The ayahuasca vine, otherwise known as Banisteriopsis caapi, and by natives as jagube, caapi or yagé, is a powerful plant teacher and ally that can help to open up intuitive abilities, improve neurological health, and support one to better navigate the challenges of life.
Ayahuasca is commonly referred to as “the vine of the soul”, the “umbilical cord” and “the mother.” These names are all indications of how highly regarded it is by traditional societies.
While many people may be familiar with the psychedelic ayahuasca brew, the vine by itself (also named ayahuasca), is not as well known. But did you know that many shamans consider the vine to contain the “spirit” of the medicine? Microdosing with the caapi vine is an amazing way to commune with the spirit of this incredible plant teacher on a daily basis. I’ve personally used it for prayer, meditation, deep insights, and as an overall mood and energy tonic.
Microdosing the vine by itself can be a great way to receive the benefits of ayahuasca, without participating in a ten or twelve hour ceremony. While microdosing with the ayahuasca vine alone may not teleport you to the infinitely colorful realms of DMT – it can help repair brain cells, alleviate depression and anxiety, and be the gentle heart and soul medicine you are yearning for. Whether you’ve already journeyed deep with the brew in a ceremonial setting, or are using it for the first time, microdosing ayahuasca vine has an array of potential physical and spiritual benefits to explore.
Banisteriopsis caapi (B. caapi) is a plant that is traditionally used throughout the Amazonian region alone or in combination with admixtures like Psychotria viridis to form the psychedelic ayahuasca brew. B. caapi is not the DMT-containing component, though most shamans consider the vine to contain the essence of ayahuasca, and ayahuasca takes its name from the vine. Let’s explore some of the benefits and uses, as well as precautions to take while microdosing with B. caapi.
Is the Vine Psychoactive?
Yes and no. There are three main alkaloids in ayahuasca vine, known as the “harmala alkaloids” – they are harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine. Before these alkaloids were named, ayahuasca gained popularity in traditional communities for helping the user develop telepathic powers, and harmine was originally named “telepathine.” While that hasn’t been scientifically verified, these potent alkaloids were recognized early on as having some very unique effects!
I personally have had the experience of my intuitive, psychic and telepathic abilities increasing with microdoses of caapi, but in a way that is very gradual. Sitting in an ayahuasca ceremony with the full hallucinogenic power of the brew can feel a bit like going from being in a very dark room to suddenly being in a room with all the lights turned on at high voltage and intensity. Microdosing with the vine is more like having a dimmer switch. The increases in your higher faculties are subtler, more gradient, and less of a shock to your system.
Back to the harmala alkaloids. These alkaloids are “reversible MAOIs”, which means that they inhibit the enzymes that usually break down monoamine oxidase. When you combine an MAOI such as the B. caapi vine with a DMT-containing plant such as the chacruna leaf, DMT is allowed to remain intact and can access the central nervous system. This is what creates the full-blown visionary experience that is commonly associated with ayahuasca.
Although MAOIs on their own are not usually considered psychedelic, the harmala alkaloids are known to be psychoactive at certain doses; just not as intensely as when they’re combined with DMT. For example, the tetrahydroharmine in B. caapi is also a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and has some mild psychoactive effects. Overall, expect the psychotropic aspects of the vine to be much lighter, more etheric, and less intense than an actual DMT journey.
That being said, if you’ve journeyed with ayahuasca in a deep way and you’ve developed a connection to it, you may have a more vivid experience. If the vine does indeed contain the “spirit” of the medicine, then even taking it alone at small doses can help you tune in to the messages and insights coming from the plant, perhaps even in the form of inner visions. After all, the brain has been shown to potentially endogenously produce DMT, so it’s possible that microdosing with the vine would help to increase the vividness and clarity of dreams, or even produce light visions in meditation. We don’t know enough about the alkaloids present in the vine to be certain. I have personally experienced both of those things as a result of microdosing with B. caapi, but everyone’s experience will be different.
If your question is whether you’re going to be “tripping hard” on a microdose of ayahuasca vine, the answer is no.
