Trip to jungle

Banisteriopsis Caapi Key ingredient in ayahuasca

Banisteriopsis caapi, also known as ayahuasca, yagé or caapi, is a plant native to the Amazon rainforest and plays a vital role in traditional shamanic rituals and ceremonies throughout South America. This climbing liana is one of the main ingredients in the sacred drink called ayahuasca, which has been used in ritual and medicinal contexts for centuries.

Banisteriopsis caapi is a perennial climbing liana belonging to the Malpighiaceae family. The plant can grow to considerable lengths and has characteristic leaves with opposite leaf blades. The flowering flowers are small and white, and the fruits are elongated capsules containing seeds.

Psychedelic constituents and mechanism of action of Banisteriopsis Caapi and ayahusaca

The ayahuasca drink is prepared from two main plants: Psychotria viridis and Banisteriopsis caapi. The plant Psychotria viridis contains a hallucinogenic substance called DMT (N,N dimethyltryptamine), which is released naturally in trace amounts in our body. Even ingesting this substance alone, however, does not produce such hallucinogenic effects, as it is blocked by the stomach enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO). In combination with Banisteriopsis Caapi, however, the aforementioned N,N dimethyltryptamine enters the brain and causes expanded states of consciousness. Simply put, the two plants are complementary in their effects, and in the right combination, produce significant psychoactive effects.

Banisteriopsis caapi contains a number of active alkaloids, the most important of which are the beta-carbolines, including harmaline, harmine and tetrahydroharmine. These substances act as monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, meaning that they block the enzyme in the body responsible for breaking down certain psychoactive substances.

The cultural-historical context of rituals

Indigenous tribes in the Amazon, such as the Shuar, Quechua, Shipibo and many others, have traditionally used Banisteriopsis caapi for their ritual, medicinal and spiritual practices. The plant has deep significance in their cultural and spiritual traditions and its use is carefully intertwined with rituals and ceremonies led by skilled shamans, also called curanderos or ayahuasqueros.

It is the shamans who play a key role in these ceremonies by directing the ceremony, singing traditional songs called icaros, and helping participants navigate their experiences. Banisteriopsis caapi is believed to open spiritual worlds, allow communication with spiritual beings, and aid in the diagnosis and treatment of various illnesses.


Archaeological findings, including ceramic vessels and ritual objects, suggest that the use of the ayahuasca drink containing Banisteriopsis caapi dates back as far as 1,000 to 2,000 years. However, scientific studies on the historical use of this plant are limited, making it difficult to determine an exact time frame.


However, the knowledge of the use of Banisteriopsis caapi and the preparation of the ayahuasca drink has been passed down through the generations in the Amazon, ensuring that traditional practices and cultural heritage are preserved.

Copyright © 2024