chacruna plant
Chacruna (Psychotria viridis)

DMT in Plants—Is It Really Everywhere?

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

DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated December 19, 2023

DoubleBlind // Psychedelic Guides // Science

There are many DMT-containing plants out there. Thousands of different plant species are natural sources of DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine). The psychedelic compound is abundant in nature and famous for its entheogenic properties. But there are some significant caveats: Most plants that produce DMT are not psychoactive on their own. Plus, they need to be prepared safely and properly. This short guide will walk you through the most common DMT-containing plants and what makes them unique.

Naturally Psychedelic? A Brief Guide to DMT in Plants

Plants in the pea (Fabaceae) and nutmeg families (Myristicacea) are among the most common DMT-containing plants. When appropriately prepared, the psychedelic can induce profound changes in consciousness and perception. DMT activates serotonin receptors (5HT-2A) in the brain, contributing to psychedelic experiences. 

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 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 involves a psychological process, and the physical experience often accompanies the cathartic release of trauma and past pains. It 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 specific mental health conditions and addressing past traumas, although more research is needed in this area. 

What Plants Contain DMT?

Plants can produce DMT in high concentrations, but consuming them alone is unlikely to yield psychoactive effects. Monoamine oxidase enzymes (MAOs) in the digestive tract quickly break down DMT 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. Brewed ayahuasca is a mixture of plants. (Although, the term ayahuasca also refers to the Banisteriopsis caapi vine alone.) Brewed ayahuasca contains at least two different plants, one that contains DMT and one that contains natural MAO inhibitors, like B. caapi. People often use DMT-containing plants as bases for brewing or making tea, incorporating other plant ingredients called admixtures. The term admixture comes from herbalism. Herbalists use admixtures to create botanical synergies. Another example is the “entourage effect” in cannabis, where compounds within the plants enhance the herb’s therapeutic effects when present together (e.g., THC and CBD). Herbs are used as admixtures when they modify the impact of one or more plants in the mix.

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

1. Chacruna (Psychotria viridis)

Psychotria viridis
Psychotria viridis | Adobe

The Rubiaceae family hosts Chacruna (Psychotria viridis), a sizable shrub indigenous to South America and various tropical regions worldwide. People often combine it with the ayahuasca vine (B. Caapi) to enhance the DMT content’s potency. Chacruna, recognized for its high DMT concentrations, is a common admixture in Ayahuasca blends. The plant is cultivated in South and Central America.

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In traditional practices, practitioners simmer Chacruna leaves with Ayahuasca vines in a pot, leading to a dense, dark liquid brew through reduction. This combination of Chacruna’s DMT and Ayahuasca’s MAOIs creates botanical synergic effects, prolonging the duration of DMT’s effects in the body.

2. Acacia spp.

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

Acacia, a genus of plants, varies in DMT content among its species. Some Acacia trees, especially those in Australia, have high DMT levels. These plants are colloquially known as Aussie-huasca, or wattle. Australians brew and consume the bark of the Australian acacia tree, which can be both sipped as a beverage or smoked. The smokable version, called changa, is a blend of DMT and harmala alkaloids (from B. caapi).

Changa often combines different herbs to enhance effects, such as relaxation or calmness, including passionflower, peppermint, mullein, and blue lotus. The herbal mixture was popularized by Australian Julian Palmer. However, changa is not exclusive to acacia and can be made from various DMT-containing plants and herbs. Changa typically contains between 20-50 percent DMT by weight. Australia has over 700 native Acacia species, with 150 containing DMT.

3. Mimosa (Mimosa hostilis (syn. tenuiflora) 

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

The Mimosa tree, native to South America, contains high DMT levels in its bark. Indigenous Brazilian communities commonly use Mimosa to create a potent psychedelic beverage, known anecdotally as jurema wine or jurema. The bark, roots, and seeds can be brewed into tea, extracted through various methods, or smoked.

To extract DMT, practitioners shave the root or stem bark and boil it in water. Traditional ceremonies, called Toré, often incorporate candles and tobacco. In Afro-Brazilian tribal ceremonies, jurema is combined with cachaça, a sugar cane distillate famous for 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, a grass species found in Europe, Asia, and North America, contains 5-MeO DMT and beta-carbolines. People mix Phalaris plants with other MAO-inhibitor plants like Ayahuasca and Syrian Rue in brews. Additionally, dried plant blends are often smoked.

5. Yopo (Anadenanthera peregrina)

Anadenanthera peregrina
Anadenanthera peregrina | Wikimedia Commons

Yopo, a native South American and Caribbean tree, has large dark brown seeds containing psychoactive compounds like DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and bufotenine. Indigenous communities in South America use these seeds in their entheogenic practices, roasting and grinding them into a snuff called cohoba, which is then snorted to induce an altered state of consciousness. Yopo bark, when burned, produces ash mixed with pulverized ayahuasca to create a paste. Some Indigenous shamans consider this labor-intensive process crucial for a successful yopo experience.

Snorting yopo can be uncomfortable but leads to fast-acting and profound psychedelic effects, though the experience is brief, lasting only a few minutes. Shamans collect seeds and bark year-round, believing the potency varies with the seasons.

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

Chaliponga (Diplopterys cabrerana)

Diplopterys cabrerana
Diplopterys cabrerana | Wikimedia Commons

Chaliponga is a common admixture in ayahuasca brews, often replacing chacruna in Colombian Putumayo and Ecuador. The leaves of Chaliponga, originating from the northern part of the Putumayo river, contain various psychoactive compounds, with DMT being the most prominent (approximately one percent of their dry weight). They also contain 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenine, and beta-carbolines.

While commonly used as an admixture, Chaliponga is the sole ingredient in southern regions of the Putumayo river area, producing psychoactivity on its own. Both chaliponga and chacruna have been used as solo ingredients by Putumayan shamans in the region.

A Note About Banisteriopsis caapi—the Ayahuasca Vine

The Banisteriopsis caapi vine, native to the Amazon rainforest, is widely used in traditional shamanic practices for its psychoactive properties. In Amazonian regions, it’s often called the “mother of all plants.” The term ayahuasca can refer to the Banisteriopsis caapi vine alone or the brewed ayahuasca tea, which includes a mix of plants.

Banisteriopsis caapi alone doesn’t contain DMT but has MAO inhibitors, making DMT orally active. Ayahuasca preparation involves boiling or soaking the bark and stems of B. caapi with various plants to create a ceremonial beverage.

Ayahuasca is integrated into folk medicine in the northwest Amazon and used as a sacrament by syncretic churches in Brazil. Some of these organizations have become established in the United States. The United States is experiencing a growing use of ayahuasca for recreational and religious purposes, along with an increase in “ayahuasca tourism” in the Amazon.

Loved this short list of DMT-containing plants? Deepen your learning here.

Ayahuasca is one of the most famous psychedelics containing DMT. But, there are other ways to consume the psychoactive, too.

DMT is one of the psychedelics that broke the seal on prohibition in research after the implementation of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. Read an interview on DMT and the mystical state with Rick Strassman, a pioneer in DMT research.

Many plants containing DMT have long-held histories of use. Learn more about psychedelic Yopo and the impact of mining on the Amazon rainforest.

Reciprocity for Indigenous Plants and Their Stewards

We support the respect of plants and people alike. We encourage you to learn more about preserving plant medicine traditions from the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund.

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