Travel great distances in your sleep
While peyote and even San Pedro cactus are both fairly well known for their mescaline content, it surprises most people to learn that more than 150 other species of cacti also contain mescaline or some similar shamanic phenethylamine alkaloids. Phenethylamine alkaloids (PEAs) are similar in structure to the neurotransmitter dopamine, and this similarity explains the psychoactive nature. Research into these PEA cacti is ongoing, and a steady stream of new cacti and new PEA compounds are being discovered and better understood. The research into these cacti and their compounds was the focus of the premier psychedelic chemist and juggernaut Sasha Shulgin, part of whose work consisted of classifying all the psychoactive compounds naturally occurring in cacti.
While this article shall focus on two commonly found species—Mammilaria senilis and Pachycereus pringlei—every year at least another couple of species of cacti are added to the list, and our discovery of new naturally occurring psychedelics continues to grow at an astounding rate. Some of these compounds have also now been synthesized and sold in the open market as “research chemicals.” And one can expect to see new interesting psychoactive compounds being discovered from this ongoing cacti research.
Mammilaria senilis in bloom.
The majority of these cacti is native to the Americas, and can live comfortably in the temperature zones of North America’s backyards. Research into many of these cacti is ongoing, and thus this discussion should only serve as a guide for more investigation. Furthermore, many cacti look a lot alike and great care must be taken to correctly identify the species before consuming it. Nevertheless, there’s a large trippy world to be explored here for the intrepid juggernaut.
The Tamahumara Indians of northern Mexico consider several species of Mammilaria (M. craigii, M. microcarpia, M. grahamii, as well as, M. senilis) to be important “false peyotes” which they call wichuriki or just hikuri. Like peyote, the cacti are valued as a visual hallucinogen used for divination or spiritual health. The plant is split open at the top, which is the strongest and most generally used part of the cactus. A cup or two can be eaten raw or cooked. The Tamahumara believe that these false peyotes allow one to travel great distances in one’s sleep. The plant contains several interesting psychoactive phenethylamines including N-methyl-3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine, a compound also structurally similar to MDMA (or ecstasy).
There’s a large trippy world to be explored here for the intrepid juggernaut.
Another very interesting cactus, native to central northern Mexico, Baja and the southwestern United States—although now more widely cultivated—is Pachycereus pringlei. P. pringlei is a fairly attractive dark green cactus with a round shape and 11 ribs, lined with spike clusters consisting of 18 pins plus one huge pin in the centre. It can get incredibly tall, reaching over 40 feet. While no known indigenous group uses it as a sacrament, the Seri of northern Mexico do use the plant in religious ceremonies and use its juice as an antiseptic. Furthermore, this cactus has been depicted in sacred cave paintings found throughout the northern regions of Mexico. Because the paintings came to the attention of Sasha Sulgin, he was the first to document P. pringlei’s consumption and verify its psychoactivity.
Pachycereus pringlei, also known as Mexican giant cardon or elephant cactus, is native to northwestern Mexico.
The care for both these and the other cacti listed is relatively easy taken they are placed in direct sunlight and not overwatered. Many of these cacti are frost-intolerant so they are best brought indoors during the winter months. Furthermore, many of these mind-altering alkaloid-rich cacti can be easily located in cacti specialty shops.
A few of the recently understood compounds have already been outlawed. The wise shaman as always will enjoy their cacti collection as lovely houseplants and consume them only in the privacy and safety of their own home. While all the cacti except for peyote is legal to possess; their consumption would be another matter.
Warning: Poaching and unsustainable harvesting practices have put the peyote cactus at risk of extinction in the United States. As the peyote sacrament is central to the religious rituals of the Native American Church, only peyoteros (licensed peyote harvesters) may collect the cacti in the wild. Respect of shamanic traditions should always prevail when exploring natural plant compounds.
For additional entheogen resources: www.iceers.org
Muraco Kyashna-tochá is a cultural anthropologist with over 50 years of experience exploring the nether regions of her mind with entheogens. She is an award-winning educator and a recognized medical cannabis advocate with extensive experience working on medical cannabis legislation in Washington State.
For more from Muraco Kyashna-tochá go to: www.muraco.org
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