Ayahuasca vs DMT: Differences, Similarities And Effects

Is ayahuasca brew better than smoke DMT? Or are they just the same?

Many mistook DMT for ayahuasca or vice versa. Ayahuasca and DMT are often used alongside each other with some even thinking that they are one and the same.

While the two hold many similarities, they aren’t 100% alike. One is better than the other in some areas and if you can’t decide whether you get ayahuasca or a DMT, then this page is definitely for you.

In the next section, I will discuss the differences, similarities, and effects of ayahuasca and DMT. There will be aspects where the two are very similar, so don’t be surprised. However, you may also expect to discover a number of differences in terms of the psychedelic experience when using plant spirits. Without further ado, let’s explore ayahuasca vs DMT!

Ayahuasca vs DMT

Ayahuasca and DMT are two different things. But consuming ayahuasca could also mean drinking DMT. I understand that it sounds confusing how ayahuasca consumption could lead you to a DMT trip too. So, we will define each of them in the next section.

What is Ayahuasca

So, what is Ayahuasca? It is a psychoactive brew native from South America. It is traditionally used as spiritual medicine. This also known as the tea, ayahuasca vine, Mother Ayahuasca, and la purga — is a brew made from the leaves of Psychotria Viridis shrub and stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. You can also put additional ingredients for the brew.

P. Viridis is a plant that contains the primary psychoactive, DMT. You can also use Diplopterys cabrerana(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplopterys_cabrerana as a substitute. Meanwhile, the B. caapi vine is cleaned and smashed before being boiled to increase extraction of its medicinal compounds. It contains several alkaloids that act as MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) which is required for DMT to be orally active.

DMT (dimethyltryptamine) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the two active chemical composition of ayahuasca. The DMT compound in the ayahuasca brew interacts with the serotonin receptors and combats a range of ameliorating serotonin deficiencies. Studies(2)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0163725804000464?via%3Dihub suggest that long-term use can increase serotonin availability and will help combat PTSD, ADJD, and senile dementia. Ayahuasca can also treat depression and addiction.

Ayahuasca brews are used for spiritual and religious purposes by ancient Amazonian tribes and are considered a sacred beverage in religious communities in Brazil and North America, including Santo Daime. The plant medicine is also used for healing ceremonies to ease illnesses, trauma, addiction, or substance abuse.

Many reported about Ayahuasca’s benefits including productivity, creativity, better perspective in life, and more. However, those with mental illnesses are advised to avoid it as it can make their condition worse.

What is DMT

DMT is a hallucinogenic and psychedelic drug that occurs naturally in many plants and animals. It is also referred to as the “spirit molecule” due to the intense psychedelic experience it offers.

Most people are familiar with ayahuasca but not with DMT. But it’s time to know that DMT is the psychoactive element present in the traditional ayahuasca brew. It has been used in South American ceremonies and religious events for thousands of years, according to The Recovery Village(3)https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/ayahuasca-addiction/.

It is responsible for the hallucinogenic effects or psychoactive effects that you experience when drinking brewed ayahuasca. Its chemical root structure is similar to the anti-migraine drug sumatriptan and acts as a non-selective agonist at most or all of the serotonin receptors, in particular at the serotonin 5-ht2a receptor. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a large effect on the majority of brain cells.

Sometimes it is also referred to as Dimitri. DMT produces effects similar to those of psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms. It’s found in around 400 kinds of plants and fungi as well as in the brains of some mammals in small quantities.

Many psychedelic substances occur naturally and DMT is among them. The other common hallucinogens are psilocybin (magic mushrooms), salvia divinorum, and mescaline (peyote cactus) to name a few.


Smoked DMT vs Ayahuasca: The Differences & Similarities

Ayahuasca, the hallucinogenic brew, contains DMT. However, you can take DMT without brewing it in an ayahuasca tea. DMT can be taken in different ways — it can be snorted, smoked, injected, or ingested through ayahuasca tea.

The effects of DMT differ depending on the way it is consumed. For instance, smoking DMT can change one’s sense of reality, but the effects only last for a few minutes compared to brewing it in ayahuasca tea.

DMT lasts longer when it is consumed orally as a tea because it is absorbed through the lining of the stomach. The process keeps it from reaching the brain quickly compared to smoking it that’s why it lasts longer. And it changes your overall DMT experience.

