"Beyond Ayahuasca" Highlights by Dennis McKenna

Ayahuasca (B caapi) does more than allow someone to process DMT. It’s therapeutic properties are independent of DMT.

“They have some very interesting properties on their own, and I think beta-carboline chemistry and pharmacology may be a new frontier, a so far neglected frontier, that is gonna attract a lot more attention. For example, tetrahydroharmine, it turns out, one of the major components of Ayahuasca, it has the properties of an SSRI, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, as well as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor.” - Dennis McKenna @ 4:30

Banisteriopsis Caapi elevates serotonin levels

“Tetrahydroharmine upregulates the serotonin transporters. In long-term users of Ayahuasca, they have a significantly elevated level of serotonin transporters. Those are the proteins on which SSRIs work. And Ayahuasca, tetrahydroharmine specifically, upregulates those transporters… Certain kinds of alcoholism, violent homicidal behavior, suicidal tendencies, and binge eating has all been linked to a deficit in these serotonin transporters... The fact that ayahuasca reverses this may be part of it's therapeutic efficacy” - Dennis McKenna @ 5:40

Ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects may have more to do with Banisteriopsis Caapi than DMT

“Ayahuasca had been useful for the members, as long as they kept drinking it, because this is not a permanent effect. It lasts about two weeks, the effect is... And so, this may be a key to some of the therapeutic activities of Ayahuasca. Not so much the intense psychedelic experience, but the longer-term effects of tetrahydroharmine.” - Dennis McKenna @ 7:05

Harmine, the major beta-carboline in ayahuasca, has antidepressant and anxiolytic properties. It is antiviral, antiparasitic, and anti-tumor.

“Harmine is the major beta-carboline in Ayahuasca, but it's far more than just an MAO inhibitor… It has a variety of pharmacological effects. For example, harmine has antidepressant and anxiolytic effects.... It affects dopamine release… It does have anti-tumor activity… It has antiviral activity, and it's a very good antiparasitic.In the indigenous context, this may be why harmine, Ayahuasca, is taken, because it does protect against exposure to parasites.” - Dennis McKenna @ 10:10

Harmine, the major beta-carboline in ayahuasca, inhibits DYRK1A kinase which reduces abnormalities in neural development associated with Down Syndrome, Alzheimers, and other cognitive deficits. Inhibiting DYRK1A may prevent Alzheimers.

"The DYRK1A is an especially important regulator at the center of many processes that are important to brain development. It is located on chromosome 21 in a critical area. The chromosome 21 is associated with Down syndrome, and it turns out that inhibition of DYRK1 can reduce the abnormalities of brain development associated with Down syndrome, and also Alzheimer's, the loss of neuronal function associated with cognitive deficits. Harmine, by inhibiting this kinase, may help prevent Alzheimer's, as well as help prevent some of the pathologies associated with Down syndrome.” - Dennis McKenna @ 14:00

Harmine stimulates the growth of new nerve/neural cells by 71%

“Harmine stimulates the proliferation of human neural cell progenitors, essentially what we would call stem cells… Harmine stimulated growth of new nerve cells by 71%. So, that's a very robust response. And that may be one reason why regular drinking of Ayahuasca helps maintain cognitive function, and we're all probably familiar with many ayahuasqueros and others who are quite advanced in age, but quite, you know, quite cognitively competent. - Dennis McKenna @ 15:45

Banisteriopsis Caapi is neural protective, mediates pain, regulates insulin (anti-diabetic), and may help with inflammation, addiction, and psychiatric disorders

“It mediates pain modulation, and is neuroprotective. It regulates insulin secretion from pancreatic cells. So, potentially some of these may be antidiabetic. And these receptors are emerging as therapeutic targets for inflammatory processes, neural protection, pain, opiate addiction, and various psychiatric disorders. - Dennis McKenna @ 19:40

In Conclusion

Ayahuasca's beta-carbolines are structurally diverse, fantastically rich. There's very simple to very complex structures, as you can see here. It's a rich area to explore for the medicinal chemist, and you're gonna see a lot more coming out in the literature about beta-carbolines.