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Traditional Amazonian medicine, ayahuasca, found to be a safe alternative treatment for depression

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that affects how you feel, act, or perform. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 16 million adults in the U.S. had at least one depressive episode in 2012. Meanwhile, 350 million people worldwide suffer from the condition. With these overwhelming statistics and the seeming ineffective of prescription drugs, it’s no wonder people are looking for an alternative way to combat depression.

Ayahuasca, a traditional Amazonian medicine is known for being a hallucinogenic concoction. It contains ingredients illegal in most countries and is served in many religious rituals in South America. Ayahuasca is traditionally brewed from the bark of a jungle vine and the leaves of a shrub. In a recent research study, it was proven to drastically help in improving hard-to-treat depression by rapidly improving mood.

In March 2015, researchers from Brazil published the result from clinical tests on ayahuasca and its therapeutic benefits for treating depression. The clinical trial involved administering a single dose of Ayahuasca to 14 people who were suffering from hard-to-treat depression. Meanwhile, 15 people suffering from the same condition received a placebo drink.

Those who were given the placebo drink were not aware that they were drinking a non-ayahuasca concoction. The researchers mixed the same bitter and deep-brown brew while making sure that all the recipients from the clinical trial haven’t tasted ayahuasca nor took any psychedelic drugs before. (Related: Mental health screening of teens creates a “crisis” where none exists.)

A day before the dose was administered, participants were given a set of questionnaires to rate the level of their depression. On the day of the actual experiment, recipients spent the next eight hours in a controlled, quiet and supervised environment as both the placebo and ayahuasca potion can cause hallucinogenic effects for around four hours. They were also given another set of questionnaires one, two, and seven days after drinking the brew.

The clinical study showed that both placebo and ayahuasca potion received substantial improvements on the recipients in the first two days after the treatment. However, a week into the trial, 64 percent of the those who took ayahuasca reported that they felt like the treatment has reduced their level of depression by at least 50 percent or more. Meanwhile, only 27 percent of the placebo recipients reported the same effect.

A week later, those who had taken ayahuasca showed massive improvements – their mood scaling from severe to mild in the standard scale of depression. According to Dráulio de Araújo of the Brain Institute at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, who led the trial, the main evidence indicated a significant difference in outcome between patients who used ayahuasca compared to those who took the placebo drink.

In addition, the team believes that the study can help in finding the right balance of treatments for those who are suffering from depression and have learned to view it as a permanent disability.

Even scientists who were not part of the clinical study agreed with the therapeutic claims of ayahuasca. David Mischoulon of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said, “The findings suggest a rapid antidepressant benefit for ayahuasca, at least for the short term. But we need studies that follow patients for longer periods to see whether these effects are sustained.”

Learn more about natural treatments for depression and other conditions at

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