Bolivian Torch (Echinopsis lageniformis)
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Bolivian Torch: The Psychoactive Cactus Of The Four Winds

3 min
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Psychoactive plants have a long history among many of the world's ancient cultures. In this post we take an in-depth look at the cactus of the four winds, an ultra rare of psychoactive species native to South America, including its origins and the legend surrounding its power.

Psychoactive plants have a long history as central ingredients in religious or spiritual practices among many of the world’s oldest cultures.

Native Americans, for example, are believed to have used peyote, a small spineless cactus rich in mescaline, for up to 5,000 years. The indigenous people of the Amazonas relied on ayahuasca, a DMT-rich brew made from local plants, as a principle ingredient in spiritual ceremonies for centuries.

But there is one psychoactive plant that is believed to trump all others. A rare species of cacti, known as the Cactus De Los Cuatro Vientos (cactus of the four winds), is believed to harness huge concentrations of mescaline and other alkaloids, giving it unique benefits and psychoactive properties.

Read on for more information about this unique South American cactus, it’s origins, and the legend surrounding its powers. 



The Cactus De Los Cuatro Vientos is a special type of cactus native to South America. Its specific taxonomy, as we’ll see later on in this article, is highly debated. Its psychoactive power is, without a doubt, said to be otherworldly.

Ethnobotanist and anthropologist Wade Davis labels it as a “a plant so powerful that it could annihilate consciousness, transform body into spirit, crack open the sky”. Italian historian Mario Polia says that whoever finds the cactus of the four winds is believed to be “a great shaman or destined to become one”.

This extremely rare cactus, characterized by having only four ribs along its stems, holds a special place in the ancient cultures of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

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The earliest references to the cactus of the four winds date back thousands of years. In the late 20th century, Peruvian archaeologist Rosa Fung excavated ceremonial sites in Las Aldas, a large archaeological complex located roughly 300km from Lima, Peru, that dates back to roughly 2,200 BCE.

According to El Mundo Magico, her excavations uncovered remains of the famous cactus in forms of cigars.

An ancient temple engraving, ceramic vases, and textiles dating as far back as roughly 1,200 BCE are also commonly used references to demonstrate the role of the cactus of the four winds in ancient culture.

The temple engraving was found at Chavín de Huantar, an archaeological site occupied by the Chavin, a major pre-Incan culture. It features a mythical being holding the cactus in its outstretched right hand.

The being has jaguar claws protruding from its feet and is said to be evidence that the Chavin were part of an ancient cult worshipping the jaguar as a god. The fact that the being is holding the cactus of the four winds suggests how central the plant was to religious ceremonies practiced by this cult.

According to El Mundo Magico, Chavin textiles dating back to the first millennium BCE also show the cactus in association with the jaguar and a hummingbird. In his book “Wizard of The Four Winds,” American archaeologist and professor at the University of California Douglas Sharon writes that these animals carried great meaning to ancient shamans.

In his book, Sharon dedicates a whole chapter to the cactus of the four winds and the exploration of its place in the ancient world.

“Four-ribbed cacti, like four-leafed clovers, are considered to be very rare and very lucky, they are believed to have special curative properties because they correspond to the four winds’ and the four roads’ supernatural powers associated with the cardinal points invoked during curing rituals”, he writes.

Native Peruvian healers believe that the four winds associate with the four cardinal directions of the compass: North, a place of power and strong magnetism, symbolic of the North Pole; South, a place of action and strength, symbolic of the strong southern winds; West, a place of death where the sun dies into the sea, and East, a place of rebirth, where it emerges again.

The Incas also divided their empire into four regions, and built four roads leading from Cuzco to each individual division. According to El Mundo Magico, the four quarters of the empire converged in Cuzco, seen as the centre of the world, as Delphi for the ancient Greeks.



The cactus of the four winds is historically a four-ribbed cactus whose specific taxonomy is highly debated.

The process for distinguishing between different, seemingly similar species of cacti is extremely complex and tedious. According to Vice, taxonomists looking to classify differents species of Trichocereus, the genus of the cactus of the four winds, will consider a species’ maximal height, width, rib count, number of spines (as well as their length, girth, and angle), and many more variables.

The article in El Mundo Magico referenced throughout this post argues that the cactus belongs to the San Pedro species (Echinopsis pachanoi), a type of cactus known for containing a variety of alkaloids, including mescaline, giving it strong psychoactive effects.

However, chemical analysis show that the Bolivian torch cactus (Echinopsis lageniformis) contains much higher levels of mescaline than the San Pedro. Hence, it is most likely that the real Cactus De Los Cuatro Vientos is in fact a Bolivian torch.

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Four-ribbed samples of either species are extremely hard to come by, with native healers in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia most commonly using cacti with up to seven ribs. 


Written by: Zamnesia
Zamnesia has spent years honing its products, ranges, and knowledge of all things psychedelic. Driven by the spirit of Zammi, Zamnesia strives to bring you accurate, factual, and informative content.

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