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DMT Extraction: Behind the Scientific Process

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DMT, or N,N-dimethyltryptamine, is a tryptamine alkaloid widely known as the Spirit Molecule, due to the incredible spiritual profundity of the short psychedelic experience it produces. It resides naturally within the cell walls of various psychoactive plants and inside the pineal gland deep within the center of our brains. No matter the route of administration, it is a coy molecule: sensitive to heat when smoked and to enzymes in the stomach when ingested without an MAOI. However, when extracted and administered successfully, it leads to extraordinary effects, including extra-dimensional percepts, out-of-body/near-death-like experiences, and autonomous entity contact. In this article, we will discuss a high-yielding DMT extraction technique that can be completed in a few days with widely available precursors. We’ll end with safety considerations and the potential hazards of the process.

What is DMT Extraction?

Instead of being produced synthetically, DMT is extracted from a variety of DMT-containing plants. DMT can be extracted with a variety of fairly simple chemistry techniques, or “teks,” that differ in their methodologies. 

Generally, these at-home teks utilize an acid/base (A/B) extraction or a straight-to-base (STB) extraction. In a general A/B tek, the DMT is dissolved in acidic solution where it exists in a salt form. Then a base is added to the DMT-containing acidic solution to make it alkaline and convert the DMT salt to DMT freebase. After DMT freebase is suspended in the basic solution, a nonpolar solvent is added. The freebase DMT molecule is nonpolar, so it will rapidly transfer to this nonpolar solvent layer. From here, it is possible to “pull” this nonpolar layer, then isolate and crystallize it by freeze precipitation and evaporation. 

In an STB extraction, the powdered DMT bark is added directly to the base. Then, the nonpolar solvent is added to the basic solution, mixed, and separated. After recovering this top layer, the DMT freebase is isolated via freeze precipitation and evaporation. While STB is faster and requires fewer steps, it often leads to a smaller final yield and, in the end, more impurities.

Where to Find DMT-Containing Plants

DMT has been found in over 50 plant species, but only a handful are used for extraction purposes. While there are many more, the most popular extraction sources are the root bark of two trees: Mimosa hostilis and Acacia confusa.

Mimosa hostilis is native to Brazil but can be found growing in Mexico and several other South American countries. The root bark contains DMT at a concentration ranging from 0.31–0.57%, while the inner root bark contains up to 2% DMT. Generally, M. hostilis is the preferred plant to work with (and the most common for extractions) because it results in slightly higher yields and contains less fat. Since it is leaner, a defatting procedure is not needed, as it is with Acacia confusa, to remove any undesirable plant oils that can end up in the final product.

On the other hand, Acacia confusa is a perennial tree native to Southeast Asia. The root bark of A. confusa contains up to 1.15% DMT and a high concentration (1.43%) of a related tryptamine called NMT. NMT in the final product can make for a subjectively slightly different experience. 

Although these DMT-containing plants exist in a legal gray area, and restrictions have increased in recent years on their importing, it is possible to purchase them legally online. To be safe, always buy from a source located within your own country that sells it as a dye in order to avoid any potential issues with customs.

Step-by-Step DMT Extraction

The extraction technique discussed below, adapted from Cyb Max Ion Salt Tek, is a hybrid acid-base extraction. That is to say, it combines steps from acid-to-base and straight-to-base techniques. In essence, it is a straight-to-base tek with an initial acid soak. 

To gain experience and minimize losses, beginners should start with a small amount of bark, approximately 50g. A final yield of approximately 2% can be expected, or 1g of DMT for 50g of bark. This is enough for approximately 30–40 breakthrough-level hits. No matter your experience level, be sure to thoroughly read and understand the entire process before starting the extraction.

The DMT Extraction Process

Taking a high-level overview of the process detailed below, the DMT-containing bark is ground into a powder, then frozen/thawed multiple times to break open the cell walls containing the DMT. Then, the bark is placed in an acid soak to further dissolve the plant material and convert DMT to its salt form. Next, the acid mixture is salinated to increase the ionic strength of the solution, driving a maximal yield of DMT out of solution when the base (lye) is added. Once lye is added, this further dissolves the plant material, leaving the now freebase DMT molecules suspended in solution. 


