The Seeker’s Guide to San Pedro

The Seeker's Guide to San Pedro

Trichocereus/Echinopsis Pachanoi, Achuma/Huachuma, Aguacolla, Gigantón

Growing in the high altitudes of the Andes mountains, San Pedro is a tall, fast-growing cactus that contains the psychedelic compound mescaline – and has been used for its powerful medicinal properties by South American peoples for thousands of years.

Anthropological evidence suggests that San Pedro has been a central part of Andean shamanism for many hundreds of generations, and its traditional use is steeped in rich magic and culture, having survived the religious persecution of Spanish colonization.

The long-lasting mystical and sensory experience that results from ingesting San Pedro can be used for personal transformation, spiritual exploration, or even healing.

This guide is intended for those who would like to experience San Pedro 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 Seeker's Guide to San Pedro was created for everyone who is interested in San Pedro. This could be anyone from the complete psychedelic novice to the experienced cactus cultivator.


This guide provides balanced, relevant and practical information for anyone looking to learn about San Pedro. From its cultural history, to the best ways to prepare for a San Pedro 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. San Pedro 101. This first section covers important background information about San Pedro 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 San Pedro. The second section covers practical information about what to expect from a San Pedro experience. You will find an overview of some of the safety concerns and risks related to San Pedro, as well as strategies to reduce the potential for harm. 


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


We also recognize that San Pedro, 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:
San Pedro 101

San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi) is a tall, fast-growing cactus native to the Andes mountains. It has long been used in Andean shamanism for its psychedelic properties, and as a treatment of physical ailments. It is still commonly used in Peru (known as Huachuma), Bolivia (known as Achuma), and Ecuador (known as Aguacolla).

San Pedro contains a number of psychoactive alkaloids, but the major one is the classic psychedelic mescaline. This substance is found in other hallucinogenic cacti, including peyote and Peruvian Torch (Echinopsis peruviana).

Unlike peyote, San Pedro grows quickly, and is not an endangered species. It is legal to grow for ornamental purposes in most countries, but is also illegal to consume in many.

San Pedro can grow up to 20 feet tall, and has nocturnally-blooming white flowers. Although it grows in the Andes at altitudes of over 6,000ft, it is also happy growing indoors and outside at sea level. It can tolerate much higher levels of moisture than other cacti, and healthy plants can grow by about 12 inches per year.

Anthropological evidence suggests that San Pedro is one of the oldest natural plant medicines to be used by humans, with samples in human settlements over 4,000 years old.

The History of San Pedro

The earliest evidence of medicinal or ritualistic San Pedro use comes from an archeological site in Peru, where anthropologist Rosa Fung discovered remains of San Pedro skins dating at around 2,200 BCE. [1]


Stone carvings and other art from pre-Columbian cultures also add to the evidence that San Pedro was used thousands of years ago. An engraving in a 3,000-year-old temple in Peru depicts jaguars and priests holding San Pedro cacti, suggesting that the plant was part of religious ceremony. [2]


Ritualistic use of San Pedro appears to have spread throughout the Andes, with significant evidence of its use by Moche peoples, a pre-Incan society around 500 AD, in ceramics and textiles. [3]

During the Spanish colonization of South and Central America in the 15-18th centuries, the use of many plant medicines was suppressed, often violently. Although San Pedro was not targeted to the same extent as peyote, it still suffered from colonialist influence, and probably explains why a Christian name (San Pedro, after Saint Peter) was given to the cactus. [3] Prior to Catholic influences, San Pedro was probably associated with rain gods – and Saint Peter is the patron saint of rains. [4]


Traditional use of San Pedro has naturally evolved over its many thousands of years of history; but typically a ceremony involves the creation of an altar called a mesa, with a number of artifacts, herbs, stones and idols laid out in a specific pattern depending on their spiritual energy. [5] Similarly to ayahuasca, the shaman leading the ceremony will take the medicine in order to be shown the ailment of their patient, and pointed towards a means of healing it, [3] but patients will often be given the San Pedro to ingest as well.


San Pedro ceremonies will often involve other medicinal plants, such as tobacco and datura. Sometimes guinea pigs are sacrificed as divinatory tools, as is common in much Andean shamanism. Chanting and singing are employed to amplify the energies in the ceremony, which can last through the night. [5]

Wachuma Art by Nicole McGlinn

Artist credit: Nicole McGlinn

Learn more about the culture surrounding San Pedro use in our Beginner’s Guide to Healing with Huachuma.

