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An Indian drug rebuilds the brain


Who would have thought that substances administered by ancient shamans not only caused hallucinations, but were also good for the brain? Although they probably weren’t aware of it themselves.

We know that drug addiction is bad, even if more research suggests that pot is a problem, in the same way as alcohol. But, even among the majority of people, drugs and hallucinogens are detrimental to their well-being, as they should be. That said, opponents of substance use will need to find more convincing arguments, now that it transpires that the sacred hallucinogenic beer, containing ayahuasca, of the Amazonian shamans is not that bad.

The potion, used by shamans in traditional medicine, contains a powerful psychoactive compound called DMT, which, according to several studies, can alleviate the symptoms of depression and other mental health diagnoses.


The research carried out by the Beckley/Sant Pau Research Programme and the Spanish Medical Research Council has also found that certain compounds of ayahuasca stimulate the birth of new neurons. Given that many cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are associated with neurons, this discovery represents a major breakthrough, as this so-called neurogenesis could serve as a specific medical treatment one day.

In the picture below, the red patches are “old” brain cells, while the green patches indicate new brain cells.



“The fact that we were able to create new brain cells that look extremely productive is a real breakthrough,” said founder and director of the Beckley Foundation, Amanda Feilding.

Feilding also confirmed that the findings represented a very early phase in the research. That said, if ayahuasca works well in vivo, it may even function as a new drug.

The next step will be to try and replicate the same results with other components of ayahuasca, while excluding the possibility of excessive hallucinations and other side effects, which are incompatible with healing.


Orsolya Balogh