For thousands of years, Amazonian shamans have protected the health of the people in their communities using a sacred hallucinogenic brew, said to be capable of healing many kinds of physical and psychological ailments.

The brew is known as ayahuasca, and contains a potent psychoactive compound called DMT, which incredibly has been shown in several research studies to ease depression and other mental disorders.

New findings have recently emerged which reveal that ayahuasca may actually create new brain cells.

The implications of this are enormous:

It could be that ayahuasca can cure cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other neurogenerative diseases.

What does the research say?

Researchers from the Beckley / San Pau Research Programme, in collaboration with the Spanish Medical Research Council, have revealed that certain compounds in ayahuasca can actually stimulate the birth of new neurons.


A team of researchers led by Jordi Riba were able to successfully stimulate the development of hippocampal stem cells into both young and mature neurons by mixing them in a petri dish with two compounds found in ayahuasca: harmine and tetrahydroharmine.

In reaction to this novel discovery, Beckley Foundation founder and director Amanda Feilding told IFLScience that “we were pretty amazed at the results – the fact that we were able to generate new brain cells and then mature brain cells from harmine and tertrahydroharmine. They seem to be remarkably prolific.”

This finding is very exciting. However, Feilding says that “it’s early days. We’ve only done it in a dish, we haven’t done it in vivo yet. But if it is as good as it looks, it could be an indication for a new treatment [for cognitive disorders] down the line.”

“The fact that [we’ve created] hippocampus cells could be good in the sense that one hopes that they’ll help with Alzheimer’s and possibly even strokes. It’s much too early days to say if it would, but it possibly could indicate that,” she continues.

There’s still much research to undertake. Feilding explains that “this is just phase one,” explaining that the next step is to try and replicate these results using other components of ayahuasca.

Fielding as wants to branch out to other psychedelics:

“I’m very much wanting to do it with LSD as well,” she says, “because I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we get the same results.”

Further resources

Feilding is joining an ever growing number of neuroscientists who are investing the healing properties of psychedelic compounds on mental health.

If ayahuasca and other psychedelic components deliver even a fraction of what recent studies suggest they are able to, then it’s worth continuing to explore.

If you’re interested in learning more about ayahuasca, consider the following resources:

Originally published on The Power of Ideas.




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