Ayahuasca has been used as a medicine in Mesoamerican ceremonies for thousands of years, but the primary psychoactive compound, DMT, was not synthesised until 1931. DMT was studied during the wave of psychedelic research in the 1950s and 60s until research was banned in 1971 by the Convention of Psychotropic Substances. Ayahuasca was not included in this treaty and, despite being outlawed in many countries, traditional practices have generally been exempt.
Rising interest in ayahuasca ceremonies, and the proliferation of ayahuasca retreats, demonstrates the demand for this ancient medicine. Now, as psychedelic research enters a renaissance, the need to understand these substances is growing.
The first brain scans of DMT were published in 2019, and in 2021 clinical trials began investigating DMT as a treatment for depression. As other classical psychedelics show promise in the treatment of a range of mental health conditions, further research into both DMT and ayahuasca is highly anticipated. An understanding of these substances will be a vital asset in the future of psychedelic research.