is the Quechuan name for both the Amazonwoody vine
(Malpighiaceae) and thesacred psychoactive beverage obtained from it. Thebeverage, also known by the names
, has been used throughout the AmazonBasin by shamans and healers since pre-Columbian timesfor medicinal purposes and as a means to contact thesupernatural [1, 2]. More recently, syncretic religionscombining the use of
with Christian beliefs,particularly the
Unia˜ o do Vegetal
, havebeen established in Brazil, where they enjoy legal protec-tion. Outside Brazil, smaller groups of followers havebegun to consume the tea in the United States and inseveral European countries, including Germany, GreatBritain, Holland, France and Spain . Even thoughthe number of users is still relatively small, adverse reac-tions associated with the simultaneous use of
and other centrally active drugs have raised concernfor public health , and extensive clinical data on itssomatic, psychological and neurophysiological effectsare warranted.
, the basic ingredient of the beverage,is seldom found alone in
The tea is generallyobtained by infusing the stems of the vine together withthe leaves of other plants, namely
Chemical analyses have shown that
containsnotable amounts of
-carboline alkaloids, mainly harmineand tetrahydroharmine (THH), followed by harmaline andtrace amounts of harmol [5, 6].
also contain indole alkaloids, mainly the potentshort-acting psychedelic agent
-dimethyltryptamine(DMT) [5, 7].This combination of
in a single oralpreparation is a remarkable achievement of empiricalethnopharmacological knowledge, as psychoactivity arisesfrom combining the pharmacodynamic actions of the
-carbolines and of DMT. Similarly to other indole andphenethylamine psychedelics such as LSD and mescaline, DMT shows afﬁnity for the 5-HT
receptor sitesin the central nervous system (CNS), where it displaysagonist activity . However, unlike most psychedelics,DMT is
only active when parenterally adminis-tered, because the oral ingestion of the drug alone leads toits metabolic breakdown by the enzyme monoamineoxidase (MAO) . Interestingly, harmine and harma-line, and to a lesser extent THH, are potent MAOinhibitors . Thus, it is widely accepted that the MAO-inhibiting action of the
-carbolines present in thetea allows the viable access of DMT to the systemiccirculation and the CNS. In addition to facilitatinga direct agonist action of DMT at the 5-HT
sites, the MAO-inhibiting properties of the
-carbolinesmay contribute to the overall effects of
,ﬁrstly, by prolonging the effects of DMT due to itsdecreased metabolism, and secondly, by simultaneouslyenhancing the levels of endogenous catecholaminesand serotonin .In a previous study conducted to characterize the toler-ability and psychological effect proﬁle of
this tea was found to induce a pattern of psychostimulantand psychedelic effects, which qualitatively resembledthose of other classical serotonergic agents, such aspsilocybin, and parenteral DMT [13, 14].
wasable to induce dose-dependent perceptual, cognitive andaffective modiﬁcations, with a milder intensity and longer duration than those previously described for intravenousDMT , but with an overall duration shorter thanthat of better characterized psychedelics such as LSDor mescaline .The aim of the present study was to assess the centralactions of
by means of quantitative-electro-encephalography (q-EEG), an objective noninvasivemethod used to evaluate drug effects on the CNS withhigh temporal resolution . We intended thus todemonstrate its cerebral bioavailability and subsequentpsychoactivity by means other than subjective self-reportinstruments, and implementing a double-blind random-ised placebo-controlled design. Recordings of brainelectrical activity were carried out before and at differenttime points after the administration of two differentdoses of encapsulated freeze-dried
to a group of healthy volunteers with previous experience in the useof psychedelics.
Eighteen healthy volunteers (15 males and three females)with no current or previous history of neurological or psychiatric disorder and no family history of Axis-Ipsychiatric disorder in ﬁrst degree relatives were includedin the study. Eligibility criteria included prior experiencewith psychedelic drugs at least on ﬁve occasions withoutsequelae derived therefrom. The volunteers were given astructured psychiatric interview (DSM-III-R) and com-pleted the trait-anxiety scale from the State-Trait AnxietyInventory . Exclusion criteria included a present or past history of Axis-I disorders and alcohol or other substance dependence, and high scores on trait anxiety.Volunteers were given a complete physical examinationthat included medical history, laboratory tests, ECG andurinalysis. All volunteers gave their written informedconsent to participate. Mean age was 25.7 years (range:19–38), mean weight 66.47 kg (range: 50.7–79.5) and
2002 Blackwell Science Ltd
Br J Clin Pharmacol