With mescaline cacti is simply meant, cactus species that produce and contain the psychedelic drug mescaline. Known by manifold ethnographic work, the mescaline cacti Peyote and San Pedro have both become famous as inebriation and ritual plants, as well as medicinal plants worldwide. If we were to propose the existence of these two types deals with the mescaline cacti, however, we'd wrongly believe in a huge mistake. For there are, besides the two known representatives, a whole series of other cactus plants containing mescaline. And partly in large quantities.
The far-most known are definitely Lophophora williamsii, also called Peyote, peyotl, pellote, híkuli, hikuri, mescalito, brandy head and drug cactus and Echinopsis pachanoi known as San Pedro, which was until recently still called Trichocereus pachanoi and is popularly also named Simora, Aguacolla and Kachum.
Peyote is ritually used in the New World since prehistoric times, mostly in the circle ritual, known as Peyote meetings. The oldest discoveries of Peyote buttons are from Texas and are about 6000 years old. Lophophora occurs from Texas to Mexico and to this day is a holy sacrament of some tribes and faiths, for example, the Huichol and the Native American Church. The cultural significance of this cactus absolutely can not be overestimated. Indigenous peoples served and serves the Peyote sacrament as a universal savior. The cactus is used as medicine, inebriate plant, shamans plant, floral teacher, cultural pacemaker and more.
End of the 19th Century Peyote was recorded botanically, Arthur Heffter and Louis Lewin provided the chemical and psychonautic analysis. Peyote is the best researched ethnobotanical ritual plant we know. About no other plant with visionary properties so many reports have been written, as about Lophophora williamsii and the related species. Peyote contains approximately 60 different alkaloids, namely beta-phenethylamines. The most important one of these is the entheogenic, psychedelically effective 3,4,5-trimethoxy-beta-phenethylamine, better known as mescaline.
The San Pedro is, just like Peyote, a entheogenic sacrament, but originates in Peru. Today it can be found as cultivated crop in large parts of the Andean region. Unlike Lophophora, which is listed as ball cactus, is San Pedro a columnar cactus. The plant is, after a taxonomic revision, botanically called Echinopsis pachanoi, but was formerly called Trichocereus pachanoi. It is to this day often still called so. A related cactus, also from Peru, Echinopsis peruviana (Trichocereus peruvianus, Peruvian Torch), is also called San Pedro and is also a mescaline cacti. San Pedro contains, among others, several beta-phenethylamines, including high amounts of mescaline. The drug concentrations fluctuate greatly from plant to plant. The most potent ones are the younger specimens, but not the very young. Lignifying San Pedro contains less mescaline than fresh green, younger ones. Echinopsis peruviana is much more potent than Echinopsis pachanoi.
There has been much less reported about San Pedro than, for example, about Peyote. One reason could be, that the zealous missionary conquistadors have missed the cactus as a ritual plant. San Pedro mainly an entheogen used for ritual purposes. As ethno-medicine, the Cactus has acquired no special significance, at least not such immense as Peyote. San Pedro is occasionally used as a tonic and aphrodisiac.
A cactus often mentioned in connection with Peyote and San Pedro, is the Doñana or Dona-Ana cactus Coryphantha macromeris. It is called Mulato, also belongs to the indigenous sacred plants and is used for entheogenic purposes. It does not contain mescaline, but Macromerin and other (psychoactive) phenethylamines. Macromerin induces effects similar to mescaline, only weaker.
There are many different psychoactive cacti. Out of 70 species, currently about 300 cactus plants are known to include the psychoactive agents. And it does not always necessarily have to be mescaline. There are a variety of other psychoactive compounds detectable in the cacti or their detection is still pending. For the most part, the substances of the plants are actually not yet researched.
For example, we know through ethnobotanical research about Epithelantha micromeris and its fruits, the Chilitos, that are consumed by Indians, together with the psychoactive mini cactus for doping purposes, because they act as stimulants. Earlier on we talked about the Doñana cactus Coryphantha macromeris. Some cacti contain caffeine, such as Harrissia adscendens, Leocereus bahiensis and Cereus jamacaru (contains mescaline as well). Other fairly well known psychoactive cacti are Ariocarpus species with their numerous phenethylamines, which are regarded as "maddening drugs," the bishops' mitres, of those their operating principles are still unknown, the Opuntia, which contain many substances etc. Echinocereus triglochidiatus shall even contain the potent psychedelics 5-MeO-DMT. Many cacti can also be used for therapeutic purposes, a good number of cactus plants are edible. Cacti are versatile ethnobotanical plants.
The term Fake Peyote does not mean faked cacti are sold. Fake Peyote is an indigenous term for plants that act and/or are used alike Peyote. This must, though, not contain mescaline, but can definitely house other substances. For instance, many species of these cacti Mammillaria, Ariocarpus, Obregonia, Aztekium, Pelecyphora and Turbinicarpus, but also non-cacti plants, for example, a Tillandsia species, various ragwort species and many more.
Dealing with the botanical naming is not always easy. It is generally like that, but especially with the cacti, it is a real back and forth This is partly because there is no binding recognized system, so to speak, but each cook cooks his own soup. San Pedro and his relatives were until recently still listed under the generic name Trichocereus, but now they belong to the Echinopsis genus. Formerly they were grouped to the Cereus genus. And off you go to the confusion: The mescaline containing Pterocereen are suddenly available as Stenocereus and the also psychoactive agent housing Dolichothele genus has been completely moved to the Mammillaria genus. Further examples could be added arbitrarily.
The researchers and users will be facing a problem then. What if, for example, one has the old, long common nomenclature in mind, but the commerce is already working with the new one? What if the situation was reversed? Without brand new cacti guide or detailed knowledge of the current situation, you are often in a fix. But it gets even more complicated. Even when it comes to the diversity of a species, there is disagreement: for example, with the Lophophora (Peyote) genus. Some claim there is only the species of Lophophora Williamsii with its varieties Lutea and Williamsii, others opinion are, that in addition to that, there are, apart from the Williamsii, at least the species of Lophophora Fricii, Lophophora Diffusa and Lophophora JourDiana. How ever the botany of the plant is divided the most rational - all species and varieties contain mescaline and other phenethylamines.