The Seeker’s Guide to Peyote

The Seeker's Guide to Peyote

Lophophora wiliamsii, Mescaline, Mescalito, Anhalonium, Buttons

In arid regions of central Mexico, southern Texas, and southern New Mexico, grows a special small round cactus called peyote.

Peyote is an ancient natural psychedelic, possibly the first one to enter mainstream Western culture back in the 1950s.

It was used for its medicinal and mystical properties by the Aztecs, and is still consumed as a visionary and healing tool by a large number of native peoples across Mexico and North America. 

Peyote is used by the Native American Church to treat alcohol dependence, and there are indications that it could be a more effective treatment than any of the currently available ones.

Those who eat the flesh of peyote are often seeking personal transformation, spiritual exploration, and healing.

This guide is intended for those who would like to experience Peyote in a safe, legal framework. It should be used for harm reduction and education purposes only, and contains no advice about obtaining prohibited substances.


Who This Guide Is For

The Ultimate Guide to Peyote: A Seeker’s Companion is for anyone who wants to learn about peyote – whether they’re a psychedelic first-timer or experienced peyote cultivator.

In this guide, we provide balanced, relevant, and practical information, with the hope to help drive a new wave of responsible psychedelic pioneers. The guide covers everything from the culture, history, and traditions surrounding peyote, to advice on how to best prepare for a peyote experience.

How To Use This Guide

This guide is divided into two parts:

  1. Peyote 101. This section explores the history of peyote in order and provides you with the important cultural and scientific context of this psychedelic plant.
  2. How to do Peyote. In the second section, we dive into what to expect from a peyote experience and any related safety concerns and risks, as well as some key harm reduction strategies.

We believe that there is the possibility for peyote to be widely used – as long as those consuming the plant approach it with respect and care and consider the impact on its sustainability and cultural heritage. It’s vital to develop our education around the history, culture, and ethnobotany of peyote so that we can build a psychedelic movement we can be proud of.

We also recognize that, just as with any psychedelic, peyote is not for everyone. That’s why we created this comprehensive resource – so you can be informed and feel empowered to make the safest decision for yourself.

This guide was created as a labor of love, from the depths of our hearts to you.

With So Much Love,
Lorna Liana & the EntheoNation Team

Part 1:
Peyote 101

Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a small, rounded cactus that grows in Mexico and some parts of the southern US. It doesn’t grow far off the ground, and can take as long as 20 years to reach full maturity. The name peyote comes from the Nuhuatl word peiotl, which means “cocoon silk,” in reference to the tufty white strands that grow from its flesh.

What makes it special is that it contains a large number of alkaloids (naturally-occurring molecules that affect animal physiology), including the classic psychedelic compound mescaline.

Eating the buttons of the peyote cactus can produce an intense psychedelic experience, lasting up to 14 hours, that is described as deeply mystical, highly sensual, and potentially transformative.

Peyote has been used by native peoples in Aridoamerica for thousands of years. It is considered a sacrament among many groups in Mexico, including the Huicholes, Coras, Tepehuanos, Tarahumara, Yaquis, Mayos, Purépechas and Chichimecas. In the southern US, peyote has been used by the Sioux, Cherokee, Apaches, Navajos, and others.

Now, peyote has been adopted by many other native groups in the US. It was probably also the first plant medicine to enter contemporary US culture in the 1950s, with popular figures such as Aldous Huxley and Carlos Castaneda publicizing their experiences with the cactus.

Its original sacramental use was probably in divination and physical healing, although it has also been used to treat addiction. The modern Native American Church uses peyote in religious ceremonies that last all night, making the most of its mystical properties.

The History of Peyote

We don’t know for sure when peyote started to be used by native peoples, but carbon dating of anthropological sites suggests that its sacramental use could be over 5,000 years old. [1][2] It was certainly used by the Aztecs – Spanish missionary Bernardino de Sahagun observed its use among indigenous people in the 1500s: “It exerts an effect like a mushroom upon those who eat or drink of it. That person will also see many things that make him afraid or cause him to laugh[...] [Peyote] stirs one up, inebriates one, exerts and influences upon one.”

