Trichocereus-species are fast-growing, easily obtainable, often used as a base for grafting and easily grown from seeds.
Use: One piece of a diameter of about 7.5 cm and a length of 15–27 cm is cut off, peeled and eaten. The part, which adheres to the inside of the skin, is scraped off and also eaten, since it contains a strong concentration of active substances.
Following the traditional method, one piece per person of about 15 to 25 cm, from which the core and the vellum-like outer skin is removed, is cooked for around 6 hours. The brew is finished when the cooked cactus can be passed completely through a strainer. The liquid obtained this way has an extremely disgusting taste. The Indians who consume it, can probably only tolerate this because of the ritual setting, in which the intake occurs.
Active substances: Mescaline and lower amounts of secondary alkaloids. The concentration of active substances as noted in the literature varies strongly; stated are 0.1 percent mescaline, referring to the fresh weight; up to 0.3 percent in reference to the dried cactus. The normal dose used amounts in the case of mescaline to 0.1 to 0.5 grams. Cacti available commercially vary strongly in substance content. Even plants from the same nursery, grown during different times, have shown extreme differences: starting from distinctly effective to almost without effect.
Effects: See Lophophora williamsii.
Side Effects: Some people become nauseous from the use of mescaline. It is advised to take mescaline-containing substances slowly, in divided doses over a time period of 45 minutes. Be warned of liver damage and death by respiratory standstill starting at more than around 1.5 grams of mescaline.
Suppliers: Cactus-nurseries. San Pedro is more often found than the “classic” mescaline-cactus Anhalonium lewinii or Lophophora williamsii.
Miscellaneous: Mescaline is listed in the various narcotic drugs acts. Therefore it is advised against the intake of mescaline-containing material. The legality of the possession of plants differs from one country to another. Strange enough, some countries ban the possession of Peyote, but it’s legal to grow San Pedro.
Harvesting, drying, and the manufacture of extracts of mescaline-containing cacti can legally be judged as punishable extraction of narcotics. Detailed information about the effects of mescaline and about hallucinogenic drugs in general can be found in the corresponding sections in the second part of this book. Occasionally it is presumed that San Pedro (or other cacti) contain strychnine. That is erroneous.