N,N-dimethyltryptamine (or DMT for short) is an entheogenic substance with psychedelic and dissociative properties. It naturally occurs in many living beings, including humans, but doesn’t normally exert its effects since it is broken down by an enzyme in our guts, known as monoamine oxidase. For this reason, eating plants that contain a high concentration of DMT does not bring about any psychedelic effects unless taken with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). Smoking DMT however bypasses the gut and works even without a MAOI, but generates a much shorter experience as we shall see below.
Dr. Rick Strassman speculates in his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor’s Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences that DMT is the “Spirit Molecule” and that it is activated when we are born and when we die, that is, when the spirit moves in and out of the physical body. Indeed, the effects of DMT include a sense of the consciousness traveling into incredible dimensions as well as experiencing profound and awe-inspiring visions and thoughts.
DMT is related to neurotransmitters in our brain such as tryptamine, serotonin, and melatonin, and to other psychedelic substances, such as 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenin (5-HO-DMT), and the active components of psilocybin mushrooms, namely psilocybin (4-PO-DMT) and psilocin (4-HO-DMT).
Table of Contents
Ayahuasca (also known as yagé) brews, which are made of DMT containing plants along with MAOI plants containing harmala alkaloids (traditionally Banisteriopsis caapi), have been used in South America for hundreds, if not thousands of years for healing and divinatory purposes.
The B. caapi vine is considered to be the “spirit” of ayahuasca, the gatekeeper, and guide to the otherworldly realms.
It is possible to acquire DMT by extracting it from the various plant species that contain the compound with little chemistry knowledge (see also this extraction guide). DMT in its pure form can be inhaled. When inhaled (insufflated, smoked, or vaped) or injected, thereby bypassing monoamine oxidase, the effects last a short period of time: about 5 to 30 minutes. Even in these modes of ingestion, however, taking a MAOI beforehand prolongs and potentiates the effects.
The boiling point of DMT is somewhere between 80-160 °C (176-320 °F), which means it is suitable for inhaling using a vaporizer, at least in freebase form. If you don’t have a vaporizer, you can smoke it. DMT fumarate, on the other hand, may be less suitable for vaping, but is more stable.
The best vaporizer for inhaling DMT is the VaporGenie.
Alternatively, it is possible to consume the plant brewed together into an Ayahuasca preparation together with another plant which contains harmala alkalods (MAOI), such as Syrian rue.
Sometimes a synthetic MAOI (contained in some anti-depressants) or pure harmaline is used in a preparation called Pharmahuasca. 50 mg DMT and 100 mg harmaline (or 50 mg harmaline with 50 mg harmine) is usually the recommended pharmahuasca dosage. Capsules with harmaline/harmine are swallowed first and then the capsule containing the DMT is taken 15 to 20 minutes later.
Traditionally, ayahuasca is prepared ritualistically by picking chacruna leaves (Psychotria vridis) at sunrise, then saying a prayer. The Banisteriopsis caapi vine is cleaned meticulously with wooden spoons and pounded with wooden mallets until it breaks down into fibers, which are then brewed on their own at first, and later together with the chacruna, for hours, until the liquid is reduced significantly.
Effects of DMT can last 3-8 hours when it is orally ingested along with a MAOI with possible after-affects for an additional 2-3 hours. The onset of effects occurs about 30-60 minutes after consumption and effects peak after about 2 hours.
The DMT dosage ranges from 30 mg to 150 mg, requiring 50-150 mg of harmala alkaloids. It can be taken orally by dissolving it in acidic juice, in capsules, or rolled inside smoking paper and swallowed. Traditional ayahuasca preparations are said to contain approximately 20-30 mg of DMT.
If smoked or vaporized, a light dose is up to 15-20 mg DMT, while a strong dose starts at 25-40 mg, inhaled in a few successive breaths. Effects may begin within 3 minutes, peak after 1-15 minutes and may last for up to 30 minutes, with after-effects up to an hour later. Vaporization is said to be more effective.
DMT can be inhaled using a pipe, bong, e-cigarette, oil burner/freebase pipe (meth pipe), or vaporizer. The DMT is sometimes mixed with cannabis, ash, or herbs that may be MAOI (such as passionflower), or contain other active ingredients (such as cannabis, salvia, and dill weed), or be inactive (such as mint leaves).
Changa are smoking mixtures that like ayahuasca contain a source of DMT as well as a source of MAOI (such as Banisteriopsis caapi, blue lotus, and passionflower). This makes the experience slower and slightly longer than that produced by smoking DMT alone. Adding a MAOI means you can use less DMT than you would normally need since the MAOI potentiates the DMT.