To give you a concrete view of the differences between DMT and ayahuasca, I compare them using various factors.

1. Duration

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca and DMT work differently. Ayahuasca’s effects takes 20 to 60 minutes to kick in and can last up to 6 hours.

DMT

Meanwhile, DMT’s duration depends on several factors depending on how you take it, how much you take and your body composition. According to Healthline(4)https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-dmt-last#factors, some people feel its effects almost immediately within about 45 seconds. When taken through ayahuasca, it has to pass through the digestive system first which takes it longer to be felt.

The effects of DMT can last up to 10 to 25 minutes if you smoke it and for about 4 hours if you drink ayahuasca.

2. Intensity

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca retreat centers offer different types of ceremonies, some are more therapeutic while others are more ritualistic. When ayahuasca is taken as it was traditionally intended, in the right setting and with proper precaution the effects are highly enlightening.

Your ayahuasca experience will not be the same with your colleague or friend even if you both attend the same ceremony. But common side-effects include vomit, hallucination, see visions, hear voices, feel extreme fear, cry, laugh, experience healing, travel outside of their bodies and more. Others said they encountered demons or went back to their childhood years to confront their traumas.

DMT

Smoked DMT offers the same intense experience, but its effects do not last as long as ayahuasca. It is better described as an extreme experience because it can be enlightening for some people but rarely in the way that ayahuasca’s much longer introspective experience is.

3. Acquisition

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is illegal but easier to acquire because you can buy it online. However, you can’t be sure of the source of those versions that are available on the internet. And although you can just buy it online, it’s recommended to take it under a shaman’s supervision by joining ayahuasca retreats and ceremonies.

But if you are determined to try it on your own there are ayahuasca tea kits that you can purchase online(5)https://www.soul-herbs.com/, so you can create your own brew. Preparing Ayahuasca takes only a few minutes, so you can surely manage to do it at home.

DMT

DMT is generally harder to obtain. However, it is easier to use because it only requires some basic paraphernalia. And you can use it without the need of a ceremony or supervision which makes it dangerous with some encountering terrifying experiences with traumatic effects.

4. Safety

There is a misconception that natural means safe. However, the said claim is not necessarily true because taking DMT or ayahuasca still comes with risks or negative consequences.

In this area, both ayahuasca and DMT present a lot of similarities. For instance, both have physical and psychological effects. Also, taking ayahuasca or DMT has negative effects because it could lead to serotonin syndrome when taken in excess.

Ayahuasca contains DMT which causes the brain to release serotonin. High doses of serotonin could lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin overdose or Serotonin Syndrome Disorder. The condition occurs in people who are taking antidepressants and DMT at the same time. The condition might provoke seizures, obstruct breathing and induce coma.

Those with a history of psychiatric disorders or mental health disorders like schizophrenia should avoid taking ayahuasca.

There have been several reports of death(6)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007657/ including an alleged homicide during an ayahuasca ceremony. The deaths are generally unclear but may be related to shamans adding additional plants in the brew that may have increased its toxicity.

Some DMT users have had positive psychological experiences with the drug but others have suffered DMT trips. According to the Addiction Center(7)https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/hallucinogens/dmt/, DMT can cause a person to die or greatly suffer.

Between the two, DMT may not produce as many side effects as other hallucinogens, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe. Like other drugs, its effects can be unpredictable.

5. Effects

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca has hallucinogenic properties due to the presence of DMT found in the P. Viridis plant which is a strong psychedelic compound. Those who have tried ayahuasca usually experience common symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, feelings of euphoria, strong visual and auditory hallucinations, and mind-altering psychedelic effects. Some also experienced intense fear and paranoia.

Several said they saw demons, ghosts, and other horrible shapes and characters. Others said the bad entities stayed with them after the ayahuasca ceremony. Due to the terrible experience, they do not recommend ayahuasca.

However, more testified that they had a positive experience with their ayahuasca trip because the experience was enlightening and life-changing in a positive way. Ayahuasca tea is used by shaman or curanderos in religious ceremonies.

The brew leads one to an altered level of consciousness due to the psychoactive substances in the ingredients. Here are the various side-effects that one may encounter when using ayahuasca, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation(8)https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/ayahuasca/.

