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The Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca: Possible Effects against Various Diseases of Civilization

Authors: Ede Frecska, Petra Bokor and Michael Winkelman

Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary; Doctoral School of Psychology, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary; School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.

Published in Frontiers in Pharmacology 2016; 7 (35), pp. 1-17.


Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychoactive brew of two main components. Its active agents are β-carboline and tryptamine derivatives. As a sacrament, ayahuasca is still a central element of many healing ceremonies in the Amazon Basin and its ritual consumption has become common among the mestizo populations of South America. Ayahuasca use amongst the indigenous people of the Amazon is a form of traditional medicine and cultural psychiatry. During the last two decades, the substance has become increasingly known among both scientists and laymen, and currently its use is spreading all over in the Western world. In the present paper we describe the chief characteristics of ayahuasca, discuss important questions raised about its use, and provide an overview of the scientific research supporting its potential therapeutic benefits.