Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) cactus

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What is a Peyote cactus?

Peyote cactus - Lophophora williamsii

The oldest cacti date back 20.000 years ago. Its special looks are because of its ability to survive extreme dryness and heat. The thorns are of course the most qualifying characteristic of cacti. These are actually leaves without any moisture, which turned them into thorns. They are also there to protect a cactus against bright sunlight and from being eaten by animals. But some variants do not have thorns and protect themselves with poisons or psychoactive components. Examples are the Peyote, Sunami, Pata de Venado, Pezuna de Venado, Tsuwiri, Bishop's cap, Aztekium Retterii and Astropytum Astrias.

Cacti store water in their stems. The most effective relation between surface and contents is created by a balloon shape. The hotter the habitat of the cactus, the more balloonlike it will be; which is the case with the Peyote.

Botanical

The Peyote cactus is a small, blue/green, thornless, balloonlike plant, with small amounts of wool on top and a thick root. It can carry small pink flowers. There is a range of different varieties of the Peyote cactus: Lophophora williamsii decipiens and Lophophora diffusa are most common.

The cactus grows very slowly and under natural circumstances only flowers after ten years. It seldom becomes bigger than 15 centimetres. Peyote grows in Mexico and the south of Texas.

History

This plant played a prominent role in the religion and culture of the indigenous people in Central America. Images of the Peyote have been found, dating back long before the start of our era. The oldest image of Peyote used in ceremonies ever found is 3000 years old.

Nowadays the Peyote is still strongly respected by the original inhabitants of this region, like the Huichol, and also by researchers in entheogenics from all over the world. The Huichol are still practising the native rituals with Peyote cacti because unlike many other indigenous tribes they - in reality - have never been completely colonised by the Hispanics. They lived in such an inaccessible area that colonisation was never fully accomplished. Therefore their culture stayed intact, and the use of Peyote cacti is still relatively common in these areas. In Mexico, it's available as a medicine against infections and practically every complaint because "the mind advises how the body must be healed..."

Chemistry

Active compounds: mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxy-B-phenethylamine)

Percentage: 10% of the dried material.

Aside from mescaline Peyote also contains tyramine, hordinenine, anhalaninine, anhalonidine, pellotine, N-methylmescaline, N-acetylmescaline, anhalonnine, anhalonine, anhalamine, O-methyllanhalonidine and lophophorine.

Effects

It may take a while before the effects of the Peyote cactus can be noticed, but once the trip starts it could be one of the most beautiful and divine experiences you will ever have.

The effects of mescaline are somewhat similar to those brought about by other psychedelics like Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms, DMT containing plants or synthetic hallucinogens like LSD-25. The Peyote trip is stronger than the San Pedro trip, but so is initial nausea. A trip can last six to twelve hours.

The so-called hangover of a cactus experience comes before the actual trip starts. Cramps, vomiting and crying (tears flowing from the eyes without feeling sad) are possible symptoms. Most of these disappear within one hour after the trip has started.

Medical use

Traditionally it has been used as an analgesic, against a toothache, rheumatism, asthma and the cold.

In psychotherapy, under medical prescription, Peyote has been used for the treatment of the neurasthenia. In the same way, it has also been used in cardiology. Research has shown that it has powerful antibacterial properties, being able to eliminate bacteria that were resistant to penicillin.

Usage

The most common way to take Peyote is chewing the cactus (fresh or dried) until all mescaline has entered the body through the mucous membranes. But this is very distasteful. A way to reduce the bitterness is drinking pineapple juice during the chewing, but it will still remain quite unpleasant. The most comfortable way to consume Peyote is to fill capsules with dried and ground peyote heads. Best is not to eat approximately six hours before you start eating this cactus. You might feel little nausea before the trip begins. Some people say this can be avoided by eating ginger or smoking cannabis.

You can also make a tea of Peyote cacti by cooking them in water and adding some herbs, like the ones shamans use with San Pedro: micha (Brugmansia suavenolens) and cimorillo (Coleus blumei).

It's advisable to spread the dosage over the period of an hour, to make the initial reaction of the body less intense.

The effects of mescaline are noticeable when 100 mg is taken, but for a heavy trip, 350 mg is needed. The other compounds react with mescaline and with each other. The total experience will take six to twelve hours, and depends on the person's level of sensitivity and the dose.

It is difficult to indicate how much mescaline one Peyote cactus contains, as this depends on its age and growing conditions. The bigger and older a cactus, the more mescaline it will contain. An average mescaline dosage is about 120-300 mg, which is the equivalent of about 6-15 (or more) cacti of 2 gr.

The Peyote's roots contain no mescaline, and it is wasteful to destroy them. If the above-ground portion of the plant is cut with enough plant tissue remaining on the root (which is left planted), the plant will re-generate new heads or 'buttons'.

Remember that potency can vary greatly. Therefore it is best not to take the dosage all at once, but to build it up gradually: take half of the dosage, wait 60 to 90 minutes to see what the effect is, then if desired take half of what is left over and if necessary repeat. A Peyote trip takes about two to two and a half hours to reach its peak.

Mescaline dosages

150 mg Minimumdosis.
150 - 300 mg light to moderate dosage
300 - 400 mg strong trip last 6 - 12 hours
450 - 500 mg possible ego dissolution, trip will last about 12 hours
500 - 600 mg definite ego dissolution, trip can last up to 24 hours

As a general guideline, 27 grams of dried Peyote contains about 300 mg of mescaline. This gives us the following table:

13,5 grams Minimumdosis.
13,5 - 27 grams light to moderate dosage
27 - 36 grams strong trip that lasts 6 - 12 hours
40,5 - 45 grams possible ego dissolution, trip will last about 12 hours
45 - 54 grams definite ego dissolution, trip can last up to 24 hours

Warnings

Make sure you always have an experienced but sober person with you, for support and safety!

Don't drive a car or other vehicles when you're under the influence of psychedelics. Only take Peyote when you're in a safe and familiar environment. Never trip by yourself. When things go wrong Seresta or Valium can help to bring fears down to an 'easy to handle' level.

Growing

Peyote likes warmth and light. In nature, it grows in open spaces in the sun, but also under bushes or other cacti. When you grow this cactus indoors, the best place is behind the southside window; keep it out of direct sun when it's young. Giving it a little bit of water on warm days will keep it happy.

Peyote is a slow growing cactus. But it's quite easy to grow and to multiply them. You can start with seeds or a plant. Sprouts from a plant must be left dry for 15 days. It grows best on basic calcareous soils with a good drainage. Ph of 6 or 7. After placing it in a pot it only needs water, and when you put it in a new pot every year, fertilizer is not necessary.

Note that the small cactus at the start is prone to infections caused by fungi in the roots when the drainage is not good. In this case uproot, apply fungicide, let it dry for some days and replant again.

Links / Further reading

Erowids Peyote Vault

References

This article is based on the following pages:

Peyote.org
Botanical-online on Peyote.