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"TYPES" OF MESCALINE:
Mescaline may be (rarely) obtained in pure form. Many of the descriptions in the literature, and virtually all scientific studies, are conducted on this form. Mescaline in the wild, however, is always accompanied by a host of other alkaloidal compounds. Most of these, when administered to man in pure form, produce either no effects, or only nausea and dizziness. However, Andrew Weil in "The Natural Mind" has this to say: "...this observation does not mean that these other constituents are inactive in the whole plant. Their action is to modify the action of the dominant constituent: to play down some of its effects, to enhance others, much as harmonic overtones modify the sound of a pure tone to produce the distinctive timbre of a musical instrument." Thus it may well be that each of the sources of mescaline should really be considered separate drugs in their own right. (See the section on cactus species below for descriptions of the following cacti.) Peyote contains the largest number of other alkaloids, several of which do cause unpleasant reactions when administered in isolation. Some of these are in the nature of a stimulant, and some are more sedative in action. San Pedro contains a much smaller spectrum of active alkaloids... the most active of which seems to act mainly as a sedative in man (drowsiness and slowed heartbeat). The natural highs faq reports than T. peruvianus may contain only tyramine, which would mean it represents the "purest" source of just mescaline. Moreover, the method of preparation of the cactus (boiling or not) may change the alkaloidal composition by selectively degrading specific alkaloids. In my own experience, *extensive* boiling of San Pedro produces a trip that is mellower, more sedative, and with fewer visuals, as well as reducing the potency in general (see the section on preparation).
From my limited experience with San Pedro cactus, I can definitely state that the San Pedro high is very different from LSD or psilocybin. The emotional impact is closer to MDA. I personally find San Pedro to be less visual than either LSD or psilocybin, although others have described pure mescaline as being more visual than either. There is something of an amphetamine like central stimulation, coupled with a general physical sense of sedation and fatigue. For me, the effects are generally characterized by a contrast of opposites: a simultaneous feeling of stimulation and sedation, of physical restlessness and fatigue, of increased emotional sensitivity and emotional inhibition. The effects last longer than for either LSD or psilocybin, and take longer to take effect. In my experience, the first significant effects do not occur for over an hour after ingestion, and the effect gradually intensifies up to the three hour point or beyond. The plateau is broad and long lasting, and it is difficult to pinpoint when the effects begin to wear off. It can be difficult to sleep even 12 hours after ingestion. The effects of San Pedro can generally be described by "mild" and "mellow", and this is somewhat dose independent. Although the visual and mental effects do increase gradually with higher doses, the underlying physical symptoms seem to increase at a higher rate, so that very high doses may cause a "toxic reaction" type of trip (by which I mean that the subject remains focused on uncomfortable physical sensations -- the sense of having been "poisoned"). All of this description may be specific to San Pedro cactus, as discussed above.
PREPARATION AND INGESTION:
Regardless of the type of the mescaline, several sources advise that the ingestion be spaced out over a thirty minute period. This reduces the potential impact of nausea. Note: nausea is an intrinsic characteristic of pure mescaline itself, and so cannot be avoided entirely. In my experience with San Pedro, nausea is strongest between about two hours and four hours after ingestion, and largely goes away by five hours after ingestion. Mescaline containing cactus have an intensely disagreeable bitter flavor. Some people react more strongly to this flavor than others. For this reason, many people may be tempted to "slam it down" as quickly as possible... but this can lead to more severe nausea. On the other hand, spacing the ingestion out over a period much longer than 30 minutes can cause more nausea as the intensely disagreeable flavor is made even worse by the beginning mental and physical effects of the mescaline ingested at first. (This is from the personal experience of a friend who spread it over an hour and a half.)
I will now describe my own procedure for preparing San Pedro cactus. I have heard of many methods, ranging from chemical alkaloidal extraction to just eating it raw, like corn on the cob. A brief description of the cactus physically: a normal column of San Pedro is around 3" in diameter, and can be of any length. The potency can vary widely, depending on growth conditions (see the section on cultivation), so calibration of the potency by first trying what is expected to be a small dose is an absolute necessity. Suggested lengths for one dose range from 3" to over a foot. The cactus has a tubular core of woody fibers arranged in a ring. Most of the mescaline is supposed to occur outside of this ring, near the skin. The skin itself is somewhat like a tough, waxy paper which tears easily. The flesh is very bitter, with the consistency of an apple. It is mostly water and can be liquified easily. It is possible to remove the spines with a knife and carefully peel away all of the skin, taking care not to peel away any of the flesh directly under the skin (the most potent part). I find this to be much too tedious. My method, in short, is to blend the entire cactus, (spine, skin, and all) and prepare a liquid extract. This extract can be frozen for later use, although it may be illegal in this form. (San Pedro is legal to possess, but illegal to consume, in the USA). The liquid extract can be chilled to ice-cold temperatures before ingestion, and prepared with lemon juice, both of which make it more palatable.
