DMT can be found in many species of plants. Genera such as acacia, anadenanthera, mimosa, piptadenia, and virola are some examples. DMT is also produced in the human pineal gland, a small reddish-gray gland (about the size of a pea) near the center of the brain.
One of the functions of the pineal gland is the production of melatonin. The pineal gland and melatonin help regulate sleep-wake cycles (circadian rhythms). The production of melatonin by the pineal gland is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light. DMT exists in our brains in order to provide consciousness, a necessary mechanism: as a spirit molecule allowing us to gain access to non-material realms.
According to researcher and psychiatrist, Rick Strassman MD, 'A fundamental role of DMT in our consciousness is suggested by the brain's actively transporting DMT into its confines, using precious energy. DMT may be a spirit molecule, naturally produced and capable of transporting us to different states of mind and unimaginable realms of experience. The pineal gland seemed to me the most likely place to look for this endogenous DMT.'
Many cultures have ingested DMT as a hallucinogenic drug for thousands of years in Ayahuasca ceremonies to contact and experience the 'higher realms.'
DMT was first synthesized in 1931, and demonstrated to be hallucinogenic in 1956
DMT is not orally active unless it is mixed with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), such as those found in the harmala alkaloids produced by plants like Banisteriopsis caapi (commonly called the ayahuasca vine) and Peganum harmala (commonly called syrian rue). Without an inhibitor, monoamine oxidase in the human body quickly breaks down DMT that has been ingested orally, and it has very little to no psychoactive effect. Pure DMT is usually injected or smoked.