics to be re-scheduled away a Schedule 1 substance. This indicates that there are applicable medical values. This is similar to what is happening with marijuana across various states right now.

Additionally, we need entheogens to enter the rigorous scientific study and scrutiny that all other therapeutic treatments and drugs receive.


We need to validate and replicate the original studies that are happening now and move them along the stages of scientific and medical study to the point where they can be prescribed and administered by the appropriate parties. Just like you can be prescribed Lithium if you are diagnosed with depression, we should move entheogens to the point where you can be prescribed MDMA-assisted psychotherapy if you are diagnosed with PTSD.

To make a tangible impact in these initiatives, you can refer to the resources at MAPS, make a donation, and even consider hosting your own psychedelic dinner!

We must move quickly to bring the medical community up to speed, and to be able to provide patients with the care that could truly save their lives.

Being a superhero isn’t difficult. Sometimes it’s as simple as correcting a mistake that has been made in the past. Helping the past to catch up with the present.

Psychedelic DMT experience now legal in US; first ayahuasca retreat opens in Washington state

Ayahuasca, one of the healingest brews on the planet, is actually a brew of plants and water, heated to a syrup.

It begins with a 1-2 meter long stem/vine of a plant rich in DMT; though multiple plants are used, one plant called Banisteriopsis caapi is the most widely used for its quality.  This vine is broken into strips and boiled with Diplopterys cabrerana, a Herrania species, Ilex guayusa, Heliconia stricta, and an unidentified Malpighiaceae known as mukuyasku.  All of these ingredients bring out the most intense, days long experience that has changed the lives of countless.

DMT, also known as the spirit molecule, is produced by plants and animals.  In humans, it is produced in the pineal gland near the middle of the head.  Some creatures have more of it than others and it causes the dream state.  Some say it is the root chemical catalyst for consciousness.

The experience is said to be like time dilation; wherein the user experiences prolonged moments, even lifetimes, in the days of imagination.  It is also said to be extremely theraputic, as the body experiences it as well; the people come out changed, almost overwhelmingly for the better.

Here is some testimony. Watch the video.


What Happens In The Pineal Gland When We Use Cannabis?

Pineal gland The pineal gland – mythical seat of spirituality and consciousness, the site of the primordial “third eye” – has been of fascination to humanity since its function and importance were discovered. It is well-known that the pineal gland responds to psychoactive drugs, so what happens when we use cannabis?

What is the pineal gland for?

While undoubtedly important, the pineal gland does not possess mystical or supernatural properties, no matter how much some people would like to believe it. Even some great, renowned thinkers have fallen foul of magical thinking here, such as the scientist and philosopher Descartes, who described the pineal gland as “the seat of the soul”.

Indeed, it is just but one gland among many that comprise the endocrine system in vertebrate animal species, whose function is heavily involved in the regulation of circadian (daily) rhythm and the production of hormones – the most important of which being melatonin, the “sleep hormone”. However, there are a few things that mark out the pineal gland as unique and interesting. Let’s take a brief look at what they are.

Why is the pineal gland so unusual?

The pineal gland is thought of as the “third eye”, and does in fact possess some of the qualities of a simple organ of sight

The idea of the pineal gland being a primordial “third eye” has some basis in fact. The gland is made up of cells known as pinealocytes, which in some non-mammal vertebrate species actually directly respond to light. This ability makes them very similar to the cells of the retina, the part of the eye that receives light from the lens opening.

In some fossil species, scientists have even found holes just like eye sockets in the centre-rear part of the skull, which allowed the pineal gland to receive light directly, just like an eye. In fact, several modern species of reptile and fish still retain a functional “third eye”, such as the New Zealand reptile species the tuatara, whose extra eye actually has a lens, a retina and a cornea of its own! It is thought that these functional third eyes are involved in maintaining daily and seasonal cycles of hormone production.

In mammals, the pinealocytes aren’t known to directly receive light, and there is no evidence of functional “third eyes” existing. However, the pinealocytes of mammals are known to be directly linked to the retina itself, which sends signals in response to changes in light levels in order to regulate circadian rhythms. So in some respects, if one stretches the definition of what constitutes an eye to the limit, one could still say that the pineal gland functions somewhat like a rudimentary third eye even in mammals.

