Scientists have discovered that a hallucinogenic substance from the Amazon stimulates the birth of new brains cells and could lead to treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The tea called ayahuasca, is also used a as traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies in Peru. The Saint Pau Hospital Barcelona, which worked in collaboration with the Beckley Foundation and Spanish National Research Council in Madrid, has released the findings from a study investigating the potential of ayahuasca to promote neurogenesis – which is the development of new brain cells. The investigators believe that these findings will open up a new avenue of research that may help develop drugs to treat diseases, such as like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and addiction.
Dr. Jordi Riba, lead investigator, presented preliminary data, at the Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Research in Amsterdam at the weekend. Results showed two compounds – harmine and tetrahydro harmine – which are found in the hallucinogenic tea, potently stimulated the transformation of stem cells into new neurons.
“The images from the Beckley/Saint Pau collaboration showing the birth of new neurons are very interesting and suggest that ayahuasca could lead to a new approach in the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” said Amanda Feilding, director of the Beckley Foundation.
The hippocampus, which is thought to be the center of emotion and the autonomic nervous system, plays a key role in memory. Its function declines with age and in neurological disorders. Under normal conditions, the rate of the birth of new neurons is very low, and it cannot keep up with the rate of neural death that occurs in diseases such such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In the study, neural stem cells were isolated from the hippocampus of adult mice. The stem cells were grown in the lab and substances that are present in ayahuasca were added to the cultures and compared with a saline placebo. Scientists have described the results as impressive, with ayahuasca substances stimulating the transformation of stem cells into new neurons.
Obtained from a mixture of jungle plants, its popularity around the world has hugely increased in recent years, as an aid to spiritual exploration, psychotherapy and healing.
Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease. The scientific name for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. The operative word is transmissible.