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Journal of Chromatography A
Volume 1216, Issue 51, 18 December 2009, Pages 8960-8968

Direct analysis of psychoactive tryptamine and harmala alkaloids in the Amazonian botanical medicine ayahuasca by liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry

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Ethan H. McIlhennya, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Kelly E. Pipkina, 1, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Leanna J. Standishb, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Hope A. Wechkinc, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Rick Strassmand, e, E-mail The Corresponding Author and Steven A. Barkera, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author

aDepartment of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Skip Bertman Drive at River Road, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA

bSchool of Naturopathic Medicine, Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA 98028, USA

cEvergreen Hospice and Palliative Care, Evergreen Hospital, Kirkland, WA 98034, USA

dDepartment of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA

eCottonwood Research Foundation, Taos, NM 87571, USA

Received 19 August 2009; 

revised 28 October 2009; 

accepted 30 October 2009. 

Available online 5 November 2009.



A direct injection/liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry procedure has been developed for the simultaneous quantitation of 11 compounds potentially found in the increasingly popular Amazonian botanical medicine and religious sacrament ayahuasca. The method utilizes a deuterated internal standard for quantitation and affords rapid detection of the alkaloids by a simple dilution assay, requiring no extraction procedures. Further, the method demonstrates a high degree of specificity for the compounds in question, as well as low limits of detection and quantitation despite using samples for analysis that had been diluted up to 200:1. This approach also appears to eliminate potential matrix effects. Method bias for each compound, examined over a range of concentrations, was also determined as was inter- and intra-assay variation. Its application to the analysis of three different ayahuasca preparations is also described. This method should prove useful in the study of ayahuasca in clinical and ethnobotanical research as well as in forensic examinations of ayahuasca preparations.

Keywords: Ayahuasca; Dimethyltryptamine; Harmala Alkaloids; Direct injection; LC/MS/MS

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