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Banisteriopsis caapi

Banisteriopsis caapi (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Divisio: Magnoliophyta
Classis: Magnoliopsida
Ordo: Malpighiales
Familia: Malpighiaceae
Genus: Banisteriopsis
Species: Banisteriopsis caapi


Banisteriopsis caapi, (Spruce Griseb.) Morton


USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database, 6 March 2006 (http://plants.usda.gov). Data compiled from various sources by Mark W. Skinner. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Vernacular names
English: Ayahuasca


Banisteriopsis caapi, also known as Ayahuasca, Caapi or Yage, is a South American jungle vine of the family Malpighiaceae. It is used to prepare Ayahuasca, a decoction that has a long history of entheogenic uses as a medicine and "plant teacher" among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon Rainforest. It contains harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine, all of which are both beta-carboline harmala alkaloids and MAOIs. The MAOIs in B. caapi allow the primary psychoactive compound, DMT (which is introduced from the other primary ingredient in Ayahausca, the Psychotria viridis plant), to be orally active. The stems contain 0.11-0.83% beta-carbolines, with harmine and tetrahydroharmine as the major components.[2].

According to The CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names by Umberto Quattrocchi, the naming of B. caapi was actually dedicated to John Banister, a seventeenth-century English clergyman and naturalist. An earlier name for the genus Banisteriopsis was Banisteria, and the plant is sometimes referred to as Banisteria caapi in everyday usage.

The name Ayahuasca means "vine of the soul" in Quechuan, and the shamans of the indigenous Western Amazonian tribes use the plant in religious and healing ceremonies. In addition to its hallucinogenic properties, caapi is used for its healing properties as a purgative, effectively cleansing the body of parasites and helping the digestive tract.

Types of vine

There are two scientifically accepted varieties:

* Banisteriopsis caapi var. caupuri with knotty stems
* Banisteriopsis caapi var. tukunaka with smooth stems

Banisteriopsis caapi var. caupurí seeds
Preparation of what appears to be yellow caapi
Banisteriopsis caapi var. Caupuri

Legal issues


In the United States, caapi is not specifically regulated. A recent court case involving caapi-containing Ayahuasca (which also contains other plants containing the controlled substance DMT, introduced from the Psychotria viridis plant), Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, was found in favor of the União do Vegetal, a Brazilian religious sect utilizing the tea in their ceremonies and having around 130 members in the United States.

In Australia, the harmala alkaloids are scheduled substances, including Harmine and harmaline, but the living vine, or other source plants are not in most states. On the State of Queensland as of March 2008 [3] this distinction is now uncertain. In all states the dried herb may or may not be considered a scheduled susbtance, dependent on court rulings.
Flowering Banisteriopsis caapi

In Canada, harmala listed under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as a schedule III substance, but the vine is not. (Note that Canadian scheduling laws are very different from their United States counterparts).

Caapi, as well as a range of harmala alkaloids, were recently scheduled in France, following a court victory by the Santo Daime religious sect allowing use of the tea due to it not being a chemical extraction and the fact that the plants used were not scheduled. Religious exceptions to narcotics laws are not allowed under French law, effectively making any use or possession of the tea illegal.

For more legal information, see Ayahuasca.

Patent issues

The caapi vine itself has been the subject of a dispute between U.S. entrepreneur Loren Miller and the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA). In 1986 Miller obtained a US patent on a variety of B. caapi. COICA successfully argued that the patent was invalid because Miller's variety was neither new nor distinct, and the patent was overturned in 1999; however, in 2001 the US Patent Office has since reinstated the patent because, at the time it was granted, the law did not allow a third party such as COICA standing to object. B. caapi is now being cultivated commercially in Hawaii.


1. ^ "Banisteriopsis caapi information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?400033. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
2. ^ [Callaway JC, Brito GS & Neves ES (2005). Phytochemical analyses of Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 37(2): 145–150]
3. ^ http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/ACTS/2008/08AC004.pdf

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