What is DMT? From traditional herbal medicine and ancient traditions to the present day

Written by: Marvin Benthien



Time to read 8 min

You've probably already heard of LSD and mushrooms - if you've been browsing our blog, that is. But what about DMT? And above all, what is DMT? When talking about psychedelics and hallucinogens, you can't leave out DMT. This particular hallucinogen is one of the drugs that has been used for thousands of years in special ceremonies to expand consciousness - especially by South American peoples.

There are reports of traditions in which the gods were contacted with the help of ayahuasca. Today, DMT is particularly well known in spiritual circles and we often read and hear about shamanic ayahuasca ceremonies that are held (mainly in South America). But DMT is more than just a hallucinogen, as there are some very interesting facts and findings in this area. We take a closer look at what is behind the substance.

Disclaimer: We are expressly not encouraging consumption here, but would like to contribute to general education. Far be it from us to glorify drugs, our aim is to provide information on topics that are often still seen as taboo in Western society.

What exactly is DMT and where is it found?

The abbreviation DMT stands for dimethyltryptamine. Dimethyltryptamine is a natural compound that has a strong hallucinogenic effect. It is not produced artificially, but is found in numerous plants and animals. As the consumption of dimethyltryptamine can lead to vomiting, it is assumed that plants and animals that contain higher concentrations of the active ingredient use it as a defense against predators. The following plants contain significant amounts of DMT:

  • Psychotira viridis (Chacruna)
  • Diplopterys cabrerana (Chaliponga)
  • Mimosa hostilis (Jurema)
  • Anadenanthera peregrina (Yopo)
  • Codariocalyx motorius (Telegraph plant)
  • Phragmites australis (reed)
  • Phalaris arundinacea (reed grass)
  • Many plants of the genus Acacia

The skin glands of the Aga toad also contain a DMT-related molecule.

DMT also appears in various toad species

Plants that contain large quantities of dimethyltryptamine can be extracted to produce ingestible DMT. Dimethyltryptamine is also known as ayahuasca, which refers to a drink containing DMT. This drink is made from various plants and is an integral part of many South American traditions. Even today, it is still possible to take part in shamanic ayahuasca ceremonies, which last several hours or days and serve to expand consciousness. Is DMT legal in Germany? No. Dimethyltryptamine and plants and animals that contain it are prohibited in Germany, and trade and distribution are punishable under the Narcotics Act. Would you like to experiment with hallucinogens legally? We offer microdosing kits with a legal LSD derivative in our store.

Like other hallucinogens, dimethyltryptamine binds to the 5-HT2A serotonin receptors in the brain and probably influences our perception and behavior. However, it is still not fully understood what additional function hallucinogens have in the body and how exactly psychedelics work, including, of course, ayahuasca and DMT. It is assumed that several complex processes in the body work together to produce the unique mode of action of dimethyltryptamine - exactly which ones are still up in the air.

What does DMT look like?

Pure DMT is processed in powder or paste form and is crystalline in structure. However, this is rather rare and far more common in private consumption is so-called changa. These are smokable herbal mixtures that contain other plants containing DMT. Other plants that are often added are blue lotus and passion flower - both have a calming effect.

DMT extract

How is DMT consumed?

Dimethyltryptamine can be consumed in many different ways, from injection to oral ingestion. In private use, it is common for it to be smoked as a herbal mixture or powder. If it is used in a professional setting, then almost exclusively as ayahuasca, as the prolonged effect is used here in order to have spiritual experiences. However, as dimethyltryptamine is broken down incredibly quickly by the body and hardly any of the active ingredient enters the bloodstream when taken orally, a so-called MAO inhibitor must be taken before consumption to slow down the breakdown of DMT. MAO (monoamine oxidase) is the enzyme in the body that is responsible for the breakdown of various neurotransmitters in the blood - including noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. As we already know, dimethyltryptamine acts on the serotonin receptors as it is structurally similar. It is therefore not surprising that MAO inhibitors not only affect the breakdown of neurotransmitters, but also that of dimethyltryptamine. MAO inhibitors themselves are legal and also widely used in Western cultures: namely as antidepressants. However, they are also often used to enhance the effects of other drugs. This is not necessarily a good idea because, as a private self-researcher, it is not always possible to predict how strong the effect of the drug will be and the dosage is also more difficult to assess without the necessary experience. Incidentally, antidepressants and MAO inhibitors do not always have to be of a chemical nature; there are also a number of herbal mood enhancers that are also very effective.

What is the correct dosage of DMT?

