Methodology for determining major constituents of ayahuasca and their metabolites in blood

Ethan H. McIlhenny, Jordi Riba, Manel J. Barbanoj, Rick Strassman, Steven A. Barker

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    28 Citations (Scopus)


    There is an increasing interest in potential medical applications of ayahuasca, a South American psychotropic plant tea with a long cultural history of indigenous medical and religious use. Clinical research into ayahuasca will require specific, sensitive and comprehensive methods for the characterization and quantitation of these compounds and their metabolites in blood. A combination of two analytical techniques (high-performance liquid chromatography with ultraviolet and/or fluorescence detection and gas chromatography with nitrogen-phosphorus detection) has been used for the analysis of some of the constituents of ayahuasca in blood following its oral consumption. We report here a single methodology for the direct analysis of 14 of the major alkaloid components of ayahuasca, including several known and potential metabolites of N,N-dimethyltryptamine and the harmala alkaloids in blood. The method uses 96-well plate/protein precipitation/filtration for plasma samples, and analysis by HPLC-ion trap-ion trap-mass spectrometry using heated electrospray ionization to reduce matrix effects. The method expands the list of compounds capable of being monitored in blood following ayahuasca administration while providing a simplified approach to their analysis. The method has adequate sensitivity, specificity and reproducibility to make it useful for clinical research with ayahuasca. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)301-313
    JournalBiomedical Chromatography
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


    • Ayahuasca
    • Blood
    • Dimethyltryptamine
    • Harmala alkaloids
    • Metabolism


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