Huachuma is the Quechua word for the Andean plant commonly known as San Pedro cactus. One of the great things about this medicine is it’s abundance. This is a marked contrast to peyote which is definitely threatened due to demand and overuse. San Pedro is much bigger cactus which gives more mass and has a broader range where it grows geographically. The tradition of use comes out of the higher altitude desert regions of Peru but the cactus can also be found in Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Chile. It has been cultivated in various locales around the world including Mexico and Hawaii. It is able to survive much colder temperatures than many cacti. Huachuma was the sacrament that formed the foundation for pre-Incan civilization, the Chavin people. The medicine is often described as having a Grandfather spirit, and the Chavin tradition has kept ceremony alive for ~4000 years. “Para el bien de todos” For the good of all- is the spirit of Chavin, the origin of the Huachuma. Although Roman Catholic church authorities after the Spanish conquest attempted to suppress its use, this failed, as shown by the Christian element in the common name “San Pedro cactus” (Saint Peter) cactus. The name is attributed to the belief that just as St Peter holds the keys to heaven, the effects of the cactus allow users “to reach heaven while still on earth.”
In 2022, the Peruvian Ministry of Culture declared the traditional use of San Pedro cactus in northern Peru as a cultural heritage.
This medicine is often described as a teacher, that can teach you or perhaps remind you of what you have been missing in the course of your busy modern existence. Cultivating huachuma cacti is legal in most countries, yet the consumption is another matter. Go figure out the logic on that one. As a side note- Encouragingly there is a movement to decriminalize all plant-based medicines. https://www.decriminalizenature.org/
What makes San Pedro special though is that people will often report having sustained inspiration to resolve and make long-lasting changes in their lives after their experiences. There is also a quality of heart activation but without the comedown often associated with heart activating stimulants. The plant teacher huachuma has also been described as being able to calm the mind along with that heart activation. The visionary aspects are also intriguing but not often the focal point in the experience. Also intriguing is the possibility of enabling telepathic or prophetic abilities, but that is not the focus of this paper.
San Pedro is a neglected yet important medicine for healing that is able to catalyze positive shifts in people’s lives. It is a much more sustainable and attainable medicine than peyote. More study is needed but compelling testimonials are already showing us that this medicine has profound potential for deep healing and transformation. The most profound gift of San Pedro may well be the expansion in awareness it gives us.
The active ingredient in SanPedro is mescaline. The mild yet somewhat nauseating brew is capable of inducing profound and long lasting experiences. For many people who have experienced a well-made Huachuma brew, they often share that their heart just opened wide. They’ll say that for around the 7-10 hours that the journey lasts, the plant shows you pure, unconditional, divine love that’s able to heal your soul on a deep level. Having had experiences myself I can share that there is definitely a quality of heart activation and that it can definitely be a substance that allows one to still be active.
Sex could certainly be enhanced (most likely in a deep soulful relationship) but typically it’s not thought of as an aphrodisiac. The onset can often be slow and the medicine has a way of creeping up on you. Those who are impatient for effects to manifest should be careful since they could take more and then end up with an extremely long journey. A wise way of taking San Pedro is to take it early in the day so that one is not kept awake by the effects later on.
Don’t underestimate the importance of preparation and of ceremony with others. Traditional healers will often consume purgatives orally and through the nostrils in order to clear the way for an even more meaningful and impactful experience. The San Pedro experience is empowering in itself, because, no matter how desperate the condition he is seeking healing for, or how loose or temporal the community he joins, the patient understands, simply by being present, that he is not alone and can take comfort from those around him. This, in itself, may provide some relief from the stress of his illness or, at least, a sort of social support by which he can better cope with it. It is always powerful, psychologically-speaking, to know that our problems are shared – or, at least, that others have problems too – and gives a sense of combined strength and new resources to cope with them.
While San Pedro has a long history of safe use, like any psychedelic, it comes with risks. There is always the chance of being destabilized by psychedelic use, particularly if someone has a history of psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other serious mental health concerns. That being said, San Pedro isn’t considered addictive: quite the opposite. Researchers are exploring mescaline as a potential treatment for addiction. There was a study done that found no evidence of psychological or cognitive deficits among Native Americans that use peyote regularly in a religious setting. (1) While this is a different substance, the active ingredient is the same. Lifetime mescaline/peyote use was significantly associated with a lower rate of psychiatric medication prescription in a 2013 survey (2) of over 130,000 people. It was also associated with lower rates of generalized anxiety (ie agoraphobia). Anything that can help alleviate fear is a major benefit in today’s world. Although correlation is not causation, the benefits do seem to be supported by the limited research available. In addition, as peyote, mescaline has long been used in traditional ceremonial contexts to treat alcoholism. It’s interesting to note that while alcohol abuse rates among the Navajo and other Native American tribes are said to be roughly twice the U.S. average, they are significantly lower among NAC (Native American Church) members.
The “maximum safe dose” of mescaline, according to Ott, is 1000 mg. In the strongest huachuma, ~2% of the weight is actual mescaline. Assume the worst (best) about your cactus, that it is H&B’s 2.375% (dry), the most powerful pachanoi known to science. You would therefore not want to take more than 714 gms (fresh), or about 1 1/2 lbs.
Microdosing huachuma is a new development and a break from the macrodosing traditions of the ancient healers. Whether you choose to macro or microdose with this medicine, it’s strongly recommended to treat this substance with reverence and not use it too recreationally. Having a spiritual focus and proper preparation will help you get the most from it.
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Book – The Hummingbird’s Journey to God- Perspectives on San Pedro, the Cactus of Vision & Andean Soul Healing Methods