Upon the Spanish colonisation of Mesoamerica, peyote use was demonized by the
Catholic colonizers, and punishments could be severe. [3] To varying degrees, native users of peyote fled the colonizers to preserve their traditions, abandoned them entirely, or incorporated Christian themes in their ceremonies. Christian mythology is still a part of the peyote ceremonies in the modern Native American Church. It is also likely that the widespread incorporation of peyote by indigenous North American peoples was largely due to colonialist pressures, and a desire to preserve persecuted traditions. [4]

Like many natural psychedelics, peyote was mostly used to treat physical ailments, which are seen as a spiritual imbalance in most animist practices. The Aztecs used it in ointments, as well as almost certainly in ceremonial practices. [2]

In Huichol traditions, shamans make a pilgrimage to collect peyote cactus once a year. The Huichol cosmology considers peyote as the center of the universe, and a source of divine knowledge. [2] Peyote is then taken during festivals and during shamanic healings, where it is often used to treat the sick under the supervision of a shaman, who may take the peyote alongside their patient. It was even used by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. [5]

Huichol Ceremony Sacred Deer Spirit Art by Andrew Osta

Artist credit: Andrew Osta

The Tarahuma people are another of the first peoples to be known to use peyote ceremonially. It was consumed communally during festivals, but also used to enhance the endurance of long-distance runners, and to treat burns and joint injuries. [2] The use of peyote among the Tarahuma has now mostly died out.

The Native American Church is the most widespread group that uses peyote as a central part of their practice to this day. It has around 250,000 members, stretching across most of North America. Ceremonies take place at night, with participants forming a circle around a fire. Songs, chants, and prayers are shared by the “Roadman,” before the peyote is ingested to everyone’s preferred dosage. The rest of the ceremony is held in silence, until dawn, when breakfast is eaten together. [6]

Peyote was probably one of the first psychedelic plants to reach mainstream US culture in the 1950s. It was popularized by Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond, and started to be shipped across the southern US border thanks to improvements in interstates and postal infrastructure. It was sold over the counter in bohemian areas of the US, such as the East Village in NYC, possibly laying the groundwork for the counterculture movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. [7]

Peyote is illegal in many countries; although it can be legally grown in most places if it is not ingested. The Native American Church has had permission to use peyote in the US since 1995. 

Read more about indigenous peyote use in our article on Huichol People – An Ancient Unbroken Lineage of Healers.

The Sustainability of Peyote

As an increasingly rare endangered species, peyote is at risk of extinction.

The peyote cactus can take as long as 20 years to fully grow, and their habitats are increasingly under threat from construction, agriculture, and tourism.

It is for this reason that you should consider whether or not it is justifiable for you to take peyote. If you are simply searching for a mescaline experience, you should search for non-endangered alternatives, such as San Pedro or Peruvian Torch cacti, which grow faster than peyote but still contain mescaline.

It is not recommended to forage for wild peyote – a better alternative, if you are determined to try peyote, is to grow it at home using responsibly sourced cuttings or seeds.

Growing peyote is relatively simple, and only requires pressing the seeds into sandy soil and watered lightly every day. [2] It may take around five years to grow enough to be harvested.

Some native peoples feel that peyote is a medicine that should only be taken within a traditional framework, led by an experienced shaman. We recommend seeking out a genuine traditional or native practitioner if you are interested in peyote specifically.

For more information about peyote conservation efforts, see our Resources section.

The Pharmacology of Peyote

Peyote is unique in that it contains a large number of alkaloids – over 60 have been identified. [8] Its most prominent component is mescaline, a classic psychedelic compound that has a unique chemical structure, somewhat similar to the synthetic empathogen MDMA. Mescaline is present in peyote at a concentration of around 15-30mg/g (dry weight).

While mescaline binds to many receptors in the brain, it binds principally to serotonin receptors. Just like the other classic psychedelics, such as LSD, DMT, and psilocybin, mescaline likely enacts the majority of its psychedelic effects through the 5-HT2A receptor, which is linked to a wide range of psychosomatic functions, including perception, mood, cognition, memory, sleep, cardiovascular and gut smooth muscle regulation.

Peyote buttons can be eaten raw, brewed into a tea or juice, or dried and ground into a powder that can be mixed into food and drink. It takes between 45-120 minutes to start feeling the effects, and often the first appearance of psychedelic changes are accompanied by feelings of nausea, chills, and sometimes vomiting; although this soon passes. The peyote experience lasts up to 14 hours following ingestion.

Peyote is generally considered safe, and a study among ceremonial users of peyote found no evidence of long-term harm. [9] However, it is a plant containing a large number of different alkaloids, and a lethal dose has not been established.

