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Sacred Cacti: Part One – PEYOTE

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in this article
  • Introduction
  • Historical Interference
  • Scientific Exploration
  • Peyote and its Alkaloids
  • Therapeutic Potential
  • Preparation and Consumption
  • Conclusion

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Chemical Collective or any associated parties.


When I delved into the world of mescaline, I didn’t expect to uncover a tale filled with such injustice. Mescaline, a substance present in the revered cacti Peyote and San Pedro, has held a special place in the hearts of Native American tribes in Mexico and the people of the Andes since ancient times. It isn’t seen as a drug but rather a sacred tool for life and spiritual connection, cherished for its ability to impart wisdom and foster a profound communion with the divine. This first article will focus on Peyote.

Historical Interference

The arrival of missionaries and pioneers marked a tragic turning point. These outsiders callously disrupted the sacred bond between indigenous communities and mescaline, shattering a tradition rooted in love and reverence. Yet, despite their efforts to erase it, they couldn’t completely extinguish its presence. Instead, mescaline was driven underground, practised in secrecy for generations, as those who held its teachings close did so away from prying eyes.

But amidst the darkness, a glimmer of hope emerged with the formation of the Native American Church. Here, the sacred tradition of mescaline found a new home, allowing its practitioners to reclaim their cultural heritage and spiritual connection in a more open and accepting environment. Though the journey has been fraught with challenges, the resilient spirit of these communities perseveres, keeping alive the legacy of Mescaline’s profound teachings and the enduring power of spiritual connection.

Scientific Exploration

In the late 1880s, the southern railway made its grand entrance, bringing Peyote to the southern plains. Bringing with it the Native American church. It was during these vibrant ceremonies that Western scientists had their first encounters with Peyote, immersing themselves in the experience alongside indigenous practitioners.

This unique convergence of cultures opened doors for scientific exploration into Peyote’s effects and cultural significance. Scientists, captivated by its role in spiritual practices, eagerly delved into studying its properties and potential benefits. As they gained insights, Peyote’s importance within the Native American Church became increasingly recognised, leading to the establishment of rights for its religious use. This not only solidified its place in indigenous spirituality but also laid the groundwork for its legal protection, ensuring that its sacred status was respected and preserved.

The isolation of mescaline from the Peyote cactus is attributed to Arthur Heffter, a German pharmacologist. Heffter’s groundbreaking experiments in the late 19th century led to the publication of his findings in 1897, detailing the chemical structure and effects of mescaline.

Peyote and its Alkaloids

As well as Mescaline, Peyote also contains other alkaloids, albeit in smaller quantities they include.

Hordenine: Hordenine is a natural phenethylamine alkaloid found in various plants, including peyote. It is structurally related to mescaline and has been suggested to have mild stimulant effects.

Tyramine: Tyramine is another phenethylamine alkaloid present in peyote. It is a naturally occurring compound found in many foods and has been implicated in various physiological processes in the body.

N-Methyltyramine: N-Methyltyramine is a derivative of tyramine and is also found in peyote. It is structurally related to other phenylethylamine alkaloids and may have some psychoactive properties, although its effects are not as well-studied as those of mescaline.

Therapeutic Potential

Since its discovery within Peyote, mescaline has transcended its role as a spiritual sacrament, captivating scientists and unlocking avenues for psychological exploration. As researchers delved deeper into its effects, mescaline revealed itself as a potential tool for understanding the human mind and offering therapeutic benefits.

Psychologically, mescaline has been found to induce fascinating altered states of consciousness, filled with vivid hallucinations and deep introspection. These experiences often lead to profound insights, helping individuals tackle emotional hurdles, process trauma, and grapple with life’s big questions.

Beyond its spiritual and psychological insights, mescaline has shown promise in treating various mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Its knack for inducing mystical experiences and feelings of interconnectedness with the world has researchers intrigued about its potential for deep healing on a spiritual level.

Ernst Späth, an Austrian chemist, achieved the synthesis of mescaline in 1919, opening up new avenues for research into its pharmacological properties and applications. Späth’s success in producing mescaline in laboratory settings facilitated further exploration into its effects, paving the way for advancements in the fields of pharmacology and psychology.

But mescaline’s influence doesn’t stop there, it is also being explored for its ability to alleviate physical ailments like cluster headaches and chronic pain. Plus, its impact on serotonin receptors has scientists hopeful about its potential for treating substance abuse and enhancing psychotherapy practices.

Mescaline’s journey from sacred ritual to scientific study showcases the fascinating overlap between spirituality, psychology, and medicine. With ongoing research, there’s a growing sense of optimism about the therapeutic possibilities mescaline holds for those seeking healing and transformation, both mentally and spiritually.

Preparation and Consumption

Fresh Peyote can be eaten fresh from the ground, and in some ceremonies, participants ride out into the desert to search for their own medicine. The buttons are hard to find and grow under thorny bushes. Once the cacti are gathered, it is either eaten in the desert or taken back to the village. It has a bitter taste, and it is best chewed well to release the compounds in the skin. It is said to be stronger when dried and the first effects take effect between 30 and 90 minutes as the active compounds are fresh and alive.

Dried After harvesting, the peyote buttons are typically dried to preserve them for storage and consumption. They are laid out in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and allowed to air dry. Drying times can vary depending on environmental conditions but it usually takes several days to a week for the buttons to dry completely.

Some methods include grinding the dried buttons into a powder or soaking them in water to make a tea-like infusion.

Consumption Peyote is usually consumed orally. If the peyote buttons are ground into a powder, they may be ingested directly or mixed with water or another beverage. If prepared as a tea, the liquid is strained, and the resulting infusion is consumed. The initial effects of dried peyote typically start about an hour after consumption and can last for several hours.

In the past, Peyote was abundant in the deserts and traded with other tribes in Mexico. However, its availability has significantly declined due to its popularity, leading to over-farming and poaching.


To conclude then, the power and future potential of Peyote cannot be denied. The scientific study of mescaline-containing cacti is still in its infancy, but the therapeutic potential of these substances seems huge. Follow on for part two, in which I will discuss the ancient spiritual tradition of the San Pedro cactus.


Debra Wilkinson | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective

Debra is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to David via email at: blog@chemical-collective.com

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13 days ago

i didn’t know multiple species of cacti contained mescaline… very cool!

1 month ago

omg the gta plant

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