How to Grow San Pedro

Since San Pedro is used to growing at high altitudes, it’s a hardy cactus that is relatively easy to grow at home. It’s also legal to do so as long as it’s clear that you’re only growing it for ornamental reasons.


Growing it from cuttings involves drying the cut end of the cactus (this takes a week or two), then planting the cutting in a soil/perlite mix. There is no need to water the cactus for the first few weeks, as roots will not yet have established. They need to be kept out of sunlight in a dry place until the roots have set. Full instructions can be found in our Resources section.


You can also grow it from seeds, using a guide known as the “Takeaway Tek,” so-called because you can use plastic takeaway containers to start the process. It involves poking holes in your plastic container, filling it with a warmed and damp soil/perlite mix, and planting the seeds. Germination takes around six months, and after a year you will have baby cacti which you can grow in pretty much any environment. You can find full instructions in our Resources section.

Growing cacti can be watered every day, as they are used to the wet climate of the Andes. [4] Established cacti can be watered roughly once every one or two weeks, and their soil can be dry for at least three days before a new watering. San Pedro should not be watered during colder months, so they can go dormant before the warmer growing months. They can be kept in direct sunlight, but should be in gentler, filtered sunlight during the early stages of growth.

The Pharmacology of San Pedro

San Pedro contains a number of different alkaloids, including hordenine, anhalonidine, anhalonine, trichocerine, tyramine, and a number of phenethylamines. Perhaps most notably, San Pedro contains mescaline, the classic psychedelic compound that is also found in other cacti including peyote and Peruvian Torch.

Although mescaline is probably responsible for most of the psychedelic effects of San Pedro, the other alkaloids have some interesting properties. Hordenine has antibiotic properties, and anhalonidine has been shown to be a mild sedative. [6]

San Pedro is somewhat unique in that it contains very variable levels of mescaline, and usually much lower levels than peyote. 50g of dried cactus can contain anything from 150mg to 1.2g of mescaline, ranging from a threshold dose to a potential overdose. [4] Additionally, the outer skin of the cactus (the part with the darkest color) contains higher levels of mescaline than the rest of the plant. [7]

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.

San Pedro can be made into a decoction by chopping the stalks and boiling them in water. The cactus can also be eaten raw, or dried and ground into a powder. After ingesting San Pedro, it takes around 15-40 minutes to start feeling the effects, and the whole experience may last around 10 hours. Much like peyote, there is chance that San Pedro will cause feelings of nausea or sweating, and maybe even vomiting; but this will pass within an hour or two.


San Pedro is generally considered safe, although there have been no scientific studies of its physiological safety. Mescaline has been linked to fetal abnormalities, so it is not recommended to give San Pedro to pregnant women. [8] San Pedro 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 San Pedro if you have a heart condition.


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


San Pedro contains such highly varying quantities of mescaline that it’s difficult to suggest a good starting dose of cactus. A threshold dose of mescaline is about 100-150mg, but this quantity of mescaline could be present in anything from 5-50g of dried cactus. Therefore, you should start with a relatively low weight, such as 10g of dried cactus, and increase the dose next time if you want a more intense experience.

Healing with San Pedro

San Pedro has traditionally been used to treat a wide range of physical ailments, and emotional issues, under the experienced facilitation of a shaman. More important than the psychoactive properties of the San Pedro is the guidance of the shaman in discovering the cause of the ailment and deciding on a treatment. In fact, many San Pedro ceremonies involve sub-perceptual doses. [4]

Additionally, there have been no scientific studies on the healing potential of San Pedro, so attending a traditional ceremony run by a legitimate Andean shaman may be the most effective way of finding healing with San Pedro.

Peyote, another mescaline-containing cactus, is considered to have anti-addictive properties, and is used by the Native American Church to treat alcohol dependence. It’s hard to say whether San Pedro would have the same effect, especially considering how different the Native American Church’s healing ceremonies are to traditional Andean rituals.

Despite the lack of evidence, we know that San Pedro can induce a mystical experience, and research into other psychedelics has shown that the magnitude of the mystical or spiritual experience that accompanies a trip is directly related to the healing benefits. [9][10]

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 San Pedro experiences suggest that the mystical state it can induce has a profound healing or transformational potential:

“I was getting waves of coldness, which I got told later that this was the San Pedro taking out the negativity that was stored in my body. The room was spinning into a vortex-like spiral which was getting a little bit too intense for my liking, so I closed my eyes but still felt the room spinning. I truly felt the oneness of the universe and felt such bliss, that even when I tried thinking of a negative thought, I would immediately see the positive side to it. [...] Now I have much more compassion for others. So when someone is rude to me or acts in another negative manner, I empathize with them and don't let it bother me. I mean of course I'm still going to have feelings of frustration with certain things or people, after all I'm still human! But I'm at least much more conscious of my thought patterns now. My negative thoughts are at an absolute low that's for sure. San Pedro has really helped put purpose and meaning into my life, so now I'm much more motivated, productive and energized on a daily basis. I'm being very consistent with my exercise and diet, and I'm also writing a lot, putting my thoughts on paper which helps clear my mind.”