Studies have found links between mescaline and fetal abnormalities, so it’s not advised for pregnant women to take peyote. [10] Mescaline also affects blood pressure, so it’s important to not mix peyote with any blood pressure medication, stimulant, or sedative. If you have a heart condition, it’s safest to avoid peyote altogether.

Given that peyote contains tyramine, which is an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor), it could be unsafe to use it while taking MAOI medications, such as SSRI antidepressants.

A light dose of peyote is no more than 50g of fresh cactus; roughly 2-3 medium-sized buttons. If taking dried peyote, the doses should be divided by five; so 10g of dried peyote will be a light dose. Anything over 200g of fresh cactus is considered a very high dose, and is not recommended for novices.

Healing with Peyote

Although peyote has been traditionally and historically used to treat physical ailments, it is now more likely to be found in the context of spiritual and mental wellbeing. Peyote ceremonies within the Native American Church are held for celebrations, memorials, or funerals, and are considered a religious rite rather than a specific treatment. [6] 

However, peyote ceremonies have been used to treat addiction – especially with the Native American Church. The Church rejects alcohol use in its teachings, and so provides a range of supportive practices and networks for their members who are suffering from alcohol dependence. [11] Some consider the Church as the most effective treatment for alcohol dependence among Native American communities. [12]

There have been no clinical trials on the use of peyote to treat addiction, or even any quantitative surveys to measure the success rates of this treatment among Church members. However, there is no evidence of any harm from ceremonial peyote use. [9]

Some traditional peyote practitioners are not sure that the potential healing benefits would translate well to anyone taking peyote outside of a ceremonial space. [13]

It is likely that peyote’s potential in the treatment of addiction is due to its capacity, much like other psychedelics, to provide a sense of perspective, meaning, and self-reflection; something that typical treatments struggle to achieve or maintain.

Peyote Experience Art by Nacho Nass

Artist credit: Nacho Nass

Numerous studies have linked the magnitude of a mystical or spiritual experience that comes from taking psychedelics with its healing effects, [14][15] and this likely holds true for peyote as well.

What does it mean to have a mystical experience? It usually involves a sense of awakening, realization, interconnectedness, or timelessness. Journeyers might also encounter some kind of entity or universal truth. After having a mystical experience, many people report having a fresh perspective on life, with a newfound purpose or drive to make concrete changes.

These accounts from peyote experiences illustrate what can be so healing about the experience:

“Later I realised that this hellish state of mind that I was creating had been projected into, onto my external reality. This hell was a reflection of the hell that I had created within myself. I had to get it out. This is what I had come to relinquish, to cleanse, to purge from my soul, from my being. This is what was holding me back, clouding my vision, polluting my mind with fear and doubt. I expected it to come in the form of sickness, but was not surprised to find that it did in fact come as tears. Tears of pain, of grief, of joy, of despair, of forgiveness. Tears of letting go. Letting go of all that has been and will be. Freeing my mind from the cage that I had constructed for it and filled with emotions and energies that no longer served me any purpose. ”

- An experience with peyote from Erowid (lunarvilly, 2017). [16]

 “I see colored lights pass over me as if I'm flying in the universe filled with bright stars. I suddenly find myself in a world where everything is crystal, and I see holy beings [...] I start to receive info about my life and how to become a better person, I learn ways on how to be in life, humble, loving. How to pray better, how to heal, how to find a better job, right decisions. [...] I learn the most beautiful things and some very bizarre understandings that make so much sense but there are no words to express this spiritual connection, but I've understood it quickly, I know that these teachings are a part of me even though I forget after this dosage. [..] I feel like a new person, I feel alive.”

- An experience with peyote from Erowid (Peyote Healer, 2003). [17]

“In this vision, I was standing still in a field looking straight ahead at a buffalo. It was probably 50 yards away from me. It moved forward slowly. Probably an inch every minute or so. [...] I was anticipating what would happen when it got to me. Nearly a thousand thoughts were running through my head at once perfectly clear. [...] It seemed that every thought was how excited I was to see what would happen when the buffalo reached me. Now let's skip to the part where the buffalo is 6 inches away from me. The anticipation then turned to fear and terror. It was coming head on towards my stomach. It wasn't going to stop. It was probably the most terrifying feeling I have ever experienced. A few minutes later (roughly 5,000 thoughts later) It was centimeters away from my body. [...] Here's the exciting part... The buffalo is literally touching my skin, though I feel nothing, nor do I fall back. It slowly just moves through my body. Gliding right past me (well, through me). A few minutes later, It is totally behind me, and all that I can see is the field and where it meets the horizon. Now to end this vision, nothing could have done it better then what happens next. At the start of the horizon a white light arises. Then it suddenly grows to cover up my whole screen (meaning everything I can see/ everything in front of me) And just like that, I'm out of my visionary state, back in the mountains sitting just like I was before this happened. Except, it was totally bright. That vision I had which seemed to have taken place in about 2 hours had lasted about 10. I looked around at everything I had admired the night before. I say this in the simplest form, though no words can describe how I really felt... I honestly felt ONE with everything around me, everything I saw.”

