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The Ayahuasca MAOI Diet

Ayahuasca in its most basic form is a combination of two plants; the banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaves of the chacruna plant, psychotria viridis. This unique plant combination is not a random coincidence, but rather, it is an elaborate mixture that unlocks the power of both plants.

There are two aspects that are often associated with an ayahuasca diet. The first one is the aspect of purity. Traditionally, shamans and apprentices abstain from spicy and heavily-seasoned foods, excess fat, salt, caffeine, acidic foods (such as citrus) and sex before and after an ayahuasca session. Avoiding these foods is thought to calm the mind and conserve energy for the journey.

The second dietary consideration stems from the interaction of tyramine with MAOIs, which are reported to cause a hypertensive crisis when combined. However, many ayahuasca groups such as the União do Vegetal in Brazil do not follow any dietary restrictions, suggestion that the risk is much lower than previously thought. In fact, psychedelic researcher Jonathan Ott wrote in one report on Pharmahuasca:
„I have personally tempted fate, and ingested cheese, beer, chocolate, caffeine, nuts, dried fruit, etc. in the afterglows of my pharmahuasca and anahuasca experiences, with no ill effects whatever.“


Ayahuasca - Banisteiopsis Caapi


The DMT provided by the psychotria viridis leaves is not orally active because of so called MAO enzymes. Located in our guts, these enzymes break down the DMT before it enters our bloodstream. In the ayahuasca brew, the banisteriopsis caapi vine provides MAO-Inhibitors (MAOI), which temporarily and selectively suspend the barrier provided by these enzymes, and allow the DMT to be absorbed.
MAO stands for Monoamine Oxidase; two enzymes, MAO-A and MAO-B, are found naturally within the human gastrointestinal tract. The MAO barriers are a safety mechanism that protects us from a range of mildly dangerous foods. For example, without those enzymes a slice of aged cheese might just knock us out.

While Ayahuasca is often said to be a MAO-Inhibitor, more precisely is it actually a RIMA - a Reversible Inhibitor of Monoamine Oxidase. There are some significant differences between a MAOI and a RIMA. First of all, MAOIs last much longer; pharmaceutical MAOIs tend to have a duration of a few days to a few weeks. RIMAs, on the other hand, only last a few hours after ingestion. Also, the RIMA mechanism of ayahuasca shows a more selective inhibition process than its synthetic counterparts. These differences explain why there are no known fatalities caused by ayahuasca, as opposed to the occasional deaths caused by synthetic MAOIs drugs.

Further, evidence shows that the harmala alkaloids of ayahuasca act only on MAO-A, in a similar mechanism like Moclobemide, an anti-depressant that does not need dietary restrictions.

Tyramine and MAOIs

A lot of foods contain the amino acid “tyramine”. A certain amount of tyramine is not a problem for our system. But if the MAO enzymes have been inhibited, tyramine can be freely absorbed in amounts larger than what the body can handle. As tyramine enters our system, it displaces stored adrenaline from the adrenal glands. As adrenaline is dumped into the blood stream, it can lead to a hypertensive crisis which in turn can cause severe headaches, heavy sweating, dilated pupils, a stiff neck, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, and in some severe cases, cardiac failure. The release of excess adrenaline can also cause feelings of fear and ultimately panic, making the situation even worse.

Ayahuasca does not inhibit the breakdown of tyramine completely, allowing the body to continue to regulate it to a degree. As a result, there are no known fatalities as a result of eating foods containing tyramine when taking Ayahuasca, but it is still wise to practice caution, especially for those with high blood pressure or known heart problems.

What about drugs and medication?

There are a number of drugs that do not mix well with Ayahuasca. Unlike food and drink, which possibly tend to produce discomfort in various degrees, mixing Ayahuasca with pharmaceutical drugs can cause more serious problems, depending on the actual drug. If you are on a medication, make sure to check the compatibility with ayahuasca.

Which food and drink should be avoided?

The following food drink contain high amounts of tyramine:

Meat that is not fresh – especially liver.
Processed meats such as sausage, bologna, pepperoni, salami etc
Protein extracts
Protein dietary supplements
Aged cheese
Any fish that is not fresh or has undergone some form of treatment (for example, smoked, fermented, pickled or dried fish etc.)
Yeast in any form
Soy sauce and fermented soybean paste
Fermented tofu
Fermented bean curd
Canned soup, bouillon or ant soup with protein extracts in.
Miso soup
Fruit that is bruised or overripe.
Dried fruits including, but not exclusive to, raisins and figs.
Avocado and guacamole
Any alcoholic drinks and their non-alcoholic variants (for example non-alcoholic beer).
Dairy products that have not been refrigerated or are close to their expiration date.
Shrimp paste
Fava beans
Large amounts of peanuts
Large amounts of raspberries
Large amounts of spinach
Large amounts of chocolate

How long should this food and drink be avoided for?

Generally speaking, you should try to avoid these substances for 24 hours before and after taking Ayahuasca.

Which drugs must be avoided?

The following type’s drugs are unsuitable for use with Ayahuasca:
Other MAOIs
SSRI’s (any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor)
Appetite suppressants (diet pills)
CNS (central nervous system) depressants
Amphetamines (including meth and dex, variants)
Antihypertensives (high blood pressure medicine)
Medicine for asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems
Antihistamines, medicines for colds, sinus problems, hay fever, or allergies (Actifed DM, Benadryl, Benylin, Chlor-Trimeton, Compoz, etc.)

Specific drugs and herbs to be avoided:
Amantadine hydrochloride (Symmetrel)
Amoxapine (Asendin)
Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
Buspirone (BuSpar)
Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Epitol)
Clomipramine (Anafranil)
Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
Cyclizine (Marezine)
Desipramine (Pertofrane)
Dextromethorphan (DXM)
Disopyramide (Norpace)
Doxepin (Sinequan)
Flavoxate Hydrochloride (Urispas)
Fluoxetine (Prozac)
Imipramine (Tofranil)
Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
Levodopa (Dopar, Larodopa)
Loratadine (Claritin)
Maprotiline (Ludiomil)
Meperidine (Demerol)
Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
Nortriptyline (Aventyl)
Oxybutynin chloride (Ditropan)
Orphenadrine (Norflex)
Paroxetine (Paxil)
Phenelzine (Nardil)
Procainamide (Pronestyl)
Protriptyline (Vivactil)
Quinidine (Quinidex)
Selegiline (Eldepryl)
Sertraline (Zoloft)
St John Wart
Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
Tricyclic antidepressants (Amitriptyline, Elavil)
Trimipramine (Surmontil)

How long should drugs and herbs be avoided for?

Anywhere between 24 hours to 6 months before and after taking Ayahusasca depending on the drug. Consult a doctor for more info on mixing drugs with MAO inhibitors.

What then can I eat?

As a rule of thumb, all fresh fruit and vegetable are good. If it‘s aged or factory-processed, avoid it.

Disclaimer: Our list in not exhaustive, please take the information with a degree of caution and common sense as other things may also interact badly. We are not medically trained or qualified to give medical advice. We can take no responsibility for adverse side affects you may experience. If in any doubt, consult a doctor.



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