The origins of the ayahuasca/yagé concept. An inquiry into the synergy between DMT and ß carbolines.
“Use of psychoactive plants and preparations in South America is characterized by a predilection for visionary agents containing short-acting tryptamines.”
This paper presents the results of an inquiry into the origins of the ayahuasca/yagé concept. Ayahuasca and yagé are analogous potions that exert their psychotropic action through the synergism of their basic component alkaloids: harmine, tetrahydroharmine, harmaline, and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). These beverages have a long history of use throughout the Amazon Basin. This investigation reveals, instead of a fixed recipe, a complex series of potions. The components of these potions vary according to regional plant availability and cultural needs. Ayahuasca and yagé are the potions most commonly used today, but not the most ancient. The beginning stages of my inquiry focused on the origins of these two pharmacologically complex beverages. It soon became apparent that questions of origin were not restricted to sets of specific recipes, prescriptions, and localities. Instead, a construct related to plant interaction and modulation began to emerge from this research.
In an inquiry about origins, in addition to ayahuasca and yagé, equivalent potions should be considered. Significant among these are, vinho de jurema, yaraque, vino de cebil, and chicha with an admixture of Anadenanthera seeds. These beverages must be seen within the context of tryptamine activation throughout South America (smoking, snuffing, enemas, unguents). Use of psychoactive plants and preparations in South America is characterized by a predilection for visionary agents containing short-acting tryptamines (N,N-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and 5-HO-DMT). First, a survey of potions and brews that activate tryptamines by the addition of these alkaloids to a ß-carboline base is presented. Second, the antiquity of these drinks is determined by searching early colonial documents and ethnographic information collected in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Third, after gathering the temporal data, a review of pre-Columbian iconography is undertaken to determine possible use of ayahuasca-like potions previous to contact with Europeans.