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New Study Shows Physical Healing Potential of Ayahuasca

The article New Study Shows Physical Healing Potential of Ayahuasca was originally published on Microdose.

Psychedelic substances have become particularly…



The article New Study Shows Physical Healing Potential of Ayahuasca was originally published on Microdose.

Psychedelic substances have become particularly renowned for their antidepressive and mental health properties. Yet the therapeutic potential of these compounds might go beyond the treatment of mental health disorders, extending to different medical areas, among which could be tissue regeneration and wound healing.

Ayahuasca — the brewage containing the hallucinogenic component DMT — has raised some interest as of late. Although studies investigating the matter are recent and relatively scarce, results like those summarised in this article could inaugurate a new area of psychedelic research.

Let’s have a look at a recent study where the regenerative properties of ayahuasca were investigated in vitro (i.e., outside the human body, using test tubes).

Wound-healing and plant medicine

Before digging into the details of the study, conducted by a team of scientists in Portugal, it is important to keep in mind that the idea of plants and herbal mixtures promoting wound healing is not recent nor fringe. This method has been used in developing countries and traditional cultures for hundreds of years, where many of these psychoactive plants are used for medical purposes, as they are characterised by antimicrobial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.


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Recently, scientific studies were conducted to investigate this process more in-depth. In 2011, for instance, the psychedelic plant Argyreia nervosa was found to promote wound healing in rats.

In the specific case of ayahuasca or Banisteriosis caapi, its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions seem to be responsible for its wide use in indigenous cultures, where it is administered as a tea. According to the results of a 2017 study on rats, it stimulates neurogenesis in vitro (experiments conducted in test tubes and not on subjects). Here, neuron proliferation was observed, as well as other events leading to neurogenesis (the formation of new brain cells). But it was not until Gonçalves et al.’s study, which we’re going to see here, that the effects of ayahuasca on wound healing were explored.


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Ayahuasca for wound healing in vitro

The main purpose of the study was to assess ayahuasca’s wound healing potential in vitro. This was done by making ten decoctions (preparations), including the control, one from a commercial mixture, with four from plants used to make ayahuasca, and the four others from a mixture of plants containing the two main components of ayahuasca – the psychoactive compound DMT and beta-carboline alkaloids, which prevent DMT degradation. The researchers used human dermal fibroblasts (NHDF), a type of skin cell usually employed for testing in dermatological studies, to test the decoctions prepared at different concentrations.

The effects of the decoctions on the cells were assessed through the wound scratch test, a simple method to evaluate the migration of a group of cells grown together after this is scratched with the tip of a pipette (a laboratory tool). When measuring the distance between the margins of the lab-created lesion 24 hours after incubation of the samples, the 8 samples with the different ayahuasca preparations had a considerable decrease in the size of the lesion compared to the control. Before the 24 hours, the lesion size was measured at other time points, and for all of them, 8 samples showed a decrease in the lesion margins (except for one sample — the commercial mixture).


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The researchers also examined the cytotoxic potential of the preparations (to what extent the substances could be toxic to the cells), and, considering the psychoactive nature of ayahuasca, experiments were performed to see whether the substance could be absorbed by the cells or damage their integrity. Encouragingly, the permeability of the cells was not affected, and in all the samples there was an increase in the migration of the fibroblasts with no cytotoxicity (except for one sample).

As for all rigorous studies, the authors made sure to mention the limitations of their research, such as the in vitro nature of their study (which needs to be confirmed by in vivo experiments) and the impossibility of comparing these results with other studies, as this is the first-ever attempt to investigate ayahuasca’s effects on wound-healing processes.

At the same time, this limitation is also what makes their research quite interesting and hopefully, significant enough to push for a deeper investigation of the matter, maybe even for a potential introduction of psychedelics into wound-healing research.



Mood disorders and trauma-related mental health issues are not the only “wounds” that psychedelic plants could heal. However, given the novelty and the limitations of these unprecedented studies, more research is needed to verify these results and be confident enough to start drawing some conclusions. Still, it’s clear that this study and its results provide such exploration with an encouraging starting point.


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