Ayahuasca analogues are plant combinations that mimic the chemical mechanism of Ayahuasca, namely the MAOI - DMT interaction. The Banisteriopsis Caapi vine and the admixture plants are unique to the Amazonian rainforest, but their chemical mechanism can be re-created with a number of plants from other parts of the world.
In its basic form, Ayahuasca is a mixture of the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine the and leaves of the Psychotria Viridis (Chacruna). Often, a range of other psychoactive plants is added to the brew. Using admixture plants requires knowledge and skill, so that the addition of other plants enhances the overall energy of the brew. As ayahuasca is often used for healing ceremonies, particular plants that support the healing process might be added by the „curandero“, the shaman.
There is a misunderstanding about the MAOI effects of Ayahuasca. The underlying mechanisms that makes Ayahuasca orally active is the inhibition of the monoamine oxidase enzymes, generally referred to as MAOI. But in the case of ayahuasca, only MAO-A is inhibited, which makes it a RIMA, a Reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase A. RIMAs are in the family of MAOIs, but show more specific action than MAOIs, and in general are safer due to the unrestricted activity of MAO-B. Dietary restriction don‘t have to be followed as strictly as with MAOIs, although interaction with some prescription drugs can still be highly dangerous or even fatal. More information about the Ayahuasca diet.
Terence McKenna, a renowned psychonaut, advocate of heroic doses, lecturer and writer was very intrigued by the potency of Ayahuasca; but he considered the limited availability of Ayahuasca outside of the rainforest to be a great problem:
“Probably only a synthetic duplication of ayahuasca compounded with the correct percentage of DMT and beta-carbolines will ever make the experience available outside the area where it is endemic” (1989)
In retrospective, McKenna didn‘t see the widespread cultivation and global availability of Banisteriopsis Caapi coming. With sustainable Ayahuasca farms now appearing on the map, the brew has indeed become readily available outside its endemic area. Nonetheless, the quest for „ayahuasca duplicates“ led to interesting discoveries, namely the Anahuasca combination.
The most common combination that mimics the action of ayahuasca is Syrian Rue and various sources of DMT, but most commonly Mimosy tenuiflora.
The psychoactive effects of Syrian rue have been known for centuries, and evidence points to early ritual use of the plant in the middle east. Prior to the discovery of harmala alkaloid in Ayahuasca, their presence was first observed in the Syrian rue. Besides Ayahuasca, Syrian rue is the most common MAOI containing plant, and is often used as a potentiator of other psychedelics, such as DMT.
Syrian rue seeds contain alkaloid concentrations in the range of 0.3 – 7%, which in some cases is considerably higher than the concentrations found in B. caapi. Whilst originally an exotic plant from Central Asia, Syrian rue can now be found growing in the wilds of Eurasia and the west cost of the USA.
There is a whole range of plants that contain DMT. The percentage varies largely, and when availability and other alkaloids are also taken into consideration, the selection narrows down to just a few that remain interesting. One of them is Mimosa Hostilis, which also has been used ritually for centuries. In the Amazon region, the root bark has been prepared into a beverage called „Jurema“, which already by itself is active. In fact, this activity of Jurema has casted doubt on the common theory of MAOI and DMT - because Mimosa does not contain any MAO inhibiting compounds. However, it could be that in fact it does contain yet undiscovered sources of MAOIs. This is still largely experimental and little research is available. It is a complex issue, and more information can be found here.
Pharmahuasca is a more controlled, pharmaceutical approach to taking ayahuasca. Instead of working with the raw plants, pure extracts of Harmala alkaloids and DMT are used. First, a capsule containing MAOIs is ingested, followed by a capsule of DMT.
The ayahuasca experience goes beyond simple chemistry, it involves a complex phytochemical composition and interaction that is still not very well understood. While the MAOI mechanism can be easily replicated, the spiritual energy of the Banisteriopsis Caapi remains unique. Plants carry more information than what can be chemically analysed, and the caapi vine is a very good example for a plant with a unique „spirit“, or essence. Many who have experienced both ayahuasca and analogues describe it as a different matter. While anahuasca certainly provides a full blown experience, the energy of trip is different.
A good way to look at it is through the tunnel and flashlight analogy. B. Caapi opens up a space - like a tunnel or dome - but not until the DMT brings light, it can be seen. For that matter, DMT acts like a flashlight, partially shedding light on a particular aspect of the caapi. Similarly, plants such as Syrian Rue will provide a different space.