The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Diplopterys cabrerana (Cuatrecasas) B. Gates


Yahé Vine


“Like Banisteriopsis caapiDiplopterys cabrerana grows in Amazonian lowlands, and the plant has been collected only in southern Colombia and Venezuela, eastern Ecuador, northern Perú and western Brazil. Like B. caapiD. cabrerana rarely flowers, and is normally cultivated by shamans for use in ayahuasca. Both plants are commonly propagated by cuttings.”






Malpighiaceae (Barbados Cherry Family)

Forms and Subspecies





Banisteria rusbyana Niedenzu

Banisteriopsis cabrerana Cuatrecasas

Banisteriopsis rusbyana (Niedenzu) Morton

Banisteriopsis rusbyana sensu ethnobotanical, non (Niedenzu) Morton


The literature also contains the spelling Diplopteris.

Folk Names


Biaxíi, chagropanga, chagropanga azul pisco, chagrupanga (Inga, “chagru leaf”), chakruna, kahee-ko (Karapaná), kahi (Tukano, “that which causes vomiting”), kamárampi (Campa, “vomit”), mené kahi ma, mené kahima, nyoko-buko guda hubea ma (Barasana), nyoko-buku guda hubea ma, oco-yagé (“water yagé”), oco yáge, yaco-ayahuasco (Quechua/Peru), yagé, yage-oco, yageúco, yagéúco, yahéliane, yahé ‘oko (Siona-Secoya, “Banisteriopsis water”), yahé-oko (Kofán), yahé vine, yajé, yajé oko, yaji, yají



This vine was first named Banisteria rusbyana in honor of Henry Hurd Rusby (1855–1940), one of the pioneers of ethnobotany (the name unfortunately fell victim to the synonym). Rusby was one of the first white people to witness an ayahuasca ceremony, which he actually filmed. He also was one of the first druggists and botanists to intensively investigate coca (Erythroxylum coca), guaraná (Paullinia cupana), and Fabiana imbricata (Rossi-Wilcox 1993*).

The confusion surrounding the botanical identity of the plant was not clarified until 1982 (Gates 1982, 214).



This tropical vine is found only in the Amazon basin (Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia). It grows wild in the forests but is most often found in cultivation.



The plant is cultivated in house gardens using cuttings. A young shoot or the tip of a branch is allowed to sit in water until it develops roots; it can also be placed directly into the moist jungle soil.



This very long vine has opposite leaves that are oblong-oval and retuse-attenuate in shape. The inflorescences, each of which bears four tiny flowers, grow from the petiolar axils. However, the plant only rarely develops flowers, and almost never under cultivation.

The closely related species Mezia includens (Niedenzu) Gates [syn. Diplopterys involuta (Turcz.) Niedenzu] is known in Peru as ayahuasca negro. It is possible that this species was once also used for psychoactive purposes (Schultes 1983b, 353*). The very similar species Diplopterys mexicana B. Gates is common in Mexico (Gates 1982, 215).

Diplopterys cabrerana is easily confused with Banisteriopsis caapi. The two species are most easily distinguished on the basis of their leaves. Those of Diplopterys are distinctly wider and larger in size.

Psychoactive Material


—Fresh or dried leaves

Preparation and Dosage


The Desana, Barasana, and other Indians in the Colombian regions of the Amazon use the leaves of this vine (which is closely related to Banisteriopsis) to make ayahuasca (Bristol 1965, 211*; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1979a, 35*). In the Colombian Sibundoy, an inebriating beverage known as biaxíi is boiled from Banisteriopsis caapi and the leaves of Diplopterys cabrerana (see ayahuasca).

The Shuar use the leaves as an ayahuasca additive (Bennett 1992*), as do the Siona-Secoya (Vickers and Plowman 1984, 19*) and the Mocoa Indians of Colombia. Unfortunately, the sources do not provide any precise information about the quantities of leaves to use (cf. Bristol 1966).

Ritual Use


The Barasana of the lower Piraparaná use the stems to make a hallucinogenic drink that they call yagé and use in the same manner as ayahuasca (Schultes 1977b, 116*). Apart from this, the primary use of the leaves is as a source of N,NDMT as an ayahuasca additive (Der Marderosian et al. 1968; Gates 1982).



See ayahuasca.

Medicinal Use


None, except when used medicinally in ayahuasca.



The leaves contain 0.17 to 1.75% N,N-DMT (Agurell et al. 1968; Der Marderosian et al. 1968; Poisson 1965). In addition to the main alkaloid, DMT, they also contain N-methyltryptamine, 5-MeO-DMTbufotenine, and N-methyltetrahydro-β-carboline (cf. β-carbolines). The main alkaloid in the stems is N,N-DMT; also present are 5-MeO-DMT and N-methyltetrahydro-β-carboline (Pinkley 1973, 185*).



See Psychotria viridis and ayahuasca.

Commercial Forms and Regulations


In the Colombian Sibudoy region, Indians and shamans trade in finished preparations of the plant (Bristol 1966, 123). Apart from the fact that the legal situation regarding plants and products that contain DMT is unclear, the plant is not subject to any restrictions.


A South American ethnobotanist with the Diplopterys cabrerana vine. (Photograph: Bret Blosser)








“Amazingly, the spirit of the Diplopterys cabrerana plant spoke English. When I asked him about his nature, I was answered: Power and Beauty.”




See also the entries for Banisteriopsis caapiBanisteriopsis spp., and ayahuasca.


Agurell, S., B. Holmstedt, and J. E. Lindgren. 1968. Alkaloid content of Banisteriopsis rusbyanaAmerican Journal of Pharmacy 140:148–51.


Bristol, Melvin L. 1966. The psychotropic Banisteriopsis among the Sibundoy of Colombia. Botanical Museum Leaflets 21 (5): 113–40. (Primarily discusses Banisteriopsis rusbyana = Diplopterys cabrerana.)


Cuatrecasas, José. 1965. Banisteriopsis caapi, B. inebrians, B. rusbyanaJournal d’Agriculture Tropicale et de Botanique Appliqueé 12:424–29.


Der Marderosian, Ara H., K. M. Kensinger, J. Chao, and F. J. Goldstein. 1970. The use and hallucinatory principles of a psychoactive beverage of the Cashinahua tribe (Amazon basin). Drug Dependence 5:7–14.


Der Marderosian, A. H., H. V. Pinkley, and M. F. Dobbins IV. 1968. Native use and occurrence of N,N-dimethyltryptamine in leaves of Banisteriopsis rusbyanaThe American Journal of Pharmacy 140:137–47.


Gates, Bronwen. 1982. A monograph of Banisteriopsis and Diplopterys, Malpighiaceae. Flora Neotropica no. 30. (A publication of the Organization for Flora Neotropica.)


Poisson, J. 1965. Note sur le “Natem,” boisson toxique péruvienne et ses alcaloïdes. Annales Phärmaceutique Françaises 23 (4): 241–44.