Next, a nonpolar solvent (naphtha) is added to the mix to pull the nonpolar DMT molecules from the aqueous layer. The solubility of DMT in the solvent increases with increasing temperature, so warm solvent is used at this step to hold more product. After using separating and cooling the nonpolar solvent layer by freeze precipitation, DMT crystals will crash out of solution as solubility decreases at these lower temperatures. Once dried, the product can then be recrystallized in hot solvent and freeze precipitated once more for higher purity, white crystals.

Materials

  • 50–100g of Mimosa hostilis root bark (MHRB) or Acacia confusa root bark (ACRB)
  • Naphtha (lighter fluid)
  • Lye/Caustic soda (granulated sodium hydroxide)
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Filtered water
  • Table salt (non-iodized)

Equipment

  • 1L glass extraction vessel (bottle or jar with lid)
  • Digital pH meter
  • Milligram scale
  • Blender or coffee grinder
  • Measuring jug
  • Glass jar
  • Jam jar (for storing used naphtha)
  • Funnel
  • Turkey baster (glass)
  • Pot (for stove heat bath)
  • Sieve
  • Glass roasting dish (x5) 
  • Food wrap
  • Freezer
  • PPE: rubber gloves, fume mask, and safety goggles

Step 1: Prepare the Bark

This freezing and thawing step helps to lyse the cell walls in the bark. Since the active alkaloids are contained within the cell walls, breaking them open to begin will ensure the largest amount of DMT is pulled out of the solution later.

  • After weighing out 50–100g of your bark of choice (if possible, MHRB is preferable), grind it to a fine powder using a blender or coffee grinder. The finer the powder, the better the yields due to the maximized surface area produced. Wear a mask to avoid breathing in the powder.
  • Take your powdered bark and, using a funnel, place the powder in a glass container (jar or bottle). Add approximately 300–400 mL of distilled water to the container.
  • Place the container in a water bath and heat slightly for one hour. To make the water bath, add ~200mL of regular water to a pot on the stove. Bring the water in the pot to a boil, and then turn off the heat. You don’t want it too hot, approximately 50°C.
  • Bring the container back to room temperature, and then place the container in the freezer. Once it has frozen, thaw it back to room temperature, and refreeze, a total of three times. The heat bath can be used to speed up the thawing process, but be sure to keep it on low heat to avoid fracturing the glass. 

Step 2: Acidify the Bark Solution

Acidifying the solution helps to further dissolve the cell walls, which will release the DMT molecules in salt form.

  • Transfer the room temperature bark/water material from the previous step to your glass extraction vessel (jar or bottle). 
  • Add a small amount of distilled white vinegar (~50mL) to the extraction vessel. You want the pH between 2–4.
  • Place the acidified solution in a warm hot bath (as made in the previous step). Under low heat, let the solution warm for at least one hour.

Step 3: Defat (Optional)

This defatting step helps to remove undesirable plant fats and impurities present in the ACRB that can lead to a gooey and resinous final product. Note: This step is only necessary if you are using ACRB. 

  • Cool the acidified solution to room temperature, then add a small volume of warm naphtha (~50mL) to the container. Swirl and roll the container to mix. 
  • After the layers naturally separate, pull the top naphtha layer with a glass turkey baster and discard. 

Step 4: Salinate

Saturating the solution with salt increases the ionic strength of the basic solution created in the next step, helping the DMT molecules migrate into the solvent. 

  • Heat approximately 200mL of filtered water in a pan until nearly boiling.
  • Weigh out 70–80g of table salt (NaCl, non-iodized), and add this to the water. Stir until dissolved. The solution should be nearly saturated.
  • Using the funnel, add the concentrated saline solution to the container with the acidified solution. 

Step 5: Basify

Besides raising the ionic strength of the solution, the lye is added to the mix to further break down the plant and turn the DMT molecules back into freebase form. DMT freebase can then be recovered in the nonpolar solvent in the next step.

