This presentation was given by Raph Borges and David Nickles at the Aya2014 conference in Ibiza, Spain.
Despite numerous published scientific papers and anecdotal reports indicating the presence of DMT in a wide variety of plants, there is much ambiguity, contradiction, and speculation regarding the actual chemical composition of many of these plants. Discussions of indigenous preparations, which include DMT-containing plants, often treat the phytochemistry of the β-carboline-containing plants as fairly uniform. However, new examinations of these plants, utilizing modern analytical techniques, have shown them to contain a variety of compounds in differing ratios.
The DMT-Nexus has carried out unique chromatography and mass spectrometry analyses of specimens reported to contain DMT and β-carbolines, from both novel and previously examined species complexes. Thus far, we have tested species within the Acacia, Phalaris, Psychotria, Banisteriopsis and related genera, as well as Mimosa tenuiflora and Diplopterys cabrerana. This research has elucidated questions and hypotheses regarding: indigenous botanical preparations; identities of plants found in the global market of entheogenic vendors; and the phytochemistry of plants that ethnobotanical researchers encounter in their own geographic regions. Key results from our ongoing inquiries show that neither Tetrapterys methystica nor Alicia anisopetala contain harmala alkaloids, despite being used in similar manners to Banisteriopsis caapi. Additionally, our analyses of Diplopterys cabrerana have not demonstrated the presence of 5-MeO-DMT, despite numerous anecdotal claims that this plant induces subjectively similar effects to 5-MeO-DMT. Similarly, our analyses of Banisteriopsis muricata leaves have not detected the presence DMT, despite hypotheses by notable ethnobotanists to the contrary.
The significance of this research is that it presents the merging of traditional ethnobotanical knowledge into contemporary scientific contexts, while expanding our phytochemical knowledgebase. Through botanical and chemical analyses, we are beginning to correlate plants identified in formal botanical contexts and their chemical constituents with their indigenous classifications and uses. We are also working towards identifying plants with alkaloid profiles analogous to traditional entheogens.