Can Plant Medicines Like Ayahuasca Decalcify the Pineal Gland?

Image credit: Amanda Sage

One of the things you might hear people in the psychedelic space saying is that psychedelics can decalcify the pineal gland.

The pineal gland itself is a hot topic in the psychedelic community. Many consider it to be the spiritual ‘Third Eye’ and like to talk about the best ways of activating the pineal gland, or of avoiding doing damage to it.

But are there solid reasons to think that psychedelics can decalcify the pineal gland? Is there even any evidence that calcification is dangerous? Or is it all just an unsubstantiated myth?

The Basics of the Pineal Gland

The pineal gland is a small organ in the brain that releases melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is crucial in helping us sleep well. The pineal gland responds to light levels, and regulates your circadian rhythm, making sure you sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. If your pineal gland is dysfunctional, you may have difficulty sleeping (since melatonin helps you sleep). 

The pineal gland has been the focus of a lot of cultural and philosophical interest. Famous philosopher René Descartes wrote, in 1637, that the pineal gland was “the principal seat of the soul and the place in which all our thoughts are formed.” Since then, the idea that the pineal gland is the mystical ‘Third Eye’ mentioned in many Eastern religions has grown in popularity.

Discussion about the pineal gland in psychedelic circles has often focused on the suggestion that it can produce the psychedelic molecule DMT (one of the main components of some ayahuasca brews). However there is no evidence that the pineal gland produces DMT in humans, and studies in animals have shown that DMT is likely produced throughout the brain rather than in just one specific region (Dean et al, 2019). 

Read more about the supposed production of DMT in the human brain here.

What is Pineal Gland Calcification?

The pineal gland naturally gets a layer of calcification on it as we age. However, it’s not as simple as young people having low calcification and older people having more. Some studies have shown calcification in very young children, and around 40% of 17-year-olds have some calcification on their pineal glands (Zimmerman & Bilaniuk, 1982). 

After the age of 70, calcification seems to generally be lower compared to people between 40-60 years old (Beker-Acay et al, 2016).

Calcium deposits occur in many organs of the body, including cartilage and muscle. Sometimes they can build up to harmful levels, such as in kidney stones or arthritis.

If your pineal gland has calcification, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong with you. However there is some evidence to suggest that calcification of the pineal gland can make you more likely to be suffering from lower levels of melatonin (Kunz et al, 1999), and people with more calcified pineal glands are more likely to have problems sleeping (Mahlberg et al, 2001). 

Reduced melatonin levels have also been associated with disorders such as migraine (Ozlece et al, 2015), schizophrenia (Bersani et al, 1999), and Alzheimer’s (Mahlberg et al, 2008). However, people with low melatonin levels respond well to melatonin supplements (Auld et al, 2017), and your doctor is likely to prescribe you melatonin if you’re having frequent trouble sleeping.

What Causes Pineal Gland Calcification?

The causes of pineal gland calcification are unknown, but there are a number of possibilities. It could be a natural ageing process, but there is no clear relationships between age and the level of pineal gland calcification (Beker-Acay et al, 2016). It’s possible that inflammation, such as that caused by stress or poor diet, could contribute to calcification (Tan et al, 2018). It’s also a possibility that stem cells in the pineal gland are incorrectly making bone deposits, which could have a genetic cause (Tan et al, 2018). 

Some people say that calcium is something to avoid in your diet to prevent pineal calcification. However, it’s unlikely that pineal gland calcification is caused by elevated calcium levels in the body. This is because the calcium deposits in pineal glands are more similar to bone than to the type of calcium salts found in kidney stones and other calcium deposits (Tan et al, 2018).

There is some evidence that fluoride can be harmful for the pineal gland, and a study has shown that high levels of fluoride in the pineal gland are linked to higher calcification (Luke, 2001). Fluoride is present in toothpaste and in some municipal water sources (especially in the US), but the levels at which fluoride is toxic is a controversial topic.

