20 SCIENTIFIC STUDIES ON AYAHUASCA
What does science say about the potential benefits of Ayahuasca?
Indigenous healers have known for thousands of years that Ayahuasca has enormous healing abilities and can completely change a person’s life. Many people who have taken this Amazonian plant tea claim that the experience led to positive, long-lasting, life-changing changes. This may be due to Ayahuasca’s effects on the neurological system.
Now science is trying to prove these claims with researchers investigating how Ayahuasca can heal or have measurable effects on physical and psychological levels. Recent research has shown that Ayahuasca can benefit health in several ways and can be used therapeutically by medical professionals in the near future. Here we share 20 studies of Ayahuasca research and what it has taught us so far.
Ayahuasca can help with (therapy-resistant) depression, anxiety, trauma and eating disorders
Study 1. A study of 29 people with treatment-resistant depression showed that a single dose of Ayahuasca led to significant improvements in depression severity compared to a placebo. Other studies also report rapid antidepressant effects of Ayahuasca.
Study 2. A 2016 study on the pharmacology, neuroscience and therapeutic potential of Ayahuasca postulates that ayahuasca could be useful in processing trauma.
Study 3. A review of six studies concluded that Ayahuasca had beneficial effects in treating depression, anxiety, mood disorders and drug addiction.
Study 4. In a study published in Eating and Weight Disorders, participants reported that their Ayahuasca experience led to a rapid reduction in eating disorder thoughts and symptoms and enabled the healing of the perceived root of the eating disorder. The results suggest that Ayahuasca can be a valuable therapeutic tool.
help treat addiction
Study 5.Several studies show promising results of Ayahuasca’s effects on addiction disorders, including addictions to crack, cocaine, alcohol and nicotine.
Study 6. In a study, 12 people with severe psychological and behavioural problems related to substance abuse participated in a 4-day treatment programme that included 2 Ayahuasca ceremonies. At 6-month follow-up, they showed significant improvements in mindfulness, hopefulness, empowerment and overall quality of life. Moreover, self-reported use of tobacco, cocaine and alcohol decreased significantly.
Study 7. A Western Canada-based study shows that Ayahuasca use can help addicted individuals reverse their chemical dependence on alcohol, tobacco and cocaine and significantly improve hope, empowerment and quality of life.
Study 8. A qualitative study published in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs shows that Ayahuasca has positive effects on reducing drug use, and has the potential for therapeutic applications in carefully structured settings that promote recovery from drug addiction and prevent relapse.
Ayahuasca can help treat PTSD
Study 9. Since 2015, more than 300 studies have been published on the promising prospects of Ayahuasca to help alleviate symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology hypothesised that Ayahuasca could help with PTSD, although, due to a general lack of knowledge about how PTSD works, more research in this area is needed.
Ayahuasca can improve mindfulness and general psychological well-being
Study 10. A study of 20 people published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that consuming Ayahuasca once a week for 4 weeks was as effective as an 8-week mindfulness programme in increasing acceptance – a component of mindfulness that plays a fundamental role in psychological health.
Study 11. Other studies have found similar results, noting that Ayahuasca can improve mindfulness, mood and emotional regulation.
Study 12. A study of 57 people showed that ratings of depression and stress decreased significantly immediately after the participants consumed Ayahuasca. These effects were still significant 4 weeks after Ayahuasca consumption.
Study 13. A study of people drinking Ayahuasca for the first time in Brazil found a statistically significant improvement in mental health and an increase in confidence and optimism.
Study 14. A 2005 study found an increase in joy and serenity among participants attending a ceremony in a traditional Brazilian setting for the first time.
Study 15. A study published in European Neuropsychopharmacology highlights the ability of long-term Ayahuasca work to alter brain structure and personality traits. The researchers also discovered cortical thickening in the anterior cingulate cortex of Ayahuasca users, an area of the brain believed to be involved in regulating attention and cognitive control.
Study 16. A large-scale study in Spain, published in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, found that long-term Ayahuasca use was positively correlated with higher perceptions of health and a healthy lifestyle and lower use of prescription drugs.
Study 17. A study published in Pharmacognosy Review concluded that harmine alkaloids, mainly studied in the Syrian rue plant but also present in banisteriopsis caapi, can lower systemic arterial blood pressure and act as vasodilators; serve as a bronchodilator; have anti-diabetic effects; act as antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic compound and antiprotozoal treatment; and treat some bone diseases by reducing bone loss.
Ayahuasca can benefit overall brain health
Study 18. Several studies have shown that Ayahuasca’s main active ingredients – DMT and β-carbolines – possess neuroprotective and neuroreducing qualities.
A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience states that Ayahuasca could help protect brain cells.
Study 19. A literature review of preclinical studies found that Harmine, the main β-carboline in Ayahuasca, increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that plays an important role in nerve cell growth and promotes nerve cell survival.
Study 20. A test tube study showed that exposure to harmine increased the growth of human neural progenitor cells by more than 70% in 4 days. These cells generate the growth of new neural cells in the brain.
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