Leishmaniasis has an overwhelming impact on global public health especially in tropical and subtropical countries and the currently available antileishmanial drugs have serious side effects and low efficacy. Natural and synthetic compounds have been tested in the past few years against Leishmania and the beta-carboline class of compounds have shown great results in antiparasitic chemotherapy. In the present study, three 1-substituted beta-carboline-3-carboxamides (3-5) and 1-substituted beta-carboline-3-carboxylic acid (2) were synthesized and screened for in vitro activity against L. amazonensis. Compound 5 (N-benzyl 1-(4-methoxy)phenyl-9H-beta-carboline-3-carboxamide) had the best activity against promastigote and axenic amastigote forms with IC(50) of 2·6 and 1·0 μM, respectively. Its CC(50) on macrophages cell line was higher than 2457·0 μM with an SI ratio of 930·2. Against intracellular amastigote forms, it had a dose-dependent relationship with a 50% growth inhibitory concentration of 1·0 μM. Through morphological and ultrastructure analysis of promastigote forms treated with compound 5, alterations on cell shape and number of flagella and nuclear membrane damage were observed. For this, compound 5 supports the idea for more in vitro and in vivo studies.