Huachuma – San Pedro, is known for and has a history of medicinal and shamanic use – huachumeros a male shaman or Huachureras a female shaman. (try to pronounce huachureras correctly and really quickly 10 times in a row!)
The plant is native to the Andes mountains especially around the regions of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia but has made its way across the world, as most healing/medicinal plants do. San Pedro, the sacred cactus and visionary teacher plant of the South Americas is also known as “El Remedio” referring to its healing and ‘visionary’ powers. The ingredient that distinguishes and attracts people to this cacti and also its well-known cousin Peyote, is Mescaline. Peyote is a small spineless cactus with a blue-green stem divided by five to 13 ribs. The cactus crown has disc-shaped buttons that are cut from the plant, sliced, and dried. The adult cactus measures around 4-11cm in diameter and grows 2-6 cm tall.
A characteristic of these types of Cacti are its alkaloid contents, a dried peyote button contains about 8% alkaloids of which almost 2.4% is mescaline, which is classified as a hallucinogen (Drug Enforcement Administration USA 2006) However, it is said the actual effects of ingestion are comparatively mild, one does not lose consciousness, nor do extreme hallucinations occur, but rather that you may experience vivid colors, tactile sensitivity and sometimes altered emotional states, usually euphoric (Sounds pretty trippy to me!) The initial effects after consumption is often nausea followed by a euphoric, thoughtful, or meditative state.
So to break it down in simple terms: This plant does come with a warning label. (Just like the medication from your G.P) Mescaline, should you choose to use it a certain way, can be a psychedelic or hallucinogenic drug that’s use can lead to altered perceptions, which can last from 8-10 hours.
The medicinal uses of these plants rest on a fairly sound biochemical foundation. Taken in small doses, these plants are a mild stimulant and can also reduce appetite. Peyote itself contains peyocactin, a water soluble crystalline substance that possesses antiseptic/antibiotic properties against a variety of bacteria. Another constituent of peyote, hordenine, inhibits the growth of several strains of Staphylococcus bacteria that are otherwise resistant to penicillin. Interesting to know the Tarahumara people applied peyote to bites, burns, wounds, and aching muscles. The Tarahumara who are legendary for their long distance runners, chewed fragments of peyote buttons during their epic foot races, which could span over days and long distances from village to village (around 80km!) No wonder that Peyote/San Pedro was consumed or applied in small doses for a variety of cures.
In our region and on our farm, San Pedro’s flourish due to their hardiness. I have been amazed at their ability to have survived under harsh, dry and hot conditions. They are fairly easily cultivated and can be potted, or placed directly into the ground. When the adults flower it is a spectacular flower to see and the thorny variety of cacti in this family also make for fantastic and natural security fences/hedges that require minimum maintenance! I have also started planting them around the veggie gardens where they will eventually (crossing fingers and toes) also act as wind barriers and provide shade to the more sensitive varieties of crops. For my purpose, it will take an extensive amount of time. Should you choose to pot your plant make sure it receives ample amounts of sunshine. It will appreciate a nice warm windowsill. San or Saint…it’s up to you.