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, and 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 used by a large number of native peoples across Mexico and North America. 

The long-lasting mystical experience that results from eating the flesh of peyote can be used for personal transformation, spiritual exploration, or even healing. Peyote is used by the Native American Church to treat alcohol dependence, and some suggest it could be a more effective treatment than anything that’s currently available.


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.

Introduction

Who This Guide Is For

The Ultimate Guide to Peyote: A Seeker’s Companion was created for everyone who is interested in peyote. This could be anyone from the complete psychedelic novice to the experienced peyote cultivator. 

This guide provides balanced, relevant and practical information for anyone looking to learn about peyote. From its cultural history, to the best ways to prepare for a peyote experience, we hope to contribute to a new wave of responsible and revolutionary psychedelic pioneers.

How To Use This Guide

This guide is divided into two parts:

  1. Peyote 101. This first section covers important background information about peyote and its history, so that you, the seeker, have some cultural and scientific context about peyote that is sometimes lacking in other guides.

  2. How to do Peyote. The second section covers practical information about what to expect from a peyote experience. You will find an overview of some of the safety concerns and risks related to peyote, as well as strategies to reduce the potential for harm. 


We believe that Peyote can be for everyone; if approached with respect and care, and as long as its sustainability and cultural heritage are fully considered. Education about the history, culture, and ethnobotany of peyote is key to developing a psychedelic movement we can be proud of.

We also recognize that peyote, and other psychedelics, are not ideal for some people. For this reason, we wish to provide a comprehensive resource that can serve to empower you to make the best and 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] The most important 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).

Mescaline binds to many receptors in the brain, but mostly to serotonin receptors. It’s likely that mescaline, just like the other classic psychedelics LSD, psilocybin, and DMT, has most of its psychedelic effects through the 5-HT2A receptor, which is involved in the regulation of mood, vision, sound, and memory.

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.

Mescaline has been linked to fetal abnormalities, so it is not recommended to give peyote to pregnant women. [10] Peyote also affects blood pressure, so it is not safe to mix peyote with any blood pressure medication, sedative, or stimulant, and it’s safest to avoid peyote if you have a heart condition.

Since peyote also contains a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) called tyramine, it may be unsafe to combine peyote with MAOI medications, such as some 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

Research has shown that the magnitude of the mystical or spiritual experience that accompanies a psychedelic trip is directly related to the healing benefits, [14][15] and this is likely the same for peyote. Mystical experiences usually involve a sense of realization or awakening, an encounter with some kind of universal truth or entity, and a sense of interconnectedness or timelessness. People often report mystical experiences giving them a fresh perspective on life, helping to give them new purpose or motivation to make positive 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:
Practical

Whatever reason you’ve chosen to explore peyote, it’s important to do so mindfully and with respect. Viewing peyote as a quick-fix for any issue, or a one-and-done doorway to spiritual enlightenment, is a recipe for disaster.

Here are our guidelines for preparing yourself 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.

Peyote retreats will typically offer the opportunity to take the medicine in a guided, ceremonial setting, where the safety and comfort of participants is a priority. These vary in the amount of luxury they provide, and the degree of traditional practices that are used in the ceremony. Consider these variables before choosing a retreat:

  • Location. Is the retreat easy to get to? Is it a plane journey away, or just a train ride? These are all things to consider, and will mostly depend on personal preference.

  • Legality. Is peyote legal in the host country? Countries like Mexico and some US states allow for peyote ceremonies to be performed by legitimate religious organizations. Check if your retreat knows the law – this might help you feel safer and allow you to have a more comfortable experience.

  • Mysticism. Some retreats may use mystical or spiritual concepts more than others within the ceremony. If you’d like a more pragmatic or minimalist ceremony, make sure you know what to expect from the setup.

  • The Ceremonial Space. You may prefer the idea of tripping outside, or in a tent; or maybe a comfy yoga studio would be more your kind of thing.