The dosage of DMT depends on the form in which it is taken:

  • Inhalation: 10-60 mg pure DMT
  • Nasal: 20-50 mg
  • Oral: There is no specific information on this, as it depends on the preparation and strength of the ayahuasca. In a controlled study from 2003, 0.6-0.85 mg/kg body weight was measured and administered as a standard dose.

Detectability of DMT in the body

What is the duration of detectability of DMT? Whether dimethyltryptamine can be detected in blood and urine depends on the amount consumed and the time between ingestion and testing. As DMT is basically also a substance produced naturally in the body, it does not appear to be easy to detect its ingestion via drug tests and these are probably rarely carried out except for research purposes. It has also been shown, for example, that people with acute psychosis also had high levels of DMT in their urine, which were not due to previous use. It is therefore possible to detect DMT in blood and urine, but it is rather difficult to determine whether it was ingested or whether other factors were involved.

Effects of DMT - How does DMT work and for how long?

DMT is one of the strongest hallucinogens in the world and - compared to other drugs - the effects occur very quickly, especially when snorted or smoked. When ingested nasally or inhaled, it actually only takes a few minutes to take effect, but the effect is also over after 30 minutes at the latest. If the substance is taken as ayahuasca, it can take up to 60 minutes before the first signs are felt, but the trip can also last up to 8 hours - depending on the concentration of DMT contained in the drink. As dimethyltryptamine has a rather strong taste and can lead to coughing fits if smoked or snorted, ayahuasca is often preferred.

What is the effect of DMT? In principle, the effects of hallucinogens are difficult to describe. However, patterns, colors and other intense visual experiences are also repeatedly described with DMT. There are also frequent stories of encounters with other kinds of beings. As ayahuasca has a slower and longer effect than dimethyltryptamine when taken nasally or inhaled, it is often used for spiritual journeys into one's own consciousness. It can be used to work through old traumas, relive emotional events and create a higher connection to oneself and one's environment. It is repeatedly described that it is no longer possible to suppress feelings under the influence of ayahuasca - the boundaries that we like to draw between ourselves and our experiences in our hectic everyday lives are inevitably dissolved here. This can be painful, cleansing and beautiful all at the same time. Ayahuasca is sometimes called "Mama Aya" because of this return to oneself and one's roots. DMT, like LSD, could therefore also have an applicable benefit for trauma therapy.

What are the side effects of DMT?

In fact, this drug - like most others - has a number of sometimes more, sometimes less desirable side effects. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased pulse
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils

There is a greater risk for people who are already taking antidepressants or other substances that increase serotonin levels. The additional intake of DMT (and MAO inhibitors) can lead to so-called serotonin syndrome, which in the worst case can be fatal.

People suffering from psychosis or schizophrenia should also be particularly careful. Hallucinogens can exacerbate the symptoms here. People who do not have an active psychosis, but are prone to it, should also be careful when consuming them. Psychoactive substances are known to bring latent mental illnesses to the surface.

Exactly why dimethyltryptamine often leads to vomiting and diarrhea has not yet been discovered. In spiritual circles, it is often said that this is a physical sign of the mental and spiritual cleansing that takes place through ayahuasca.

What does DMT do in the human body?

As early as 1976, a study showed that DMT occurs naturally in all mammals. It has already been shown in rats that they can synthesize the drug themselves via the pineal gland, but corresponding studies in humans are still lacking. However, it has already been confirmed in humans that DMT is present in the central nervous system. The findings to date also indicate that DMT is released in larger quantities by the body in special situations such as birth and death.

Various studies have investigated the effect of DMT on cells under stress and have found that the substance actively helps the cells in these situations and statistically more cells survive the stressful situation than without the influence of dimethyltryptamine. It could therefore be that dimethyltryptamine is a survival mechanism of the body to prevent cells from dying in situations that are essential for survival. This could also explain why patients with near-death experiences often report experiences that are very similar to those of hallucinogen intoxication. How this happens and whether the body actually produces DMT itself via the pineal gland has not yet been proven, however.

What is DMT: still unanswered

Even if there are already some studies and research results on dimethyltryptamine: Much more probably remains to be researched. This applies not only to DMT and the effects of psychoactive substances on us; the data available in these areas simply indicates how little we actually know about our own bodies - not to mention the rest of our universe. For every answer comes two new questions - will we ever know everything? Probably not. Living in a universe that has its origins in infinity probably also means being on an infinite journey through research, science and life. Is there life after death? Are aliens real? And: Are the hallucinogenic encounters with other beings the meeting of two dimensions or simply psychedelic dreams? We do not know. But it is in our nature to want to find answers to our questions - and eventually get them; and the question of what DMT is will also be answered at some point. But the question of all questions is: will there ever be a final question in an infinite universe?