Microdosing Ayahuasca Vine for Depression
If you are specifically microdosing for depression, ayahuasca vine may be an excellent pathway for you to explore. Many people have reported that sitting ceremonially with ayahuasca helped them to alleviate their depression. You hear stories of ayahuasca healing their relationships, or of people having profound clarity about life purpose and direction. While the visions and insights from the shamanic journey may be a part of it, the alkaloids in the B. caapi vine may be largely responsible for these antidepressant and spiritually elevating effects.
In vitro studies have shown that the B. caapi vine stimulates neurogenesis in adults. Neurogenesis refers to the growth and development of neurons. At a cellular level, the action of antidepressant drugs has been linked to the drugs’ ability to stimulate adult neurogenesis. Studies show that B. caapi stimulates neurogenesis in the hippocampus, acting much like an antidepressant drug would.
We also know that the MAOIs in B. caapi allow the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine to stay in the brain for longer periods, which may cause sensations of wellbeing, calm, and even euphoria.
Not only does the ayahuasca vine stimulate neurogenesis, one study has shown that it may help prevent neurodegeneration and has potential therapeutic value for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Precautions and Side Effects
Taking microdoses of B. caapi probably doesn’t require you to maintain a strict ayahuasca diet, since the levels are so low that there’s a very minimal risk of the hypertensive crisis that the diet aims to prevent. But if you want to follow the dietary guidelines usually recommended for an ayahuasca dieta, it might help get you into the spirit of it.
If you want to follow a traditional dieta, you will want to avoid aged cheeses, cured meats, soy sauce, fermented foods (like tofu), pickled vegetables, spicy foods, alcohol in general (especially red wine), aspartame, and large amounts of dark chocolate.
Keep in mind that there is a lack of well-designed clinical studies around the safety of Banisteriopsis caapi, so less is always more when experimenting with this plant extract. Be sure to consult a physician about any potential side effects based on your health conditions and/or drug interactions. Do not mix it with any other drug, especially recreational drugs, or tramadol and lithium.
Current studies have shown that using high doses of B. caapi can have adverse effects including moderate or severe nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, agitation, confusion/hallucinations, and involuntary movements. These effects are being shown at higher doses and you really shouldn’t be concerned about this with microdoses, but it’s important to be aware and cautious regardless. If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking it or significantly lower your dose to see if there is any improvement.
Microdosing Ayahuasca Vine as a Spiritual Practice
If you’ve ever worked with ayahuasca, you’ll know that the insights and awareness from the vine can be powerful and life-changing. One night of ayahuasca ceremony can feel like ten years of psychotherapy. For some people, that kind of download can be hard to integrate. Microdosing allows you to work with the vine on a more subtle level, and integrate the lessons and spiritual teachings of the plant in a more gradual way.
These medicines have been used in the Amazonian shamanic traditions for hundreds of years, and it’s important to approach them with a high level of respect. Be careful to obtain B. caapi from a well respected source, who is taking the plant with the permission from the land and whatever native peoples might make use of the plant in their local area.
Even though the effects of microdosing with B. caapi are extremely subtle compared to a full dose of ayahuasca, the messages can still be deep and powerful. Creating sacredness and ritual around ingesting the drops can help to maintain that connection to the spirit of the vine. B. caapi is not a party drug, or something to take for a fun ride; it’s to be used to help support your physical, mental and spiritual growth and evolution. When you use it in this way, the benefits will be exponential.
How Much is a Microdose?
A typical starting microdose of ayahuasca vine will be anything less than 0.1 grams of dried plant material. With microdosing, it’s always best to start with as small a dose as possible, and gradually work your way up from there. If you’re nervous about preparing a microdose for yourself, extracts can be purchased online.
For example, this company Sage Extracts recommends taking 1-3 drops of their B. caapi extract up to three times a day under the tongue. I would personally recommend starting with as low as one drop a day and work your way up to a dose that works for you. Everyone is going to have a different degree of sensitivity.
The beauty of microdosing is that you can take it at your own speed. You can amp up or dial down the dose to meet your needs. Microdosing for two weeks on and two weeks off is a good way to see if you are having any noticeable effects. Go slow, go deep, and enjoy the ride microdosing with ayahuasca vine!