- An experience with peyote from Erowid (Joel, 2003). [18]

Part 2:

No matter the reason for exploring peyote, doing so with mindfulness and respect is crucial. Like with all psychedelics, peyote is not a quick-fix or simple doorway to spiritual enlightenment.

These are our guidelines on how to prepare for a meaningful and safe peyote journey.

Peyote Mandala

Choosing the Ideal Peyote Retreat

Before you decide to take peyote, we recommend considering more sustainable alternatives. Peyote is an endangered species, and there are other cacti that contain mescaline. If you are simply searching for a psychedelic experience, the San Pedro or Peruvian Torch cacti are more sustainable options.

However, if you are determined to experience peyote specifically, the first thing you must do is decide how best to take it. Some native peoples feel that peyote should always be taken within a traditional context, led by an experienced shaman. We highly recommend seeking out a retreat or ceremony that has a genuine indigenous connection, for this reason. Check whether your retreat has at least a connection to indigenous peoples; or if the facilitator(s) are trained specifically with peyote within indigenous traditions.

It’s common for peyote retreats to provide the opportunity for participants to take the medicine in a guided, ceremonial setting, ensuring the safety and comfort of everyone involved. Some centers may be more luxurious than others, and some will use traditional practices to a higher degree. Have a think about these factors when choosing a retreat:

  • Location. How easy is it to get to the retreat center? Do you need to travel abroad or is it just a train ride away?

  • Legality. What is the legal status of peyote in the host country? In Mexico and some US states, some religious organizations are permitted to perform peyote ceremonies. Make sure the retreat center knows the law and you won’t put yourself at unnecessary risk.

  • Mysticism. Whether you’re eager to explore mystical or spiritual concepts during the ceremony or are seeking a more pragmatic or minimalist environment, speak to the retreat center to make sure it’s aligned with what you’re looking for.

  • The Ceremonial Space. Where will you be taking the medicine? It might be in a traditional tent, someone’s house, or outside – find out where the ceremony is held if you have a strong preference for a certain type of space.

  • The Practitioners. Would you prefer for the ceremony to be facilitated by an indigenous healer or shaman, or do you feel more comfortable with licensed therapists and medical professionals? Ask about the qualifications and training of the facilitators. We recommend that the facilitators have at least some input from indigenous wisdom for peyote ceremonies.
  • Group Activities. At some retreats, guests are required to move, chant, or complete tasks together during the experience – if you’d rather journey without these interactions, inquire with the retreat about what their policy is.

  • Amenities. Make sure to ask about what sort of facilities and amenities the retreat has available, including lodging, catering, workshops, or even things like massages and yoga classes. Consider your desired comfort level to feel settled and relaxed.

  • Cost. How much you pay will be linked to the level of luxury offered by the retreat – consider what’s within your budget, but remember, experienced facilitators normally don’t come cheap!

  • Restrictions. Some retreats may ask you to follow a specific diet or practice meditation prior to arriving. Many retreats will also conduct medical screening, including checking for family history of heart conditions or mental health diagnoses.

  • Purpose. What is your reason for attending the retreat? If you’re seeking help with a serious condition, then the safety of the retreat is even more paramount. This might mean having trained therapists involved in the process and a medic on-site. In any case, consider your purpose and intention and how they match up to the retreat’s offering.

After narrowing down the search to a retreat that seems to best fit your needs, it’s important to now look into the trustworthiness and experience of its facilitators.

Peyote is a powerful medicine and will leave you in a susceptible state. This means you must have full trust in those who will be facilitating the ceremony, overseeing the space, and guiding you in your journey.

It’s important to differentiate between the retreats that are prioritizing profits vs. those who put their healing responsibility above making money. It’s advisable to do some online research to get an idea of the facilitators’ training and avoid potentially dangerous centers.

