Mescaline, is a psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in certain cacti native to the southwest United States, Mexico, and South America. There are numerous varieties of mescaline-containing cacti found throughout the world, with peyote perhaps being the most famous.
(3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) Mescaline has been used by Native Americans for thousands of years in religious ceremonies and for the treatment of various physical ailments. Furthermore, mescaline has a long cultural significance, and is still used today, both recreationally and for spiritual/religious purposes. Peyote is recognized as a sacrament in the Native American Church of North America.
Effects of Mescaline
Mescaline induces a psychedelic state, that can last for 10 to 12 hours, although the use of mescaline as a sacrament takes place over two days. As a hallucinogenic or psychedelic drug, mescaline induces an altered state of consciousness where people experience altered thinking processes, an altered sense of time and self-awareness, and physical effects including dizziness, pupil dilation, and difficulties with motor coordination. People often describe this state as enjoyable, euphoric, and dream-like. However, much like other psychoactive substances, mescaline can also increase feelings of anxiety. Mescaline elicits a pattern of sympathetic arousal, with the peripheral nervous system being a major target for this substance. Mescaline achieves its effects by binding to almost all serotonin receptors within the brain.
Some of the more common mescaline cacti include the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii), the San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi), and the Peruvian Torch cactus (Trichocereus peruvianus).
Peyote: Devil's Root
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a small, spineless cactus that grows into a bulb-like mass called a button and is found in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The cactus was considered a living god and has been used for thousands of years by native tribes for religious and healing purposes. Peyote is still recognized as a sacrament in the Native American Church of North America.
This bitter little suculant is utilised traditionally by Native Americans as an herbal medicine, and was used to treat toothache, fever, breast pain, rheumatism, and other conditions. The conservation status of Peyote is “Vulnerable” due to a variety of causes.
The various species of the genus Lophophora grow slow and low to the ground and they often form groups with numerous, crowded shoots. The blue-green, yellow-green or sometimes reddish-green shoots are mostly flattened spheres with sunken shoot tips. They can reach heights of between 2–7cm and reach diameters of around 4–12cm. From the center arises a tuft of soft, yellowish or whitish woolly hairs. Peyote develops aesthetically pleasing pink or white flowers with yellow and reddish tones that open during the daytime. The cactus flowers irregularly, bearing small, elongated fruits.
Peyote contains around 0.4% mescaline when fresh, and around 3–6% when dried. The buttons can be used fresh or dried and then chewed or made into a liquid for consumption. Prepare for a bitter treat due to the magical alkaloids. They can also be ground into a powder and put into capsules to avoid the taste.
San Pedro: Grandfather Wisdom
San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi) also known as Huachuma, is a fast-growing cactus that stems from the mountainous regions of Peru and Ecuador at altitudes of 2000–3000m. It can also be found in parts of the Andes that run through Argentina and Bolivia.
Huachuma, or San Pedro, has been used throughout history in shamanic settings. This plant teacher has a long history of being used in Andean traditional medicine. Archeological studies have found evidence of use going back two thousand years, to Moche culture. In Peru, curanderos have used huachuma to treat depressive symptoms, alcoholism, and mood disorders. Now, more and more Westerners have experienced it’s healing properties.
Its stems are light to dark green, sometimes a blueish-gray, with a diameter of 6–15 cm. The whitish center may produce up to seven yellow to brown spines, the plant is sometimes spineless, and can reach mammoth heights of between 3–6 m. and has multiple branches, usually extending from the base. The tallest recorded specimen was 12.2 metres (40 ft) tall. It produces white flowers at the end of its stems; that open at night.
Huachuma is ingested as either a dried powder or a bitter, viscous tea made from the most potent parts of the San Pedro cactus. The cactus is typically prepared by first slicing it horizontally into star-shaped segments. These segments are then boiled for several hours and consumed as a tea.
Peruvian Torch: Rich in Mescaline
The Peruvian Torch (Echinopsis peruviana) cactus can be found in the Andes in Peru and Ecuador. Its natural habitat are the mountain desert areas at an altitude of 2000-3000 meters above sea level. It is a fast-growing columnar species and contains the well researched psychoactive alkaloid mescaline as well as other alkaloids.
This cultivar is closely related to San Pedro Cactus, but much less common. It is similar in appearance, but has longer spines and has a darker color, sometimes being blue. The plant is bluish-green in color and grows with 6-9 broadly rounded ribs, reaching a height of 3-6 meters at a diameter of 8-18cm. The “Torch” contains the largest amount of mescaline of all cacti.
Monks of the pre-Inca culture used this mescaline cactus to brew a concoction called “cimora”, “achuma” or “huachuma” which was then used in their medicinal and ritual ceremonies – and that was 900 BC to 200 BC. Mescaline containing cacti can induce severe vomiting and nausea, which adds an important part to traditional Native-American or Shaman ceremonies as it is considered cleansing. To make tea remove the thorns and cut the cacti in small pieces.
Before trying cacti please be aware that the effects can be very overwhelming. Always make sure you are with an experienced person that you feel comfortable around. Do not combine with alcohol, MAO-Inhibitors or other stimulants. Though illegal to consume in the United States, it’s legal in Peru and Bolivia where its oldest practitioners reside. When peyote is used in religious ceremonies, it is exempt from its classification as a Schedule I controlled drug under the 1994 American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA).
This is simply meant to be an introduction to the most common types of mescaline cactus. This is not the end all be all of mescaline, or a full explanation of the millennia of mescaline usage. I hope this piqued your interest, and will help you along your path.