  • The Practitioners. Is the facilitator an indigenous healer or shaman? Would you rather have psychologists, therapists, and medical professionals running your retreat? It’s good to consider the qualifications and experience of your facilitators. We highly recommend at least some input from indigenous wisdom within a peyote ceremony.
  • Group Activities. Some retreats require the group to move or chant together, or even undertake group tasks, during the experience. If you’d rather trip without group interactions, make sure to check what the retreat policy is.

  • Amanities. Are there lodgings at the retreat? Do they provide food? Are there luxuries such as workshops or massages on offer? Consider what level of comfort you will require to make the most of the experience.

  • Cost. This will very much be linked to the level of luxury of the retreat. Consider what is within your means, but remember that expert facilitators are not cheap!

  • Restrictions. Some retreats will require you to follow a diet, or practice meditation, before the ceremony. If this isn’t for you, check to make sure what the retreat policy is beforehand. Some retreats require you to pass a medical screening to check for a family history of mental health problems, or heart conditions.

  • Purpose. Why are you attending a retreat? If it’s for therapeutic purposes for a serious condition, consider the safety of the retreat. Are there trained therapists on hand? Is there a medic at the retreat? Will this retreat center offer you the best chance of finding what you’re looking for?

Once you have settled on the retreat that looks right for you, it’s important to ensure the trustworthiness of the retreat and its facilitators.

The effects of peyote are very powerful and will leave you in a vulnerable state. Because of this, you must have complete trust with the facilitators who will be overseeing the space and guiding you in your journey.

Some retreats will be driven by profits, while others will take their healing responsibility more seriously. You can easily do some online research to get an idea of how well-trained and respectable your facilitators are. The more time you invest in your own research, the higher the likelihood of avoiding insincere retreats.

  • Google the name of the retreat,in combination with keywords like “fraud,” “scam,” or “scandal.” Make sure you look through a few pages, as savvy marketers know how to bury negative search results.

  • Join online forums or Facebook groups and search for mentions of the retreat, with the same negative keywords.
  • Find past participants and ask them what their experience was like. Make sure to ask if they had any concerns, or if there was anything that made them uncomfortable.

  • Check out review sites that rate peyote retreat centers – see our Resources section.

Taking Peyote Outside a Retreat

Retreats aren’t for everyone, and if you’re experienced with psychedelics you might feel you are up to the task of preparing your own trip 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. Peyote is powerful, and it’s always best to at least have a sober sitter – and preferably an experienced facilitator.

Having a sitter can make a huge difference to your experience, and only the most headstrong, responsible and seasoned psychonauts should attempt a lone trip.

Ideally, your sitter will be an experienced psychedelic facilitator, who knows exactly how to guide trippers through intense and challenging experiences. However at the very least your sitter should be sober, and should follow these guidelines:

  • Know the space. Be aware of where the amenities are, and where to go for food, water, and outside assistance. Keep everything comfortable, and make sure the tripper is safe.

  • Know the peyote. Make sure you are aware of the dose they are taking, how long it will last, and what sort of effects you can expect.

  • Know the tripper. Understand their motivation for taking peyote, and what they might need from you during the trip. Lay out any specific boundaries either of you might have regarding physical contact.

  • Be a gentle presence. Unless there is a specific need for it, or you have considerable experience, don’t try to guide the tripper in any particular direction. Just be a silent, supportive presence, and simply offer gentle reassurance whenever it is needed. Your main role is to just be there, and keep the tripper safe – not to be a therapist.


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

  • Prepare the space. Make sure you’ll be comfortable, and keep any sharp or dangerous objects out of the space. Make sure no one will interrupt you. If you are tripping outside, make sure it is a familiar place that has no hazards (i.e. deep water, cliffs).

  • Plan the trip. Have food and water prepared so you won’t have to think about it during the experience. Have writing or coloring materials around, and other activities that you might want to enjoy (music or a yoga mat).
     
  • Follow the usual preparations as if you were attending a retreat. See the section below and prepare yourself to have a transformational experience.