To do this extraction, you need a food processor (ideally) or a blender, and a strong course mesh filter of some type. Coffee filters are too fine, and most metal kitchen strainers are too coarse. I use a nylon mesh bag designed for sprouting seeds and grains -- I find this ideal. You could probably use some kind of cloth filter (perhaps even an old shirt would suffice). First, wash the surface of the cactus thoroughly. Then slice it into half inch thick disks (actually stars). Optionally, excise the small circular core from each disk. Slice the disks radially, like a pie, into small wedges. It is *not* necessary to de-spine or remove the skin of the cactus to do this. These small pieces may now be liquified in a food processor or blender. You will almost certainly have to do this in several small batches. For the first batch, you may need to add a small amount of water to aid in the liquefaction, but after this just add some of the previously blended liquid. Strain the resultant broth, again in small batches, and set aside the liquid. Combine all the solid mass that has been filtered out and set aside. For each foot of cactus, put 1 cup of water (distilled is probably best) in a large pot, preferably not aluminum. For each foot of cactus add the juice of two lemons. Optionally, add one gram per foot of acidic vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in powdered or granular form (easily obtainable in health food stores). Heat this mixture to boiling. Now, reblend the the solid mass in small parts with this boiling liquid. Blend each part for at least two minutes. This step will convert any remaining mescaline to salt form, improving its solubility, and bring the last of it into solution. Filter and combine this with the first liquid, and mix well. If not used immediately, this mixture should be frozen to avoid decomposition. This method will result in two to three cups of liquid per foot of cactus. I strongly advise against boiling this liquid down in an attempt to reduce the volume, since it is my experience that this will adversely affect the potency, and may increase the relative concentration of the non- mescaline alkaloids. I also strongly advise calibrating your brew for potency. A dose may range from one cup to over three cups.
Despite the lemon juice, it will be intensely bitter, so chilling it to near freezing before drinking is probably a good idea. A number of techniques can help with the taste. I suggest chasing each gulp with unsweetened grapefruit juice. Alternatively, Adam Gottleib, in "Peyote and Other Psychoactive Cacti" has this to say: "The Indians... believe that if one's heart is pure, the bitterness will not be tasted. Many have found that by not cringing from the taste, but rather letting one's sesnses plunge directly into the center of the bitterness, a sort of separation from the offensive flavor is experienced. One is aware of the bitterness, but it no longer disturbs him...It is not a difficult trick, but it takes some mental discipline."
Peyote, the traditional source of mescaline, is a very slow growing cactus which I think is actually illegal to cultivate or possess in the USA (except for members of the Native American Indian Church, in certain states). It is native to central Mexico and southwest Texas, but is so rare as to be an endangered species. I have no experience with peyote, and the bulk of this file is really concerned with Trichocereus cacti.
Trichocereus pachanoi, or *San Pedro*, is a very common landscaping cactus (not indigenous to the USA though) and is neither illegal to possess, nor even particularly incriminating since it is so widespread. It is also one of the fastest growing of all columnar cacti. It grows fastest in a very sunny climate with long summers (or under high intensity growth lights year round) but will grow fairly well in more temperate ares as well. In areas of the Southwest where cactus nurseries are to be found, it can often be purchased as a specimen of three feet or more in height. (One place I know of sells it for $6.50 per linear foot, and has several hundred feet of specimens in stock). T. pachanoi is quite easy to identify once you have seen it in person, but verbal descriptions are probably not adequate to distinguish it from other Trichocereus species (such things as the "roundedness" or "fullness" of the ridges, the appearance of the growth cap at the top of the column, and the exact shades of green are difficult to describe verbally).