• Anxiety
• Diarrhea
• Euphoria
• Introspection
• Fear or paranoia
• Increased body temperature
• Intense anxiety and confusion
• Experiencing powerful emotions
• Feelings of connection and unity
• Frightening or confronting hallucinations
• Intense visual and auditory hallucinations
• Moderate increase in blood pressure and heart rate
• Nausea and vomiting (induced by drinking the decoction)

DMT

DMT is a powerful substance that can cause a number of mental and physical side effects. In this section, you will notice that DMT offers more similar effects to ayahuasca.

• Euphoria
• Floating
• Diarrhea
• Dizziness
• Agitation
• Paranoia
• Dilated pupils
• Rapid heart rate
• Depersonalization
• Nausea or vomiting
• Vivid hallucinations
• Visual disturbances
• Altered sense of time
• Chest Pains or tightness
• Increased blood pressure
• Rapid rhythmic eye movements

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)(9)https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/dmt.pdf DMT may also cause:

• Seizures
• Confusion
• Loss of muscle coordination
• It may also be associated with respiratory arrest and coma.

In general, ayahuasca and DMT have similar effects because again, DMT is behind the psychedelic effects in ayahuasca. If you noticed the list above, most effects are the same.

6. Near death experience

Chris Timmermann, a psychologist, and neuroscientist who researches psychedelic drugs studied the results of DMT and noticed a sense of elevated mood among participants after the study. He confirmed that near death experience is a common theme when taking DMT.

“It has been speculated in the past that a lot of [psychedelic] experiences – not only DMT but also LSD and so on – contain themes of death,” said Timmermann, who led the study per BBC(10)https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/dd52796e-5935-414e-af0c-de9686d02afa.

“If I were to speculate, one possibility may be that the system is reaching such a high level of disorder that the psychological reaction might be, ‘Oh my God, I’m dying’.”

Those who took ayahuasca also encounter a similar experience. According to them, they felt the afterlife and experienced a rebirth which made them feel better and inspired them to live a fuller life.

7. Addictive

According to Healthline, ayahuasca and DMT is not addictive. DMT is also unlikely to cause tolerance, psychological dependence or physical dependence. Yes, you read that right, you do not need to use more of the psychedelic substance to achieve the same effects.

8. Legality

DMT is considered a Schedule I, one of the controlled substances, and it remains illegal for recreational use in the U.K. and the United States. It has a high potential to be misused. However, since it naturally occurs in plants, there are still ways to access it.

However, the United States government still considers DMT to have no legitimate medical purpose and imposes heavy fines and years of imprisonment as punishment for possessions. But

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot prevent religious practitioners from using it as part of their rituals or ceremonies. Many were able to access DMT through ayahuasca tea in ayahuasca ceremonies.


Ayahuasca Experience vs DMT Experience

Ayahuasca and DMT both deliver similar experiences to users because the latter is behind most of the experiences one encounters after taking the brew. Apparently, many seek both to experience healing and spiritual growth. Many want to use Ayahuasca to treat addiction and depression or experience a glimpse of death or the afterlife and more.

However, you should also be aware of the risks that come along with using them because not everyone experiences enlightenment. Some encounter horrible experiences with others saying they had out of body experiences and it made their mental illness worse

Ayahuasca testimonials

Positive review

One netizen shared a positive story(11)https://www.reddit.com/r/Psychonaut/comments/cnpcee/my_first_ayahuasca_experience_you_should_try_it/ when she took her first ayahuasca brew. It went well that she encouraged others to do the same.

“The experience was relatively mild. I felt very young and very open, and the feeling of being in flowing water didn’t subside. It was like I was being held down in a warm, gentle stream. I didn’t have much in the way of visions, but in my mind’s eye I consistently saw a ball of light with wings at the top of my perception. The wings were huge and made of darkness (as opposed to the light ball), they reminded me of the veins of “light” I saw in trees while on DMT. I guess it just kinda hovered over me throughout my trip, but I wasn’t constantly attentive to it,” the netizen wrote.

“My personal experience is that the medicine has no issue at all with being explored outside of the ‘traditional’ ayahuasca ceremony. If you’re seeking healing and feel the call but are anxious about trying, let my testimony be one of radiant encouragement”

Negative review

Julie, the founder of the Spirit Nomad,(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoYPLsf–EQ&t=259s) was among those who was so eager to try ayahuasca after hearing positive stories about it. However, she wasn’t pleased with her experience and discouraged others from doing ayahuasca.

