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    molecular pathways ayahuasca ICEERS study

    Molecular Pathways of the Therapeutic Effects of Ayahuasca


    Molecular pathways of the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca, a botanical psychedelic and potential rapid-acting antidepressant






    About the study

    This study sought to analyze the molecular targets of ayahuasca and its substances and relate their modulation to the possible therapeutic effects the brew seems to provide.

    Ayahuasca modulates many molecular targets, which may include serotoninergic receptors, glutamatergic, dopaminergic, and endocannabinoid systems, the serotonin transporter (SERT), the VMAT, the TAAR, and the sigma-1 receptor.
    The effects of ayahuasca cannot be explained by a single receptor or neurotransmitter system. Given the complex combination of alkaloids it contains, the effects of the brew probably arise from the modulation of multiple targets, in an intricate molecular symphony that gives ayahuasca an unique pharmacological profile.



    Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew traditionally used in indigenous and religious rituals and ceremonies in South America for its therapeutic, psychedelic, and entheogenic effects. It is usually prepared by lengthy boiling of the leaves of the bush Psychotria viridis and the mashed stalks of the vine Banisteriopsis caapi in water. The former contains the classical psychedelic N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is thought to be the main psychoactive alkaloid present in the brew. The latter serves as a source for β-carbolines, known for their monoamine oxidase-inhibiting (MAOI) properties. Recent preliminary research has provided encouraging results investigating ayahuasca’s therapeutic potential, especially regarding its antidepressant effects. On a molecular level, pre-clinical and clinical evidence points to a complex pharmacological profile conveyed by the brew, including modulation of serotoninergic, glutamatergic, dopaminergic, and endocannabinoid systems. Its substances also interact with the vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT), trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1), and sigma-1 receptors. Furthermore, ayahuasca’s components also seem to modulate levels of inflammatory and neurotrophic factors beneficially. On a biological level, this translates into neuroprotective and neuroplastic effects. Here we review the current knowledge regarding these molecular interactions and how they relate to the possible antidepressant effects ayahuasca seems to produce.


    Link to the study


    Contact ICEERS Research team


    Photo by Kai Dahms on Unsplash.



    Categories: Studies & papers , Ayahuasca
    Tags: ayahuasca , scientific research , study , DMT , psychedelics , hallucinogens , brain , antidepressant