  • Add approximately 200mL of cool, filtered water to a measuring jug. 
  • Slowly dissolve 40g of lye in the water, stirring with a metal spoon. The desired pH of the solution should be 12 or higher, so add more lye if needed.
  • Add the lye solution to the glass container containing the acid/saline mix. After shaking the mixture, it should turn very dark when the right amount of base has been added. 
  • Warm the reaction container in a heat bath as before, reheating the pot as necessary. Keep in the heat for two hours, stirring occasionally.
  • After two hours in the heat bath, cool to room temperature. 

Step 6: Pull

This procedure takes advantage of the chemistry principle “like dissolves like.” The nonpolar DMT molecules prefer to reside in the nonpolar solvent, so they will migrate out of the basic mixture. From here, the top DMT-containing naphtha layer will be repeatedly isolated and collected for freeze precipitation later.

  • Pour 50 mL of warm naphtha into the reaction vessel. Immediately shake/roll the mixture for 20–30 seconds before temperature equilibrium occurs. 
  • Unscrew the lid or cap to release pressure, and then place the container in a heat bath.
  • Leave the container in the heat bath until the naphtha separates (up to one hour). Then, repeat the shake/separate process three more times to thoroughly mix.
  • After shaking the container and leaving the naphtha to separate four times, use the turkey baster to carefully pull the top naphtha layer (containing the DMT) into a glass roasting dish. Avoid collecting the darker basified layer on the bottom.
  • Allow the nonpolar solvent/DMT solution in the dish to cool to room temperature. Then, form a sealed lid with food wrap and transfer to the fridge. The crystals will grow larger when the process starts slowly in the fridge.

Repeat Steps 5 and 6 four more times, giving five total pulls in separate dishes. The first few pulls will be more milky-colored and contain the most DMT, but repeating these steps will increase the final yield.

Step 7: Freeze Precipitate

In this step, the DMT crystals are recovered from the saturated nonpolar solvent by lowering its temperature in the freezer. At very cold temperatures, the solubility of DMT in solution will decrease and the crystals will precipitate. Once the crystals are ready for collection, they must be dried quickly in a cold environment, or they will redissolve as the solvent warms up (that is, as solubility increases again).

  • Combine the refrigerated nonpolar DMT solution dishes into one total dish, then transfer this dish from the fridge to the freezer. 
  • Store in the freezer for 12–18 hours at the lowest temperature setting the freezer is capable of. 
  • After 12–18 hours in the freezer, decant the naphtha from the dish and store it in a jar for future extractions.
  • When any excess naphtha has been removed, evaporate the remaining solvent and water by blowing a cold fan over them for at least 20 minutes. 

Be sure that the naphtha is able to fully evaporate. The product, which is often gold, tan, or orange at this point, shouldn’t smell like solvent at all when it is ready. If there is any lye contamination, this will show up as dark brown or black smudges. 

Step 8: Recrystallize (Optional)

After the initial freeze precipitate step, the crystals will often be stained a yellowish color from plant oils that were also extracted in the nonpolar solvent. Recrystallizing the product in hot solvent can further clean the crystals to a pure white color and remove undesirable plant alkaloids. For this step, you will need a small shot glass for separation, a small shallow dish or glass for crystallization, and a jam jar to heat the naphtha.

  • Place the evaporated product in a small shot glass.
  • Put a small amount of naphtha (40–50 mL) in the jar. Make a heat bath as before but place a sieve in the pan for the jar to rest on. This will help control the heat and prevent it from bubbling too much.
  • Heat the naphtha by placing the jar in the hot bath. Let the water in the pan boil for a few minutes. Make sure the lid is just resting on the top to let the fume pressure escape.
  • After a few minutes in the heat bath, take out the jar (using gloves) and add the naphtha to the product in the shot glass.
  • As the product dissolves in the hot naphtha, impurities will begin to separate and sink to the bottom. 
  • Using an eyedropper or by carefully pouring, decant the saturated naphtha into the other small glass or dish, leaving behind the bottom impurity layer. 
  • Cover the top of the small dish or glass containing the saturated naphtha with food wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for one hour. This will begin the crystallization process.
  • Transfer to the freezer after an hour in the fridge, and leave it there overnight (12–18 hours).
  • After taking it out of the freezer, decant the naphtha and immediately dry with a fan for 20–30 minutes. After the crystals are completely free of solvent, scrape and collect your final purified product. You can further air dry for a few days to ensure all the solvent has evaporated.