According to her, she made friends with one of the girls when she attended an ayahuasca retreat and one of them experienced a negative entity attachment which can mess your life purpose and energy. It’s also dangerous.

“Ayahuasca can make you feel very fearful. It can be a very scary experience for most people and this fear attracts negative entities further into your fields,” she said. “I know I wasn’t going to die, I really felt like I was going to and this is a very common feeling if you do ayahuasca.”

Julie was also reluctant to try ayahuasca again after learning that some women were taken advantage of when they were under the spirit of the brew.

DMT testimonials

Positive

Iona, a participant of Timmermann’s study had a positive experience with DMT. She struggled to put into words her exact experience but remembered the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that she survived it. She admitted that it also brought positive changes in her life.

“I felt a sense that perhaps death isn’t the end – not that I’m religious,” she says. “It’s probably the most intense experience I’ve had. [The sense that] birth and death were just a transformation rather than an end was something that felt true.”

Negative

One DMT user who has been taking it several times already decided to stop using it because on his fifth time, it didn’t work as he expected but instead brought him fears that he might hurt himself.

“It was like I would never come back from this trip. I felt I had seen another world (for real this time), and that life would not be enough for me to keep on going after such realization. My whole body was in a severe panic attack for hours before I could sleep, heart beating fast, body temperature high, senses on alert, vision blurred.

My senses were disturbed for months after that. I developed a severe panic disorder and PTSD with flashbacks (flashbacks of DMT are scary, trust me). I thought I would not be able to withstand having seen that other world. I thought I was going to kill myself,” one DMT user shared on Reddit(12)https://www.reddit.com/r/DMT/comments/mw26pq/dmt_can_destroy_your_life/.

”I had to fight with all my mental strength to dissipate these ideas, to repeat myself I was going to do better. I have seen and talked to many doctors, passed a lot of exams on my heart, brain and blood. I got my hair tested to check the exact content of what went through my blood.

It was pure DMT and Harmala from the changa. Experts have used my story to put in the medical litterature because such case is rare. What I am coming to now, is that the people writing theses articles (linked below) are not misleading in any way. DMT CAN MAKE YOU MAD. You CAN COMMIT SUICIDE. ”


Conclusion

Ayahuasca and DMT are not the same but they have a lot of similarities because DMT creates the experiences associated with ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is made from the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine and Psychotria Viridis plant, the latter contain DMT. Meanwhile, DMT is a compound present in different kinds of plants that can be snorted, smoked, injected or brewed in ayahuasca tea.

Both have chemical compounds that enable them to deliver a psychoactive effect. There are also physical and psychological effects. Most of the effects were the same like hallucinations, near-death experience, euphoria, and paranoia because DMT is behind them. Both are also illegal and risky but offer tons of promising health benefits.

I hope that this article answers your question about ayahuasca vs DMT. I know that this psychedelic brew is often compared to other plants or hallucinogenic drugs that deliver a psychoactive effect including magic mushrooms. So, I will cover ayahuasca vs magic mushrooms in another entry!

If you need to learn more about ayahuasca, you may check our home page

References

  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007657/
  • adf.org.au/drug-facts/ayahuasca/
  • therecoveryvillage.com/ayahuasca-addiction/
  • reddit.com/r/DMT/comments/mw26pq/dmt_can_destroy_your_life/
  • reddit.com/r/Psychonaut/comments/cnpcee/my_first_ayahuasca_experience_you_should_try_it/

References

References
1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplopterys_cabrerana
2 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0163725804000464?via%3Dihub
3 https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/ayahuasca-addiction/
4 https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-dmt-last#factors
5 https://www.soul-herbs.com/
6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007657/
7 https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/hallucinogens/dmt/
8 https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/ayahuasca/
9 https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/dmt.pdf
10 https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/dd52796e-5935-414e-af0c-de9686d02afa
11 https://www.reddit.com/r/Psychonaut/comments/cnpcee/my_first_ayahuasca_experience_you_should_try_it/
12 https://www.reddit.com/r/DMT/comments/mw26pq/dmt_can_destroy_your_life/