The effects of changa may last up to 30 minutes. They are more coherent, slower, and less chaotic than those of freebase DMT. It is possible to reach the same effect by orally consuming a MAOI, then afterwards to vaporize or smoke DMT.
To effectively smoke changa, smoke a full bong bowl holding the smoke in for at least 20 seconds. Smoking it in a joint it said to be less effective.
In the DMT experiments conducted by Dr. Rick Strassman injections of high doses of DMT produced experiences involving perceived alien entities or beings of light, inhabitants of a perceived non-corporeal independent reality to which the consciousness was able to transition. Near-death experiences and mystical states also occurred, albeit less often. DMT can also cause out-of-body experiences.
As I mentioned above, effects of inhaled DMT differ from that of ingested DMT in the onset, length, and intensity (or speed) of the experience. DMT trips are sudden, short, and the experience they produce is very rapid, while ayahuasca preparations produce a slow, much longer experience, which allows for self-work involving the gaining of personal insight, attaining realizations about one’s life, and so on.
Like other psychedelics, DMT induces a state of mind characterized by euphoria with a “body high” that is pleasurable, though sometimes physical discomfort may also be felt and even anxiety. Laughter fits are common.
Visually, DMT experiences may range from dynamic hallucinations of geometric forms through intense internal and external hallucinations to full fledged visions, which are vivid day dreams. A dark environment, or using blindfolds, can help intensify the visual experience.
Some people report dream potentiation, including more vivid dreams and lucid dreams, after long-term use of DMT.
Ego death may be experienced along with a feeling of unity and interconnectedness as well as a sense that language and the body are unfamiliar concepts. Déjà vu and other distortions of time perception may occur, especially in inhaled DMT. The short experience may be felt as much longer.
Cognitively, one may experience unconventional thought patterns, including multiple thought streams. One remains mentally sober and clear-headed throughout the trip.
Ayahuasca produces mystical, spiritual, and religious experiences involving revelations regarding our purpose on earth and the nature of the universe. Often it is experienced as a presence that teaches us how to be better people. Sometimes the process involves a difficult experience, involving emotional, psychological distress, and ego death, which then allows us to reach a rebirth. It’s like going through a purification in purgatory to reach an ecstatic heavenly state of consciousness filled with awe, love, and joy.
Increased heart rate and blood pressure are some of the physical manifestations of DMT consumption. When ayahuasca is consumed, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and hot/cold flushes can be experienced, probably due to the MAOI component of the brew. This facilitates the release of negative energy and emotions, but also serves a parallel physical purpose (at least in the Amazon rainforest) of expelling parasitic worms from the body. (Harmala alkaloids are anthelmintic.)
Other side effects of ayahuasca consumption may include tremors, autonomic instability, hyperthermia, motor function impairment, sedation and relaxation (though in some settings, it may be stimulating and energetic), vertigo, dizziness, and muscle spasms.
DMT is not addictive or toxic. It has a very low abuse potential, no withdrawal syndrome or tolerance, and no cross-tolerance with other psychedelics.
It may however produce anxiety and psychosis, especially in people with an underlying mental condition. Negative reactions may be minimized by proper set and setting, as well as by using a small dosage, and gradually increasing it over time. Reasonable doses and a healthy set and setting may ensure that you experience little to no negative cognitive, psychiatric, or physical consequences. Still, if you have a history of mental disease, I can not recommend that you experiment with DMT without guidance.
When adding a MAOI (in changa or ayahuasca), especially a synthetic MAOI, additional precautions should be employed, such as avoiding 5-HTP, caffeine, nicotine, and drugs such as anti-depressants and sympathomimetics (cough medications).
Ayahuasca, and MAOIs in general, should not be taken by people with heart conditions, including hypertension, or if you’re on any prescription medications, unless your doctor approves it.
Some shamans recommend abstaining from spicy and heavily seasoned foods, meat, excess fat, salt, caffeine, acidic foods (such as citrus) and sex before, after, or during ingesting ayahuasca.
When using a synthetic MAOI, it is important to be on a low-tyramine diet.
I’m very experienced with ayahuasca. For me, the ayahuasca trip is a bit different each time. It feels like a school, a progression of lessons; each time I’m learning something new. Crown chakra trips involve profound feelings of spirituality and union with the Divine. Sometimes the trip is very visual and my presence is located around the third eye. Other trips are in the heart, and predominated by feelings of love. There are also trips that engage the lower chakras. Base chakra trips are characterized by strong bodily sensations.
