Perspectives On The Past & Future Of Ayahuasca

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Filmed at Plant Consciousness '15 - Ayahuasca has only been known to Western science since the middle of the 19th century. The antiquity of its use in New World shamanism is uncertain, but based on scant archeological evidence it probably came into use between 1000 BCE and 1000 ACE. This presentation summarizes some of the scientific history of ayahuasca, focusing on the important discoveries in the 19th and 20th centuries that led to the identification of the botanical ingredients and the admixture plants that comprise this multi-ingredient brew. It also discusses the history of 20th century investigations of the chemical constituents of Banisteriopsis and the discovery of DMT as a naturally occurring compound and a constituent of the major ayahuasca admixture plants. Finally, it addresses some recent developments in the relatively recent and on-going cultural evolution of ayahuasca as it emerges onto the global stage. What are the societal, cultural, and co-evolutionary implications of this accelerating symbiotic relationship, both for humanity and its plant teacher?

Dennis McKenna


Dennis McKenna has studied psychedelics for over 40 years. His research has focused on the interdisciplinary study of Amazonian ethnopharmacology and plant hallucinogens. He has conducted extensive ethnobotanical fieldwork in the Peruvian, Colombian, and Brasilian Amazon.


His doctoral research (University of British Columbia,1984) focused on the ethnopharmacology of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, two tryptamine-based hallucinogens used by indigenous peoples in the Northwest Amazon. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute, and was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, the first biomedical investigation of ayahuasca used by the UDV, a Brazilian religious group. He is currently Assistant Professor in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. Dennis is the younger brother of Terrence McKenna.

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