Trichocereus peruvianus is a close relative of T. pachanoi with a higher concentration of mescaline. It is very rarely found in the USA (not indigenous and not used for landscaping) and for that reason is potentially more incriminating than T. pachanoi. It will most likely have to be grown from seed (see section below). It is very similar to T. pachanoi in terms of growth rate and robustness. I have personally never tried T. peruvianus, and it is not clear to me how much more potent than T. pachanoi it may be. The only studies I am aware of report that T. pachanoi contains up to 0.1 % mescaline content *wet weight*, whereas T. peruvianus is reported at 0.8% *dry weight*. Peyote is reported at around 1.0 % dry weight, so from this we can infer that T. peruvianus is about as strong as peyote, but it is difficult to compare to T. pachanoi. Most sources seem to believe that T. pachanoi is generally less potent than peyote, but I think this may depend on the method of cultivation of the T. pachanoi. The mescaline content of T. pachonoi can vary widely depending on growth conditions. In particular, the conditions favoring most rapid growth (frequent waterings) do not produce the highest mescaline content. See the section on cultivation for more information.
There are several other species of Trichocereus with mescaline content comparable to T. pachanoi. Several of them could easily be mistaken for T. peruvianus, but are less potent and have different alkaloidal contents. See the natural highs faq for more information.
GROWING FROM SEED:
The main reason for doing this is probably to obtain T. peruvianus, since T. pachanoi is a common landscaping cactus and easily obtainable as large specimens. See the section on species above. You should keep in mind that it will take at least a year to get a plant large enough for one dose, and unless you are using year round high intensity growth lights (such as used for pot cultivation) coupled with an ideal watering and fertilizing schedule, you can expect to wait two years. Growing >From seed requires patience, knowledge, and experience. There are many techniques... if you are going to invest the time required for this, you should read up on several of them. Egdar and Brian Lamb's "Pocket Encyclopedia of Cacti In Color" contains a very extensive discussion of cactus growing in general, and growing from seed in particular. I do have one immediate suggestion for those of you growing from seed now: be very careful with the use of fungicides and other chemicals! In particular, I suspect Daconil, the ingredient in Ortho multi-purpose fungicide, of inhibiting seedling growth, even when used in high dilution. A fungicide which I have seen recommended for use with cactus seeds is *Chinosol*.
This section is directed at Trichocereus pachanoi (San Pedro) and Trichocereus peruvianus. The growth paramaters for these catus are the same. They are different than most columnar cacti in that they grow very rapidly, and enjoy a somewhat richer soil mix and more frequent waterings than most cacti. They are quite hardy, and will grow successfully in a wide range of conditions (I have seen very large, vigorous specimens growing unattended in the back of grass covered lawns, planted directly in the lawn soil, watered by the lawn's automatic sprinkler system). However, to achieve maximum growth rates their native environment should be imitated as closely as possible. The native habitat of these cacti is the western slopes of the Peruvian Andes, where the soil is very rich with humus and minerals, rainfall is not too scarce, and exposure to the sun and wind are at a maximum. I will describe ideal growth conditions (compiled from personal experience, books, and from the advice of someone who grows several dozen of them). However, I should begin by stating that these conditions also produce cacti with low mescaline content. The alkaloids in these cacti apparently are a defense mechanism against invading organisms, and increase during stressful conditions... particularly when the cacti are underwatered. This is a very gradual response... the mescaline content can take one or more growing seasons to increase after water starvation has commenced. Thus one strategy for raising these cactus is to purchase them at the desired size, and to "starve them out" for a full growing season before harvesting. If this is the strategy, the following "ideal growth conditions" should *NOT* be observed since they will contribute to decreases in potency!
For ideal growth, I have found the following variables to be important:
Lighting: One of the most important variables. Growth of these cacti occurs mainly during the brightest months of summer. In locations where intense, bright sunny days occur for only a few months, they will not grow rapidly. Growth can be greatly stimulated with high intensity plant growth lights such as used for marijuana cultivation, but year round operation of these 1000 watt bulbs can be very expensive. Also, as the cactus can be quite tall, care must be taken not to burn the tops of the plants. Ideally, angled lighting from both sides should be observed to allow full illumination along the entire column. When underwatering to increase potency, the cacti should be placed in a less exposed location, with partial shade. If the lighting is too bright for maximum potency increase (but not for maximum growth) the cacti will turn a lighter shade of green. This response occurs after only a few weeks, so adjust the lighting to achieve a darker shade of green.