One interesting aspect of the pineal gland that certainly does apply to mammals, including humans, in this: unlike much of the brain, the pineal gland is not separated from the rest of the body by the blood-brain barrier. It receives abundant blood flow directly from the posterior cerebral artery, which may have something to do with its receptiveness to psychoactive substances.

Why do psychoactive substances often affect the pineal gland?

The New Zealand reptile the tuatara retains a functional third eye used for regulating daily cycles

As well as being in a perfect position to receive all kinds of substances not filtered by the blood-brain barrier, the pineal gland is also at the heart of a “cascade” of reactions which fire off when norepinephrine, a well-known neurotransmitter responsible for regulating sleep and wakefulness, binds to its receptors in the pineal gland.

When norepinephrine binds to the receptors (known as adrenergic receptors), the chain of hormonal and enzymatic interactions that results is responsible for signalling when it is time to sleep, and when it is time for the individual to wake and become active. Thus, this cascade is deeply involved in setting up one’s “mood”, and how one perceives and responds to the challenges of the coming day, as well as ensuring that sleep of sufficient quality and duration is regularly achieved.

Clearly, the pineal gland is essential to maintaining a healthy, positive mind state, and is deeply concerned with emotional states in general. When humans consume psychiatric drugs, it affects this complex cascade of activity in the pineal gland, in conjunction with various other parts of the brain, to give a subjectively altered state of perception.

One example of the importance of the pineal gland in terms of psychiatric good-health is its relationship with the “Winter Blues” illness, seasonally affective disorder (often abbreviated to SAD). The fact that bright light is a common treatment for SAD suggests that the pineal gland and its associated light-sensitive hormone, melatonin, is involved. Furthermore, the fact that low light levels can cause such a dramatic set of psychological symptoms indicate that the pineal gland is fundamentally linked with psychiatric good health in general, and that its dysfunction may be behind other mental disorders too.

How does cannabis itself work in the pineal gland?

The pineal gland is so called due to its resemblance to a pine cone

Research on rats has shown that the pineal gland contains a functional endocannabinoid system, in that cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2, and the endogenous ligands that bind to them, anandamide and 2-AG, are all present.

The study showed that the activity of the CB?-receptors varied according to a daily cycle, with lowest activity levels occurring at the end of the daylight period. It also showed that levels of an enzyme responsible for synthesizing new endocannabinoid molecules, NAPE-PLD, was reduced during the middle of the dark period.

Furthermore, the study showed that presence of THC reduced the activity of an enzyme known as AANAT, and in doing so reduces the synthesis of melatonin itself. An earlier study on rats also showed that THC reduced the activity of AANAT, and suggested that the mechanism that occurred was as follows: the neurotransmitter norepinephrine starts a cascade of reactions, the end result of which is the production of melatonin. THC disrupts this norepinephrine cascade and thereby reduces the production of melatonin.

It is likely that THC’s endogenous analogue anandamide performs the same action of reducing the norepinephrine-induced release of melatonin, and is therefore fundamentally involved in pineal gland function. It seems that low levels of anandamide or THC are therefore needed in order for melatonin production to increase. As melatonin levels increase, as they should normally do at the end of the daylight period, feelings of sleepiness should occur.

But smoking cannabis makes me sleepy! Why?

The pineal gland has long been seen as the seat of consciousness in humans

If low levels of anandamide are required for melatonin production to increase, and levels of cannabinoid receptor activity are lowest at the end of the daylight period, that seems to imply that using cannabis would cause melatonin to be reduced, which should mean that sleepiness is also reduced. But many people report feeling sleepy after using cannabis. Why is this?

It may simply be that the mechanisms relating to cannabinoids and pineal gland hormones work differently in rats than in humans. Indeed, while the studies on rats clearly showed that THC reduced melatonin levels, there is evidence to suggest that the reverse is true in humans. An 1986 study showed that in eight out of nine healthy male volunteers, THC caused melatonin levels to dramatically increase, peaking around 120 minutes after administration. Interestingly, however, one subject showed a decline in melatonin in response to THC, just as was seen in rats.

