Banisteriopsis caapi, also known as Ayahuasca, Ourinhos, Caapi or Yage, is a South American jungle vine of the family Malpighiaceae. It is used to prepare Ayahuasca, a decoction that has a long history of entheogenic uses as a medicine and "plant teacher" among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon Rainforest. It contains the beta-carboline harmala alkaloids and MAOIs harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine. The MAOIs in caapi allow the primary psychoactive compound, DMT (which is introduced from the other primary ingredient in Ayahausca, the Psychotria viridis plant), to be orally active. "The stems contain 0.11-0.83% beta-carbolines, of which 40-96% is harmine." Most caapi is cultivated by the shamans who use it.
According to The CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names by Umberto Quattrocchi, the naming of B. caapi was actually dedicated to John Banister, a seventeenth-century English clergyman and scientist. An earlier name for the genus Banisteriopsis was Banisteria, and the plant is sometimes referred to as Banisteria caapi in everyday usage.
The name Ayahuasca means "vine of the soul", and the shamans of the indigenous Western Amazonian tribes use the plant in religious and healing ceremonies. In addition to its hallucinogenic properties, caapi is used for its healing properties as a purgative, effectively cleansing the body of parasites and helping the digestive tract.
Psychotria viridis is a shrub from the coffee family, Rubiaceae. It contains the hallucinogenic - or entheogenic - indole alkaloid DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) 0.1-0.61% dried mass. It is known primarily as a principle admixture to the ayahuasca brew used in South and Central America. It has many local names, including Chacruna and Chacrona (from Quechua chaqruy, "to mix"). It is legal in Brazil where native tribes use it religiously.
Vegetalistas, healers in the Amazon regions of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, recognize different sub-varieties of Psychotria viridis, based on the location of glands on the back of the leaves. The Brazilian ayhuasca church, Santo Daime, holds that Banisteriopsis caapi, the primary component of ayahuasca, provides "force" to the tea, whereas Psychotria viridis, or chacruna, provides "light".
This may not be far from the truth as the recognized mechanism of action is the combination of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) which allows ayahuasca to be effective in oral doses (unlike smoking DMT crystals which requires no conditioning partner drug).
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