The Essential Guide to Peyote

(Mescaline, Mescalito, Anhalonium, Buttons)



Disclaimer: Mescaline is a potentially illegal substance, and we do not encourage or condone the use of this substance where it is against the law. However, we accept that illegal drug use occurs, and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this guide is designed to ensure the safety of those who decide to use the substance.

01. Overview

Peyote is the common name of the cactus Lophophora williamsii, native to northern Mexico and the southwest United States. The button-shaped seeds of the plant are chewed, releasing a number of psychedelic alkaloids, with mescaline being the primary psychoactive component. It can also be made into a tea by infusing water with peyote buttons.

Peyote has long been used in Native American ceremonial traditions and is used throughout the world today in a wide variety of settings, including meditation and psychotherapy. It was the first psychedelic drug to enter mainstream US culture, long before LSD and psilocybin.

02. History & Stats

Brief history

A 2005 study found traces of peyote in Native American ruins that date back at least 5,700 years, making this its earliest known use. [1]

Peyote was used extensively in pre-columbian tribal rituals throughout modern-day northern Mexico and the southern plains of the United States. Various accounts and evidence suggest it first used by the Tonkawa, the Mescalero and Lipan Apache in present day northern Mexico. This plant medicine later spread to migrating tribes from the north, such as the Comanche and Kiowa.

As part of assimilation programs run by the US government spanning from the 1880s to the 1930s, peyote use was made illegal among Native American tribes. After winning a series of religious freedom cases, its use is now allowed in religious ceremonial practices by native peoples in the US.

Mescaline, the active compound in peyote, was first first isolated in 1897 by German chemist Arthur Heffter and the first synthetic synthesis of the compound came in 1919 by Austrian chemist Ernst Spath.

After the US military learned of mescaline being used in “truth serum” experiments by the Nazis, the US Navy began its own interrogation experiments with mescaline and other drugs under the secret program named “Project Chatter”, lasting from 1947 to 1953.[2] That same year, in 1953, Aldous Huxley famously first ingested mescaline and would later write about his experience in The Doors of Perception.

By the early 1970s, however, domestic legislation and international treaties targeted mescaline and a host of other drugs by categorizing them as controlled substances, effectively making them illegal.

However, use of peyote in religious ceremonies has technically been legal at the federal level since 1965. In 1996, the federal government laid out clearer guidelines, citing the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act of 1993, effectively making its use for religious practices legal in all 50 states.[3] But state laws have sometimes prevented peyote practices among Native Americans not affiliated with specific groups that have been granted permission to use the cactus by the federal government.

Current usage

Usage statistics concerning peyote and mescaline are not available, but we can track its rising popularity by looking at publications and google searches.

Publications related to peyote and mescaline saw a dramatic increase beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, with another major spike in the 1960s and 1970s with the psychedelic revolution. In recent year, published mentions of both have decreased, possibly due to the popularity of other psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms.


Google search interest over time has been relatively steady to declining in recent years, with the exception of spike in searches in late 2014.


Caution about cultivation

The peyote cactus is an endangered plant, so a big risk of peyote use is people poaching the cacti or selling poached plants. Cultivation needs to be encouraged so these plants can survive.

So make sure, if you purchase peyote in a legal setting, that it’s sourced responsibly and is not poached. Do not go out picking peyote cacti without the intention of growing more!

The San Pedro cactus is an alternative to peyote that is not endangered. It still contains mescaline so you won’t notice the difference.

03. Pharmacology

Receptor binding

Mescaline binds to virtually all serotonin receptors in the brain but has a stronger affinity for the 1A and 2A/B/C receptors. It’s structurally similar to LSD and often used as a benchmark hallucinogen when comparing psychedelics.

Like nearly all hallucinogens, the psychedelic effects of mescaline are likely due to its action on serotonin 2A receptors.

Safety and toxicity

A 2005 study found no detrimental long-term effects of peyote use on Native American populations that used the plant in the context of ceremonial rituals.[4] It should be noted that its use in other contexts may not be as safe (remember: set and setting ), and later studies have found an association between prior mental health problems and “bad trips” with peyote.[5] In general, however, mescaline appears to present little risk of flash backs.[6]

04. Effects

A full dose contains about 200 to 400 mg of mescaline,[7] and most people need about 6 peyote buttons to achieve this dose. Peak effects occur about 2 to 4 hours after ingesting and gradually decline over the next 8-12 hours.

The effects of mescaline are similar to LSD, profoundly altering perception of self and reality, increase suggestibility, and intensify emotions.

Within 30 minutes to an hour, most people begin to experience some form of physiological distress, nausea, discomfort, fullness in the stomach, sweating, and/or chills. Physical symptoms can last 1-2 hours, after which they are usually replaced with a sense of calm and acceptance. At this point, the psychological effects begin to occur.[8]

Some users experience a deeply mystical/transcendental state, but bad trips and dysphoric symptoms are not uncommon among people who don’t pay attention to set and setting and/or have histories of mental illness.

Many describe mescaline described as more sensual and perceptual and less altering of thought and sense of self when compared to LSD, while some experienced users have trouble telling the difference between the two drugs.

Trip reports and other resources

05. Therapeutic Use

Traditional peyote ceremonies, which include drumming, chanting, and prolonged periods of sleeplessness, in conjunction with social and behavioral interventions have been used in many Native American communities to treat drug and alcohol addiction.[9]

The effects of peyote on the serotonin system likely aid the therapeutic effects in treating addiction, but the setting and social support offered throughout the treatment likely have just as much or not more effect on the addict. These ceremonies are multifaceted and include a master guide, marathon group sessions, ego reduction techniques, social networks, and a focus on self-actualization.

