EXCLUSIVE: Defining 'Natural' Psychedelics, State Regulations & Ayahuasca's Benefits

(Part three of a three-part series)

See previous stories:

EXCLUSIVE: Ayahuasca Pill Is Officially Here, Filament CEO Discusses Future Plans

EXCLUSIVE: The Psychedelics Debate Is 'Raging' As Filament Debuts Ayahuasca Pill

One of the concerns around what is commonly known as natural psychedelics has to do with which substances actually stick to that definition. If natural substances are manipulated to a clinical-grade or standardized form, are they still considered entheogens?

To this question, Filament Health FLHLF CEO and expert in all things botanical Benjamin Lightburn believes one should look at what is currently happening in states where psychedelics have been decriminalized and legalized and that means Oregon and Colorado

“I think especially Oregon has been one where there’s been lots of debate. The regulations are almost finalized, so we know a lot more about what will meet the definition,” Lightburn told Benzinga. “It's not all entheogens, it’s just psilocybin that’s being legalized in January. But, in order to meet the definition of legalized psilocybin, the product must be natural, or it can be extracted from a natural source, but it cannot be made via chemical synthesis.”

As for Colorado, there’s currently only the definition in the ballot measure, “but it’s a little bit unclear.” The state has legalized psilocybin, psilocin, DMT (ayahuasca) and mescaline. 

“But they don’t say ayahuasca, they say DMT, and they say DMT the plant, but DMT is not a plant, so the definition still needs to be cleared. I believe they also included ibogaine, but it’s not a plant, it’s a compound that comes from a plant,” Lightburn added.

Filament CEO: ‘Should we call our product ayahuasca?’ 

What is known to date on ayahuasca’s benefits comes from testimonies of people participating in ceremonies in Peru or other places in the Amazon.

“There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that it works for various indications. Why perhaps is not very well known. By creating a clinical or research-grade product, we can start to answer these questions,” he told Benzinga. 

Ayahuasca is a mixture of two different extracts, each of which contains several active compounds. One of them has the psychoactive DMT. The problem is, if we ingest it orally, the body’s enzymes break it down almost immediately and prevent us from getting any of its effects. Which is why it is necessary to combine it with a product that prevents these enzymes from breaking the DMT down, Lightburn explained. 

“And I think it’s just so fascinating that the traditional people of the Amazon were able to figure out that if you consume the DMT-containing herb alone it does nothing, but if you consume it with this other herb, which contains a class of compounds called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MOAIs,) or the beta-carbolines, of which harmaline is one, this second extract prevents the breaking down of the DMT, so that it may do its effects.” 

Interestingly, harmaline or these MOAIs were actually the first class of modern antidepressants commercialized by Western pharma companies.

See also: Analyzing Psychedelics & Traditional Pharma Interaction: New Clinical Trial Begins Dosing

Filament’s distinctive “botanical approach” means the company takes all of the active ingredients from both plants and includes them in what is developed as a final, standardized and repeatable product. 

Nonetheless, Lightburn said the company has been debating on whether to name their new product “ayahuasca pill.”  

“We have an internal drug code, Ours is an ayahuasca-based drug product, and some people call this synthetic version ‘pharmahuasca.’ We don’t really like these kinds of names because it kind of signifies taking something and changing it to the medical model, while there are ayahuascas in very common uses and there’s currently lots of groups offering ayahuasca already,” he explained. 

Lightburn explained that other companies seem to be addressing the matter differently. For instance, developing inhalation or IV-administered DMT (enter Algernon AGNPF and atai ATAI,) or synthetic recreations combining DMT and harmaline.

“I think we’re the only ones that are trying to make a standardized product that contains all of the psychoactive elements from the raw material. But I don’t know exactly what everyone’s doing in private. I have heard of some groups which are trying to commercialize just the extracted brew, but it’s not standardized, that would be the issue,” Lightburn concluded.

Photo courtesy of Filament.

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