, Volume 236, Issue 2, pp 573–580 | Cite as

Ayahuasca improves emotion dysregulation in a community sample and in individuals with borderline-like traits

  • Elisabet Domínguez-Clavé
  • Joaquim SolerEmail author
  • Juan C. Pascual
  • Matilde Elices
  • Alba Franquesa
  • Marta Valle
  • Enric Alvarez
  • Jordi RibaEmail author
Original Investigation



Research suggests that mindfulness-based interventions may improve mindfulness-related capacities (e.g., decentering, non-judging, and non-reacting) and emotion regulation. Previously, our group reported that ayahuasca could be a potential analogue of mindfulness practice. The main aim of the current study was to examine the effects of ayahuasca on emotional regulation and mindfulness-related capacities. Secondarily, we sought to explore the effects of ayahuasca on individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits.


This is an observational study of 45 volunteers who participated in an ayahuasca session. The volunteers completed various self-report instruments designed to measure emotional dysregulation (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS)) and mindfulness traits (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)–Short Form and Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)) prior to and 24 h after the ayahuasca session. The volunteers were divided into two subgroups based on their score on the McLean Screening Instrument for BPD (MSI-BPD). Twelve participants were grouped into the BPD-like traits subgroup while the rest of them were included in the non-BPD-like subgroup. We performed within-subjects and between-group analyses.


Overall, the participants showed significant improvements on the FFMQ subscales observing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting and also significantly improved on decentering (EQ scale) and on the DERS subscales emotional non-acceptance, emotional interference, and lack of control. The BPD-like subgroup also showed significant improvements on the DERS subscales emotional interference and lack of control but not in mindfulness capacities.


These findings suggest a potential therapeutic effect for ayahuasca in emotion regulation and mindfulness capacities (including decentering, acceptance, awareness, and sensitivity to meditation practice). Based on these results, we believe that ayahuasca therapy could be of value in clinical populations, such as individuals with BPD, affected by emotion dysregulation.


Ayahuasca Emotional dysregulation Mindfulness Borderline personality disorder 



The authors would like to thank the individuals from Santo Daime, La Encantada, and La Maloka who voluntarily participated in the study. We thank Bradley Londres for editing the manuscript.

Funding information

This study was funded by a FIS grant from the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitivity - Instituto de Salud Carlos III, under contract PI16/00078 (IP: Enric Alvarez and Jordi Riba), in collaboration with Institut de Recerca de l’Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona. Elisabet Domínguez is supported by a PFIS grant linked to the aforementioned project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Participation was voluntary and written informed consent was obtained from all participants prior to enrollment. The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and was approved by the Sant Pau Hospital Ethics Committee.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabet Domínguez-Clavé
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Joaquim Soler
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Juan C. Pascual
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Matilde Elices
    • 1
    • 3
  • Alba Franquesa
    • 1
  • Marta Valle
    • 2
    • 3
    • 5
  • Enric Alvarez
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jordi Riba
    • 3
    • 6
    • 7
    Email author
  1. 1.Servei de PsiquiatriaHospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau Institut de RecercaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Pharmacology and TherapeuticsUniversitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental, CIBERSAMBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Departament de Psiquiatria i Medicina LegalUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Modelling and SimulationSant Pau Institute of Biomedical Research (IIB-Sant Pau)BarcelonaSpain
  6. 6.Human Neuropsychopharmacology GroupSant Pau Institute of Biomedical Research (IIB-Sant Pau)BarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.Department of Neuropsychology and PsychopharmacologyMasstricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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