Whether or not cannabis makes one feel sleepy may depend on dose, tolerance and a whole range of other factors, and may even depend on the time of day that the user consumes cannabis in relation to typical circadian rhythms. Furthermore, there may also be a genetic element controlling individual response to cannabinoids, as genetic differences in expression of cannabinoid receptors have been noted in multiple studies.

It is also now thought that many of the subjective effects of cannabis are not derived from THC per se, but rather from THC in combination with various other cannabinoids and terpenes. For example, myrcene is now thought to affect the “high” of pure THC, giving an overall more “couch-lock” effect to the user. Furthermore, pure THC has been shown on a number of occasions to have either a sedative or stimulant effect, depending on dose.

But how does the pineal gland actually affect the process of getting “high”?

The pineal gland is heavily involved with the regulation of sleep and circadian rhythms in humans .

This is is not entirely clear, and in any case, we know that multiple different regions of the brain are involved in the subjective experience of being high. The pineal gland is just one tiny link in an extremely long and complicated chain, which stretches between some of the most basic and fundamental parts of the brain (and the pineal gland can definitely be classed as basic and fundamental, as almost every living vertebrate possesses one) and some of the most advanced, such as the neocortex, which only exists in mammals.

However, the pineal gland has repeatedly been associated with the biosynthesis of important natural compounds related to sleeping, dreaming, and dream imagery. The presence of these compounds in the pineal gland is one of the most important reasons that so many view it as the “seat of the soul”, or a key to “spiritual enlightenment”. Without a doubt, the most famous of these compounds is N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, more commonly known as DMT.

It’s actually somewhat controversial as to whether or not the pineal gland is responsible for synthesizing DMT in humans, but there is significant evidence to suggest that it is the case. DMT and related compounds tryptamine and bufotenin have been found in human urine, and DMT itself has been shown to be synthesized in the pineal gland of the rat brain. A closely related compound, 5-MeO-DMT has been found to be synthesized in the human pineal gland, but thus far, it has not been proven that DMT itself is too.

In any case, it certainly appears that the pineal gland is very much involved in the production and/or processing of substances that are well-known to be involved in helping to create “dream states” when we are asleep. Thus, there are many theories that the subjective experience of getting “high” from cannabis, hallucinogens and other psychoactive drugs also involves this subjective creation of a “dream-like” or otherwise altered reality.

The pineal gland is part of a complex and fascinating system

DMT is an ingredient in ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogen whose users often produce art like this.

While we are far from having a complete understanding of the complex network of chemical compounds that interact in the brain, we are beginning to build a simple map of how all these interrelated processes fit together. It is increasingly clear that the endocannabinoid system is a fundamentally important messaging system that helps to link together various parts of the brain, many of which work together to give us the subjective experience of being “high”.

The pineal gland itself is crucial to this process, and has undeniable importance as a source of consciousness-altering compounds. It works with the endocannabinoid system and various other regulatory systems to control our subjective daily experience of mood, wakefulness and sleepiness, and when we introduce external psychoactive compounds, this process can be altered in fundamental ways, some of which can be greatly enjoyable to the individual!

Doctors are talking about using psychedelic drugs to treat alcoholics

Treating an addiction to a mind-altering substance with another mind-altering substance might seem counterintuitive, but more and more, researchers are finding ways that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin mushrooms and party drugs like ketamine could actually help people get over alcohol and drug addictions.

Most recently, researchers published a study in the Nature journal Neuropsychopharmacology that they say offers very preliminary evidence that ketamine might be worth exploring as a way to help people with alcohol abuse disorders get over the depression and anxiety that they frequently feel after giving up booze.

That particular study was based on mice, which means that on its own, it would hardly be worth mentioning — alcoholic mice being very different from humans with drinking problems. But that’s far from the only research showing that ketamine can help with depression or that psychedelics can help addicts.

For the study in Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers showed that alcohol dependent mice display anxiety and depressed behavior after abstaining from drinking. Then, they were able to show that ketamine was able to reverse those effects, causing the mice to behave like mice who hadn’t been consuming alcohol in the first place.