In ayahuasca sessions, 2-4 doses are usually taken. With an hour and half between doses. The first dose usually brings about a pleasant intoxication along with euphoria. Then in the following doses, the effects become stronger. The purgative effects of Banisteriopsis caapi causes a nausea that comes and goes in waves. I feel that my stomach or intestines are being squeezed, and as they are, the nausea becomes stronger as well as the hallucinations. A strong feeling of a presence is also felt along with a sense of learning, understanding, gaining insight. When the difficult part is over, a strong euphoria is felt as well as a sense of awe.
Experimenting with MAOI and DMT each on their own allowed me to realize what each of them contribute to the experience. The MAOI component obviously is responsible for the purgative effect and the nausea that comes and goes in waves, but also for the euphoria and an anxious, cold, and alert existential state along with introspection, increased self-awareness, a meditative state, and attainment of insights. Even without the DMT, I experience intense internal hallucinations, such as tunnel experiences, tracers, and zooming in, at the peak of nausea. Time seems to pass a lot faster. The coupling of the hallucinations and the nausea makes it difficult to enjoy the former. I feel I can easily leave my body, but grounded by the intense body load. When the nausea starts going away, I’m left with a strong sense of euphoria, love, and joy.
On the other hand, smoking DMT on its own, produced the other experiential component of my ayahuasca experiences. While I can’t find the words to describe my DMT experiences, I can say that it has a strong visual component, which is so intense that I feel as if it bites me in the stomach and turns me, as I enter a vortex of shapes, internally hallucinated. A feeling that everything is meaningless contrasts with MAOI sense of deep meaning. A presence is felt. The intensity of the psychedelic imagery dissociates me, contrasting with the MAOI’s grounding effect. Leaves me with a feeling of awe and euphoria.
Smoking DMT with a MAOI (Syrian rue seeds) the experience is remarkably like ayahuasca, just a lot shorter. Smoking MAOI rather than consuming it orally eliminates the purgative effect. Its influence on DMT is that it makes its effects slower, weaker, less intensive.
Alexander Shulgin did several trials with DMT in TiHKAL (#6). After smoking 100 mg, he reported:
As I exhaled I became terribly afraid, my heart very rapid and strong, palms sweating. A terrible sense of dread and doom filled me — I knew what was happening, I knew I couldn’t stop it, but it was so devastating; I was being destroyed — all that was familiar, all reference points, all identity — all viciously shattered in a few seconds. I couldn’t even mourn the loss — there was no one left to do the mourning. Up, up, out, out, eyes closed, I am at the speed of light, expanding, expanding, expanding, faster and faster until I have become so large that I no longer exist — my speed is so great that everything has come to a stop — here I gaze upon the entire universe.
One person related having an out-of-body experience after smoking 40mg DMT in a bong mixed with some tobacco. Here’s an excerpt from his experience report:
I inhaled and rushed the bong, and instead of inhaling smoke that tastes like burning plastic, it was like I inhaled a dog of crisp sea air, and I could sense sparkles and every salt particle. That’s about when some visuals resembling a monochrome dream catcher materialized in front of me, taking up my entire field of vision. Colours quickly filled this and I was in. I was lifted out of my body very quickly, and landed in another world, one made entirely of multi-colored, luminous, ever-changing ‘generic digital’ or LED lights, though despite literally everything being made of this light (land, sky, everything within) I could make out that I was wandering around a walled maze (just like the 3D maze screensaver on Windows 98, but made entirely out of ever-changing color). I was only here for a matter of seconds. I then saw a ‘blocky’ wall of light move like a wave from left to right – if ocean waves were on Minecraft they would look like this, very blocky and simple. The wave had a pair of cartoon eyes, like Goofy or Donald Duck or whatever. After this I was drifting from the planet’s surface and ended up looking at a bright orange globe from space. After this I heard someone in the room say something, so I opened my eyes and I saw in splitscreen reality on the upper half, and my DMT trip carrying on without my attention beneath. That was kind of like when you’re swimming in goggles and you lift your head out of the water just enough so that you can see above and below surface. The real world was rather dull in comparison…
Out-of-body experiences are also common with ayahuasca. One person ingested Syrian rue along with Banisteriopsis caapi. He reports:
During this time I lay on the floor floating in and out of consciousness. It is during this time that the most profound experience comes into play. I am all of the sudden out of my body in a way similar to smoking DMT but more intense. I go out into a black nothingness and I am accompanied by three other beings of unknown descent. We all are sitting with our legs crossed…
Another person wrote:
Very soon I had no body. I just was. Complete and utter transcendence. But I could still see, which puzzled me, because I had no eyes. I actually began to float out of my body, and into the room. I could see my life-less body, laying down, with my hands across my chest. I could see the shaman, and my two friends, (Y) was crouched in the fetal position. But there was also this violet light, and it seemed to be coming out of my body; the room was filled with this light. I wasn’t scared because I knew that out-of-body experiences are common on ayahausca, but I never thought it would feel this real. The realization that I had become some sort of hyperdimensional entity freaked me out. What if I never returned to my body? Was I dead? Immediately, I returned back to my body after thinking those thoughts. I was both filled with relief, that I was alive, and regret, that I hadn’t gone further into the spirit realm. However, my body was still fairly numb, and raising my hands gave me the sensation of flying through some ethereal realm.
