A plant of the Coffee Family, Psychotria viridis (chacruna) is native to the Amazon lowlands, especially Colombia and Bolivia, but it can also be found in Brazil and north of the Amazon region. It contains DMT, a psychedelic hallucinogen, and is the most popular Ayahuasca admixture.

It is rare for a botanical name to reflect the effects of the plant. With Psychotria, which literally means “influences the psych,” this might be the case.

Traditional Uses

The Cofán Indians of Colombia refer to Psychotria viridis as oprito, which means “heavenly people.”

They use it as an ayahuasca additive. By mixing oprito into their yagé (Banisteriopsis caapi tea), they are able to “see” the small heavenly people.

Ayahuasca has many uses. For example, shamans drink it to induce out-of-body experiences.

The word chacruna comes from the Quechua languages, where the verb chaqruy means  “to mix,” perhaps reflecting its use as an admixture.

The Santo Daime Church uses a sacrament they call daime, which is made from B. caapi and P. viridis.

The ayahuasca or jagube vine provides the power, while chacruna provides the light, or vision.

The daime is prepared ceremoniously over a week in a festival called a feitio, during which hymns are sung and daime is drunk.

The vine is scraped, cleaned, and pounded (bateção) by 12 men (representing the 12 apostles) until it disintegrates into thin threads, while the women clean and sort the fresh leaves.

The ingredients are alternately layered one on top of the other and boiled together with pure, filtered water for 12 hours, then the liquid is collected, and the plant material is boiled for another 12 hours with more water. This process is repeated several times.

The Active Constituent

DMT, the psychoactive ingredient in the leaves of Psychotria viridis, is an entheogenic indole alkaloid.

Dried P. viridis leaves may contain 0.1-0.61% DMT (typically around 0.3%).

Leaves collected at dawn or before dusk may have higher concentrations of DMT than those collected at other times.

As little as 1 ml of the juice pressed from the fresh leaves is said to contain 100 mg DMT.

If there are white thorns along the central nerve on the underside of the leaves, leaves with 3 or 9 such thorns are regarded as the most potent.

DMT may be present in the leaves of other species of Psychotria, such as P. poeppigiana (oreja el diablo; “devil’s ear”).

Chacruna (Psychotria viridis leaves)
Fresh chacruna leaves (Psychotria viridis)

Effects

DMT is not psychoactive when ingested orally on its own. An enzyme in our bodies, monoamine oxidase (MAO), breaks down any ingested DMT rapidly.

When a MAO inhibitor (MAOI) is ingested in addition, such as that contained in Banisteriopsis caapi, it prevents the enzyme from breaking down the DMT, and allow it to exhibit its consciousness expanding psychoactive effects.

A very fat book was written about the effects of ayahuasca. In general, the MAOI component induces a sensitive, existential state of consciousness along with a purgative action, while the DMT component (e.g., Psychotria viridis) produces hallucinations and visions.

Effects begin about 30-45 minutes after ingestion.

The DMT effects last about an hour.

How to Use

Chacruna leaves may be used both dried or fresh in making ayahuasca or ayahuasca analogs.

Ayahuasca is made by boiling about 13-14 grams of Banisteriopsis caapi with about 10-20 grams of Psychotria viridis for several hours. (Boiling more than once and for 10-12 hours is not uncommon.)

Some recommend using distilled water and adding lemon juice or vinegar.

Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis)
Brewing ayahuasca with chacruna (leaves of Psychotria viridis)

A common dose of DMT is about 30 mg. Anything larger than 60 mg is regarded as a heavy dose.

Ayahuasca preparations typically contain 25-36 mg of DMT per dose.

10 grams of dried P. viridis leaves can have as little as 10 mg (a light dose) and as much as 61 mg (a heavy dose). Based on average DMT levels, 10 grams would have 30 mg of DMT, making it a good starting dose.

Some recommend using doses of up to 75 grams. That may be needed when the potency of the leaves is very low or when other species of Psychotria are used with lower concentrations of DMT.

In ayahuasca analogs, the B. caapi is replaced with 3 grams of Syrian rue.

A thick, tar-like extract can be made from the leaves, which can be smoked.

Psychotria viridis (chacruna)
Chacruna (dried Psychotria viridis leaves)