The pineal gland — a tiny pine cone–shaped organ in the center of the brain — has been a mystery for years.

Some call it the “seat of the soul” or the “third eye,” believing it holds mystical powers. Others believe it produces and secretes DMT, a psychedelic so powerful that it was dubbed the “spirit molecule” for its spiritual awakening–type trips.

Turns out, the pineal gland also has several more practical functions, like releasing melatonin and regulating your circadian rhythms.

As for the pineal gland and DMT, the connection is still a bit of a mystery.

It’s still TBD at this point.

The idea that the pineal gland produces enough DMT to produce psychoactive effects came from the popular book “DMT: The Spirit Molecule,” written by clinical psychiatrist Rick Strassman in 2000.

Strassman proposed that the DMT excreted by the pineal gland enabled the life force into this life and on to the next life.

Trace amounts amounts of DMT have been detected in the pineal glands of rats, but not in the human pineal gland. Plus, the pineal gland might not even be the main source.

The most recent animal study on DMT in the pineal gland found that even after removing the pineal gland, the rat brain was still able to produce DMT in different regions.

That’s unlikely to happen.

There are people who believe you can activate the pineal gland to produce enough DMT to experience an altered state of consciousness, or open your third eye to heighten your awareness.

How does one achieve this activation? It depends who you ask.

There are anecdotal claims that you can activate your third eye by doing things like:

There’s no evidence that doing any of these stimulates your pineal gland to produce DMT.

Plus, based on those rat studies, the pineal gland isn’t capable of producing enough DMT to cause psychoactive effects that alter your intuition, perception, or anything else.

Your pineal gland is tiny — like, really, really tiny. It weighs less than 0.2 grams. It would need to be able to rapidly produce 25 milligrams of DMT to cause any psychedelic effects.

To give you some perspective, the gland only produces 30 micrograms of melatonin per day.

Also, DMT is quickly broken down by monoamine oxidase (MAO) in your body, so it wouldn’t be able to naturally accumulate in your brain.

That’s not to say these methods won’t have other benefits for your mental or physical health. But activating your pineal gland to increase DMT isn’t one of them.

Potentially. It seems that the pineal gland isn’t the only thing that might contain DMT.

Animal studies have found INMT, an enzyme required for the production of DMT, in various parts of the brain and in the:

  • lungs
  • heart
  • adrenal gland
  • pancreas
  • lymph nodes
  • spinal cord
  • placenta
  • thyroid

Strassman proposed that the pineal gland excretes large amounts of DMT during birth and death, and for a few hours after death. But there’s no evidence that it’s true.

As far as near-death and out-of-body experiences go, researchers believe there are more plausible explanations.

There’s evidence that endorphins and other chemicals released in high amounts during moments of extreme stress, such as near death, are more likely responsible for the brain activity and psychoactive effects that people report, like hallucinations.

There’s still a lot more to uncover about DMT and the human brain, but experts are forming some theories.

So far, it seems that any DMT produced by the pineal gland likely isn’t enough to induce the psychedelic effects associated with using DMT.


Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.

Biosynthesis and extracellular concentrations of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in mammalian brain