Ayahuasca, an Amazonia indigenous culture psychedelic brew has been used for centuries in traditional spiritual medicine. It will now be the topic of a research-based discussion between Brazil’s University of Rio Grande do Norte and the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
What is Ayahuasca
An entheogenic brew made out of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and other ingredients, the drink is used as traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous cultures of the Amazon basin. A common ingredient is the shrub Psychotria viridis which contains the primary psychoactive dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
Focus on Depression
Researchers have been eying this substance as a potential input for new forms of medicine to combat depression. In fact general interest in this topic has considerably picked up lately; tourists have been flocking to South America to take place in ayahuasca ceremonies, reports New Zealand’s Stuff.
The Clinical Trial with Ayahuasca Shows Results
Enter Dr. Nicole Galvão-Coelho, from University of Rio d Norte. She was part of a team which tested the impacts of ayahuasca on depression in a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. The findings were published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry journal in 2018.
During the trial, patients with treatment-resistant depression and healthy control subjects were given either ayahuasca tea or placebo and had their cortisol levels tested 48-hours after. Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone—it fuels the body’s fight or flight response.
The findings lead investigators to conclude that the indigenous brew had “significant” and “rapid” reduction in depressive symptoms after a single ayahuasca session when compared to placebo Dr. Galvão-Coelho reported to Stuff. Moreover, salivary cortisol levels were greater in those that took the ayahuasca putting them equal to those participants that were healthy controls. The team observed links between the effect and improvements of biomarkers of depression—increasing protein in the brain which induces neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change as noted in Stuff.
Kiwi Amazonian Convention
Dr. Nicole Galvão-Coelho will present at the University of Auckland. Those meeting her include Sarah Hetrick, an associate professor from the University of Auckland’s Department of Psychological Medicine. Professor Hetrick points out that there was a growing interest in “moving away from classical interventions to treat depression.” She reports that there is widespread interest in Dr. Galvão-Coelho’s talk.
Call to Action: We can only say that for the millions that face depression and that can’t find help anywhere else why not explore the scientific properties of a compound that appears to have been in use for perhaps thousands of years. Of course, there is much to learn about the science but Dr. Galvão-Coelho appears to be on a mission—already conducting a random controlled trial. We will gladly keep an eye on her for our readers.