San Pedro Cactus

Latin:  Echinopsis (Trichocereus) pachanoi


Family:  Cactaceae

Parts Used:  Whole aerial plant

Taste/Energetics:  Very bitter, cooling

Properties:  Emetic, entheogenic, tonic,

Actions:  This columnar cactus is native to South America and is generally found in the dusty hot valleys and mountains of Peru and Ecuador.  This cactus is highly hallucinogenic due to containing mescaline, an entheogenic alkaloid also found in Peyote and other cacti.

Because of its highly potent effects, it has long been revered as enormously sacred to the indigenous peoples of South America.  I had the chance to take this plant in the early 90’s when I traveled to Ecuador and lived there for a summer.  I drank a strong brew of it that was horrifically bitter and acrid.  The effects lasted for over 12 hours and were deeply affecting and overwhelming.  The medicine first brought me to a deeper level of connection to the natural world around me and I was able to see the threads and connecting cords between rocks, plants and the soil.  Between these connecting cords, I could see spirits and entities dancing and waving.  At the core of the trip I felt in contact with the very soul or “teacher” of the plant who appeared as an old Gaucho, a somewhat bemused, grumpy and strong being who taught me a few lessons that are hard to describe on paper…:).  Beyond this deep spiritual work, the cactus also had a profound effect on my body, wracking and contorting me into intense postures and positions that felt natural and “required” at times- almost like hallucinogenic yoga.  The cactus feels cleansing, heightening, stimulating, rearranging and deeply penetrating, reaching core parts of one’s heart and soul.

Because of its ability to peer into your soul, San Pedro often points people in a good direction and asks us to put down poor habits and poor ways of thinking and seeing life.  For that reason, it has often been taken to heal addictions such as alcoholism.

Like many of these foreign hallucinogens, it is key to consider how we are working with these plants and make sure we are not just robbing the cultural identity and spiritual heritage of indigenous folks for a few cheap thrills.  San Pedro requires respect and reciprocation to be used in a good way.

Dosage:  A general dose would be around 100 grams per person.  There are a number of places to look on line as to how to prepare it.

Contraindications:  Um, yup- Like all super potent hallucinogens, San Pedro really is not for everyone and can be extremely challenging for some folks, or if taken in excessive amounts.  And needless to say, this is not something to consume and then go shopping at CostCo for a few hours…unless you’re really into that kind of thing.   Be careful out there people.