Someone else recounted:
At this point, I flew out of my body, still remaining conscious of my environment and my friend, but out of my body. I went up level by level, seeing on the way pyramid structures, and shooting out of the tip of those pyramid structures, until I landed on a level where the travelling stopped. I could see a high energy place, with huge amounts of energy going in all directions, on a massive scale. In the distance, I could see another pyramid like structure and some being there channeling energy in all directions, with high vibrant yellow, orange, blue, red colors…
Plant Sources of DMT
DMT can be consumed orally alongside a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (e.g., Banisteriopsis caapi) or it can be used on its own through non-oral methods of use, such as smoking.
While DMT is illegal in most of the world, many plants contain considerable amounts of DMT, and buying them is often allowed. Here is a partial list of DMT-containing plants which are known to be beneficial:
Ayahuasca & Anahuasca (Analogs)
Ayahuasca is traditionally made of the leaves of a DMT-containing plant called chacruna (Psychotria viridis).
Other plants containing DMT may be used in ayahuasca analogs include:
- Acacia spp. bark and/or leaves – Usually only seeds are available for sale. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to cultivate them from seed. Various species of Australian Acacia known as wattle are said to be suitable for making smokable DMT extracts. Species of Acacia suitable for producing ayahuasca analogs (known as Acaciahuasca) include:
- Acacia confusa
- The bark and leaves of Acacia maidenii. Easy to cultivate in temperate zones.
- Leaves of Acacia phlebophylla – very rare; can be found only in Mount Buffalo National Park in the alpine region of Victoria, Australia.
- The bark and leaves of Acacia simplicifolia found in Australia and New Caledonia.
- Acacia obtusifolia
- Acacia acuminata
The dried cortices of the root and trunk of Mimosa tenuiflora (also known as M. hostilis) are used in an ayahuasca analog known as Juremahuasca or Mimohuasca. It may also be smoked for mild DMT effects.
The leaves of Diplopterys cabrerana contain DMT and may be used in ayahuasca analogs.
In a preparation known as Prairie Ayahuasca, which is popular in North America, the root cortex of Desmanthus illinoensis (Illinois bundleflower) is used as a DMT source.
Among several DMT-containing grasses, the only one as far as I know which can be used in ayahuasca analogs is the root of Phragmites australis (common reed).
Other DMT Plants
- The leaves of the Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and other canary grasses (Phalaris spp.) – may be active when smoked only as an extract. Sometimes used as an ayahuasca analog (Phalahuasca), but may be toxic.
- The seeds of some varieties of Anadenanthera colubrina contain DMT and are traditionally dried and ground to a fine powder, then sniffed or smoked.
- The seedpods and bark of Anadenanthera peregrina (yopo) – grind and use as a snuff to experience psychedelic effects and multidimensional visions. Not a pleasant experience.
The above represent a small sample of the DMT plants that are offered to us by Mother Nature. Additional DMT plants exist within the following genera: Amanita, Delosperma, Mesembryanthemum, Umbellularia, Desmodium, Lespedeza, Petalostylis, Phyllodium, Iryanthera, Osteophloeum, Virola, Testulea, Eriogonum, Melicope, Vepris, Zanthoxylum, and more.
I’ll finish this article with a note regarding the theoretical possibility of internally generating a DMT experience without using any substances (I already discussed how to achieve this using OTC supplements here). There are two ways this may work.
First, some people believe that since DMT and MAOI are two substances that occur naturally in the body, there should be a way to make the body secrete them at the same time, generating an ayahuasca experience.
Then, there is the possibility of generating DMT within the lungs which may simulate smoking DMT. This can be done through the hyperventilation that occurs during some types of yogic breathing (pranayama) as well as through Rebirthing.
The plants are here to teach us, but we have everything we need within us…