One translation for the name ayahuasca is “the vine of the ancestors.” That’s not without cause: Many who have imbibed this psychoactive Amazonian brew have experienced the transmutation of ancestral trauma—that is, the processing and purging of pain that has been passed down from one’s ancestors via DNA.
As it turns out, ayahuasca might literally change its user’s gene expression—the process by which the information coded into one’s DNA is converted to a molecule such as a protein. This may help explain ayahuasca’s efficacy in treating depression and other maladies.
A new study looks at the ways in which ayahuasca may affect the expression of a gene called SIGMAR1, which has been linked to neuroplasticity and the recollection of traumatic memories. More significant changes to DNA were noted in participants who experienced greater trauma during childhood.
The 63 participants in this study were attendees of Shipibo-style ayahuasca ceremonies. The conclusions of this research are based on before-and-after saliva samples and questionnaire results.
After their ayahuasca sessions, participants in this trial had a more positive view of challenging events in their personal histories. They also reported relief from depression and anxiety, improved wellbeing, more kindness toward themselves, and increased capacity for mindfulness.
The alleviation of depression was most pronounced in those who reported having mystical experiences under the influence of ayahuasca.