We don’t know what quantities of fluoride intake would affect your pineal gland calcification. Most water filters can reduce the levels of fluoride in your drinking water, but be careful about using toothpaste without fluoride; that could increase your risk of tooth decay.

Are There Ways to Decalcify the Pineal Gland?

Alternative medicine and holistic wellbeing sites are full of information on how you can decalcify your pineal gland. Mostly these treatments depend on supplements, some of which have evidence behind them, and some of which don’t. Generally there is a lot of common-sense advice about regulating your light input, eating well, exercising, and meditating.

There are extreme measures that can be taken to decalcify the pineal gland, such as transplants or EDTA dialysis. These techniques are unlikely to be worth the risk unless you have a life-threatening condition (Tan et al, 2018). 

Other than these invasive treatments, there have not been any scientific studies into the ability of supplements or behaviors to reduce calcification of the pineal gland. However, since it’s possible that inflammation increases the chances of calcification (Tan et al, 2018), foods that reduce inflammation such as turmeric or raw cacao may help. 

It’s important to be really skeptical about supplements that claim to sequester heavy metals, or reduce fluoride levels. It’s unlikely that supplements will be able to enter your bloodstream from your stomach and get to your pineal gland. Stick to supplements that have proven, general health benefits, and that are ideally natural foods. 

It’s also likely that behaviors and diets that are designed to improve your overall wellbeing by reducing stress could have beneficial effects on your pineal gland. For example, we know that experienced meditators can stimulate their pineal glands to produce melatonin (Liou et al, 2007), which could help combat the negative effects of pineal gland calcification.

Image credit: Chris Saunders

Can Psychedelic Plant Medicines Decalcify the Pineal Gland?

Since spiritual practices are emphasized in a lot of advice about reducing the calcification of the pineal gland, it’s no surprise that people have linked psychedelics to the topic. 

The pineal gland is also linked to psychedelics through DMT; some people think the pineal gland can produce DMT in humans – although there is no proof of this yet. Psychedelics like ayahuasca can contain DMT, and some people think that DMT is responsible for the visionary qualities of near-death experiences.

Despite the exciting idea that taking psychedelics could help restore our pineal gland to full health, there’s no evidence that this is the case.

However, since inflammation is a possible cause of pineal gland calcification, and psychedelics have been shown to potentially reduce inflammation through the 5-HT2A receptor (Flanagan & Nichols, 2018), it’s theoretically possible that psychedelic plant medicines could contribute to a healthier pineal gland.

The most convincing argument is that psychedelic plant medicines could be used as part of spiritual practices to boost general health and spiritual awareness. But don’t forget to treat your health holistically, without focusing too much on any one particular part of your body or mind.

Psychedelics are definitely not a panacea, and should be used mindfully and respectfully. Check out our Plant Medicine Course for more guidance on how to use psychedelic plant medicines for spiritual evolution.

Does Ayahuasca Decalcify the Pineal Gland?

Some people suggest that ayahuasca can decalcify the pineal gland. However there is no evidence of this.

The most likely situation, as mentioned above, is that ayahuasca’s potentially anti-inflammatory properties could help improve your general health and therefore improve the health of your pineal gland.

When combined with spiritual practices, it’s possible that ayahuasca use could help improve your mental and spiritual wellbeing, and this could have the knock-on effect of boosting your health.

However, it’s dangerous to think of ayahuasca as a one-and-done cure for any physical ailments, especially one as specific and uncertain as pineal gland calcification.

Does Rapé Decalcify the Pineal Gland?

Rapé is a sacred tobacco snuff used by Amazonian shamans as part of healing ceremonies. It is also sometimes known as rapeh, hapi, hape, hapeh, or rapay.

Some people claim that rapé can decalcify the pineal gland. However, as with other plant medicines, there is no evidence that rapé has this effect.

Traditional wisdom states that rapé has various health benefits, including killing bacteria and reducing inflammation. However, there have been no confirmed scientific studies on the medicinal properties of rapé.

If rapé is indeed shown to reduce inflammation in the body, it could potentially have a healthy benefit for the pineal gland. However this is all speculation, and there is no reason to think that rapé on its own could decalcify the pineal gland.