These findings fit into a growing body of research that shows ketamine can reverse depression in people in powerful ways.

We might think of ketamine as a quasi-psychedelic party drug (or an animal tranquilizer), but researchers have been investigating its therapeutic properties for the past 10 years.

For many, the disassociative anesthetic drug can function as a powerful antidepressant, able to reverse even major depression in just a few hours.

ketamineKetamine, in the days it was used as an animal tranquilizer.

“This is the next big thing in psychiatry,” San Francisco psychiatrist L. Alison McInnes recently told The Washington Post.

Right now, medical experts are trying to find ways to make that anti-depressant effect last as long as possible — for some patients it lasts longer than others, but rarely longer than a few weeks. And some experts argue that there’s there’s not enough good evidence that ketamine really relieves depression to promote using it at all so far. It’s certainly not yet widely available or affordable.

The science is far from settled. Still, other researchers are investigating ways that ketamine may actually have a protective effect that preventscertain patients from becoming depressed in the first place.

Of course, dealing with the depression that follows addiction isn’t the same thing as treating that abuse disorder in the first place.

Researchers are turning to other (still illegal) controlled substances to see whether some might work for treating addictive behavior.

magic mushrooms shrooms psychedelic psilocybin

In a recent Reddit AMA question-and-answer session, a representative of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) said that while their group is for now focusing on using MDMA to treat PTSD, they have sponsored research that’s shown that the powerful hallucinogenayahuasca has been associated with a reduction in problematic alcohol and cocaine abuse.

Other researchers have shown (in small studies, so far) that psilocybin mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms, can have a significant effect on problem drinkers, increasing abstinence rates and decreasing cravings for alcohol.

And of course, some of the first research into LSD back in the 1950s showed it could be an effective part of treating alcoholism, something researchers have started following up on again now.

Taking psychedelic drugs in a clinical setting is far different from self-experimentation, and there’s still a lot of research that’s needed before these things find their way into common clinical use — something that’s currently illegal.

But as this growing body of research shows, it seems there may be far more to many of these substances than their reputations so far suggest.

The science of the hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca

For centuries, shamans in the Amazon rainforest have been using the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca to help guide people through visual and auditory hallucinations, and now the drug is gaining popularity in the rest of the world, too, with early research suggesting that it might even help treat depression and anxiety.

But what exactly is ayahuasca? And how does a plant-based brew produce trips that can be as intense as LSD – along with infamously violent bouts of vomiting?

The latest episode of AsapSCIENCE explains that it’s all thanks to some powerful natural compounds delivered in just the right mix.

In fact, although most people think ayahuasca is a single plant, it’s actually a combination of two plants – the leaves of Psychotria viridis and the vines of Banisteriopsis caapi.

Neither of them have hallucinogenic power on their own, but the leaves are known to contain DMT – a chemical that’s structurally similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin, and is also found in magic mushrooms, which has shown similar potential in treating depression.

Our gut enzymes normally deactivate DMT so it doesn’t affect us, but the vines in ayahuasca somehow inhibit these enzymes from working properly and allow DMT to enter your bloodstream and eventually cross the blood-brain barrier – which is where the fun really begins.

Within around half an hour of consumption, the drink starts to take effect, with hallucinations peaking after 1 hour, and usually wearing off by around 6 hours.

But what’s interesting about these hallucinations is that, unlike the trips produced by LSD and ‘shrooms, people on ayahuasca are generally aware they’re hallucinating.

And instead of hearing voices, what they hear are just exasperations of the sounds occurring around them – which is why shamans often play music during the ayahuasca ceremonies.

After the experience, many people report being more at ease with their thoughts, and are more accepting of their present situation. Rather than simply getting high, most people take ayahuasca to reconcile past experiences and emotions and find inner peace.

So what’s going on in our brains when we’re on ayahuasca to produce such unique and strange side effects?

We still don’t know enough about the drug to say for sure, but as AsapSCIENCE explains, we do know that it seems to quieten a region of the brain known as the default mode network, which, when overactive, is linked to depression, anxiety, and social phobia.

