Ayahuasca for the Treatment of Depression

Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2022:56:113-124. doi: 10.1007/7854_2021_277.


Ayahuasca, the vine of the souls in Quechua, is a psychedelic brew with a few formulations that most often include the bark of a liana in the Malpighiaceae family (Banisteriopsis caapi), with leaves from a shrub in the coffee family Rubiaceae (Psychotria viridis). Mixed with water and boiled for hours or days, it produces a brownish-colored liquid with a strong and characteristic taste. Ayahuasca contains the psychedelic tryptamine N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOi), and in the past few years, it has been tested. In recent years its antidepressant properties have been put to the test. Evidence from open and randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials has shown encouraging results, indicating significant and rapid antidepressant effects, starting as early as 1 day after the ayahuasca intervention. In addition, we have explored the nature of these effects using multivariate measures. In this article, we will review the history, pharmacology, clinical trials, and clinical and behavioral markers associated with the antidepressant effects of ayahuasca.

Keywords: Ayahuasca; DMT; MAOi; Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors; N,N-Dimethyltryptamine; Treatment-resistant depression.

MeSH terms

  • Banisteriopsis*
  • Depression
  • Hallucinogens* / pharmacology
  • Hallucinogens* / therapeutic use
  • N,N-Dimethyltryptamine / pharmacology
  • N,N-Dimethyltryptamine / therapeutic use


  • Hallucinogens
  • N,N-Dimethyltryptamine