Ayahuasca, a jungle vine from Peru, is being studied as a source for a variety of medications, including possibly addiction treatment, the Voice of America reported March 23.
The word ayahuasca means “vine of the dead,” and the plant has long been used in traditional medicines. Brewed with another plant, the chacruna, it has a powerful effect on the central nervous system and is used in native ceremonies to induce visions as well as in medications.
Researchers say the drink mix produces DMT, a natural brain chemical similar to serotonin that acts as an antidepressant. Charles Grob, a researcher at the UCLA School of Medicine, said that ayahuasca and chacruna could be used to treat addictions.
“Number one, it does not appear to be addictive and the individuals do not develop a tolerance, they do not go through withdrawals, and generally speaking, it is very unusual for people to take it on consecutive days over an extended period of time,” he said.
However, DMT is listed as a controlled substance with no medical use in the U.S., making the ayahuasca brew illegal here.