- An anonymous tripper’s first experience with San Pedro. [11]

“I became aware of how little peace I had in my life, of how I had always kept searching for more, because what I already had didn't seem good enough. I knew now that no matter what happened, no matter where I came, I would always have to learn to love the present first before I could get anywhere further. Without love one is groping blindly in the dark, without knowing where one is to go because one cannot feel where to go. And I realized that I had been approaching the love of life in a far too rational way, and that I had spent too little time just enjoying it. Instead, I had tried to expand my awareness as one would expand the grounds of a building, destroying whatever lay about it. I had tried to become mindful of the beauty in life in a quantitative way rather than a qualitative way; dutifully rather than because I really enjoyed it. ”

- An anonymous tripper’s experience with San Pedro from Erowid. [12]

“Now, I'm not a very religious person at all, I believe all the separate sects of religion are just another means by which we can differentiate ourselves from one another. [...] But I do believe, when I look at the wonders around me, that there is a God. And when I sat tripping and pondering the contours of this beauty, I gained some instinctual knowledge that the creator of all this innocent acceptance and harmony did not wish for us to do anything but to gaze in wonder at what we have been given, and to be at one with it. [...] Later I sat up on a rock at the top of a nearby hill and felt an overwhelming sense of tranquility. [...] The trip was subsiding but the coloration of the sunset before me was still very enhanced and I still felt the vibrations of nature. I was at one with the world, just where I needed to be.”

- An anonymous tripper’s experience with San Pedro from Erowid. [13]

Part 2:
Practical

Whatever reason you’ve chosen to explore San Pedro, it’s important to do so mindfully and with respect. Viewing San Pedro 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 San Pedro experience.

Gateway San Pedro Art by Tatiana Kiselyova

Choosing the Ideal San Pedro Retreat

As San Pedro is a traditional sacrament, we recommend taking San Pedro within a traditional framework, or with a legitimate Andean shaman. It’s good to consider the impact your psychedelic use has on indigenous communities; so make sure your San Pedro ceremony is not taking advantage of indigenous communities, and is not falsely claiming links with traditional shamans.


San Pedro 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 San Pedro legal in the host country? Most countries don’t allow for its use as a sacrament. 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 San Pedro 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.
    Amenities. 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 San Pedro can be very powerful and may 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.


The location of the ceremony and the time of day it takes place are additional aspects which will influence your experience. Reliable facilitators will choose the setting with care, ensuring that the feeling of union and the communion you experience with the environment stays with you forever.


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.

San Pedro Sunset Art by Kent Osborn

Artist credit: Kent Osborn

  • 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 San Pedro retreat centers – see our Resources section.

Taking San Pedro 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. Regardless of your level of experience, we recommend always tripping with 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 San Pedro. 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 San Pedro, 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 San Pedro 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 San Pedro

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 San Pedro experience.

Spiritual Practices to Use with San Pedro

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 San Pedro 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 San Pedro

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 San Pedro 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 San Pedro will take for granted. Be prepared to lose control and be taken in unexpected directions.

The Risks of San Pedro

San Pedro has not been specifically studied for its physiological safety, but it has been used safely for thousands of years. That said, there are a number of potentially dangerous drug interactions, and risks you should be aware of.


Mescaline has been linked to fetal abnormalities, so it is not recommended to give San Pedro to pregnant women. [8] Additionally, since San Pedro, like peyote, can probably 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 San Pedro. Here are some substances that you should take care with:

  • Blood pressure medications. San Pedro probably effects blood pressure, so avoid mixing it with blood pressure medications such as Vasotec and Zestril.

  • Medications that affect heart rate. San Pedro 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. San Pedro 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. [14] Do not mix lithium with San Pedro.


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 possible for people to experience acute San Pedro fear and distress during a San Pedro 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. Read more about integration in our Resources section.

