Guimaraes dos Santos, a board member for The International Center for
Ethnobotanical Education Research and Service (ICEERS), recently published an
article reviewing and analyzing the current knowledge on ayahuasca toxicity. He
compiled published clinical studies that investigated the acute pharmacology of
ayahuasca, the physical and mental health of extensive ayahuasca users, and the
toxicity of the administration of ayahuasca or its alkaloids.
Santos concludes that both clinical and long-term ritual use of ayahuasca is
well-tolerated by the body and the mind. In his opinion, he considers the
reports of adverse psychological effects – often sensationalized in the media -
to be premature, without finalizing the investigation of a causal
relationship between ayahuasca and the presentation of adverse effects.
This is not
to rule out that "the possibility that some psychiatric cases and
described intoxications may be associated with idiosyncratic
characteristics," and that in these cases, adverse effects from ayahuasca are entirely
possible. The presence of certain pharmaceuticals and anti-depressants, MDMA,
St. Johns Wort, as well as some heart and neurological conditions can certainly
lead to adverse effects. People with family or personal history of psychosis
also seem to be more prone these kinds of reactions.
Santos is preparing a similar review study in which he will report on the media cases
linked to ayahuasca. But with the information available currently, from a
toxicological perspective, it would seem that ayahuasca is generally safe
psychologically and physically.