What Is Pharmahuasca? Everything You Need to Know

Any source of DMT and MAO inhibitor will produce psychoactive effects. But don’t expect the experience to compare to true ayahuasca.

By Dan Simms Last Updated: January 10, 2024
Last Updated: January 10, 2024
Artwork by: dikigiyat

Pharmahuasca is the synthetic sibling of ayahuasca, a psychoactive DMT-based tea used in traditional South American religious ceremonies. Ayahuasca can be difficult to make as it requires sourcing plants only found in the Amazon rainforest. 

Some people are making pharmahuasca with common prescription or over-the-counter medications and plant extracts instead.

Pharmahuasca’s effects share similarities with ayahuasca but are distinct in and of themselves. Additionally, there are obvious risks to mixing pharmaceuticals with the intention of producing a psychoactive high. 

Here’s what you need to know about pharmahuasca. 

What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian hallucinogenic tea used for both spiritual and physical healing. The brew is made by combining Banisteriopsis caapi with Psychotria Viridis or other DMT-containing herbs like Mimosa pudica or Mimosa javonica to produce a drinkable, orally active form of DMT (dimethyltryptamine)

The Banisteriopsis caapi vine contains natural monoamine oxidase inhibitors called harmala alkaloids. These compounds block the action of monoamine oxidase (MAO), which breaks down DMT before it can exert its psychoactive effects. 

By mixing an MAO inhibitor with a source of DMT, ayahuasca produces powerfully hallucinogenic and introspective visions lasting several hours at a time. 

What Is Pharmahuasca?

Pharmahuasca replaces the use of the ayahuasca vine with another source of MAO inhibition — usually, a medication called isocarboxazid (Marplan). Other common ingredients include harmine, harmaline, or moclobemide. 

Pharmahuasca is sometimes used to refer to any blend of MAO inhibitor medications with any source of DMT — this includes both plant-based and/or synthetic DMT.

Some people use Syrian rue instead, another natural source of MAO inhibitors (harmala alkaloids). There’s a lot of debate around whether this counts as pharmahuasca or something different. 

Another preparation called changa uses the same mechanism but in a smokeable format. 

How Do You Take Pharmahuasca?

Pharmahuasca is usually taken in capsule form. MAO inhibitors are mixed with DMT, put in capsules, and then taken as one would normally take a capsule. Others mix the MAO and DMT with something like coco-cola to mask the taste. 

Some people recommend separating the MAOI by about 10 or 20 minutes to give it time to take effect. This is thought to reduce the amount of DMT destroyed by MAO before the MAOI kicks in — thus making the effects stronger.

If using Syrian rue as the source of MAOI, users will boil about 3 grams of seeds with some water for about 20 minutes. Once cool, it can be taken as a shot, followed by a capsule of DMT. 

What’s The Dose of Pharmahuasca?

The dosing for pharmahuasca is tricky for two reasons: 

  • The source of DMT and the source of MAOI can vary substantially
  • Everybody’s body chemistry is different, so a dose that works for one person may not work for someone else

In general, the target dose of oral DMT is around 50 mg.

The target dose for the MAOI varies a lot. Too much MAOI will cause users to feel violently nauseous and can be dangerous. Not enough will result in low psychoactivity. 

Why Take Pharmahuasca?

Pharmahuasca continues the tradition established by South American ayahuasca ceremonies and serves to bring people closer to the natural world and grant them a better understanding of themselves and the universe, according to practitioners. Several religions use ayahuasca to help their followers connect with their spiritual selves, and pharmahuasca has similar effects.

Most people choose to take pharmahuasca to expand their minds and help them confront their true selves. Taking pharmahuasca can be an intense experience for some people, so it’s important to have a guide with you at all times.

Pharmahuasca’s effects can foster feelings of unity among like-minded individuals, and many people prefer the experience of taking it as part of a congregation overtaking it alone.

What Are the Effects of Pharmahuasca?

