Scientists Are Investigating Ayahuasca As A Treatment For Depression

For centuries, Amazonian shamans have been brewing ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant-based tea, for use in traditional healing ceremonies.

Now, the substance has caught the attention of not only American tourists and spiritual seekers, who are traveling to South America to participate in these ceremonies, but also medical researchers, who are investigating ayahuasca (also known as the “spirit vine”) as a treatment for mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

This week, the results of the first clinical trial investigating ayahuasca as a treatment for depression were published in the Brazilian Review of Psychiatry. Its publication marks a promising early step toward clinical use of the psychotropic substance as a treatment for depression and other mental health problems.

For the small study, neuroscientists at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil gave ayahuasca to volunteers who had been diagnosed with depression that proved resistant to at least one type of antidepressant. The researchers observed reduced depression in all participants within two to three hours of ingesting the substance, and also after a three-week follow-up.

The preliminary study had a very small sample size of only six participants. The study’s conclusions are further limited by the absence of a placebo group, but they do suggest the plant holds promise as a fast-acting treatment for depression.

“This is an area that really does merit further work and serious consideration,” Dr. Brian Anderson, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, who has also conducted medical anthropological work on ayahuasca, told The Huffington Post. “There’s a need for effective treatments that can work in the short term. A lot of our current depression treatments take weeks to use, when we think about pills or psychotherapies.”

So how does the brew provide both immediate and lingering relief from —> Read More