The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine

The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine

The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine is the main ingredient in the Holy Medicine of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca. The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine is often solely used to make Holy Medicine, which has been a tradition with long history among the indigenous people of the Amazons.

The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine in various traditions and cultures

The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine had been used traditionally by the indigenous people of the Amazon for thousands of years. The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine is also known as the “Ayawasca Vine”, as this Holy Vine is the primary ingredient of the Holy Medicine. The Holy Medicine is the central element in the ancient Shamanic rites of passage and practices of the indigenous inhabitants of northwestern South America.

More recently, many Brazilian syncretic religious groups are using the Holy Medicine as a central Sacrament in their various rituals. These so-called “Religions of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca” have popularized the Holy Medicine with the expansion of their activities to North America and Europe. This expansion and reports of health benefits derived from the consumption of the Holy Medicine have stimulated research into the pharmacology and therapeutic potential of the Holy Medicine.

General Information

The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine is a massive Vine that is woody and very long with many branches, normally growing up to 30 m (98 ft.) in length. The naming of the genus Banisteriopsis was devoted to a 17th-century English naturalist and clergyman, John Banister. Earlier, this genus was familiar with the name Banisteria, and the Plant was known as Banisteria Caapi. Other names include Banisteriopsis Inebrians, Banisteria Quitensis, and Banisteriopsis Quitensis. The origin of the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Plant is still not certain, but it is largely cultivated in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia. The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Plant thrives in humus-rich and moist soil with lots of water. Stems are sericeous to glabrate twining itself round other Plants for support.

The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Leaves - Wikipedia
The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Leaves

The Leaves

The Leaves are green and round and pointed at the end. The lamina is about 4.8-20.5cm long, 2.5-11.5 cm wide, ovate, obtuse to truncate at the base, short-to-long acuminate at the apex. It is glabrate above and sparsely sericeous to glabrate below, bearing 2-5 pairs of sessile glands below near or at the margin and another pair near the midrib at the base. Petiole is 9.25 mm long, sparsely sericeous to glabrate, eglandular or biglandular near the apex.Stipules are 0.5-1 mm long and triangular.

The Flowers

The flowers have five white or pink petals and are 12-14mm in size. In the tropical area, the Plant flowers very rarely. The fruits pop up between March and August and look like the fruits of Maple.

Inflorescence is an axillary cyme of 4-flowered umbels, sparsely tomentose to velutinous. The bracts and bracteoles are 1-1.8 mm long, deciduous before or during anthesis, rarely immediately afterwards. Pedicel is 7-11 mm long, sessile, appressed, or tomentose-sericeous. Sepals are abaxially sericeous, adaxially minutely tomentose, all eglandular or the lateral 4 biglandular, the glands 0.5-.2 mm long. Petals are pale pink, becoming pale yellow in age, glabrous, fimbriate, the lateral 4 with the claw 1-1.5 mm long, the limb is 5-8.5 mm long and 4-6 mm wide, the posterior petal with claw 2.5-3 mm long, constricted at the apex, the limb 5-7 mm long, 2.5-4.5 mm wide, broadly obovate, the basal fimbriae gland-tipped. Filaments are 2-4 mm long, the posterior 3 inflexed between the posterior styles; anthers with the locules sparsely pilose to glabrate, 0.3-1.2 mm long, the connectives 0.2-1.6 mm long, the anterior 5 longest and glandular, those of the anthers opposite the anterolateral sepals exceeding the locules by 0.5-1 mm. Anterior style 2.8-3.2 mm long, straight, the posterior styles 3-4 mm long, diverging and lyrate at the base, the stigmas capitate.

The Fruits

Samara (Fruit) is appressed-pubescent to glabrate, with the dorsal wing 18-42 mm long and 8-22 mm wide, bearing a rounded tooth at the adaxial base; but bearing prominent ribs on the side perpendicular to the areole, rarely with a short aculeate outgrowth, the locule hairy within.

Scientific Information

FAMILY: Malpighiaceae

GENUS: Banisteriopsis


Other common and local names: Ayahuasca Vine, Biaxa, Caapi, Bejuco de Oro, Dapa, Kahi, Maridi, Mihi, Nepe, Pinde, Natema, Totenliane, Vine of the Soul, Vine of the Dead, Yahe, Yage, Yaxe.


Amazon and Orinoco river basins


Samara with the dorsal wing 18-42 mm long and 8-22 mm wide



Health benefits

Treatment of anxiety, addiction, PTDS, and depression, Mindfulness, Helps clear the gut and digestive tract of worms and parasites, Mood and Emotions, Reduces depression, Support cancer treatments, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease

Plant Growth Habit

Giant woody, climbing vine or shrub


Thrives in humus-rich and moist soil with lots of water

Plant Size

Up to 30 m (98 ft) in length


Sericeous to glabrate


Opposite, green, oval-shaped, pointed and smooth


Smallish (12-14mm in diameter and 2.5-3mm long) with a white to pinkish color when in full bloom

Seed Shape & Size

Small fan-like seeds

Seed Color

Green in color when fresh and fade to a brown when dried


By seed and cutting

Plant Parts Used



Plantae (Plants)


Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)


Streptophyta  (land plants)

Super Division

Spermatophyta (Seed plants)


Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)

Sub Division

Spermatophytina  (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)


Spermatophytina  (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)

Sub Class


Super Order





Malpighiaceae (Barbados Cherry family)


Banisteriopsis C.B. Rob. ex Small (banisteriopsis)


Banisteriopsis caapi (Spruce ex Griseb.) Morton (ayahuasca)


·       Asperula eugeniae K.Richt

·       Asperula matrisylva Gilib

·       Asperula odora Salisb

·       Asperula odorata L

·       Asterophyllum asperula Schimp. & Spenn

·       Asterophyllum sylvaticum Schimp. & Spenn

·       Chlorostemma odoratum (L.) Fourr

·       Galium matrisylva F.H.Wigg


Alkaloids: The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine contains metagnomigenic properties, and possible anti‐depressant effects are one of the natural sources of harmala alkaloids. These alkaloids are:

  • Harmine, 0.31-8.43%
  • Harmaline, 0.03–0.83%
  • Tetrahydroharmine (THH), 0.05–2.94%

These alkaloids of the β-carbolines act as Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs). If consumed, the MAOIs inhibit the Monoamine Oxidase from breaking down the neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. The MAOIs in the Holy Medicine allow the primary psychoactive compound DMT to be orally active and let it flow into the bloodstream.

Around 0.11-0.83% β-carbolines contain in the stems of the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine, with Tetrahydroharmine and Harmine as the major components. The alkaloids can be found in all parts of the Plant.

Polyphenols: The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine is also known for containing epicatechin, proanthocyanidins, and procyanidin B2, which have antioxidant properties.

Research on the Health Benefits from the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine

Two recent studies found that a single dose of the Holy Medicine rapidly reduced depressive symptoms in treatment-resistant patients. The β-carbolines of Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine have been considered to play a minor role in the overall pharmacology in the preparations of the Holy Medicine. However, this is possibly a narrow view.

The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine is the common ingredient in the Holy Medicine, and chemical analyses have shown that while the β-carbolines are present in all samples of the Holy Medicine from all sources, this is not always the case for DMT. For example, Holy Medicine sample from the Brazilian Church União do Vegetal, a group known to regularly combine the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine with P. Viridis in the Holy Medicine, was found to contain no DMT at all.

Due to the ubiquitous presence of the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine in the Holy Medicine, it can be hypothesized that the β-carbolines contribute to the CNS effects of the Holy Medicine. Studies in animals have shown that harmine has anti-depressant effects in behavioral animal models of depression. Further research suggests that DMT is not essential for the behavioral responses observed in animals. Also, recent research data indicates that harmine and potentially the other β-carbolines present in the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine contribute to the therapeutic effects of the Holy Medicine observed in clinical studies involving patients with depression.

More recent research and investigations about the capacity of the three main β-carbolines present in the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine showed that the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine’s β-carbolines present in the Holy Medicine directly regulate migration, proliferation, and differentiation of neural stem cells. These results include:

  1. The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi’s β-carbolines control the activity of neural progenitors.
  2. The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi’s β-carbolines induce proliferation and growth in neurosphere cultures.
  3. The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi’s β-carbolines increase neural stem cell migration.
  4. The Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi’s β-carbolines induce differentiation of neural stem cells.


From numerous research it was found that the β-carboline alkaloids present in the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine, in the Holy Medicine, promotes neurogenesis in vitro by stimulating neural progenitor pool expansion and by inducing cellular migration and differentiation into a neuronal phenotype. The stimulation of neurogenic niches in the adult brain may substantially contribute to the anti-depressant effects reported for Holy Medicine in recent clinical studies. The versatility and full neurogenic capacity of the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine’s β-carbolines warrant further investigation of these compounds. Their ability to modulate brain plasticity suggests their therapeutic potential for a broad range of neurologic and psychiatric disorders.

Therefore, research is on-going on the affects and benefits of the Holy Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine on human beings, as well as how to bring the Holy Medicine closer to people all over the world.


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  3. Morales-García, J.A., de la Fuente Revenga, M., Alonso-Gil, S. et al. (2017). The alkaloids of Banisteriopsis caapi, the plant source of the Amazonian hallucinogen Ayahuasca, stimulate adult neurogenesis in vitro. Scientific Reports, [online] Volume, 7, P. 5309. Available at: [Accessed 12th May 2021]
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  5. Riba, J. Valle, M. Urbano, G. Yritia, M. Morte, A. and Barbanoj, MJ. (2003). Human pharmacology of ayahuasca: subjective and cardiovascular effects, monoamine metabolite excretion, and pharmacokinetics. J Pharmacol Exp Ther, [online] Volume, 306(1), p. 73-83. Available at: [Accessed 12th May 2021]
  6. Wang, Y. H., Samoylenko, V., Tekwani, B. L., Khan, I. A., Miller, L. S., Chaurasiya, N. D., Rahman, M. M., Tripathi, L. M., Khan, S. I., Joshi, V. C., Wigger, F. T., and Muhammad, I. (2010). Composition, Standardization and Chemical Profiling of Banisteriopsis caapi, a Plant for the Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders Relevant to Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, [online] Volume, 128 (3), p. 662–671. Available at: [Accessed 12th May 2021]