, Volume 233, Issue 5, pp 823–829 | Cite as

Exploring the therapeutic potential of Ayahuasca: acute intake increases mindfulness-related capacities

  • Joaquim Soler
  • Matilde Elices
  • Alba Franquesa
  • Steven Barker
  • Pablo Friedlander
  • Amanda Feilding
  • Juan C. Pascual
  • Jordi RibaEmail author
Original Investigation



Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant tea used for ritual purposes by the indigenous populations of the Amazon. In the last two decades, its use has expanded worldwide. The tea contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine-oxidase-inhibiting properties. Acute administration induces an introspective dream-like experience characterized by visions and autobiographic and emotional memories. Studies of long-term users have suggested its therapeutic potential, reporting that its use has helped individuals abandon the consumption of addictive drugs. Furthermore, recent open-label studies in patients with treatment-resistant depression found that a single ayahuasca dose induced a rapid antidepressant effect that was maintained weeks after administration. Here, we conducted an exploratory study of the psychological mechanisms that could underlie the beneficial effects of ayahuasca.


We assessed a group of 25 individuals before and 24 h after an ayahuasca session using two instruments designed to measure mindfulness capacities: The Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Experiences Questionnaire (EQ).


Ayahuasca intake led to significant increases in two facets of the FFMQ indicating a reduction in judgmental processing of experiences and in inner reactivity. It also led to a significant increase in decentering ability as measured by the EQ. These changes are classic goals of conventional mindfulness training, and the scores obtained are in the range of those observed after extensive mindfulness practice.


The present findings support the claim that ayahuasca has therapeutic potential and suggest that this potential is due to an increase in mindfulness capacities.


Ayahuasca Therapeutic potential Mindfulness Decentering Human 



The authors wish to thanks the volunteers for their participation.


Jordi Riba, Amanda Feilding, Pablo Friedlander, and Joaquim Soler conceived and designed the study. Steven Barker analyzed the ayahuasca and Jordi Riba and Alba Franquesa collected the data. Matilde Elices and Juan Carlos Pascual performed the statistical analyses and wrote the first version of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the final version of this manuscript and approved it.

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and subsequent amendments concerning research in humans and was approved by the Sant Pau Hospital Ethics Committee. All volunteers gave their written informed consent to participate.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


This study was supported by the Beckley Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joaquim Soler
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Matilde Elices
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Alba Franquesa
    • 4
    • 6
  • Steven Barker
    • 7
  • Pablo Friedlander
    • 8
  • Amanda Feilding
    • 8
  • Juan C. Pascual
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jordi Riba
    • 3
    • 9
    • 10
    • 11
    Email author
  1. 1.Servei de Psiquiatria, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (Barcelona)Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Psicologia Clínica i de la SalutUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud MentalCIBERSAMMadridSpain
  4. 4.Departamento de Psiquiatria i Medicina LegalUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.Programa de Cognición, Instituto de Fundamentos y Métodos, Facultad de PsicologíaUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay
  6. 6.Les Corts Centre d’Higiene MentalBarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, School of Veterinary MedicineLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  8. 8.The Beckley FoundationOxfordUK
  9. 9.Centre d’Investigació de Medicaments, Servei de Farmacologia ClínicaHospital de la Santa Creu i Sant PauBarcelonaSpain
  10. 10.Department of Pharmacology and TherapeuticsUniversitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)BarcelonaSpain
  11. 11.Human Neuropsychopharmacology GroupSant Pau Institute of Biomedical Research (IIB-Sant Pau)BarcelonaSpain

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