Yields can vary based on technical precision and the environmental conditions the bark was subjected to. With that said, a final yield of approximately 2%, or 1g of DMT per 50g of bark, can be expected.

Risks and Hazards

The biggest health hazards when attempting a DMT extraction are the noxious chemicals used to dissolve the plant material and recover the molecule. Naphtha is a nonpolar solvent derived from petroleum that is both volatile and highly flammable. Avoid accidental combustion by always working in ample ventilation away from open flames (this means never heat on a flame stove directly too!). In addition, it can be harmful to inhale, swallow, or breathe into the lungs. If it gets on your skin, wash the area with soap and water to prevent irritation. VM&P Naphtha is the ideal brand to use for extractions, since it doesn’t contain any other bad additives. If you have a different brand, you can pour it on a small surface and let it evaporate to see if it leaves any nasty residues or smells.

Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is a caustic substance (pH 14) that can be very harmful if it makes skin or eye contact. If you get lye on your skin, immediately neutralize with vinegar and wash the affected area thoroughly with water. Lye exposure will initially leave the skin feeling soapy, and prolonged exposure will result in chemical burns and serious injury. Accidental eye contact with lye or naphtha can lead to permanent loss of vision. Always wear safety glasses or goggles when handling lye. If eye exposure occurs, run the area under tap water for at least 20 minutes and seek medical attention right away. If accidental lye spills occur, neutralize the spill with vinegar and wipe the area down with water and paper towels. 

Lastly, consider the legal risks before attempting a DMT extraction. The DMT-containing plants exist in a legal gray area and the precursors are legal. However, once the DMT is extracted or if it can be shown that you have the intention of extracting a controlled substance, you are breaking the law.

DMT Safety Information

DMT extractions use noxious, flammable chemicals which can give off toxic fumes that can build up in your working space. Throughout the DMT extraction, always work in a well-ventilated area that is spark-free. Be sure to wear protective, chemical-resistant goggles and gloves when handling the solvents, acids, and bases to prevent any exposure to the eyes and skin. While wearing your safety gear, always add lye to water rather than the other way around. Make sure to add it slowly, as the reaction is exothermic and will create heat and potentially crack the container.

Blending the DMT bark will create a fine red/purple dust that will diffuse into the air. Wear a mask to avoid breathing this in, since it can be irritating to the respiratory tract. When working with the heat baths, keep the heat low by warm/cool cycling. If the bath gets excessively hot, it can cause the glass to expand and break. This is especially the case if the glass has just been exposed to cold temperatures. 

Finally, DMT is an extremely potent psychedelic that must be treated with respect. These DMT resources can be valuable in order to learn all you can about the effects and risks before diving into hyperspace firsthand. Beginners should start with a low dose (approximately 15mg) to get a feel for the DMT experience. Given the power and profundity of the DMT trip, take steps to prepare and integrate the experience. 

CONTRIBUTING RS AUTHOR: DYLAN BEARD

Dylan is a freelance science writer and editor based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. After finishing his physics degree and dabbling in neuroscience research at UC Santa Barbara in 2017, he returned to his first love—writing. As a long-term fan of the human brain, he loves exploring the latest research on psychedelics, nootropics, psychology, consciousness, meditation, and more. When he’s not writing, you can probably find him on hiking trails around Oregon and Washington or listening to podcasts. Feel free to follow him on Insta @dylancb88.

Disclaimer: DMT is potentially categorized as an illegal drug. Reality Sandwich is not encouraging the use of this drug where it is prohibited. However, we believe that providing information is imperative for the safety of those who choose to explore this substance. This guide is intended to give educational content and should in no way be viewed as medical recommendations.

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