  • Use a search engine to look up the name of the retreat along with keywords like “fraud” and “scam.” And don’t just skim the first few results – savvy marketers may have successfully tried to bury negative results.
  • Search online forums and Facebook groups for mentions of the retreat alongside those same keywords.

  • Reach out to past participants and ask them about their experience. Make sure to inquire about any concerns or red flags that made them feel uneasy.
  • Look at review sites that evaluate peyote retreat centers – see our Resources section for more info.

Experiencing Peyote Outside a Retreat

 Retreats work for many, but not everyone – especially if you’re an experienced psychonaut, you may want to explore peyote in your own space. Again, consider whether a sustainable alternative to the endangered peyote would be more suitable (such as San Pedro or Peruvian Torch).

Although some people choose to take peyote on their own, without a facilitator or sitter, we don’t recommend this path. Mescaline is a powerful substance, and it’s always best to at least have a sober sitter present – but, ideally, an experienced facilitator.

Having someone else there whose responsibility it is to sit for you can make all the difference to your journey. Only those who are seriously seasoned with psychedelics should take peyote on their own.

It’s preferable that your sitter is an experienced facilitator who knows what to do when trippers are going through a challenging and intense experience. If this isn’t possible, the sitter should at the very least be sober and follow these guidelines:

  • Be aware of the space. Know where to get food, water, or outside assistance. Everything should be comfortable and safe for the tripper.
  • Know peyote. You should know how the different doses will affect the tripper, how long they can be expected to be under the influence, and the kinds of effects they may experience.
  • Know the tripper. Ask them why they’re taking peyote and about anything they may need during the journey. Establish boundaries around physical contact.
  • Be a gentle presence. In general, trip sitting isn’t about being hands-on and guiding the tripper. Try to be a gentle, supportive presence and provide reassurance when there’s a need for it. You’re not a therapist – your primary role is to ensure safety and support for the tripper.

Some basic tips for setting up your own peyote experience are:

  • Prepare the space. Set up a comfortable tripping space with any sharp or dangerous objects well out of the way. Get rid of the potential for any interruptions, and, if you’re going to be outside, you should be in a familiar, uncrowded place with no hazards present.
  • Plan the trip. Make sure you have food and water at hand so you don’t have to prepare anything whilst you’re tripping. You might also want to set up spaces for different activities, such as coloring and writing, music, or yoga. 
  • Stick to the standard recommendations for pre-retreat preparation. Check out the section below on how to best prepare for a transformational experience.

Preparing for Peyote

 Whether attending a ceremony, retreat, or simply taking it at home, it’s important to properly prepare for a peyote experience.

Most retreats or ceremonies will offer a plan to help you prepare, including advice on diet, meditation, and sometimes even including group sharing circles and workshops.

If you’re going to take peyote on your own or if you haven’t received materials from your retreat center, we recommend taking a look at these common pre-ceremony practices that can help you make the most of your experience.

Spiritual Practices to Use with Peyote

Peyote Knows Art by Georgia Peschel

Artist credit: Georgia Peschel

Spiritual practices often go hand in hand with dieting and abstinence, with the goal to maximize and amplify the transformative nature of your experience. While not always obligatory, undergoing a mental and physical diet by avoiding unhealthy foods, alcohol, social media, and sexual activity could help you get the most out of your journey.

It’s wise to spend the days leading up to your ceremony practicing things like yoga, meditation, and journaling, as well as spending time in nature. Spiritual communion with nature prior to a ceremony can be very powerful in opening the doors to direct communication with the spirit of the peyote cactus.

Mindfulness will undoubtedly help you throughout your peyote experience. Even if a spiritual mindset towards preparation is not for you, it’s important to reflect on your intention and whatever feels important to you while preparing to take the medicine.

Setting Intention with Peyote

As with any psychedelic journey, it’s crucial to set an intention. Engaging in spiritual practices can assist you with this. Establishing a clear objective of what about yourself or the world you would like to address during your experience will maximize your chances of taking away something meaningful.

However, make sure not to confuse intentions with expectations. No matter how certain we are that our pre-established intention is the right one, the medicine will always decide whether it’s time to answer that question or lead you down a different path.

Your intentions can be like a foundation for the journey – something that can bring you back when you get lost – but by no means is peyote guaranteed to take those intentions as a guide. You might get taken in unexpected directions, so be prepared for that.

Learn more about the peyote ritual in our Beginner’s Guide to Healing with Peyote.

The Risks of Peyote

Peyote is relatively safe, but still carries some risks that you should consider before the journey. Studies have found links between mescaline and fetal abnormalities, so it’s not advised for pregnant women to take peyote. [10] Peyote also affects blood pressure and heart rate, so we advise that you refer to your healthcare provider if you suffer from related conditions.

There are a few drugs that you should not combine with peyote because of a risk of adverse reaction. Take care with the following substances:

  • Blood pressure medications. Peyote affects blood pressure, so it’s best to avoid combining it with blood pressure medications such as Vasotec and Zestril.
  • Medications that affect heart rate. Peyote may alter your heart rate, so if you’re on medications such as propranolol or captopril, or if you have a heart condition, you should avoid taking it altogether.
  • Stimulants. Any amphetamines, including Adderall and Ritalin, should not be taken close to a ceremony as they affect your heart rate.
  • MAOI medications. Peyote also contains the MAOI tyramine, so it could be potentially unsafe to combine it with other MAOIs, such as Nardil, Parmate, and Azilect.
  • Lithium. Shown to potentially cause seizures when mixed with psychedelics (Nayak et al, 2021), Lithium (which is sometimes prescribed alongside antidepressants) should not be mixed with peyote.

In addition to the physical risks associated with drug combinations, there are always psychological risks that come with any psychedelic experience.

During the experience, your thoughts and perceptions may be radically altered, which may cause you to feel fear and distress. However, if you’re taking the medicine with an experienced facilitator, in a safe environment, and with a network of support, the likelihood of long-term psychological difficulties should be extremely low.

If your experience was very challenging, it’s a good idea to spend time focused on integration with a trained facilitator to ensure you don’t endure any psychological harm in the long run. Practicing integration will also help you maximize the benefits from your journey, even if it was a distressing one.

The Peyote Experience

Peyote can be ingested fresh, by eating the raw buttons. It can also be brewed into tea, crushed into a juice, or dried and ground up into capsules. Peyote is often eaten with other foods or mixed with sweet drinks to mask its bitterness.

It takes between 45-120 minutes to start feeling the effects. The first things most people start feeling are physical symptoms; nausea, sweating, chills, maybe even vomiting. If this happens, don’t worry – these effects are harmless and will pass quickly.

The psychedelic effects will start to appear soon after the physiological ones come on. You may feel a feeling of calm or acceptance wash over you. You may also notice some perceptual shifts, including sharper colors, more striking sounds, and more sensitive touch.

It’s often said that peyote is more of a sensual psychedelic compared to others, meaning the biggest changes occur in your feelings and sensations rather than your thoughts. 

The experience will gradually become more intense until you reach a peak. While this stage can sometimes feel never-ending, trust that it will pass – that’s why it’s called a peak! And if you need some support or reassurance, make sure to ask your facilitator. After the four-hour mark, the peak will have passed, and it will slowly decrease in intensity over the next hours.

From ingestion to the end, the experience can last up to 14 hours. As you gently come down, you’ll feel yourself returning to your body and the world around you, hopefully having received some new insights and perspectives. Don’t rush this phase – it can be enjoyable as it feels like a relief, especially after the intensity of the peak.

Letting Go with Peyote

Peyote Eye Art by Julian Reiss

Artist credit: Julian Reiss

Some aspects of the experience may be challenging, such as encountering unpleasant or disturbing sensations and thoughts. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when this happens, as most of us aren’t used to connecting so profoundly to spirit medicines. 

The key to not allowing the negative or “dark” parts of the experience to overwhelm you is by surrendering to the experience – letting go. When you release this control and trust that you are looked after, the difficult parts pass more easily.

That doesn’t mean that you should no longer feel fear – this is a natural response. In the words of Terence McKenna:

“[The fear] marks the experience as existentially authentic. [...] A touch of terror gives the stamp of validity to the experience because it means, ‘This is real.’ We are in the balance. We read the literature, we know the maximum doses, and so on. But nevertheless, so great is one’s faith in the mind that when one is out in it one comes to feel that the rules of pharmacology do not really apply and that control of existence on that plane is really a matter of focus of will and good luck.” [20]

It’s normal to be afraid when you are thrust out of your regular framework of understanding. As you fall into the unknown, it can feel like there’s little to grasp onto.

It’s important to accept this feeling – no matter how scary it may be. Rather than scrambling for something concrete beneath you, remember that this is a normal part of the experience, and the best thing you can do is to let go. Let this new scary reality happen to you and embrace the fear.

