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Usually, DMT (which is found in, among others, Mimosa hostilis, Psychotria viridis and Phalaris arundinacea) has no effect when taken orally. This is because it is broken down by monoamine oxidase (MAO). MAO is an important enzyme that breaks down certain chemical substances in the body, like drugs and poisons.
MAO inhibitors inhibit the function of the MAO enzyme, which halts the breakdown of chemical substances like DMT. This renders DMT effective upon oral consumption. The combination of a plant that contains DMT and an MAO inhibitor is known as ayahuasca (or yage).
MAO inhibitors should be consumed with great care and caution, as they can render innocent foods poisonous. The consequences can range from headaches and nausea to loss of consciousness and even death. In shaman traditions MAO inhibitors are mainly used after at least one day of fasting. It is advisable to follow this tradition.
MAO inhibitors include:
Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is primarly capable of counteracting most tryptamines. Therefore, the inhibitors of the MAO enzyme can be used to enhance the effects of tryptamines in the body (e.g. they can render DMT and 5-MeO-DMT active after oral intake).
There are two classes of MAO inhibitors: reversible and irreversible MAO inhibitors. They can also shut down the function of either of the two types of the MAO enzyme: MAO-A and MAO-B. These enzyme types are respectively associated with serotonergic and dopaminergic neurons.
Irreversible MAO inhibitors (e.g. hydrazides, iproniazide and phenelzine) permanently bind to the MAO enzyme and shut down its function up to 1-2 weeks after consumption. They are used clinically to treat depression.
Reversible MAO inhibitors (e.g. moclobemide, which is also used as antidepressant, and the beta-carbolines harmine and harmaline) work for a much shorter duration, up to about 24 hours. Recreational drug users around the globe use harmine and harmaline, in spite of little scientific knowledge on the effect of these substances on people.
When taking MAO inhibitors on purpose, like when consuming ayahuasca, there is no need for serious side-effects. The incidence of nausea is minimized when taking “pharmahuasca”, which contain pure DMT and an irreversible MAO inhibitor like harmine or moclobemide. Taking pure plant extract DMT in combination with a pure MAO inhibitor (instead of a plant containing MAO inhibitors) greatly reduces the stress on the body.
MAO inhibitors are also often used to enhance the effects of mushrooms that contain psilocybin or even phenethylamines – the latter combination can be very dangerous. Taking DPT together with MAO inhibitors is also known as “propylhuasca”: DPT is orally active in itself and the dosage should be smaller when combining it with MAO inhibitors.
Anecdotal reports state that a gram of Peganum harmela seeds (which comes down to approximately 30 miligrams of harmine/harmaline) is sufficient to render DMT orally active. The same effect can be reached with 75 mg moclobemide. In short, this is why DMT-containing seeds are combined with Peganum harmala to activate their hallucinogenic qualities.
There are some risks that should not be forgotten. Most MAO inhibitors enhance the cardiovascular effects of tyramine and other monoamines that you may find in foods. The consumption of old cheese, beer, wine, pickled herring, chicken liver, yeast, large amounts of coffee, citrus fruit, figs, broad beans, chocolate or cream while MAO is being inhibited can cause a hypersensitive crisis, which means a dangerous rise in blood pressure.
MAO inhibitors do not only interact with tryptamines, but also with other (psychoactive) substances. The effects of amphetamines, anesthetics, tranquillizers, anti-histamines, alcohol, painkillers and antidepressants last longer and intensify.
An overdose of just the MAO inhibitors is also possible, during which hyperreflexia (e.g. twitching) and emotional outbursts can occur. It should be added, however, that these warnings are mostly applicable to irreversible MAO inhibitors, and that many people who use irreversible MAO inhibitors to intensify the effect of tryptamines experience few health problems despite not being exceptionally careful.
Derivatives of tryptamines and beta-carbolines were discovered as endogenous metabolites in all mammals, and thus also in humans. Methyltransferates that play a role in the synthesis of tryptamine, including DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin, have been found in human lungs, the brain, cerebrospinal fluid, the liver and the heart (McKenna & Towers, 1984). In the pineal gland, MAO takes care of principal blocking of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is derived from the amino acid tryptophan. If MAO is blocked by harmine, harmaline or another MAO inhibitor, serotonin can be converted into psychedelic tryptamines by the methyltransferase enzymes HIOMT and INMT (serotonin -- (HIOMT)--> 5-MeO-trypt. --(2*INMT)--> 5-MeO-DMT). So the consumption of l-tryptophan to increase serotonin levels, plus the consumption of sugary sweets to increase the tryptophan levels in your brain and the consumption of plant material containing 25-50 mg of harmine/harmaline to inhibit MAO, can cause substantial amounts of 5-MeO-DMT to be formed (Most, 1986). The same goal can be reached by replacing tryptophan by 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Normal, sleep-inducing doses of melatonin have also been taken in concert with reversible MAO inhibitors, and the resulting psychoactive effects suggest that a significant interaction between these substances exists. This is extremely dangerous for people with an amino acid imbalance or schizophrenia. Also for normal, healthy individuals, the possible effects are severe.
A powerful inhibitor of INMT (which is another) essential enzyme in the production of DMT and 5-MeO-DMT) is found in high concentrations in the pineal gland. A rerouting or blocking of the synthesis of this inhibitor can cause a trance or psychedelic state “without drugs” (Strassman, 1990).
List of dangerous combinations
Here follows a list of substances that may NOT be taken within a 24-hour timeframe (12 hours before and 12 hours after) around taking an MAO inhibitor.
Cause headaches and/or nausea: