Eloquently perched along the eastern slopes of the Andean mountains, grows a tall columnar cactus. Flourishing at altitudes of around 6,500 – 9,800 feet, it has been utilized by indigenous cultures of South America for eons. Revered for its mystical healing properties and ceremonial uses, this beautiful species of cactus contains potent alkaloids and is a powerful psychedelic.
What Is Huachuma?
Known as Huachuma in the indigenous Quechua language and more commonly referred to as San Pedro (Trichocereus/Echinopsis pachanoi), it can be found all across the Andean Mountain range in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Huachuma is so sacred to ancient Andean cultures that it is believed to have been the principal focus of the Chavin culture in Northern Peru. A carving found at the Jaguar Temple at Chavin de Huantar depicts a shaman holding a Huachuma cactus and is believed to date back around 1300BC.
Containing the active ingredient mescaline, alongside other synergistic alkaloids, it can produce powerful visions and has been known to treat a number of ailments including depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Traditional Uses of Huachuma
This sacred plant medicine has been utilized and revered in Peru for thousands of years. Still consumed to this day, it is known as the “Cactus of The Four Winds,” believed to open a portal between our world and other heavenly dimensions. Its more common name, San Pedro (Saint Peter), is the christianized label given to the cactus by Spanish conquistadors when they ravaged the South American continent back in the late 1400s.
Its ceremonial use stretches across cultures and has been used throughout time to treat illness and make contact with otherworldly realms. The Chavin culture, Peru’s earliest developed civilization and the foundation for all Andean civilizations to come, worshipped Huachuma. It played a central role in the culture which lasted from roughly 1500 – 200 BC.
At the main temple of Chavin de Huantar, people would congregate just to commune with the sacred cactus. The temple consisted of a long dark maze, in which those initiated with the medicine would navigate. As they spent hours wandering through the temple, the priests and shamans would play tantalizing sounds from traditional instruments which added to the mystery and overall experience. As the initiates neared the end of the pilgrimage, they were greeted with a massive 15ft motif that depicted the “Lanzon,” carved to resemble a fanged god covered in snakes. This ceremony would allow the initiates to develop a stronger spiritual connection and enable them to communicate with their higher gods and goddesses.
While the Chavin culture is the earliest known civilization to utilize the sacred cactus, it was not the only one. All throughout northwestern South America, archaeologists have found evidence of its use. The coastal cultures of Northern Peru (Nazca & Paracas) would decorate their ceramic burial vessels with depictions of the cactus. The famous Nazca mummies were even found with Huachuma coming out of their shoulders, “symbols that the deceased would be born again out of darkness, just as the cactus blossom emerges in the early hours before dawn.” Evidence suggests that the cactus was used by all cultures of this region, all the way up to the most recent ancient Andean culture – the Inca.
Ceremonial Use Today
In Peru, Huachuma is still used in ceremony and to treat a number of ailments, disorders, and diseases. Known as a “teacher plant” it produces a powerful psychedelic effect and empowers the user to tap into their higher potential and develop a stronger connection to nature.
The cactus is prepared by removing the spines and stripping the outer skin. The lush green layer just below the outer skin contains the highest amount of alkaloids and is the part of the cactus that is most commonly used in ceremony and healing. The shaman will prepare the cactus by boiling the skins and praying over the medicine for many hours, sometimes up to a day or more.
Ceremonies will typically commence in the morning, and stretch into the early evening hours. Preferred by most to be enjoyed in nature, it is known to connect the user to a more intimate relationship with other plants, animals, and energies that surround them. Its thick, slimy texture and vile, putrid taste is considered an important aspect of the overall healing experience – teaching us to overcome hurdles and develop perseverance.
In Peru, people travel from all over the world to sit in ceremony with this sacred cactus medicine. There, it is legal and sold just as readily as pineapples or bananas.
Aside from its ceremonial use, many people are having success in “microdosing” Huachuma. Microdosing involves taking sub-perceptual amounts of psychoactive substances in order to harness their potent benefits. Proponents of microdosing report having an increased sense of self-awareness, and an improvement in creativity, empathy, and compassion. Additionally, it is also known to help with anxiety, depression, and addiction and it can aid in productivity. The most common medicines used in microdosing are LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, but more and more people are experimenting with microdosing other psychedelics such as Huachuma and ayahuasca.
