Unknown Date – Synergy Discovered Between Ayahuasca Vine and DMT- Containing Plants
One of the traditional reasons indigenous people drink ayahuasca, a potion made by brewing the vine ayahuasca and DMT-containing plants, is to study and communicate with other medicinal plants. This is interesting on many levels. The alkaloids in the vine are necessary to make the psychedelic DMT molecules enter the body through the gut. If someone drank DMT without the harmala alkaloids founds in the ayahuasca vine (and in many other plants) it would be inactive and wouldn’t have any psychoactive effects. At a pharmacokinetic level (how molecules enter the blood) the ayahuasca vine is significant because when consumed it potentiates the dose of many other medicines and also some poisons.
Ethnobotanists have recorded over 150 plants added to ayahuasca brews. Sometimes other plants are added to enhance certain effects of the core vine brew; often it is to study those effects of the added plants. So, the discovery of the synergy between DMT-containing admixture plants and the MAOIs of the vine is, in some respects, not a big surprise. In the early 1980s, scientists discovered the biological and chemical mechanism of the combination of the ayahuasca vine and DMT-containing plants, showing how the MAOIs in the vine allow the DMT entry into the bloodstream when drunk together.
Gayle Highpine hypothesizes that the two classic DMT admixtures were discovered in different locations. Diplopterys cabrerana (chaliponga or chagrapanga) appear to have first been used together with the ayahuasca vine around the Ecuador/Colombia border, and the combination spread northward through Colombia. Judging by the elaborate myths describing the origins of yagé (as the vine and brew are called in Colombia) as deeply intertwined with the creation of the universe, earth, and cultures, and the use of yagé in communal ceremonies and dances which were later suppressed by missionaries, the use of yagé in Colombia dates well before the Spanish conquest.
Highpine suggests the ayahuasca and DMT combination appears to have been discovered around the area where the Napo River joins the Amazon. From there, she suggests, it spread southward along the Ucayali River and other rivers. This spreading may have been as late as the Rubber Boom industry of the nineteenth century. This is based on the fact that (while meditation ceremonies with vine brews were reported along the Rio Purus as late as the twentieth century) the ayahuasca-chacruna combination appears to be associated only with ayahuasca shamanism and seems to have spread southward with it during the notorious Rubber Boom and related industries.
A research paper by Bernd Brabec de Mori provides compelling evidence to suggest ayahuasca emerged from the Tukano region in the north. The paper maps the diversity and similarities of languages in ayahuasca songs from across many groups, revealing traces that point to the north as the origins of ayahuasca.
Highpine, G. (2012). Unraveling the Mystery of the Origins of Ayahuasca. Neip website
Schultes, R. E. (1976). Hallucinogenic Plants. Racine, WI: Golden Press.
Brabec de Mori, B. 2011. Tracing hallucinations: Contributing to a critical ethnohistory of ayahuasca usage in the Peruvian Amazon. In The Internationalization of Ayahuasca B. C. Labate & H. Jungaberle eds. Pp. 23-47. Zürich: Lit Verlag.