All About The San Pedro Cactus

San Pedro (Echinopsis Pachanoi)

With a deep and rich history in shamanic practice, San Pedro is a great addition to any psychonaut’s hallucinogenic garden.

When it comes to psychedelics, there is a whole world of trippy life out there. One such example is the San Pedro cactus, a traditional South American hallucinogen that has been used for thousands of years during shamanic rituals. This mescaline containing cactus has held a place in the hearts of many seasoned psychonauts for a long time, so we thought we would put together a brief guide to everything you need to know about it.


The San Pedro cactus grows with tall green pillars that each have 4-9 ribbons. It grows relatively fast (for a cactus), and continues to grow until it topples under its own weight. Once toppled, it then re-roots out of the fallen columns, and begins growing again – often with even more branches and a deeper root base than before. This adaptability and ease with which it grows is the reason San Pedro is such a popular base for grafting other cacti.

The majority of the mescaline content is found directly under the skin, and increases in abundance with age and heat exposure from the sun.

According to Erowid, the mescaline content of San Pedro is 1-10 % of dried material. Other substances in San Pedro besides Mescaline are: Tyramine, Hordinenine, 3-Methoxytyramine, Anhalaninine and Anhalonidine.


For many, the real interest is going to be the actual trip you can have using the San Pedro cactus. So let’s get into it.

Ingesting prepared San Pedro causes strong and vivid hallucinations, as well as the expanding of the consciousness. As a result, the experience can both be visually intensive, as well as soul searching. Common effects are, among others: return of long-forgotten memories, extreme sensitiveness to light, ability to see and feel every ray of light and hear sounds from far away.  It makes the overall experience extremely spiritual and insightful. About 1-2 hours after ingestion of San Pedro its effects start rolling - and will remain present for 8-15 hours.

The effects of San Pedro are, compared to Peyote, much more pleasant and the peak experience is less mind-boggling and not nearly as physical. San Pedro tastes only slightly bitter, and the obligatory nausea that goes hand in hand with Peyote is not as likely to occur.

San Pedro can make users feel nauseous and even cause vomiting before the trip kicks in. This is traditionally seen as a cleansing: making sure your body and spirit are “clean” for the trip it is about to go on. Should you experience this, do not worry, it is normal.

Have a trip sitter with you - an experienced, but sober person, for your support and safety! Stay out of traffic while under the influence of San Pedro. Use this cactus in a familiar and safe environment and never trip all by yourself. In case of panic or a bad trip with fear attacks, Seresta or Valium help bring the fear down to a manageable level.


San Pedro is traditionally prepared by cooking of pieces (buttons) of the whole cactus for a long time - depending on the results intended by the shaman, some herbs, like Micha (Brugmansia Suavenolens) and Cimorillo (Coleus Blumei) are added to the concoction.

The regular way of ingesting San Pedro is using 20 to 50 grams of dry plant material. Cut the cactus in coins of about 1cm thickness, remove the thorns and woodsy parts and put them in the sun to let them dry out. When those buttons are totally dry, grind them up - this simplifies ingestion of the material and avoids stomach problems..

San Pedro can, just like certain magic mushrooms and other psychoactive substances, cause a kind of hangover before the trip really begins. Temporary dizziness and nausea are not seldom and it is likely to throw up. Therefore, it is recommended not to eat for at least 6 hours before consuming San Pedro.

However, with the use of a blender, this process can be made much more efficient. For those of you who have a San Pedro Cactus, and want to put it to use, here is how.

  1. Cut your cactus into slices. You should end up with star shaped pieces. Further cut these slices into quarters.

  2. Place the sliced up San Pedro in a blender with an equal amount of water. (i.e. If your cut up San Pedro fills half a container, also add half a container of water into the blender).

  3. Blend up the cactus and water mixture. If you have a lot, then do it multiple goes, as the mixture will likely foam up rather quickly.

  4. Pour the mixture into a large pan. When you have all of it, heat it on a low heat. At first, the cactus will begin to separate from the water, but as continues to cook, it will meld together again. During this process, keep a close eye on it, as the foam will likely bubble up and could spill out. When the cactus pulp and water begin to meld again, it is important to stir it. Low heat and stirring are very important for this first phase of cooking (which usually takes 30-60 minutes).

  5. Eventually, the consistency of the mix will turn into a foamy gloop, as the water and pulp fully meld.

  6. Increase the heat slightly to bring it to a simmer, but not so high that it boils over.

  7. Allow the mix to simmer for 2-4 hours. Over this time, it is important to check up on the mix. If it is reducing too quickly, then add a little water to bolster it up. You should end up with a reduced syrupy, gloopy glue like substance.

  8. Get some muslin or cheesecloth, and place it over the top of a container.  Pour your reduced cactus gloop onto the muslin. Close the cloth around the gloop and suspend it above the container.

  9. Allow it all to cool and drain through the muslin into the container.

  10. Once done, you can open up the muslin to reveal the remaining pulp. This can be squeezed out and thrown away, as the psychoactive substance has now been extracted.

The liquid in your container is now ready to drink. Enjoy the trip!

Growing San Pedro At Home

Growing San Pedro

The plant only needs water and some nutrients. San Pedro likes it warm and bright. The hills it usually grows on have nutrient-rich soil, so add some every now, but not too much, because after all it still is a cactus. When cultivating this cactus indoors, make sure it receives direct sunlight - the best place for it is a window sill on the south-side. On really hot days it will appreciate a bit of extra water.

If you grow from a cutting, you will have to dry it first - until its cutting wound has "healed" - and then let it root in the ground before it starts growing; this can take up to a year. Growing from seeds requires a lot of time and effort, but can be very rewarding!


History Of The San Pedro

Sacred Valley, Peru

The San Pedro cactus has been with us a long time. Being native to the Andes Mountain range, it is estimated that it has undergone continual shamanic use in Peru for over 3’000 years. The earliest depictions of the San Pedro cactus can be found in an ancient Chavín temple in the northern reaches of Peru, in which a mythical creature is shown holding the cactus – archaeologists have dated the drawing to roughly 1’300 BC! Backing up the notion was the discovery of a Chavín refuse site, which had archaeological remains of cigars made from San Pedro.

In addition to being used for visionary shamanic practices, the San Pedro cactus was also used as a traditional medicine, which even Catholic missionaries grudgingly accepted as having healing properties. Christian Rätsch made the following remark in his writings:

“It is a plant with whose aid the devil is able to strengthen the Indians in their idolatry; those who drink its juice lose their senses and are as if dead; they are almost carried away by the drink and dream a thousand unusual things and believe that they are true. The juice is good against burning of the kidneys and, in small amounts, is also good against high fever, hepatitis, and burning in the bladder.”

Despite this disdain, the San Pedro cactus actually became named after a Christian saint, with many believing Saint Peter used the visions of the cactus to find the keys to heaven!

Fortunately, unlike other hallucinogens, the practice of using San Pedro for its psychoactive content remains as strong today as it ever was – for whatever reason, it largely managed to avoid the attention of Catholic settlers, which nearly wiped out the use of other hallucinogens in the region. It is even legal to possess in many countries, as long as it is not intended for consumption (but always check first!). In Peru, and among other traditional Southern American cultures, its use has evolved to keep up with the times, now also being used to treat such things like alcoholism and addiction.

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