It’s the same effect produced by meditation. There’s also some evidence that DMT could help promote long-term memory and the growth of new neurons – and it might even have the potential to kill certain cancer cells.

That’s not to say ayahuasca could be used to treat cancer in its current form, but scientists suspect there might be some useful properties of the brew that could be used to fight cancer in the future.

Just like any drug, however, ayahuasca also has a dark side – including the aforementioned vomiting.

We’ll let the AsapSCIENCE boys talk you through that in the video above, but just remember, the data available for hallucinogenic drugs are still extremely limited, so – good and bad – we’re only just beginning to understand what they’re capable of.

Watch the video. URL:

Ayahuasca Benefits And Risks: Hallucinogenic Drug May Enhance Meditation

LSD and shrooms are among the popular hallucinogenic drugs that allow users to be fully aware of visually hallucinating. During a trip, voices are heard and colors start to become more prismatic. A new hallucinogenic, ayahuasca, is now being used to deliver a powerful trip while also containing promising medicinal properties.

In ASAPScience’s latest video, “Your Brain On Ayahuasca: The Hallucinogenic Drug,” hosts Mitchell Moffit and Greggory Brown take a look at how the drug actually affects parts of the brain, and how it’s different from LSD and shrooms.

Ayahuasca is a combination of leaves of psychotria viridis and the leaves of another banisteriopsis caapi, neither of which have any hallucinogenic power on their own. However, the leaves do contain N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is structurally similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin, and to the chemical found in magic mushrooms. Normally, gut enzymes deactivate DMT before it’s absorbed into your bloodstream, but the vines inhibit the gut enzymes from working properly, and allow DMT to travel within the blood to cross the blood-brain barrier.

The effects of the drink usually hit around half an hour after consumption with hallucinations peaking after one hour and subsiding within four to six hours. However, hallucinations are reported to be different from drugs like LSD and shrooms in that most people are fully aware that they are visually hallucinating. In addition, instead of hearing voices, the sounds heard are usually exaggerations of the noises already occurring around them. Drinkers seek this as a means to reconcile with their thoughts and emotions, as well as past and present traumatic events.

fMRI scans show ayahuasca causes a significant decrease in activity within the default mode network, an area of the brain that if overactive, is associated with depression, anxiety, and social phobia. This is usually linked with a meditative state and explains why some users feel at peace with themselves and a renewed sense of purpose after their trip.

Medicinally speaking, ayahuasca has been shown to to kill certain cancerous cells with the help of alkaloids in the veins, and may hold future possibilities for cancer research.

Drinkers should beware of potential side effects: they can suffer violent retching, vomiting, and even diarrhea as the brew is extremely acidic and can cause an upset stomach even in experienced drinkers. Fatalities have been linked to its ingestion, particularly among tourists, though the manner of death is often reported undetermined.

The recreational use and efficacy of this drug for medicinal purposes is limited, and researchers say it warrants further investigation.

Watch the video. URL:

Ayahuasca: This Amazonian Brew May Be the Most Powerful Antidepressant Ever Discovered



Recent studies show that this Amazonian healing elixir has the power to alleviate feelings of depression in just a few hours, with lasting positive changes.

After centuries of being labeled as primitive, traditional medicines are slowly making a comeback, especially in academia. The more research that’s conducted on traditional remedies, the more scientists must bow to the wisdom of our ancestors, as well as contemporary indigenous healers who are carrying these traditions forward. One of the most powerful traditional remedies isayahuasca.

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive healing elixir from the Amazon rainforest, a bitter tea consumed during healing ceremonies by native peoples of Peru, Brazil, Columbia and Ecuador. Ayahuasca is the only combinatory vision-inducing agent in the world. Like a tea, ayahuasca is made by brewing a combination of bark from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (aka “the vine of the soul”) and leaves from Psychotria viridus (aka chakruna).