Pharmahuasca’s effects are similar to ayahuasca’s — resulting in visions of geometric patterns and deep introspection. The intensity of effects can vary substantially. Not everyone experiences the characteristic intense hallucinations their first time taking pharmahuasca, although many do. 

A common experience with pharmahuasca is nausea, which can sometimes lead to an uncomfortable trip. Users may feel as though they’re dying during the experience because of this effect. This is why it’s essential to have a trusted trip sitter to watch over you and monitor your vitals. They can step in if something is truly wrong and reassure you if everything is fine. 

The most common effects pharmahuasca users report feeling during an experience are:

  • A sense of connection with the spiritual and natural worlds
  • Feelings of ego-dissolution
  • Profound visual hallucinations
  • Euphoria or increased sense of empathy with others
  • Skewed perception of time
  • Out-of-body experiences

Many pharmahuasca user reports feature eerily similar details, including conversations with entities (called machine elves). 

Some people believe these effects reveal fundamental aspects of what it means to be human, while others prefer a more literal interpretation, claiming that these visions are glimpses into the true nature of the universe.

Are There Any Side Effects of Taking Pharmahuasca?

Pharmahuasca also shares most side effects with ayahuasca, including nausea, vomiting, decreased concentration, anxiety, chills, increased heart rate, and general confusion. 

The higher the dose of MAO inhibitors, the more likely one is to experience side effects.

MAO inhibitors are dangerous and can lead to serious consequences if used incorrectly. There is a reason why most of these drugs are reserved for prescription use only. 

Stay Safe: Follow the 3S’ of Psychedelics

Set. Setting. Sitter. 

Set — Having the right mindset before you begin is crucial. Negative ideation tends to manifest as a bad DMT trip, so consider waiting to take pharmahuasca until you feel more centered.

Setting — Setting up a safe and comfortable environment before your trip is essential. This includes only taking psychoactive substances around people you trust and in a place that is familiar to you. 

Sitter — Before you take pharmahuasca, make sure you have a trusted friend or family member who can trip sit for you and step in should something goes wrong. Ideally, this will be someone with pharmahuasca or ayahuasca experience. Learn how to be a good trip sitter here.

How Long Do the Effects of Pharmahuasca Last?

Most users start to feel the effects around 40 minutes later, with peak effects reaching around the 2-hour mark. 

The total duration can last anywhere from 3 to 8 hours depending on the dose, the types of compounds used, and the individual’s weight. 

Is Pharmahuasca Legal?

No form of pharmahuasca is technically legal — even plant-based preparations. As soon as DMT is extracted, it becomes illegal. Syrian rue, the most common natural ingredient in pharmahuasca, is illegal in Canada, Australia, and France but legal in the United States

Likewise, using pharmaceutical medications without a prescription is also considered illegal — though it’s rare for people to be charged with being in possession of drugs like isocarboxazid which is normally prescribed for depression. 

Synthetic DMT is strictly illegal in most countries, although some have recently decriminalized it, making possessing small amounts safe. 

Final Thoughts: Pharmaceutical Ayahuasca

Pharmahuasca can technically produce visions comparable to ayahuasca or other forms of DMT, but it also carries a great deal of risk. It’s much more likely to cause serious issues with vomiting and diarrhea, and incorrect dosing can lead to much more severe side effects. 

There’s also an argument about whether pharmahuasca carries the same potential for mental health and well-being as ayahuasca because of its synthetic nature. 

Regardless, if you plan on trying pharmahuasca, it’s essential you understand exactly what your doing, what you’re using, and what red flags to watch out for. Nobody should ever take pharmahuasca alone, or in a place they aren’t entirely safe.

While it is legal to purchase the necessary ingredients to make pharmahuasca yourself, the actual process of doing so is illegal in most countries. Circumventing these regulations is possible, although it could lead to trouble if you’re caught in possession of large amounts of pharmahuasca intended for human consumption.