chacruna plant
Chacruna (Psychotria viridis)

DMT in Plants—Is It Really Everywhere?

We made a list of common and not-so-common psychedelic herbs

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DoubleBlind Mag

Updated June 20, 2023

DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here.

Thousands of different plant species naturally produce DMT, the most common of which are plants belonging to the pea (Fabaceae) and nutmeg families (Myristicacea). DMT, or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound with entheogenic properties, found in a variety of plants and animals. DMT is important because of its powerful psychedelic effects, which can induce profound changes in consciousness and perception. 

DMT is known as a serotonergic psychedelic substance that triggers an agonistic response in serotonin receptors 5HT-2A. Plants containing DMT are also categorized alongside other psychotropic plants, also known as tryptamines. DMT has a similar molecular structure to serotonin and acts on the same receptors. Sasha Shulgin, famed psychedelic alchemist claimed, “DMT is everywhere in nature.”

The experience is purgative: Many plants and mixtures that contain DMT also contain compounds that cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea in some people. Many of the alkaloids in plants containing DMT and in ayahuasca contain indole alkaloids. Indolines produce laxative qualities, and this likely contributes to the purgative effects. You may have heard stories of people who have gone to ayahuasca ceremonies and experienced extreme bouts of vomiting—so much so that their experience often came equipped with a bucket. Many healers believe this is part of the process and is a cathartic part of healing. Purging is also a psychological process. The physical experience often accompanies the cathartic nature of releasing trauma and past pains. Thus, the experience is not typically intended for recreational purposes. Many people who have experienced DMT report feelings of spiritual insight, transcendence, and connection with a higher power. Some researchers also believe that DMT may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of certain mental health conditions and addressing past traumas, although more research is needed in this area. 

The Definitive List of DMT-Containing Plants

Although DMT can be produced by plants in high concentrations, eating these plants on their own is unlikely to produce any psychoactive effects. This is because enzymes called monoamine oxidases (MAOs), present in the digestive tract, rapidly break down the molecule before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. As such, users wanting to experience the hallucinogenic effects of DMT-containing plants need to either extract the DMT, smoke, or snort the plant matter—or mix plants with other ingredients that block the action of monoamine oxidase (also known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs). Ayahuasca offers the most famous example. Ayahuasca is a term used to describe both the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (also called the ayahuasca vine) and the psychedelic beverage passed down from many long-held Amazonian traditions. Brewed ayahuasca contains at least two different plants, one that contains DMT and one that contains natural MAO inhibitors, like B. caapi

DMT-containing plants are often used as bases for a brew or tea that is consumed with other plant ingredients, called admixtures. Admixtures are used in herbalism to create botanical synergies, similar to the “Entourage effect” in cannabis. Whereby the compounds within the plant enhance the effects when present together (i.e. THC and CBD) or when herbs are stacked together to enhance or reduce the good or bad effects from one or more of the plants in the mix. Admixtures are often used to supplement the brew to enhance the experience—this may be to temper negative aspects or potentially lengthen the time effects are felt, particularly when smoked.

READ: How the Shipibo Came to Be the Most Common Group Serving Ayahuasca to Foreigners

1. Chacruna (Psychotria viridis)

Psychotria viridis
Psychotria viridis | Adobe

Chacruna, is a shrub from the Rubiaceae family, Indigenous to South America and other tropical regions around the world. It is frequently utilized in conjunction with Ayahuasca to augment the potency of the DMT content.  Chacruna is known for its elevated concentrations of DMT, the principal psychoactive component found in Ayahuasca brews Chacruna is widely used as an admixture found in ayahuasca blends. Originating in the Amazon region, Psychotria viridis is a sizable shrub cultivated throughout South and Central America.

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In traditional practices, the leaves are incorporated into a simmering pot along with Ayahuasca vines. Through a reduction process, the resulting liquid transforms into a dense, dark liquid brew. This combination of DMT from Chacruna and MAOIs present in Ayahuasca delivers botanical synergic effects, extending the duration of DMT’s effects within the body.

2. Acacia 

Acacia acuminata ssp. acuminata
Gold Dust Wattle (Acacia acinacea) | Wikimedia Commons

Acacia is a genus of plant, although not all contain DMT. Some geunus of Acacia trees, particularly those native to Australia, contain high amounts of DMT. Acacia is colloquially referred to as Aussie-huasca or wattle in Australia. The bark of the Australian acacia tree is brewed in a similar fashion to ayahuasca and consumed as a beverage but is also smokable. The smokable version is a synergistic blend of DMT and harmala alkaloids (from B. caapi), referred to as changa, an herbal mix created and popularized by Australian Julian Palmer.  However, changa is a term that is not exclusive to acacia—it can be made of a variety of DMT-containing plants and other herbs. Changa typically contains between 20-50 percent DMT by weight. There are over 700 species of Acacia native to Australia, with 150 of those containing DMT.  

Changa often incorporates a mix of several herbs that produce potentiating effects, such as relaxation or calmness. Herbs such as passionflower, peppermint, mullein, and blue lotus are traditional herbal pairings. 

