Ayahuasca Characterization, Metabolism in Humans, and Relevance to Endogenous N,N-Dimethyltryptamines

Ethan McIlhenny, PhD



Abstract: The metabolism and excretion of DMT and beta-carbolines following ayahuasca consumption has not been studied systematically in humans. We developed a liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry procedure for the simultaneous quantification of the major alkaloid components of ayahuasca, including several known and potential metabolites. The assay was applied to a variety of ayahuasca samples and modified to be applicable to human blood and urine samples before and after consumption of ayahuasca. The methods developed would be suitable for the study of ayahuasca in human and ethnobotanical research, as well as in forensic examinations of ayahuasca preparations. We present a critical review of 69 published studies reporting the detection in human body fluids of three indole alkaloids that possess differing degrees of psychedelic activity. Suggestions for the future directions of ayahuasca and endogenous psychedelics research are offered.

Ethan McIlhenny, PhD, attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs New York and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Neuroscience in 2006. Ethan entered a Neuroscience PhD program with a teaching assistantship at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and completed his Masters of Science degree in 2008. Ethan completed his PhD at Louisiana State University in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Barker, where he received a foru-year Board of Regents Grant Fellowship. Ethan continues his research with the Cottonwood Research Foundation.


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