Trichocereus Pachanoi, aka San Pedro, is a columnar cactus native to the Andean mountains of Peru, and Ecuador. Some of the indigenous names for San Pedro are: huachuma, chuma, and wachuma. It is one of the four most sacred plants of Peru, along with Tobacco, Ayahuasca and Coca. San Pedro has hallucinogenic properties and is often compared to the more popular cactus known as Peyote; both are members of the mescaline family. Mescaline is a psychoactive alkali that occurs naturally in the aforementioned cacti and also other species of Cacti. Shamans and natives have used San Pedro for at least 3000 years. The earliest known depiction of the cactus that dates back to 1300 BC is a carving of a mythological creature holding the cactus. San Pedro got its name because in mythology God hid the keys to heaven in a secret place and the Christian Saint who was named San Pedro used the powers of the cactus to uncover the secret hiding places of the keys and later the cactus was named after him.
The natives and Shamans typically prepare the San Pedro by slicing and then boiling pieces of the stem for a few hours; afterwards the liquid that is left is taken orally. The cacti is said to be bitter, but not to unbearable however. Sometimes the Shamans will prepare the cactus with other sacred psychoactive plants like coca or tobacco. San Pedro can also be taken from a powder that is made from drying out the cactus.
The effects that are felt from the ‘high’ of this cactus are quite spiritual. I personally have not tried this sacred medicine, but I would imagine that because this is a hallucinogen, if not done in the proper setting with the intention of having a spiritual experience one could have a ‘bad trip.’ Traditional San Pedro ceremonies are typically held outside around a fire with a Shaman present. It is brewed as a tea and when it is cool the participants will drink it. Much like another sacred plant medicine of Peru called Ayahuasca (read more about that here and here) the intense effects of the San Pedro can make you purge out negative energies and things that no longer serve you. Generally, once you purge, you feel a sense of connectedness to the Earth and all that is around you. You may find yourself in an awake dream state, where it is as if your body is asleep to some extent. This provides you with the opportunity to leave your body and travel to other realms. Many people see the energy moving around them, but people have also reported seeing fractals and even sacred geometry while their eyes are closed. An average San Pedro trip can last anywhere between 7-12 hours – hold on to your hats!
More recently San Pedro cactus has been used to treat a broad range of physical, mental and emotional disorders, as well as people with addictions such as alcoholism. It has been used quite regularly throughout South America for a long time to enhance life and connect the people to “pachamana” (Spanish term for Mother Earth). Cultivation of San Pedro cactus is currently legal in most places around the world, however the possession of mescaline for the purpose of consumption is highly illegal and highly penalized in places like Canada, United States, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Norway and many others. Hmm.. a mind expanding, connecting, spiritual medicine that has been used for millennia is illegal, why? Sure makes you wonder.