5-MeO-DMT vs. Ayahuasca: What is the difference?

5-MeO-DMT vs. Ayahuasca

…which is better for what ails me?

You’re intrigued by the concept of psychedelic wellness and healing. You’re deep into your research about different retreats and their offerings. And you’re familiar with ayahuasca from pop culture, friends, Burning Man, etc. But as soon as you heard that ‘licking toads’ was a real thing…

As it turns out, the Bufo Alvarius toad contains an extraordinarily potent psychedelic. It has profound implications for mental health, healing, spirituality, and personal growth. Some of the more well-known psychoactive compounds, like ayahuasca, profess to offer similar benefits to their consumers. But there are important differences to be aware of. Below we dive deep into 5-MeO-DMT vs. ayahuasca. We’ll lay out what exactly 5-MeO-DMT is, how it is similar to and different than ayahuasca, and under what circumstances one is preferable over the other.

What is 5-MeO-DMT?

5-MeO-DMT is synthesized either in a laboratory or from the venom excreted by the Bufo Alvarius toad. This toad is found naturally in the Sonoran desert of Arizona, California, and Mexico. It is referred to both as the Colorado River toad and as the Sonoran Desert toad. It is highly psychoactive. Consumers usually lose all contact with reality and are catapulted into a world of overpowering visual and auditory hallucinations. Time may dilate or contract, or cease to have much meaning. A consumer may think the journey is taking forever to wind down. In actual fact, the trip is a fast-acting rollercoaster that begins about 3-4 minutes after inhalation and lasts between 7 to 90 minutes, with the average trip clocking in at 20 minutes.

The Bufo Alvarius Toad: 5-MeO-DMT vs Ayahuasca
The Bufo Alvarius toad is also known as the Colorado River as well as the Sonoran Desert toad.

Users report awe-inspiring spiritual and mystical experiences, ego dissolution, and occasionally, bad trips.

Is 5-MeO-DMT the Same as Bufo?

‘Bufo’ refers to the Bufo Alvarius toad, whose venom contains 5-MeO-DMT. When people talk about “bufo” in the context of psychedelics, they are usually talking about the venom of this toad. The venom is harvested and dried to create a resin. When smoked or vaporized, the resin induces a 5-MeO-DMT experience. However, this chemical can also be synthesized in a lab

While both synthetic 5-MeO-DMT and the Bufo Alvarius venom contain the same active compound, the psychedelic experiences brought about by these substances might differ slightly due to the presence of other compounds in the venom. The toad venom can be even more potent and overwhelming. As with any psychedelic substance, it should be approached with great care and respect, preferably under the guidance of experienced individuals in a safe and supportive environment. Additionally, the extraction of toad venom can be harmful to the toads, and ethical considerations should be taken into account if one is considering using this substance.

5-MeO-DMT vs. Ayahuasca: Similarities

Ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT are similar in quite a few notable ways:

Natural Substances

Both 5-MeO-DMT and ayahuasca are naturally-occurring substances. Aside from venom, 5-MeO-DMT is also present in a range of different plants, some species of fish and mollusks. Research is also ongoing to confirm whether it is produced within the human brain. Ayahuasca, on the other hand, is produced from the ayahuasca vine combined with the leaves of the chacruna plant. 

Mental Health Treatment

Both ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT are well-reputed for their applications to mental health. Both have been shown to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety,  and potentially even PTSD. One study even showed that 79% of PTSD patients experienced an improvement in symptoms after 5-MeO-DMT use, whereas 18% remained the same and 3% suffered worsening symptoms. These results are quite promising, although more research is needed. 

Profound Experiences

These substances lead to profound and intense experiences for many users; these experiences involve altered states of consciousness, spiritual insights, dissolution of the ego or sense of ‘I’, and feelings of interconnectedness or unity with a higher power.

Because of this potential for transformative experiences, both 5-MeO-DMT and ayahuasca have been used historically and traditionally in spiritual and healing contexts by indigenous cultures and, in more recent times, by individuals seeking spiritual growth and introspection.

The Bufo Alvarius toad
The cause of some excellent experiences…and the occasional bad one.

Bad Trips

Ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT can both induce ‘bad trips’ in some users, or unpleasant experiences that consist of being forced to confront unresolved issues or fears in ways that are overwhelming and even psychologically damaging. Nevertheless, some users who have had bad trips with one or both of these substances report that even the most terrifying parts of their journeys were beneficial and helped them grow and develop.  It’s essential to take both of these substances in contexts in which you feel comfortable and in which psychological support is available.

5-MeO-DMT vs. Ayahuasca: Differences

Despite the many similarities, these substances also have a few major differences:


A trip with 5-MeO-DMT usually lasts around 15-30 minutes, whereas an ayahuasca experience usually goes on for 4-6 hours.

Nature of Experience

Although both ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT can contain all of the following elements, 5-MeO-DMT is more well-known for ego dissolution, a sense of

unity with the universe, and a profound feeling of interconnectedness. Some ayahuasca users also get these effects, but they may not be as common as when taking 5-MeO-DMT. Ayahuasca is more likely to be characterized by a visionary and introspective experience involving vivid symbolic elements and emotional processing.

Method of Ingestion

5-MeO-DMT is inhaled; it is either smoked or vaporized. Ayahuasca, on the other hand, is brewed into a tea and drunk. 

Physical Effects

Users of 5-MeO-DMT are likely to report some or all of the following physical effects:

  • Bodily lightness or heaviness
  • A feeling of being pulled or stretched
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Changes in breathing-more rapid, more shallow, or more irregular
  • Profuse sweating
  • Possible nausea and vomiting

Ayahuasca users are more likely to experience these physical effects:

  • Purging (intense nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea): Although this may occur with 5-MeO-DMT use, it almost always occurs with ayahuasca consumption.
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Tingling, warmth, or the feeling of energy moving through the body

It’s important to note that your mileage will vary; these substances affect different people in different ways, and it’s impossible to predict in advance what your experience will be. What is possible is to thoroughly research and vet various retreat centers and understand each substance as comprehensively as possible so that you are equipped to choose the right offering for your unique situation. No matter who you are or what your reason for seeking out a psychedelic experience, we hope you’ll gain healing, insight, and growth. 

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About the Author

Cait has been writing since the age of 7, when she wrote her first short stories about two crime-fighting dogs. Although she has since strayed away from the canine detective genre, she still delights in writing about relationship psychology, travel, the psychoactive effects of cacao, intentional communities, nutrition, wellness, and more.

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