Try to be present and absorb both the ups and the downs, pains and joys of the experience, while maintaining the awareness that you are safe. Remember that the medicine knows best, so if you feel like you’re losing grip on your sense of self, then give it up. Accept every lesson that comes your way with openness and humility.

Once you begin to come back to earth, take notice of your surroundings, and the ways in which you feel you have changed. Your facilitators may undertake some cleansing rituals with you, to close the ceremony in a gentle and mindful manner.

Integration with Peyote

Taking peyote can deliver profound insights, so it’s crucial to take concerted steps that facilitate the integration of this novel experience. This process can take weeks, months, or even years, and starts as soon as your ceremony is over.

Many retreats will create the space for sharing post-ceremony. This opportunity to talk about your experience can help you make sense of the parts that you may have struggled with, and also help you learn from others as they share their experiences.

We recommend that you continue any spiritual practices that you had been undertaking prior to the ceremony in the days and weeks that follow it. Take note of how they might feel different, and go back to the experience during these practices. Consider which elements of your peyote journey you’d like to bring forth into your daily life, and how. 

It can also be helpful to delve into other ways of expressing yourself, such as art or music, if words don’t feel like they’re enough. If allowed by your retreat, you might also want to keep in touch with your facilitator or guide. And, if you’re really struggling with the challenging nature of the experience, we recommend you see a specialized integration provider who can help you move through the material that came up. See our Resources section for more details.


Although mescaline was banned internationally by the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, the actual peyote cactus is in some countries or areas regarded as just a plant and its cultivation is allowed.

Here are some of the relevant international regulations pertaining to the peyote cactus:

  • In Canada, possession and use of fresh peyote is not illegal.
  • In the US, cultivation and possession of peyote are illegal but the use of the cactus is allowed to the members of the Native American Church in their religious ceremonies. Also:
    • Arizona and Oregon allow peyote use in any authentic religious context.
    • In Texas, selling and purchasing peyote is legal for those with at least 25% Native American heritage.
    • As of late, a few locally amended regulations, such as those made in Oakland, CA and Santa Cruz, CA have decriminalized all natural entheogens, including peyote.
  • In Mexico, religious use is permitted and harvesting is controlled due to peyote’s vulnerable status.
  • In Europe, cultivating peyote is generally legal, but its use as a psychedelic is illegal.
  • In Australia, peyote can be cultivated legally in Victoria and New South Wales, but not in other states. Its use as a psychedelic is illegal.

What Next?

 The period after your first peyote experience can feel like a fresh start. With a new perspective on the world, you may feel like your previous troubles have been cleansed and you have a new purpose – or be reminded of the one you’ve always had.

This may feel like you’re at the beginning of a long road, with many more lessons to learn. There’s always more room to heal and grow.


How do you pronounce "peyote"?

Simple. Pei-oh-tee

Where to buy peyote?

Peyote is widely available to order on online ethnobotanical shops. However, you should consider two things before buying:

Firstly, is peyote legal to grow where you are? Some countries allow possession and growing of peyote, while in others it's illegal (see more in the Legality section of this guide).
Secondly, is your supplier supporting sustainable or illegal harvesting practices? Due to overharvesting, peyote is an endangered cactus species, so it's important to only buy ethically sourced products.

When is peyote ready to eat?

You can eat peyote at any point, but the mescaline content will be the highest when the cactus is mature (between 3 and 5 years of cultivation) or if it has undergone stress while growing (this increases alkaloid levels).
Generally, it's not advised to eat very small cactii, both because of lower mescaline levels and because they should be allowed to grow more due to peyote's dwindling supplies. That said, sometimes they just don't grow very big.
Buttons between 4 and 7cm are usually ideal for consumption.

Which tribes use peyote?

The Tonkawa, the Mescalero, the Tarahumara, the Lipan Apache, the Comanche, and Kiowa are some of the Native American tribal groups known for peyote use.

Is peyote legal to grow?

It's legal or not regulated in a few countries. You may check the Legality section of this guide for more details.

Does peyote cause tolerance?

Like other psychedelics, mescaline causes tolerance after only one dose. It normally lasts for a few days. It also causes cross-tolerance with many other psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin.

Can you smoke peyote?

Mescaline is not an effective smokable substance.

What is the difference between peyote vs San Pedro?

Per gram, peyote contains more mescaline than San Pedro. Peyote also has more alkaloids, and it’s been proven that some of these act as MAOIs. This means that the peyote trip often feels more “full-bodied” than an experience with San Pedro.

