Methods to concentrate and increase alkaloid levels

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Methods to concentrate and increase alkaloid levels

Cacti are great to have around and make for a great landscaping plant. But if you are after the alkaloid content, there’s a couple of things you can do it increase it.

Cacti produce these alkaloids as a defense mechanism against stressors, so it is possible to enhance their content by applying controlled external stress to them.

Stressing out your cacti can be a fine line to walk – stressing them out too much can result in their death. It should also be noted that cacti have slow metabolism, so it can take an entire growing season for alkaloid levels to make any significant rise. Here are a few methods that can take the cacti to the next level.

Water deprivation

This is probably the most common method used to boost alkaloid content. Cacti can be starved of water in order to apply stress and cause alkaloid creation. Some anecdotal reports suggest not watering cacti at all for an entire season prior to harvest to create a large boost.


It is believed that leaving your San Pedro cacti in full shade (but not darkness) for a few months prior to harvest boosts the concentration of alkaloids present.


Too much direct sunlight can cause cacti to develop sunburn. This will definitely stress them out, but it is worth noting that sunburn can be fatal to cacti. Consider leaving one or two San Pedro cacti out in direct sunlight for a few hours a day, and observe how they react before committing your whole crop.


Exposing San Pedro cacti to uncomfortable levels of heat (above 35 degrees Celsius) for extended periods of time can also stress them out, boosting alkaloid levels. Once again, be careful not to overdo it.


Extra nitrogen can be fed to cacti in order to enhance the concentration of alkaloids. Excess nitrogen can draw water out of the cacti, thus applying stress. Be careful though, high levels of nitrogen can cause a nutrient burn.

Chemical doping

Recent lab research has found that increasing the levels of alkaloid precursors in cacti cause a significant and rapid increase in the actual level of alkaloids themselves. The main precursor of interest is dopamine, which is turned by San Pedro into mescaline. It is possible to create a dopamine solution and inject it into a cactus prior to harvest to boost mescaline levels.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Do not water your cactus for 2 weeks prior to the doping.

2. Prepare a saturated solution of free-base dopamine in a .05 N solution of hydrochloric acid. If you can't find any dopamine, it is possible to use a mixture of tyramine and dopa, which the cactus will convert into dopamine.

3. Pull 5cc of the solution into a syringe.

4. Inject half on it under the plant around the roots. Inject the other half into the green tissue at the base of the cactus, and at several other points up the stem. Do this slowly and leave the needle in the tissue for a few seconds to allow for absorption.

5. Wait 4-8 weeks for the dopamine to be transformed into mescaline by the cactus.

6. The cactus can now be harvested, or the process of doping can be repeated to increase the alkaloid content further.

There you have it! You should now have all the knowledge you require to become a fully-fledged cactus grower!