In fact, it’s reasonable to suspect that due to the known medical dangers of prolonged tobacco use, rapé is likely not particularly good for your overall physical health. However, many forms of rapé don’t contain tobacco, and handmade rapé has been shown to be less harmful than manufactured rapé.

What Does it All Mean?

Overall, pineal gland calcification is definitely something that happens in many of us, but its dangers have probably been overhyped. For the people that have calcification on their pineal glands, it seems that at the worst some of them will have lowered melatonin levels and possibly will experience disturbed sleep. 

Melatonin supplements will help people who are struggling with sleep due to pineal gland calcification (Auld et al, 2017), and there is some reason to expect that other supplements could theoretically reduce calcification of the pineal gland, or prevent further calcification. 

However, there is no evidence that psychedelic plant medicines can decalcify the pineal gland. 

We know that spiritual practices such as meditation, mixed with good diet and exercise, can boost your general health, and could potentially also improve the health of your pineal gland. Although psychedelic plant medicines can contribute to spiritual practices when used mindfully, there’s no reason for us to think that they could make your pineal gland healthier all by themselves.

If you focus too much on the neuroscience of the pineal gland and seek substances to protect it, this could be an indicator of unhealthy patterns of attention. It’s not helpful to get obsessed about the details of your health. We think it’s best to treat your health holistically; treat your whole body gently, and don’t get to hung up on any one part.

The pineal gland is certainly an important part of your body, and keeping it healthy will help your sleep patterns. But paying attention to your general health – exercising, eating well, and engaging in spiritual practices – will benefit you more than stressing about your pineal.

Psychedelics may be a part of a good holistic healthcare routine, but there is no reason to think that they could be a magic medicine. They probably don’t decalcify the pineal gland – and anyway, there are many better uses of psychedelic plant medicines.

References

Auld F, Maschauer EL, Morrison I, Skene DJ & Riha RL (2017). Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary adult sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev 34, p.10-22.

Beker-Acay M, Turamanlar O, Horata E, Unlu E, Fidan N & Oruc S (2016). Assessment of pineal gland volume and calcification in healthy subjects: Is it related to aging? J Belg Soc Radiol 100(1):13.

Dean JG, Liu T, Huff S, Sheler B, Barker SA, Strassman RJ, Wang MM & Borjigin J (2019). Biosynthesis and Extracellular Concentrations of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in Mammalian Brain. Sci Rep 9, 9333.

Flanagan TW & Nichols CD (2018). Psychedelics as anti-inflammatory agents. Int Rev Psychiatry 30(4), p.363-375.

Kunz D, Schmitz S, Mahlberg R, Mohr A, Stöter C, Wolf KJ & Hermann WM (1999). A new concept for melatonin deficit: On pineal calcification and melatonin excretion. Neuropsychopharmacology 21(6), p.765-772.

Liou CH, Hsieh CW, Hsieh CH, Lee SC, Chen JH & Wang CH (2007). Correlation between pineal activation and religious meditation observed by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Nature Precedings DOI: 10101/npre.2007.1328.1

Luke, J (2001). Fluoride deposition in the aged human pineal gland. Caries Res 35(2), p.125-128.

Mahlberg R, Kienast T, Hädel S, Heidenreich JO, Schmitz S & Kunz D (2008). Degree of pineal calcification (DOC) is associated with polysomnographic sleep measures in primary insomnia patients. Sleep Med 10(4), p.439-445.

Mutalik S & Tadinada A (2017). Prevalence of pineal gland calcifiaction as an incidental finding in patients referred for implant dental therapy. Imaging Sci Dent 47(3), p.175-180.

Tan DX, Xu B, Zhou X & Reiter RJ (2018). Pineal calcification, melatonin production, aging, associated health consequences and rejuvenation of the pineal gland. Molecules 23(301).

Zimmerman RA & Bilaniuk LT (1982). Age-related incidence of pineal calcification detected by computed tomography. Radiology 142(3), p.659-662.

About the author, Patrick

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

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