Experiencing San Pedro is generally described as sedating and dreamy, compared to peyote which is reported as feeling more stimulating with vibrant visions. While San Pedro is said to be more about feelings of well-being and connecting to emotions, peyote journeys are supposedly more profound and mystical.

Where does peyote grow?

Wild Peyote grows only in Northern Mexico and a few areas in South and West Texas. The cactus is easy to grow at home, however, it takes years to mature.

Can peyote be detected by a drug test?

Standard drug tests normally do not screen for mescaline, but it’s still handy to know how long after consumption it stays in your system. Mescaline stays in the urine for 2-4 days, in the blood for up to a day, in saliva for up to 10 days, and in hair for up to 90 days.

Can you overdose on peyote?

There have been no reported mescaline overdoses, as the amount needed for serious adverse effects is many times higher than that needed to produce psychoactive effects.

Are peyote seeds legal?

To our knowledge, peyote seeds undergo similar regulations to the cactus itself.

Is peyote addictive?

Mescaline is not an addictive substance.

Can you microdose peyote?

Microdosing mescaline is possible, but difficult to get right because of its highly variable and impossible to determine levels in the cactus species it is found in. Generally, it's not recommended to microdose peyote itself because of its endangered status. Other, more abundant cactus species, such as San Pedro, are more suited to the purpose.

How long can you keep peyote dry buttons?

In a cool, dark, and dry place, peyote can basically keep forever.


  1. El-Seedi HR, De Smet PA, Beck O, Possnert G & Bruhn JG (2005).
    Prehistoric peyote use: alkaloid analysis and radiocarbon dating of archaeological specimens of Lophophora from Texas. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 101(1-3), p.238-242.

  2. Rätsch, C (2005). The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants. Park Street Press.

  3. Leonard, IA (1942). Peyote and the Mexican inquisition. American Anthropologist, New Series 44(2), p.324-326.

  4. Chofness, D (2016). Nature’s Pharmacopeia: A World of Medicinal Plants. Columbia University Press.

  5. Meyer, S (2011). Should I Use Peyote If I Am Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
    Native Mothering, retrieved from:, June 2019.

  6. Walthill, WM (2011). Native American Church. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.
    Retrieved from:, June 2019.

  7. Jarnow, J (2016). Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America. De Capo Press.

  8. Trenary, K (1997). Visionary Cactus Guide – Lophophora.
    Retrieved from:, June 2019.

  9. Halpern JH, Sherwood AR, Hudson JI, Yurgelun-Todd D & Pope HG (2005).
    Psychological and cognitive effects of long-term peyote use among Native Americans. Biological Psychiatry 58(8), p.624-631.

  10. Gilmore, HT (2001). Peyote use during pregnancy. South Dakota Journal of Medicine 54(1), p.27-29.
  1. Calabrese, J (2013). A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church. Oxford University Press.

  2. Winkelman, M (2014). Psychedelics as medicines for substance abuse rehabilitation: Evaluating treatments with LSD, peyote, ibogaine and ayahuasca.
    Current Drug Abuse Reviews 7, p.101-116.

  3. Horgan, H (2009). Curing Drug and Alcohol Addiction with Peyote.
    Retrieved from:, June 2019.

  4. Garcia-Romeu A, Griffiths RR & Johnson MW (2015).
    Psilocybin-occasioned mystical experiences in the treatment of tobacco addiction. Curr Drug Abuse Rev 7(3), p157-164.

  5. Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Carducci MA, Umbricht A, Richard WA, Richards BD, Cosimano MP & Klinedinst MA (2016). Psilocybin Produces Substantial and Sustained Decreases in Depression and Anxiety in Patients With Life-Threatening Cancer: A Randomized Double-Blind Trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology 30(12), p1181-1197.

  6. lunarvilly (2017). A Meeting with God. Erowid, retrieved from:, June 2019.

  7. Peyote Healer (2003). Peyote Healing. Erowid, retrieved from:, June 2019.

  8. Joel (2003). The Plant with the Answer.
    Erowid, retrieved from:, June 2019.

  9. Brown, M (2003). LSD and antidepressants. Erowid. Retrieved from:, June 2019.

  10. Vayne, J (2017). On Letting Go. Retrieved from:, June 2019.

Additional Artist Credits

  • Title background image: Dorling Kindersley
  • Part 1 background image / featured image: Maximino Renteria de la Cruz
  • Part 2 background image: Andrew Osta
  • Part 3 background image: Amanda Sage