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What is DMT - Dimethyltryptamine?

DMT, often referred to as 'the spirit molecule' is a psychoactive substance that is regarded for its powerful psychedelic properties and its ability to transport users into other dimensions. DMT is naturally occurring in many plants and animals but has especially high concentrations in one of the ingredients of ayahuasca and is the active compound responsible for the visionary element of the ayahuasca experience.

DMT on its own is not bioavailable through oral consumption because the stomach produces an enzyme called monoamine oxidase that breaks down DMT and prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. The ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, acts as an inhibitor of monoamine oxidase (MAOI). This is where the complexity of the ayahuasca brew becomes clear. The ancient ingenious people of the Amazon somehow understood the pharmacology of these plants and knew that two plants had to be combined together to create the ayahuasca experience. First, the vine Banisteriopsis Caapi acts as the monoamine oxidase inhibitor which allows the DMT from the Charcuna/Choliponga leaves to become orally active. 

DMT, when smoked or injected, has an immediate onset and typically only lasts up to 20 minutes. Ayahuasca, on the other hand, allows DMT to be slowly absorbed into the body, creating a gradual onset and a duration of experience averaging around 5 hours.

Users of DMT and Ayahuasca report reductions in anxiety, depression, and PTSD while also reporting increased feelings of joy, peace and self-love. It is interesting to note how similar the Dimethyltryptamin molecule is to Seretonin – a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.

Ayahuasca Vs. DMT

It is important to highlight that even though the visionary aspect of the ayahuasca experience is credited to the presence of DMT in the brew, the SPIRIT of the medicine is said to come from the ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, the NON-DMT containing part of the medicine. The vine is also the part of the medicine responsible for the purge, a sometimes undesirable but necessary part of the ayahuasca experience. 

Other differences between ayahuasca and DMT, as discussed before, include the duration and route of administration.


Many are familiar with DMT from the documentary featured on Netflix The Spirit Molecule, narrated by Joe Rogan, which was based on the book of the same name written by Dr. Rick Strassman.

From 1990 to 1995 Strassman led a U.S. Government-approved and funded clinical research study at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine in Albuquerque.

During the study, Strassman administered 400 doses of  DMT - Dimethyltryptamine to 60 volunteers and documented the results. The patient reported fantastical tales  near - death encoutners, contacting otherworldly beings, of having their consciousness rocketed out of their bodies across the universe, and accessing mystical dimensions.

It is called the ‘Spirit Molecule’ because of the intensely spiritual visionary experiences reported by participants of studies and the countless personal testimonies of both DMT and ayahuasca users. Strassman's research connects DMT with the pineal gland, considered by Hindus to be the site of the seventh chakra and by Rene Descartes to be the seat of the soul.

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