New research suggests ayahuasca, a jungle vine found in the Peruvian rainforest, can have a powerful effect on the human central nervous system when brewed with other plants. Researchers say one of ayahuasca’s most promising uses could be in treating drug and alcohol addiction.
According to the World Health Organization, medicines derived from plants play a major role in the health care of 80 percent of the world’s population. Western medicine has synthesized many of these natural drugs, from the painkillers in willow bark to the anti-cancer compounds in the neem tree, and is constantly searching for more pharmaceuticals in the biodiversity of the world’s forests.
Ayahuasca is known as a master plant, a very powerful remedy that treats the whole person: body, mind, and soul. “The ayahuasca [can] cure anything you have,” the shaman says. “Start with simple things. For example, it’s very simple to cure or repel the bad energies from your insides. What is the bad energy? One of them could be the fears, then some wound or injury you have.”
An international research team is investigating the pharmaceutical potential of ayahuasca, known scientifically as Banisteriopsis caapi. Principal investigator, Dr. Charles Grob, is a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. His team has done a chemical analysis of the medicinal drink. Grob says one of ayahuasca’s most promising uses is in treating drug and alcohol addiction. “Number one, it does not appear to be addictive and the individuals do not develop a tolerance, they do not go through withdrawals, and generally speaking, it is very unusual for people to take it on consecutive days over an extended period of time.” The potion also has anti-parasitic properties, which can help prevent malaria. There is also some evidence that it diminishes the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.