Preparing for Peyote

Whether you’re attending a retreat, or tripping at your own home, it’s important to do some preparation for the experience.

Many retreats will have a set plan for your preparation, including a diet, meditation practices, or group sharing circles and workshops.

If your retreat doesn’t have a preparation routine, or you’re tripping on your own, we recommend familiarizing yourself with these common practices that could help maximize the effects of the peyote experience.

Spiritual Practices to Use with Peyote

Peyote Knows Art by Georgia Peschel

Artist credit: Georgia Peschel

Dieting and abstinence are often used in conjunction with spiritual practices in order to amplify the benefits you may receive from the experience. Avoiding TV, social media, unhealthy foods and sexual activity could help you get the most out of your trip, but are by no means necessary for everyone.

Ideally, you should spend the days preceding your ceremony engaged in activities like yoga, meditation, mindfulness practice, prayer, journaling, and solitary walks in the woods. Begin spiritually communing with Nature before your date-night with her, when you will fling open the doors to direct communication with the cactus spirit.

Being in a mindful place will help you immeasurably in your peyote experience. Even if you’re not comfortable with a spiritual approach to preparation, reflect on whatever is important to you in preparing for a ceremony.

Setting Intention with Peyote

Setting intention is a crucial part of any psychedelic journey, and spiritual practices can help you to do this. Developing a clear goal for what aspects of yourself or the world you are hoping to visit during your experience will increase the likelihood of taking something positive from it.

Be sure not to confuse “intentions” with “expectations.” You may spend days or weeks setting a very clear intention, only for peyote to decide it won’t be answering that question for you this time. Consider your intentions like a foundation – some firm ground to come back to if you get lost. But don’t expect for those intentions to be a guide that peyote will take for granted. Be prepared to lose control and be taken in unexpected directions.

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 carry some risks you should consider before the journey.

Mescaline has been linked to fetal abnormalities, so it is not recommended to give peyote to pregnant women. [10] Additionally, since peyote can affect blood pressure and heart rate, it’s recommended to get the opinion of your healthcare provider if you have heart or blood pressure conditions.

There are few potentially dangerous drug combinations with peyote. Here are some substances that you should take care with:

  • Blood pressure medications. Peyote affects blood pressure, so avoid mixing it with blood pressure medications such as Vasotec and Zestril.

  • Medications that affect heart rate. Peyote can change your heart rate, so avoid taking it if you’re on medications such as propranolol or captopril, or if you have a heart condition.

  • Stimulants. Drugs like amphetamines affect your heart rate, and should be avoided for that reason. This includes Adderall and Ritalin.

  • MAOI medications. Peyote also contains an MAOI called tyramine, so mixing it with other MAOIs could be unsafe. Some common MAOIs are Nardil, Parmate, and Azilect.

  • Lithium. This is sometimes prescribed in combination with antidepressants, but is known to potentially cause seizures when combined with psychedelics (Brown, 2003). Do not mix lithium with peyote.


As well as the physical risks, it’s important to acknowledge that there are psychological risks for any psychedelic experience. Having your perceptions and thoughts radically altered by an external force can be extremely intense. It is common for people to experience acute fear and distress during a peyote experience. However, in the presence of a knowledgeable facilitator and with a secure support system, you are unlikely to experience long-term psychological difficulties.

If you’ve had a distressing experience, practicing good integration techniques with trained facilitators will help you to avoid enduring long-term psychological harm from the trip, and will likely help you see the journey in a positive light.

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 the 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 first physical feelings. A feeling of calm or acceptance may begin to wash over you. Your perception will begin to shift; you may notice colors become sharper, sounds more striking, and your touch may become more sensitive. People sometimes report that peyote is a more sensual psychedelic than others; so you may be less likely to experience changes in your thoughts, and more likely to experience distortions in your feelings and sensations.

From here, the intensity of the experience will gradually increase until you reach a peak. This stage may feel like it is lasting a long time, but trust that it will pass (that’s why it’s called a peak instead of a plateau!) and ask your facilitator for reassurance if you need it. The peak of the psychedelic experience will pass after around four hours, and will gradually decline over the next few.

Overall, the peyote experience can last up to 14 hours following ingestion – although the come-down is considered to be quite gentle. You will start to feel yourself returning to your body and normal sense of reality, hopefully with some fresh knowledge and perspectives. Take your time to enjoy this phase. It can feel like the long, steady exhale after holding your breath for some time.

Letting Go with Peyote

Peyote Eye Art by Julian Reiss

Artist credit: Julian Reiss

It’s possible to encounter shocking, unpleasant, or disturbing sensations and thoughts during a peyote experience. That is natural: most of us are not accustomed to coming into such close contact with profound spirit medicines, and it is unusual for people to have a purely comfortable experience with absolutely no challenges.

The key to not letting the intense or negative parts of the experience overwhelm you is letting go. Being able to release control and trust that you will be looked after.

This isn’t to say that you should be able to conquer your fear of the situation. Fear is a natural response to intense experiences and, 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]

So it is expected for you to feel fear when you are thrown out of your normal framework of understanding, because suddenly all that solid ground under your feet becomes a vast drop to somewhere completely unknown.

Being able to accept this new and scary situation is important. Rather than flailing around and scrambling for some essence of solidity in the void beneath you, remember that this is a natural part of the psychedelic experience, and what will help you is to let go. Accept the fear, accept this scary new reality, and let it happen to you.

Remember that you are being looked after, you are safe; and embrace the pains and joys of the experience. Many people recommend giving up your sense of self to peyote, and remembering that they know best. Take every lesson they give you with humility and openness.

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 careful manner.

Integration with Peyote

The peyote experience can be so novel, and so profound, that it is absolutely necessary to make an effort to integrate it effectively into your life. This is a process that may take days, weeks, or years, and begins immediately following your trip.

Some facilitators will make sure to speak to you after the ceremony, to talk you through your experience and help you interpret parts that you are struggling with. Most good retreats will allow space for a sharing circle after the main ceremony, allowing you to hear other people’s experiences and verbalize your own.

In the days and weeks following the experience, it’s recommended to continue any spiritual practices you had been cultivating beforehand, and observe how they may feel different. Revisit the experience through these practices, and think about which parts of your peyote journey you want to bring into your life, and how.

Try your hand at expressing yourself through art or music, if words don’t seem to be enough. If the retreat provides it, make sure to continue a regular correspondence with your facilitator or guide. If you are particularly struggling with some aspects of the experience, consider seeing a specialized integration therapist; they are an emerging class of counselors specializing in helping people process psychedelic experiences and they can be found all over the world. Have a look at our our Resources section for more details.

Legality

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?

For many people, the time just after their first peyote experience feels like a new beginning. The world may feel refreshed, or you may feel as if some of your demons or troubles have been exposed and cleansed. You may have been given a new purpose in life; or perhaps just reminded of the one you’ve always had.

In many ways, peyote puts you at the start of a long road. There will always be so much more to learn, so many more ways to change, and so much more healing to do.

FAQ


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?

Gram-for-gram, peyote has a higher mescaline concentration than San Pedro. Peyote also contains more alkaloids, some of which have been shown to act as MAOIs, which means the peyote experience is more full-bodied than a San Pedro trip.
Generally speaking, the San Pedro experience is commonly described as sedating and dreamy, while the peyote trip is stimulating and vibrant, with more pronounced visions. Peyote trips are also said to be more profoundly mystical than those on San Pedro, which is more about pleasurable sensations and well-being.


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. However, it's useful to know how long it can be detected after consumption just in case.
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.

References

  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: http://nativemothering.com/2011/05/should-i-use-peyote-if-i-am-pregnant-or-breastfeeding/, June 2019.

  6. Walthill, WM (2011). Native American Church. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.
    Retrieved from: http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.rel.036, 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: http://www.lycaeum.org//~iamklaus/lophopho.htm, 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.
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Additional Artist Credits

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