Soil: The cacti should be planted in very porous soil. A typical cactus potting soil mix is OK, but can be improved by addition of extra pumice. The more porous the soil mix, the more frequently the cacti will have to be watered, and the less danger there will be of root rot and other problems of over-watering. However, the soil mix should also be fairly rich. I take 3 parts high pumice soil mix (much more pumice than in Hyponex cactus potting soil) and mix in one part forest compost. Additionally, I use a lot of plant fertilizer. Cactus are damaged by high nitrogen contents, so be sure to use a fertilizer with low nitrogen. Check the label... there are three digits (like 10-7-12) and the first is the nitrogen content. Use a plant food with the lowest ratio of this number to the other two. Special catus fertilizers are available... I use one called "Catus Juice" which has a 1-7-6 ratio, plus calcium which is a special factor for cactus. I feed my cactus at the recommended dilution about once a week. Don't begin this treatment immediately after repotting; let the roots set in. When attempting to increase potency, this feeding is not necessary since the cactus will not be receiving water.
Potting: These cacti like to send out far ranging lateral root systems near to the surface, so if potted they should be placed in very wide clay pots. Deep but narrow pots will result in stunted growth. Clay pots are required for proper drainage. Use of large clay pots is in many ways preferable to planting directly in the ground, since the watering, drainage, and feeding can be controlled more precisely. However, if attempting to increase potency, the cactus can be placed in small, constricted pots since good growth conditions are not desired. In any case, repotting cactus should not be idly done since it shocks the root system and injures the cactus. It is best to choose a suitable pot and stick with it.
Watering: When in full growth, the cactus should be watered quite frequently. The cactus should be watered when the subsurface soil is not damp to the touch. This will depend on many other factors. At one extreme, for a cactus in very well-drained, high pumice soil, potted in porous clay pots, receiving bright full sunlight all day long, in an exposed, windy, hot location, the cactus can be thoroughly watered every four days. If fed this frequently, the plant food concentration should be halved. One way to test soil dampness is to insert a small, clean redwood stake into the soil. If it comes out with small particles of sand clinging to it, the soil is still moist and should not be watered. During dormant winter months, the cactus should be watered much less frequently, perhaps once a month or so. This will stimulate root growth and result in faster growth during the hot season. As mentioned above, when attempting to increase potency, the cactus should not be watered at all for an entire growing season, and placed in a less exposed, partially shaded location.
"Doping": Adam Gottlieb, in "Peyote and Other Psychoactive Cacti" reports that the mescaline content can be increased by injection of dopamine, or a mixture of tyrosine and dopa. The treatment should be done on water starved cactus, and harvesting should wait for four weeks (for dopamine, or six weeks for tyrosine and dopa). The book recommends a saturated solution of free base dopamine in a .05 N solution of HCl. Instructions are to inject at the base of the plant and repeat again every 3-4 inches up the column of the plant following a spiral pattern. I haven't tried this personally...
FINAL COMMENTS: A RECREATIONAL DRUG?
Mescaline containing cactus produce one, or at most, two doses of mescaline a year (for fast Trichocereus species -- peyote cactus produces far less). Relative to other hallucinogens, these cacti can be difficult to obtain unless one lives in precisely the right area. Preparation of the cactus is time consuming, and a relatively large quantity of extremely disagreeable tasting substance must be consumed. The initial effects are usually accompanied by considerable physical discomfort. The experience is very long lived and inhibits sleep for an even longer time, much more so than LSD, thus the use of mescaline requires setting aside a considerable chunk of time (typically an entire day, with possibility of fatigue the next day). These facts may make cactus seem like a poor choice for a recreational drug... and I would agree with this. Many other compounds are better suited for recreational use. But this is also precisely its appeal for me... I have tremendous respect for mescaline containing cactus. Like the Native American Indians, I think one can view these "negative" aspects of cactus as features which are present to insure that it is treated with the proper respect. To me, the use of mescaline containing cactus is a rare, and spiritual, event.
Lamb, Egdar and Brian. Pocket Encyclopedia of Cacti in Colour. Blandford Press, 1981. ISBN 0-7137-11973.
Gottleib, Adam. Peyote And Other Psychoactive Cacti. Kistone Press, 1977. (A small pamphlet available in head shops.)