3. Mimosa (Mimosa hostilis (syn. tenuiflora) 

Mimosa hostilis (syn. tenuiflora)
Mimosa tenuiflora | Wikimedia Commons

Mimosa is a tree native to South America that contains high levels of DMT in its bark. The bark, roots, and seeds can be brewed into tea or extracted using various methods to create a potent psychedelic beverage, but can also be smoked. Mimosa is commonly used by indigenous Brazilian communities, and brews made by these communities are anecdotally referred to as jurema wine or jurema.

DMT is extracted by shaving the root or stem bark and boiled in water. Ceremonies often integrate the use of candles and tobacco in a traditional ceremony called Toré. While little is known about the Afro-Brazilian tribal ceremonies, jurema is known to be combined with cachaça (a sugar cane distillate best known for making the Brazilian cocktail Caipirinha).

READ: How To Choose the Right Ayahuasca Retreat for You

4. Phalaris (Phalaris arundinacea)

Phalaris arundinacea
Phalaris arundinacea | Wikimedia Commons

Phalaris arundinacea are a species of grass found in Europe, Asia, and North America. Some cultivars contain 5-MeO DMT, a substance naturally excreted by the pineal gland in large quantities but precipitously diminishes over time after puberty. Because it is naturally produced in the body, it is thought that phalaris plants produce less distortion of consciousness than other classical psychedelics.

Phalaris plants are mixed in brews with other plants that act as MAO-Inhibitors such as Ayahuasca, Syrian Rue, etc. The entheogenic brews mimic the action of DMT-Pinoline, the endogenous version of ayahuasca, produced by the pineal gland. Dried plant blends are also often smoked. 

5. Yopo (Anadenanthera peregrina)

Anadenanthera peregrina
Anadenanthera peregrina | Wikimedia Commons

Yopo is a tree native to South America and also found in the Caribbean. Among its notable characteristics are its large, dark brown seeds, harboring psychoactive compounds such as DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and bufotenine. Indigenous communities across South America have utilized these seeds in their entheogenic practices. Typically, the seeds are roasted and ground into a fine snuff called cohoba. This powder is then snorted, to induce an altered state of consciousness. Yopo bark is also burned to produce ash, which is also mixed with pulverized ayahuasca to form a paste. Some Indigenous shamans credit the labor-intensive process as crucial to the success of the yopo experience.

Snorting yopo can sometimes be painful or unpleasant, but does produce fast-acting and profound psychedelic effects. The experience, however, is short-lived, lasting only a few minutes. Shamans collect seeds and bark throughout the year, and it is thought that the potency varies seasonally.

READ: The Ayahuasca Privilege: Can We Put A Price on Healing?

Chaliponga (Diplopterys cabrerana)

Diplopterys cabrerana
Diplopterys cabrerana | Wikimedia Commons

Chaliponga is another common admixture that is combined in ayahuasca brews. In many common recipes, Chacura is the admixture of choice, however, in Colombian Putumayo and Ecuador, the leaves of chaliponga often will replace chacruna in the mix.  The leaves of Chaliponga contain a variety of psychoactive compounds, with DMT being the most prominent (approximately 1 percent of their dry weight). These leaves also contain 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenine, and beta-carbolines.

The origins of chalipona come from the northern part of the Putamayo river, bordering what is now Colombia and Ecuador. While most usage of chaliponga is as an admixture, it is used as the sole ingredient in southern regions of this area. Chaliponga on its own, produces psychoactivity, despite common misconceptions. Many attribute the psychoactive nature of an ayahuasca brew solely to the ayahuasca alone, but both chliponga and chacruna have been used as solo ingredients by Putamyan shamans in the region.

A Note About Banisteriopsis caapi—the Ayahuasca Vine

Banisteriopsis caapi is a vine native to the Amazon rainforest that is commonly used in traditional shamanic practices for its psychoactive properties. In Amazonian regions, the ayahuasca vine is often referred to as the “mother of all plants.” However, as mentioned above, the term ayahuasca can refer to the Banisteriopsis caapi vine alone or brewed ayahuasca tea, which contains a mixture of plants.  But, B. caapi alone contains no DMT. Instead, it contains MAO inhibitors, which allow DMT to be orally active. The ayahuasca vine has two key components: β-carboline alkaloids, which are potent monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) inhibitors, also known as harmala alkaloids, and can become orally active. These alkaloids are also considered indolines. The preparation of ayahuasca involves boiling or soaking the bark and stems of B. caapi with a variety of other plants to create a beverage or brew, often consumed in ceremony.

Ayahuasca has been incorporated into folk medicine in the northwest Amazon and is used as a sacrament by various syncretic churches in Brazil. Some of these organizations have become established in the United States. The usage of ayahuasca for recreational and religious purposes is growing in the United States, and there is also an increase in “ayahuasca tourism” in the Amazon.

Note: We support the respect of plants and people alike. We encourage you to learn more about the preservation of these plants from Grow Medicine, a project of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund.

If you’re looking for peer support during or after a psychedelic experience, contact Fireside Project by calling or texting 6-2FIRESIDE. Interested in having a psychedelic experience, but don't know where to start? Get our definitive guide on trusted legal retreat centers, clinical trials, therapists, and more.
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