Anti-inflammatory activity of ayahuasca: therapeutical implications in neurological and psychiatric diseases

Behav Brain Res. 2021 Feb 26:400:113003. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2020.113003. Epub 2020 Nov 6.


Ayahuasca is a decoction with psychoactive properties, used for millennia for therapeutic and religious purposes by indigenous groups and the population of amazonian countries. As described in this narrative review, it is essentially constituted by β-carbolines and tryptamines, and it has therapeutic effects on behavioral disorders due to the inhibition of the monoamine oxidase enzyme and the activation of 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors, demonstrated through preclinical and clinical studies. It was recently observed that the pharmacological response presented by ayahuasca is linked to its anti-inflammatory action, attributed mainly to dimethyltryptamines (N, N-dimethyltryptamine and 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine), which act as endogenous systemic regulators of inflammation and immune homeostasis, also through sigma-1 receptors. Therefore, since neuroinflammation is among the main pathophysiological mechanisms related to the development of neurological and psychiatric diseases, we suggest, based on the available evidence, that ayahuasca is a promising and very safe therapeutic strategy since extremely high doses are required to reach toxicity. However, even so, additional studies are needed to confirm such evidence, as well as the complete elucidation of the mechanisms involved.

Keywords: Ayahuasca; Ethnopharmacology; Neuroinflammation; Neurological diseases; Psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Banisteriopsis*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Plant Preparations