The Effects of Mescaline in the San Pedro Cactus

Third Wave · September 3rd, 2021

Disclaimer: San Pedro is a largely illegal substance and we do not encourage or condone its use 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 enhance the safety of those who decide to use San Pedro and mescaline.

When it comes to microdosing psychedelics, most people have heard of the more commonly-used hallucinogens LSD and psilocybin. Meanwhile, San Pedro, a fast-growing cactus native to the Andean region of Peru, Ecuador, and other South American Countries, has largely flown under the radar.

That appears to be changing. In recent years, the San Pedro cactus (also known as echinopsis pachanoi, trichocereus pachanoi, or huachuma), and peyote cactus (lophophora williamsii), have become increasingly popular plant medicines among psychedelic enthusiasts, and for good reason. They are harbingers of a number of alkaloids, including the strong hallucinogen of the phenethylamine class, mescaline (5-trimethoxyphenethylamine).

The San Pedro cactus was originally discovered by the Chavin culture and its mescaline has been used in Native American rituals and religious ceremonies for over 3000 years. It offers a psychedelic experience similar to LSD—but more prolonged and with greater physical and psychoactive effects.

It’s not unheard of for a mescaline experience to activate receptors in the brain for up to 18 hours—with users often reporting a deep, dream-like psychedelic effect complete with visions and sound-and-scale distortions. When microdosing, San Pedro offers psychoactive effects that are more consistent and reliable than DMT, LSD, or psilocybin (with minimal, if any, visual hallucinations), and the associated mescaline can actually make you more active and alert while, in some cases, offering a legitimate remedy for anxiety, depression, and addiction.

san pedro cactus blooming

Effects of mescaline: From salts to ayahuasca

Like other psychedelics, such as magic mushrooms, synthesized mescaline—as well as that found in the San Pedro cactus (huachuma) and the peyote cactus in the South American Andes—stimulates the brain’s serotonin and dopamine receptors, and can lead to  significant hallucinogenic effects. These can include various visual hallucinations and synesthesia (e.g., feeling or smelling sights and sounds). When microdosing, the surge in serotonin can help relieve anxiety and depression and create a euphoric feeling of well-being.

Use of mescaline can take various different forms, but typically occurs through the ingestion of raw or dried cactus or extracted salts. Mescaline salts can be added to a beverage—such as juice or tea—or ingested in capsule form. Dried cactus, meanwhile, has a much longer shelf-life. The dried flesh, similar in texture to magic mushrooms, is often ground into a powder and ingested in a similar way to salts—frequently through a brew.

While recommended dosages vary from person to person, you can typically safely microdose San Pedro by taking between 10 and 30 mg of salts, or three to 10 mg of powder.

Compared to other psychedelics, San Pedro (and mescaline) offers a unique experience  and it is unlike DMT and ayahuasca. DMT, which is also a naturally-occurring psychedelic, is found in a wide variety of plants and animals all across the globe. Whereas San Pedro offers a longer experience up to 16 hours, DMT, depending on how it is extracted and consumed, is  shorter-lived. It can last as little as one hour (if smoked) or as many as seven for those who opt for working with ayahuasca. Ayahuasca, is a brew made from two plants: the Banisteriopsis caapi (yage) vine  and the Psychotria viridis (chacruna) leaf. It is known that  San Pedro is often taken during the day time and offers a gentle, heart-opening high, whereas ayahuasca ceremonies always take place at night and can be more challenging as it’s a shadow medicine.

brewing ayahuasca

Common effects of San Pedro and Peyote

When routinely microdosing San Pedro, you can expect to experience a range of effects, including:

  • Deep personal introspection
  • Increased creativity
  • Enhanced empathy
  • Lucid dreaming
  • Alleviation of depression (without the side effects of antidepressants)
  • A sense of peace and calm
  • Sharpened senses
  • Improved focus
  • A surge in energy
  • Prolonged physical endurance
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved interpersonal and intrapersonal skills

Are there risks to microdosing the San Pedro cactus?

Like all psychedelics, cacti like the San Pedro come with their share of risks. For starters, there’s the issue of legality. Because mescaline is considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance, it’s illegal to ingest in most places (although often legal to grow for ornamental purposes). In the United States, for instance, federal law reserves the use of peyote and mescaline for members of the Native American Church. Second, it should not be consumed if you’re under the influence of alcohol, other stimulants, or heart medication.

San Pedro also poses risks to individuals who have:

  • Underlying mental health conditions (e.g., psychosis)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems

If you do choose to microdose, there isn’t a lot of research published on the process—so it’s important to start with the lowest recommended amount and slowly work your way up. Your ideal dosage will be unique to you.

San Pedro side effects

Even if you get the dosing right, you can still fall victim to a number of side effects, which include:

  • Moderate to severe vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Diarrhea

And while San Pedro is not addictive, over time the receptors in your brain can get used to it—which means you will require a greater dosage to realize its effects.

A better psychedelic experience

Like all hallucinogens, San Pedro can lead to a “bad trip”—particularly if you don’t dose effectively or are in the wrong environment. If you don’t feel safe with the people you’re with, or if you take San Pedro while in a negative mood or state of depression, you can end up experiencing terrifying hallucinations you must ride out. This speaks to the importance of adopting the proper set and setting.

If you’re interested in microdosing and want to do it with expert guidance rather than going it alone, check out Third Wave’s Microdosing Course. Using the latest research from cutting-edge scientists and doctors, we’ll help you develop a customized, step-by-step process to change habits, enhance creativity, and optimize performance.

Reader Interactions


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *