The Beginner’s Guide to Healing with Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT

What is Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT?

5-MeO-DMT is a naturally-occuring entheogen that is found in several species of plant, and most popularly in the venom of the Bufo alvarius toad. Also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad, Colorado River Toad, Bufo, and El Sapo/Sapito; Bufo alvarius is found living in Northwestern Mexico and some Southern US states.

5-MeO-DMT is a relative of the classic psychedelic DMT (dimethyltryptamine), and like DMT it also induces an intense experience when ingested. Typically, it is insufflated (snorted) or smoked as a powder or dried plant material.

The dried venom of the Bufo alvarius toad contains both 5-MeO-DMT and another psychotropic substance known as bufotenin (5-HO-DMT), and so the Bufo experience is different from a pure 5-MeO-DMT experience.

Bufo is also sometimes called ‘toad medicine’ or ‘sapito.’

Although some 5-MeO-DMT-containing plants have a history of traditional use, there is no evidence of any indigenous Bufo alvarius practices. Modern ceremonies using either 5-MeO-DMT plants or Bufo alvarius venom are growing in popularity, and are used for healing or spiritual purposes.

Effects of Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT

5-MeO-DMT is a potent naturally-occurring entheogen. Its effects can kick in around 15 seconds after smoking it, and 5-MeO-DMT produces an intense and sometimes overwhelming psychedelic experience. Although it is over within about half an hour, people describe experiencing an overpowering ego-dissolution that often leads to a feeling of being connected to everything in existence.

Bufo venom not only contains 5-MeO-DMT, it also contains bufotenin, a close chemical analog to DMT, that may also have psychoactive properties. Although there is no conclusive evidence about bufotenin being psychoactive when smoked, many find that smoking Bufo venom produces a stronger experience than taking 5-MeO-DMT alone.

The psychedelic effects of smoking Bufo venom typically last about 15 minutes, and will totally subside after around 40 minutes. The usual psychedelic “afterglow” may last a few more hours, and some say that it can be felt for as long as days or weeks following the session.

Smoking Bufo can be physiologically risky. The combined effects of 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin (along with whatever other toxins are present in the toad venom) can be very intense, and when additional medications are brought into the equation, effects can be fatal. Do not combine 5-MeO-DMT with MAOIs (including ayahuasca), or beta-carbolines. There are several reports of deaths resulting from these combinations.

5-MeO-DMT Dosage

The dosage of 5-MeO-DMT will depend on whether you are insufflating or smoking the powder. An average dose for insufflating is around 8-15mg, while an average dose for smoking is 5-10mg. Always start with lower doses than these if you are sensitive.

If you are taking Bufo venom, you should also consider that the psychoactive bufotenin will be present alongside 5-MeO-DMT. The active dose for bufotenin is around 30-60mg insufflated, and 4-8mg when smoked.

History of Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT

You may come across facilitators claiming that Bufo medicine is traditional or indigenous. However there is no concrete evidence to suggest that Bufo secretions have ever been used in traditional shamanic practices. Most likely, the practice of smoking Bufo venom is a relatively new phenomenon. Bufo alvarius toad venom was first found to contain 5-MeO-DMT in 1965, and the paper that proved this was published in 1967. It was in the mid-’80s when smoking toad venom became a fringe, underground phenomenon, after the first description of smoking Bufo alvarius toad-venom for its 5-MeO-DMT content was published in the form of an extraordinary pamphlet titledBufo alvarius: The Psychedelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert” by Albert Most (Venom Press, Denton, Texas), in 1984.

Some scholars have suggested that Mesoamerican civilizations used psychoactive toad venom in rituals, but these suggestions are based on the presence of toad icons in temple frescos, and is mostly speculation. Therefore, anyone who claims that their way of working with toad medicine is “ancient and sacred” is at the very least exaggerating. In contemporary usage, Bufo is commonly found in neo-shamanic ceremonial settings, that may include drumming, chanting, smudging and other rituals. Any “indigenous seeming” Bufo practices like this are examples of neo-shamanism that have been amalgamated from a variety of traditions, and are not rooted in specific 5-MeO-DMT knowledge from an unbroken ancestral lineage.

5-MeO-DMT has a history of shamanic use in the form of some plant-based snuffs. Practices of inhaling powdered plants such as yopo stretch as far back as the 8th century. The ground and dried seeds of 5-MeO-DMT-containing plants were blown into the subject’s nostrils by shamans, in ceremonies using specially-crafted pipes. The practice has been found in Chile, Venezuela, and other South American countries.

Current use of Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT

The practice of inhaling bufotoxins from Bufo alvarius has become increasingly popular in a variety of underground ceremonial settings in recent years, creating corresponding pressure on toad populations and long-term sustainability.

A large number of Bufo shamans and facilitators have appeared in the entheogenic community, offering to administer the medicine in ceremonies aimed at addressing spiritual or physical issues.

5-MeO-DMT is also used in some ceremonial settings, ingested as powdered plant material. Synthetic 5-MeO-DMT is used by some facilitators.

Bufo has become a new interest in psychedelic research due to the potential 5-MeO-DMT holds for therapy as well as for the treatment of opioid addiction. However, the current state of research is sparse compared to research into the more well-known classic psychedelics.

What Does a Bufo Ceremony Look Like?

Because Bufo alvarius has no history of traditional use, there is no standard or ‘traditional’ style of toad medicine ceremony. Most facilitators will use aspects of traditional shamanism in their ceremonies, but these are often appropriated from a number of different cultures and it is rare for a modern Bufo facilitator to have any kind of sanctioned training.

Bufo ceremonies exist in a bit of a ‘Wild West’ – with no real oversight, consistency, or regulation. This allows some facilitators to undertake highly dangerous, negligent, or abusive practices, such as using electric shocks, or simulated drowning (read here for more on this).

A good Bufo ceremony will put your safety first, and be overseen by experienced professionals who stay sober and can give all their attention to you. You should not be forced or encouraged to do anything other than take the Bufo and then lie down in a safe and comfortable environment until the effects have passed. Sometimes facilitators may play music, blow smoke, or practice shamanic activities – but a facilitator should not need to touch you, give you other substances, or enforce suggestions upon you while you are tripping.

The experience lasts only a few minutes, but a facilitator may undertake several steps of preparation and integration before and after the ceremony. Overall a ceremony may last several days, depending on how in-depth your facilitator decides to curate the experience.

Legality of Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT

5-MeO-DMT is not a prohibited substance in most countries, as it was not included in the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971. However, both the United States and United Kingdom have classified 5-MeO-DMT as a Class A/Schedule I substance. Other countries may have included it on their lists of illegal substances.

Bufotenin, the other psychotropic substance in Bufo alvarius venom, is also not regulated in most places – however again, both the US and UK have it listed as a Class A/Schedule I substance.

Healing with Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT

As a profound and intense entheogen, Bufo toad medicine has the therapeutic potential to treat a number of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and opioid addiction.

Bufo experiences are primarily sought out for personal development reasons. Seekers hope that the powerful mystical experience of complete ego dissolution and “One with the Universe” experience that it elicits will provide freedom and a new perspective that will allow the individual to break free of limiting patterns and the grip of old traumas.

Scientific research on the therapeutic benefits of Bufo venom inhalation is extremely limited, however one study has shown its potential to treat depression and anxiety. The survey recruited over 350 people who had been participants in Bufo group sessions, and showed that people who had been suffering from depression or anxiety were very likely to experience improvements in their conditions after the session. 80% of people with depression said that their symptoms were improved, and 79% of people with anxiety reported improvements.

5-MeO-DMT also shows promise in the alleviation of drug and alcohol addiction – in underground settings Bufo venom is being used in the treatment of cocaine and opioid addiction. Some addiction treatment centers use 5-MeO-DMT in conjunction with iboga to help participants have a mystical experience that can boost the anti-addictive effects of iboga. One study of proteins in artificial human organs found that 5-MeO-DMT reduced the levels of a receptor involved in addiction (mGluR5), suggesting that it could have its own anti-addictive properties, and another survey of 5-MeO-DMT users showed that 66% of people with alcoholism found improvements after taking the substance.

However it should not be taken lightly, or considered as a “one-and-done” pharmaceutical or pill. Its effects can be traumatic as well as healing, and some amount of preparation and awareness of the risks is required for a beneficial Bufo alvarius experience.


The physical risks of Bufo and 5-MeO-DMT are reasonably low, if you do not combine the medicine with anything else, or take a very high dose. As such, it is important to avoid being on any medications (especially MAOIs or beta-carbolines) while taking Bufo or 5-MeO-DMT, and you should not take any other plant medicines (especially ayahuasca) in the same 24-hour period as your Bufo alvarius experience.

The psychological risks of Bufo and 5-MeO-DMT are the same as any other powerful entheogen. Because they can disrupt your mind and worldview in a very significant way, they have the potential to cause psychological trauma if not handled correctly. Preparing for your experience by starting a spiritual practice or setting a clear intention are basic tips; as well as making sure you have a trusted and experienced Bufo facilitator.

Having a poorly trained or negligent facilitator is another big risk in a Bufo alvarius retreat. There have been a number of deaths reported during ceremonies due to the malpractice of facilitators who have not paid enough attention or care to the participants. Checking out the reputation of your facilitator is a crucial step in the preparation for a Bufo alvarius retreat.


These following tips on preparation for a Bufo alvarius experience are adapted and simplified from the extensive “Best Practices” document that you can find here.

Research your facilitator beforehand! Make sure they have considerable experience in administering Bufo, and guiding people safely towards a healing experience. Make sure they are reputable by googling their name alongside keywords such as “Fraud,” “Death,” “Scandal,” or “Fake.” Try to look up reviews of their retreat, or find experience reports from previous guests. Abusive or negligent facilitators are very good at hiding any negative press online, so make sure you research your facilitator thoroughly.

Click this link to learn about Octavio Rettig and Gerry Sandoval, two Bufo facilitators who have been directly linked to deaths and fraud.

If you are unsure about anything, ask the facilitator directly – you should always expect direct replies from any good facilitator. You should be clear on exactly what the ceremony will involve, and how the facilitator will be working with you during the experience. Make sure they offer some kind of integration after the ceremony, so you are not left in a vulnerable state.

A good facilitator will not oppressively enforce their practices or will on you during a ceremony. They should be there for your safety and guidance, and should not engage in any forceful or restraining physical touch. They should have a relatively small group of participants, so they can give adequate care to each of you, and should be willing to meet any specific requirements that you may have for the space or the ceremony.

Prepare for the session by engaging in some spiritual practices, such as meditation, walks in nature, or journaling. This will provide you with a foundation that you can return to if you start to feel fear or anxiety during the experience.

Setting yourself a clear intention for the Bufo retreat will also make it more likely that you will have a beneficial experience. It can be a rock to hold on to if you get lost during the ceremony, and will also help you with integration afterwards.


Integration is crucial for gaining spiritual benefits from any psychedelic experience, and especially such an intense experience as that of Bufo or 5-MeO-DMT.

Carry on your spiritual practices after the Bufo ceremony, as this will help you integrate and accept the lessons of the experience. Stay in touch with your facilitator or group, and don’t be afraid to ask for support if it’s needed.

Journaling or self reflection are keys to a successful integration process. Read more about integration with 5-MeO-DMT and Bufo alvarius in our full guide.

About Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith is a biologist and writer who has been working in the psychedelic community for several years. Twitter: @rjpatricksmith


  1.' Cem on August 26, 2019 at 10:40 am

    I experienced Bufo Alvarius past weekend during my first 3-night ayahuasca retreat. First time, i had a super intense moment where my eyes were drawn all the way back and felt like new neurons were being formed in my brain. The next day on my second time smoking it; well it just changed my life completely.. during my integrations and group therapy sessions prior to it, we were working on my heart chakra. Its been closed for a very long time, and i simply couldn’t even feel emotions any longer.. When i smoked Bufo that time, a laser beamed like universal energy (Love!) was coming directly on my heart. My breath got slower and deeper (and i mean deeeeeeep) as that energy was penetrating the crust on my heart chakra.. i could literally hear the sound of the crust being dissolved.. and then boom! My heart was completely opened up.. An infinite love was just pouring in through my heart.. all i could do as tears coming down my eyes was to say “thank you!” I was finally home.. it was always there with me.. i had all those treasures with me since the very beginning.. i had just rediscovered it.. I ran outside in an euphoric state, laid down on grass.. took my shirt off.. and let sun penetrate deep in my heart while the trees and grass and the whole creation rejoiced my arrival back home. My life is changed forever and i once again know who i really am..

    •' Erik Wettergren on October 8, 2020 at 9:47 am


    •' Charlie Mayo on March 15, 2021 at 12:02 am

      Amazing! I’m so happy for you and all of us on the planet with you!

  2.' André Lussier on September 30, 2019 at 3:10 pm


    •' Cris on August 17, 2020 at 1:23 am

      I would like to attend a ceremony and take this trip is there any ceremonies in arizona going on please let me know thanks

      •' Neal Allen Catlett on March 28, 2021 at 11:56 pm

        What part of Arizona specifically? I travel through Arizona a few times a year, usually as I’m coming up out of the Sonoran desert. I’m not real sure how all this works, or what the protocol is but if this is something you’re interested in and is, or if it’s kosher with Patrick Smith the blogger who wrote this article, but if there are no objections you can reach out to me and I can see what I can do about locating you a ceremony.

        To keep things legal and on the up and up I can introduce you to my guy in the Sonoran region of Mexico. He does a really great job, and holds space for people in a full-sized Tee-Pee and on native tribal land there in Ol’ Mexico, only a few hours south of Nogales, where it is not only safe, but, strong, affordable, authentic, and perfectly legal, not to mention a truly mystical and spiritual experience.

        If you would like to check me out as this article wisely suggest you do when looking for a provider then just scroll on up to the section that says current uses for Bufo Alvarius, and go down to where it says treatment for opiate addiction and click that link. A VICE News article will pop up and that guy in the picture with the pipe in his mouth is me. I am fairly easily found on social media and other sources. If not me or my provider in Mexico then I hope the medicine finds you, and finds you well and I’ll be sending you love and light until the time is right.

        Happy Trails

        •' Ulee on March 30, 2021 at 11:29 pm

          @Neal would I be able to get in touch with you?

  3.' Psyle on February 8, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    Amazing Cem. I love the mirroring effect of you diving straight outside under the sun.

  4.' Chris Johnston on February 13, 2020 at 5:38 am

    I have attended a toad ceremony with Octavia Rettig.
    I found him to be unprofessional and uncareing.
    He did not measure my dose by any standard resulting in a dose that was way too much.( whiteout)
    I witnessed him giving a woman a dose that resulted in her going in through what looked like a very traumatic experience. He left her alone on a cold damp ground ( she was wearing very light clothing) l intervened and held her in my lap off the ground. I was very uncomfortable with the way she was treated as her legs were flying up in the air exposing herself while Rettig and another male just watched.
    I personally did not receive any preparation, guidance or aftercare.
    For this he charged $450 for one pipe
    I think he is a crook and a person without any human empathy or compassion. He should NOT be administering this substance.
    In respect of the charges now levelled against him and the other allegations against him l hope he receives the full weight of the law and is imprisoned for a long time.

    •' Aya on July 17, 2020 at 9:33 am

      Hey Chris I’m so sorry to hear about this. I hope you’re in a good place now, as well as the other lady who was left alone:(( it’s great that you took care of her, you were meant to be there at this moment… big hug, aya

    •' Jessica on September 22, 2020 at 11:16 pm

      Thank you for sharing. This is so important. You should always feel free to leave a ceremony that does not seem safe and also demand a refund.

    •' Riley Martin on October 12, 2020 at 10:14 pm

      I believe you may have been under the care of Doctor San. This man was responsible for killing 19 people at a electronic music festival. He is now deceased himself.

  5.' Melissa on September 28, 2020 at 12:45 am

    Hello, I wanted to clarify something that I read in the article above. I know that regular DMT can be inhaled or snorted… but had the understanding that Bufo could only be smoked. I heard that the bufotoxins unheated could be dangerous to deadly. Is this true or can Bufo be snorted as well?

    •' Diana on October 26, 2020 at 10:12 pm

      I can’t imagine why anyone would want to snort Bufo… in my experience and as far as I know, for this medicine to work properly, it needs to be heated and ingested by vaporization.

      •' Agy on April 19, 2021 at 6:43 pm

        I heard it’s about 2 weeks that you have to be clean from all substances.

    •' Ssb on August 18, 2021 at 7:23 am

      There’s two types, a freebase form and the salt form. One of them needs a lower sized dosage. One can only be smoked whereas the other can be snorted, sublingual, or up the rear passage.

  6.' Megan on November 19, 2020 at 12:17 am

    Hi, I sometimes use a couple drops of Clonazepam to sleep. Maybe a couple days a week. How long should I stay clear of it before a ceremony with bufo alvarius?

  7.' Joshua Roniger on December 18, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Where are these ceremonies held? Very interested in attending and the benefits of plant/toad medicine.

  8.' Joe on January 10, 2021 at 7:41 am

    Hi everyone.
    I have found some guys that offer ceremonies with Yopo, Bufo and Ayahuascha.

    As I understand it this retreat is schedueled like you have Yopo night one.
    Bufo on mid day day two and then Ayahuascha on the evening/night day two.
    According to the recommendation of not having any other plant medicines (especially Aya and other maois) this scheme does look a bit questionable?

    The retreat and the guys behind it looks legit and have good reviews though and since you finish with Aya the bufo might be out of your system when Aya is introduced it might be ok but I have a hard time to find any valid info about this.

    I’m familiar with Aya and some of the other plants but both Yopo and Bufo are new to me.

    •' Tatsiana on January 26, 2021 at 3:45 pm

      From what I understand, the inhibitors in Aya (MAOIs) make it a bad idea to have Yopo or Bufo (both have 5-MeO-DMT) AFTER Aya, because it may significantly prolong the experience. I have read as much that the risk of doing that may have lethal implication. Literally, one can die.

      As far as Aya AFTER any 5-MeO-DMT….. DMT typically leaves your bloodstream within two hours of using it. So, I guess it is fine. But do your research!

  9.' Luis Garcia on January 25, 2021 at 1:27 am

    I’ve been addicted to clonazepam for a while, I take 5 to drops every night to sleep. My guides tell me there is no interaction with ayahuasca and/or Bufo alvarius but I’m needing more than just their opinion to know I can take these two medicines safely.

    •' Yaya Guzman on February 23, 2021 at 2:10 am

      Hi Luis,
      I hope you are well and hopefully my response is not late but I recently did Bufo in January before you left this comment with a facilitator in Tulum. My experience with Bufo was weirdly calmer than I expected but pleasant overall and I trusted and recommend my facilitator Gerardo if you’d like to contact him for your advise. Please let me know I can email you his information.

      •' Stephanie Canyon on March 8, 2021 at 3:42 pm

        Hi Yaya

        I go to Tulum a lot and Bufo has me very intrigued. I’m also a bit scared to do it because of the risks. So can you recommend someone in Tulum that you used?


        •' Sam on March 15, 2021 at 10:14 pm

          I had my 1st experience at Bufo Alvarius Sanctuary in Tulum today and can report it was very positive. Before, during and after i felt very well looked after and supported. It is certainly a bit overwhelming when it sets in but was very well assured and attended to. I did feel like I was going to die and did die which I kind of expected going into it, but of course not how that would feel. was $125 USD which seems quite reasonable for such an exotic experience and guide. My facilitator introduced himself as Ku’Kuul and I would use him again. Best wishes and thanks to the author of this main article for such and in depth and well prepared piece. Love and happiness to all <3

      •' Lisa T. on March 23, 2021 at 6:54 pm

        Hello Yaya,
        I am new to all of this and would be interested in receiving your facilitators information if you don’t mind sharing.

  10.' Indigenous Alien on March 25, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    Hello folks, I have yet to experience either, but I am in the process of making it happen. I am 60 yrs old and my first mood-altering experience was LSD in 1971, yeap at the old age of 12. You could say that experience changed my life forever, WHOA! Through the years I have found that the naturally occurring substances are much better and I live that way, the natural way. I believe in the wisdom of coming full circle and what better way to achieve this is there? You see, I am dying and have perhaps two or three years left in this incarnation. I have been waking up for several years now and can “see” more clearly than ever b4. I sit in anticipation for this experience.
    Thanks for all the information above.

  11.' Krista Taylor on July 9, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    Hi everyone, thank you for the information on Bufo toad. I have interested in ayahuasca for several years but worry about the harsh effects. Is bufo toad less extreme than ayahuasca? Does anyone have any suggestions for this practice in Southern California that they have been to and feel safe with?

  12.' Ali Cusack on July 24, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    Hi, am micro-dosing psilocybin (mushrooms) . I am to have a Bufo ceremony in a week. How long before should I stop mircodosing the shrooms? Thanks in advance

  13.' Gary on August 10, 2021 at 12:33 am

    I’m having the same thoughts. I am also in I would be interested in this.

  14.' Tara on November 21, 2021 at 1:32 am

    I’ve done Ayahuasca a few times and am getting ready for my yopo ceremony. My shaman is very knowledgeable but I still find comfort in reading your comments.

    •' mattslev on December 7, 2021 at 2:46 am

      Would love to know how your yopo experience went. I’ve been interested in the Anadenanthera snuffs for a long time, and there’s not much available in terms of trip reports. From what I have read, there seems to be a huge range experientially from the most beautiful to the most horrific.

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