The therapy is centered around inducing visions of one’s ruin as a future addict. Effectively, the goal of the therapeutic ceremony is to bring about a sense of hitting “rock bottom” and inducing a sense of a need for change. The intense visions and emotional alterations brought about by the combination of peyote and meditative states through drumming and chants acts a powerful facilitator in increasing self-awareness, a reinterpretation of the self, and a sense of control in the addict.

In addition to the direct effects on the serotonin system, peyote is also associated with an “afterglow” effect that can last up to 6 weeks after a ceremony. Many report being happier and more open to communication during this period, making follow-up therapy sessions more effective as well.

06. Personal Growth

Traditional peyote ceremonies often aim to restore balance between the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realms.[10] Many of the same aspects associated with peyote’s therapeutic effects apply to personal growth and development.

The immediate effects are alterations in consciousness and emotional experiences, which, given the proper set and setting, can increase self-awareness and honest communication with one’s own inner narrative. It can trigger profound states of introspection often described in metaphysical and spiritual terms, highlighting interconnectedness with nature and other people.

Native American traditional peyote spiritual ceremonies are almost always conducted overnight and, depending on the purpose of the ceremony, can used individually or in groups. Tobacco offerings and prayers are common at the beginning of the ceremony, prior to taking the plant, which is likely a critical element of establishing a welcoming and safe set and setting. Songs and chants are used throughout the ceremony in order to keep a focus on the sacred and guide the user through a successful experience.

Peyote ceremonies are used in prayers and spiritual practices for just about anything — health and wellbeing, spiritual guidance for important decisions or journeys, soldiers going off to war, the passing of a loved one, etc.

07. FAQ

Can it be detected in a drug test?

Mescaline can be detected in a drug test for 1 to 4 days after use, but it’s not included in either a standard or extended drug screen. Virtually all labs require a specific test for the substance, so unless your employer is a real stickler and worried that you’ve been frequenting peyote ceremonies, you should be fine.

Will it make me go crazy?

If you follow the 6S’s of psychedelic use, and avoid taking psychedelics if you have a family history of mental health issues, they will not make you go crazy.

Peyote can cause you to feel crazy for a short time (acute psychosis), known colloquially as a ‘bad trip’, if you don’t follow the 6S’s. Although there is no concrete evidence, it’s thought that psychedelics might be able to cause latent mental health issues to appear, so don’t take psychedelics if you have a family history of mental health issues.

Is it legal to grow peyote cactus?

Peyote cacti are legal to grow in some places (including Canada), but it will take several years to establish a decent sized garden. Growing them is not particularly challenging, and requires only occasional monitoring of sun and water levels.

How do I take it?

Peyote buttons can be eaten whole, or brewed as a tea. A moderate dose of 200-400mg mescaline can be achieved by ingesting around 6 buttons.

Can I microdose with peyote?

Peyote can be microdosed by ingesting around 20-40mg of mescaline, which is around half a button, but everyone’s tolerance is different. Re-dose every four days. Click here for a detailed guide on microdosing.

Will it produce tolerance?

Peyote can produce a tolerance that lasts several days, and can produce cross-tolerance to other psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin. It’s recommended to wait several days between doses.

Can I mix it with other drugs?

Peyote should not be mixed with Tramadol, as it can lead to Serotonin Syndrome. Be cautious if mixing peyote with cannabis, amphetamines or cocaine. Click here for a detailed chart of safe drug combinations.

08. Footnotes

[1] El-Seedi, H. R., De Smet, P. A., Beck, O., Possnert, G., & Bruhn, J. G. (2005). Prehistoric peyote use: Alkaloid analysis and radiocarbon dating of archaeological specimens of Lophophora from Texas. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 101(1), 238–242.

[2] 1947–1953: Navy’s Project CHATTER tested drugs for interrogation. (2015, January 18).

[3] 42 U.S. Code § 1996a – Traditional Indian religious use of peyote.

[4] Halpern, J. H., Sherwood, A. R., Hudson, J. I., Yurgelun-Todd, D., & Pope, H. G. (2005). Psychological and cognitive effects of long-term peyote use among Native Americans. Biological Psychiatry, 58(8), 624–631.

[5] Inaba, D. S., Cohen, W. E., & Holstein, M. E. (2007). Uppers, downers, all arounders. Physical and Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs. Oregon: CNS Productions.

[6] Halpern, J. H., & Pope, H. G. (2003). Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder: what do we know after 50 years? Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 69(2), 109–119.

[7] Halpern, J. H., Sherwood, A. R., Hudson, J. I., Yurgelun-Todd, D., & Pope, H. G. (2005). Psychological and cognitive effects of long-term peyote use among Native Americans. Biological Psychiatry, 58(8), 624–631.

[8] Tsetsi, E. (2014, January 9). A Remote Arizona Church Offers Peyote-Induced Spiritual Journeys.

[9] Winkelman, M. (2014). Psychedelics as medicines for substance abuse rehabilitation: evaluating treatments with LSD, peyote, ibogaine and ayahuasca. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 7(2), 101–116.

[10] Jones, P. N. (2005). The American Indian Church and its sacramental use of peyote: a review for professionals in the mental-health arena. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 8(4), 277–290.

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