Shamans describe it as a sacred plant medicine that “opens a portal to the spirit world.” Portal or not, the healing properties of ayahuasca are undeniable. There are thousands of anecdotal reports of people having been healed from physical and mental disorders by taking ayahuasca—including some for whom death seemed near. The cases of post-ayahuasca cancer remission are too numerous to ignore, and the psychological benefits seem equally impressive. However, quality clinical studies are scarce.[i]

In a 2015 study led by neuroscientists at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, even one dose of ayahuasca was found to have powerful and immediate antidepressant effects. The study involved six volunteers with depression that was unresponsive to at least one antidepressant drug. The volunteers were administered the tea, then monitored in a quiet room and evaluated with standard clinical questionnaires to track their depression symptoms. The treatment was well tolerated, except for half of the participants vomiting (a common side effect). The psychedelic effects of ayahuasca wear off in about five hours.

Statistically significant improvements in depression symptoms were seen in just two to three hours, which is particularly notable when you consider conventional antidepressants typically take weeks to work. Even more impressive was that the benefits were sustained over the next 21 days. Further trials are underway, including a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study about ayahuasca’s benefits for depression, involving 80 patients.

The way Ayahuasca[ii] promotes psychedelic insights has long perplexed Western scientists. Ayahuasca is said to “help put into order the body, mind and spirit with the past, present and future.”[iii] During healing ceremonies, ayahuasca users commonly report emotionally charged visions, memories, and revelations about themselves and their lives, personalities and behaviors. The visions are not random—they typically center on emotionally charged and traumatic experiences, providing users the opportunity to re-experience those events in a more insightful way. Shamans say the elixir will give you whatever answers you seek.

Ayahuasca’s psychoactive properties are generally believed to be related to its serotonergiceffects. Psychotria viridis is rich in DMT (N,N Dimethyl Tryptamine), the most potent vision-inducing agent known to man.  DMT is not only found in hundreds of plants around the world but is alsomanufactured by your own body. But thanks to the enzyme MAO (monoamine oxidase), you aren’t tripped out all day, every day. The other ingredient in ayahuasca, Banisteriopsis caapi, contains a group of compounds called harmala alkaloids, which are MAO inhibitors (MAOI). These allow the DMT to stimulate unbridled activity in your brain by preventing the breakdown of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

Imaging studies reveal that ayahuasca hyperactivates frontal brain regions, specifically the medial frontal and anterior cingulate cortices responsible for somatic awareness and emotion. Ayahuasca triggers a large release of glutamate, which causes neural firing all along the frontal cortex. The elixir also activates parahippocampal areas involved in processing memory and emotion, including the amygdala. The insula is also activated, which is where feeling states are generated and is thought to act as a bridge between our emotional impulses and decision-making capacity. This may be what allows subjects to “travel” through their past experiences with an awareness of thoughts, emotions and memories that are difficult to access in ordinary mental states.

Your brain’s neocortex is also involved in anticipatory and planning behavior and abstract reasoning, so its activation may help explain the complex and meaningful cognitive experiences that take place during and after the consumption of ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca impacts dysfunctional cognitive-behavioral patterns. Powerful or traumatic events create imprints on the brain that are reinforced every time we encounter a similar situation. Repeated events reinforce these pathways, building up something like “emotional scar tissue,” which can lead to dysfunctional emotional responses and problematic behaviors throughout one’s lifetime. Ayahuasca appears to help users override these entrenched neurological patterns, allowing new connections to be made. Users report emerging with fresh perspectives on past experiences, which may explain many of ayahuasca’s healing benefits for depression, anxiety and PTSD, substance abuse and other problems. An interesting video about Ayahuasca research is available here.

Longer-term studies show ayahuasca positively impacts mood, reasoning and decision-making with minimal adverse effects. Ayahuasca has been shown to be non-addictive when used long-term by healthy individuals in supportive settings. There is no evidence of neurotoxicity—ritualized long-term users even scored better on certain cognitive tests than control groups.

Due to the intensity of the visions, ayahuasca should not be taken alone. Its therapeutic potential and safety are contingent upon how the experience is facilitated, monitored and integrated. However, with proper support, even a single dose of ayahuasca seems to offer potentially deep therapeutic benefits.

%d bloggers like this: