Pineal Project

We’re excited to announce the publication of a paper documenting the presence of DMT in the pineal glands of live rodents. The paper appears in the journal Biomedical Chromatography **click here for article** and describes experiments that took place in Dr. Jimo Borjigin’s laboratory at the University of Michigan, where samples were collected.

The pineal gland has been an object of great interest regarding consciousness for thousands of years, and a pineal source of DMT would help support a role for this enigmatic gland in unusual states of consciousness. Research at the University of Wisconsin has recently demonstrated the presence of the DMT-synthesizing enzyme as well as activity of the gene responsible for the enzyme in pineal (and retina). Our new data now establish that the enzyme actively produces DMT in the pineal.

The next step is to determine the presence of DMT in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that bathes the brain and pineal. CSF is a possible route for pineal-synthesized DMT to effect changes in brain function. Successfully establishing DMT’s presence in this gland adds another link in the chain between the pineal and consciousness and opens new avenues for research.

We thank those who have already donated to our advancement of the research in this field. We hope the recent developments will encourage you to donate to Cottonwood again, or for the first time, in order to continue this fascinating and intriguing line of research. When donating, please make sure you select “Pineal Project” as the specific project.


Public Awareness: “DMT: The Spirit Molecule” – the Movie

The documentary DMT: THE SPIRIT MOLECULE, inspired by the research recounted in Dr. Rick Strassman’s best-selling book by the same name, has been picked up by Warner Bros distributing and is now available for rent, purchase, download, and streaming from a large number of sites (  Cottonwood is proud to have been the movie’s fiscal sponsor. Kudos to producer Mitch Schultz for completing the outstanding film and so successfully marketing it.

As an indication of the movie’s popularity, in January 2012 the Guild Theater in Albuquerque scheduled two screenings for the film with Rick Strassman and Andrew Stone (secretary-treasurer of Cottonwood) in attendance to take questions and provide valuable background to the film.  In addition, many former volunteers joined in an contributed their perspective of having participated.  A third screening was hastily scheduled and that, too, sold out!

We have copies of the DVD for sale.  The cost of the DVD is tax-deductible.  If you order it through our site, Dr. Strassman will inscribe and sign the case (or DVD) at your request.


Endogenous Hallucinogen Assay

One of our primary research project s, being developed by Steven Barker, Ph.D. (Vice-President of Cottonwood Research Foundation), his graduate student Ethan McIlHenny (School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge Louisiana) and Dr. Rick Strassman (President of Cottonwood Research Foundation), is the development of a new methodology to measure DMT, 5-methoxy-DMT, and bufotenine, as well as their precursors and metabolic breakdown products using state-of-the-art liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC/MS) equipment. Previous investigations into the role of endogenous tryptamine hallucinogens in humans did not have at their disposal methods sensitive enough to measure the parent hallucinogens at their apparent very low levels, particularly in blood. Additionally, all such studies have previously ignored the importance of the levels of their precursors and metabolites, information that is necessary to fully assess the status of the endogenous hallucinogen pathway. This project hopes to provide an improvement over previous assay sensitivity by at least one thousand-fold and finally provide information on the entire pathway as a function of time and in health and disease.

An ultra-sensitive assay that will provide a deep view into the function of the naturally occurring tryptamine hallucinogens in humans, in both normal and non-normal states, is almost ready. We have established a simple method to, at present, separate, identify and quantify 26 compounds simultaneously in a single blood sample. Our current methodology provides us with the ability to prepare a blood sample for analysis as small as 100 microliters in as little as ten minutes and complete the sample analysis in as little as twenty minutes, all at the sub-nanogram level for the compounds being examined. The method is currently undergoing validation studies and we are continuing to examine ways to enhance overall assay sensitivity.

The first application of this method will be in samples taken from consumers of ayahuasca, examining samples to confirm the metabolic pathways and to examine levels under “enhanced” conditions. This will be conducted in conjunction with the need to establish values in healthy men and women of all ages under “normal” physiological conditions. Circadian changes will also be examined. We will then begin the comparison of these values to those found in naturally occurring altered states of consciousness in which endogenous hallucinogens may play a role. These conditions and states include mania, schizophrenia, autism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and dissociation. Such information may lead to important new breakthroughs in understanding and treating these disorders.

In addition, we will determine levels in sleep, dreams, meditation, childbirth, and near-death states. Establishing the role of endogenous tryptamines in these states will provide tremendous insight into their origination, and may lead to more reliable means of working with and studying their utility.

With additional funding from our contributors, we anticipate that it will take approximately a year to complete the development of the new assay, and establish normative values. Subsequent research into these compounds’ role in naturally occurring altered states, occurring in collaboration with research centers around the world, will be ongoing for many years.


Research Site

One of the long range goals of The Cottonwood Research Foundation is the purchase and development of a site where research, education, and training takes place in an highly focused manner. Such a center, based in an area of natural beauty in northern New Mexico, will house research faculty, staff, and volunteers. It will contain laboratory and computer equipment for ongoing studies.

In addition to serving as a clinical research center, it will also provide educational and training activities. The site will feature a library housing all forms of media regarding psychoactive plants and derivatives. It will also contain facilities for symposia, conferences, seminars, and training programs. We will publish proceedings from symposia and conferences that deserve wide exposure.

This research site will be the most enduring legacy of The Cottonwood Research Foundation, and will require the greatest input of funds and time. However, its potential for evolving into a unique center of consciousness studies is inestimable.