The San Pedro Experience

San Pedro can be eaten raw, but is most often brewed into a tea so you don’t have to eat the flesh. It can also be dried, and ground into a powder that can be put into capsules if you don’t like the bitter taste of the tea. The green outer layer of the cactus contains the highest levels of mescaline, and sometimes the core is discarded altogether – although there’s no harm in using it. Due to the variable levels of mescaline in San Pedro it’s hard to give precise dosing instructions, but around 10g of dried cactus should be a good starter dose.

The effects of San Pedro should start to appear around 15-40 minutes after ingesting the cactus. Similarly to peyote, the first things you may feel are nausea, chills, and sweating; but this discomfort will pass after an hour or two, and it’s normal to feel better after vomiting.


The psychedelic effects will gradually make themselves known during the first few hours of the trip, and 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 often report that San Pedro is a more sensual psychedelic than others, similar in some ways to empathogens like MDMA. You may be less likely to experience changes in your thoughts, and more likely to experience distortions in your feelings and sensations.

Mescaline Desert by Liquid Mushroom

Artist credit: Liquid Mushroom

From here, the intensity of the experience will gradually increase until you reach a peak, usually at around three or four hours after ingestion. 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 only last an hour or two, and will gradually decline over the next few.


Overall, the San Pedro experience can last up to 10 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 San Pedro

It’s possible to encounter shocking, unpleasant, or disturbing sensations and thoughts during a San Pedro 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.” [15]

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 San Pedro, 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 San Pedro

The San Pedro 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 San Pedro 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

Contrary to peyote’s legal status, and likely due to lower levels of mescaline San Pedro contains, possessing and possessing and cultivating San Pedro as both a cactus and as seeds is perfectly legal in most of the world.

The only caveat is that it’s legal only for ornamental purposes; its use as a psychedelic and possession for purposes of extracting mescaline is illegal in all countries where mescaline is a scheduled substance. In its native countries—Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia—sacramental use is also allowed.

What Next?

For many people, the time just after their first San Pedro 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, San Pedro 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


What is the difference between San Pedro vs peyote?

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.


Can San Pedro cactus survive indoors?

Yes, but they will not be able to grow very large due to less light and not enough space for the roots.


How to buy San Pedro cactus?

Many online ethnobotanical shops sell both seeds and San Pedro cuttings.


Can you eat San Pedro cactus raw?

Yes, but it will take a few hundred grams for a trip... It also may not be easy to keep down.


Is San Pedro cactus safe to consume?

On its own, there is no evidence that San Pedro is dangerous to consume. However, there are some negative interactions that can occur if it's mixed with other substances. You may refer to the Risks section of this guide for more information.


Will San Pedro cactus show up on 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.


How much San Pedro cactus do you need to take to trip?

Due to the wide range of mescaline levels (the highest concentration measured is 20 times stronger than the lowest), it is difficult to gauge effective dosages of San Pedro. It’s impossible to accurately determine the mescaline concentration of a stem, as this depends on too many variables. The typically recommended “moderate trip” dose of mescaline should be contained in about 200 - 300g or 20 - 30cm of fresh stem, providing its mescaline concentration is around the normal 0.1%. However, although rarely, that weight can contain a dangerous amount of the substance. This is why it’s best to follow the indigenous tradition and consume little by little in intervals of over an hour, as per need.


Are San Pedro cactii legal?

Possessing and cultivating San Pedro as both a cactus and as seeds is legal in most of the world.


How to identify San Pedro cactus?

San Pedro is a mostly spineless cactus, with short (up to 2cm) thorns growing out from areoles on its ribs, which are up to 2cm apart. It's light, dark, or greyish green color (which turns to yellow if it’s exposed to too much sunlight), it grows up to 6m, in a tree-like or bush format with multiple branches extending from the base or from broken columns.


Can San Pedro cactus survive winter?

San Pedro is frost-tolerant only in USDA Zones 8b through 10 and hardy to 15°F.


Can San Pedro have 5 ribs?

Yes it can, but it will most commonly have between 6 and 8 ribs.


Can you microdose San Pedro?

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.


Is San Pedro cactus addictive?

Mescaline is not an addictive substance.


Does San Pedro cactus 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.


How to prepare San Pedro cactus for consumption?

San Pedro can be made into a tea by chopping the stalks and boiling them in water. The cactus can also be eaten raw (not recommended), or dried and ground into a powder.


How long does dry San Pedro keep?

In a cool, dark, and dry place, dried San Pedro can basically keep forever.

References

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Additional Artist Credits

  • Part 1 background image: Suzanne Klotz
  • Part 2 featured image: Tatiana Kiselyova
  • Part 3 background image: Amanda Sage