Unlike in traditional ceremonies where large amounts of Huachuma is consumed, microdosing consists of taking smaller or “micro” amounts of the cactus. This allows the individual to reap all the rewards without disrupting their normal day to day activities. The idea is not to feel anything at all while the psychedelic compounds continue to work in the body.
How To Microdose Huachuma
When microdosing any psychedelic, there are some important factors to take into consideration. Dosage, dose schedule, and intention are things to keep in mind before you begin. Additionally, there are some contraindications that may prevent certain people from microdosing Huachuma. Below we’ll dive in and cover the benefits, risks, and proper approach to dosage.
Suggested Huachuma Dosage
Huachuma can vary greatly in strength. The location, maturity, and variety of cactus can all affect the alkaloid content. Even the same cactus can fluctuate in potency throughout its stalk. Additionally, each person is built differently and can interact with the medicine in various ways. It’s important to experiment with your dose to find the “goldilocks” microdose – the amount that is ideal for your body and circumstances.
The typical microdose of Huachuma can range anywhere from 3-10 dried grams and 10-20 grams of fresh cactus. It’s important to start at the lower end of the scale and work your way up or down from there, depending on your experience.
Doses can be consumed in a number of ways. The “toss n’ wash” method is exactly how it sounds – tossing the powder to the back of your tongue and chasing it with water or another beverage of your choice. Some people prefer to put the medicine in gel capsules, avoiding the taste and making it easier to swallow.
How Often Should You Microdose Huachuma?
Dr. James Fadiman, author of the Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, psychedelic researcher, and microdosing enthusiast, suggests following a specific dosing schedule. In his book, he recommends microdosing every three days. Microdosing on day 1, skipping two days, and microdosing again on day 4.
There are a few reasons why this schedule is effective. Firstly, you want to avoid building a tolerance to the medicine, so taking a few days off is an effective method of doing this. Secondly, the afterglow of a microdose can carry over many days beyond the dose day, making it unnecessary to dose consecutively. He recommends continuing this schedule for several weeks and monitoring how you feel, noticing any changes.
Another popular microdosing regimen that is specific to medicinal mushrooms is the Stamet’s Stack. Popularized by mycologist Paul Stamets, he recommends microdosing for five consecutive days, taking two days off, and repeating the process for a number of weeks.
Additionally, some people prefer to take “booster” doses whenever they feel the need for an extra jolt of creativity or connection.
Whichever regimen you choose, be mindful to take your dose earlier in the day. Psychedelic medicines, specifically Huachuma, can be very energizing and stimulating. The general recommendation is to take your dose before 10:00 am. This will ensure the medicine tapers off before bedtime and will allow you to get to sleep more readily.
The common time period of any microdosing regimen is around 4-6 weeks. This will give you ample time to notice any improvements, dial in your dose, and document the journey. After which, you can reassess your progress and approach the regimen again after taking a rest period of at least two weeks.
Benefits of Microdosing Huachuma
Microdosing Huachuma can be a true ally on your journey. The active ingredient mescaline interacts with the same receptors in your body that serotonin does. Serotonin is responsible for the regulation of positive emotions. It helps stabilize mood and promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. By microdosing Huachuma, we can help trigger these receptors to promote these wonderful emotions.
Some potential benefits of microdosing Huachuma include:
- Increased energy and vitality
- Improved cognitive function
- Increased level of empathy and compassion
- Deeper connection to spirituality
- Heightened levels of inspiration
- Sharper focus and creativity
- Improved adaptability
- Strengthening of intention
- Heightened ability to meditate
- Fewer Cravings
- Increased levels of flow state
- Higher endurance levels
Safety Concerns With Microdosing Huachuma
Psychedelics, including Huachuma, are some of the world’s safest psychoactive substances. Although research regarding Huachuma is limited, there are yet to have been any reported deaths linked to mescaline and mescaline cactuses. There are, however, some general safety guidelines that should be adhered to in order to ensure a pleasant and safe experience:
- Never mix Huachuma with alcohol or other substances. This combination can put extra strain on your liver.
- Pregnant women should avoid microdosing Huachuma.
- Huachuma can sometimes make anxiety worse. If this is the case, refrain from continuing the regimen and try other methods or another microdosing regimen (Note: sometimes anxiety can heighten at the beginning of a microdosing regimen. Some people recommend an adjustment period of 1-2 weeks).
- Those with cardiovascular issues should approach with caution. While minimized with microdosing, mescaline is a vasoconstrictor (constricts the flow of blood and elevates blood pressure). Never combine with blood pressure medications.
- While it is known that MAOI and SSRI medications (including some antidepressants) can interact with psychedelics like mescaline, it’s unlikely to have an impact while microdosing. There is no known danger of combining psychedelic microdosing with these medications – but limit your microdosing practice to a few weeks to reduce any potential long-term risks.
- It can be helpful to check with a health professional before beginning any new health/wellness routine, including microdosing.
What Science Is Saying About Huachuma Microdosing
Mescaline is the alkaloid responsible for the psychedelic effect of Huachuma and is one of world’s most studied psychedelic molecules. Unlike LSD, psilocybin, and DMT, which are tryptamines, mescaline belongs to the phenethylamine category. This molecule is similar to serotonin which is related to the regulation of emotions, sense of wellbeing, and processing of information. Mescaline bonds to nearly all serotonin receptors in the brain, especially the 5-HT2A & 5-HT1A variety. Additionally, mescaline has been shown to bond to dopamine receptors – a neurotransmitter related to how we plan, think, and feel pleasure.
As fascinating as mescaline is, it is not the only alkaloid found in Huachuma. The cactus also contains anhalonidine, trichocerine, tyramine, hordenine, and a number of other phenethylamines. These molecules are believed to contribute to the overall experience of Huachuma, and the complete mix of alkaloids are often credited for a plethora of medicinal benefits.
When it comes to microdosing, however, more research is needed. While many studies have been done on “macrodosing” – taking large, hallucinogenic doses of psychedelics – the studies on microdosing are limited.
Some General Tips and Recommendations for Microdosing
Starting a microdosing journey can be a truly transformational experience. It is a safe, accessible, and affordable way to promote healing and wellness into our lives. With a few added touches, we can take extra steps to amplify positive benefits during our microdosing routine. Below, we’ll cover some general tips and recommendations that you can integrate into your regimen to ensure optimal results.
- Keep a microdosing journal. This will enable you to document your journey, note any significant changes, and provide valuable information to reflect on in the future.
- Incorporate meditation and mindfulness activities into your routine. Huachuma is known to promote mindfulness – you can use this to your advantage and increase your ability to drop into the present moment.
- Don’t skip a dose! Unless you’re encountering issues, it’s important to stick to the regimen and stay consistent. This will ensure you reap all the valuable benefits
- Take a two week break (at least!) in between microdosing regimens – this allows for proper integration and reset of your system.
- Learn more about Huachuma, its history, and the cultures that use it. This will deepen your connection to the medicine and honour the traditions in which it comes.
What People Are Saying About Microdosing With Huachuma
While not a whole lot of research has been completed on microdosing, specifically with Huachuma, people all around the globe have found healing and transformation by incorporating this powerful plant medicine into their routine. Curious to explore, I sat down with a few proponents of this practice to see what people are saying.
Raimutsa, a Peruvian medicine man and long-time microdoser of Huachuma, has been using this medicine since he was 15 years old. His initial experience with the cactus totally changed his relationship with life, and his ceremonial use eventually led to his microdosing practice.
At the age of 20-21, he was holding Huachuma retreats with his uncle. During that two week period, they would incorporate the microdosing of Huachuma. Due to the plethora of benefits they noticed, they would continue to microdose long after the retreats had ended.
Microdosing, he says, allowed him to drop into the present moment, develop a stronger sense of self, and deepen his connection with Pachamama (Mother Earth).
He expressed that as his journey with Huachuma began and he would sit in ceremony, his return to city life after the experience would quickly lead back to old undesirable habits.
Since embarking on his microdosing journey, however, he has realized the value in microdosing Huachuma to help aid in the integration of ceremonial doses. He believes today the emphasis is on psychedelic integration, and microdosing Huachuma is a valuable way to do just that! He expresses the importance to continue the process of neurogenesis which begins with the initial ceremony and that microdosing reinforces the stabilization of new neural pathways and enforces new habits and lifestyles.
Most interestingly, Raimutsa utilizes Huachuma with his surfing hobby. Surfing since his childhood, he now microdoses every time he hits the water. Surfing, he says, is not just about the sport – it is a spiritual, mystical, and intimate connection with nature and microdosing allows him to “ride the wave” more deeply.
Today, Raimutsa considers Huachuma a part of his diet and microdosing nearly every single day. To him, it is a vital supplement that improves his life in many ways – spiritually, physically, and mentally.
Check out our Seeker’s Guide to San Pedro for more info.
A study of traditional usage of plant medicines (including Huachuma) in Ecuador.