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 illicit 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.
This article has been medically reviewed by Katrina Oliveros, MSN-ED, BSN
So, you’ve read up on the San Pedro cactus, Echinopsis pachanoi (Trichocereus pachanoi). You know its botanical and cultural background and what you might expect from an experience with the mescaline it contains. But you’ve yet to try this sacred cactus for the first time.
Maybe you’ve already had a Huachuma experience deep in the Andes mountains of Peru and are ready to work with this remarkable psychedelic plant medicine on your terms without returning to South America for a San Pedro ceremony.
In any case, you might find yourself wondering how to prepare San Pedro for your own use.
Things to keep in mind when preparing San Pedro cactus
A recommended dose of the hallucinogenic mescaline for a beginner is around 200-300mg. On average, this corresponds to 200-300 grams of whole fresh cactus.
There are many beautiful things about San Pedro. But taste and texture are not on that list. Properly prepared cactus teas or brews are more palatable, easier to store, and may produce less nausea.
What should the prep area look like?
Aside from any ritual observances you may have in mind for preparing San Pedro, all you need as a prep area is a kitchen or any other space in which you’d prepare food.
Any special gear/tools/etc.?
Making a San Pedro tea or brew does not require anything you wouldn’t usually find in the kitchen. You will need a large saucepan, kitchen knives for slicing or chopping, a cooktop, colander or strainer, and a t-shirt or cheesecloth.
If the cactus you’re working with has long spines, you may want heavy leather gloves.
Side note: If the spines are long, you may have a different species of cacti, such as Peruvian Torch (Echinopsis peruviana) or Bolivian Torch (Echinopsis lageniformis syn. Trichocereus bridgesii), which may require different dosages.
Making San Pedro Tea
This technique (or tek) isn’t new or unique. The San Pedro cactus, native to countries from Ecuador to Bolivia, has many thousands of years of ceremonial use by Chavin shamans throughout the region.
Much of the traditional Andean use of Trichocereus cacti for San Pedro or Wachuma ceremonies follow a similar process. However, many psychonauts across the world have developed unique variations.
1. Source and estimate your dose
This isn’t strictly a preparation step, but it’s necessary. A recommended dose of San Pedro for a beginner is around 200-300mg of mescaline. On average, this corresponds to 200-300 grams of fresh cactus.
2. De-spine, peel, and chop
Remove the spines with pliers, or cut them out, taking minimal flesh in the process. Peel the translucent waxy outer layer off the cactus, leaving the dark green flesh. This verdant layer is thought to contain the most mescaline.
Some recipes only use the darker green material and discard the rest, while others use the whole cactus. Both work, though removing the paler flesh is thought by some to reduce nausea. Whatever you choose, finely chop the cactus flesh or use a food processor to break it down into small pieces.
Place cactus material in a saucepan or slow-cooker, with three times as much water as there is cactus, bring to a low boil/simmer, then cook on low heat for at least 6 hours.
You could add lemon juice, as some people think this aids mescaline extraction, but this isn’t a proven fact. Do not let the tea boil dry! This will ruin your brew, your saucepan, and possibly your kitchen!
4. Strain the cactus material out of the tea
Using a clean t-shirt or cheesecloth, strain the cactus out of the tea. This material can be re-boiled in water separately to get any remaining psychoactive alkaloids.
The remaining liquid is then added back to the main brew. But if you didn’t rush the previous step and used a food processor, there won’t be much active ingredient left to extract.
5. Gently simmer some more to reduce volume.
This step can take some hours, so be patient. Ideally, you should get the amount of liquid down to no more than 1 cup per full dose.
This step isn’t as necessary if you’re microdosing, as you’ll only be using a relatively small amount of the liquid. Most psychoactive cactus preparations can cause temporary nausea early in the trip (though less than ayahuasca). So, you don’t want to be trying to drink and then keep down a liter or two of San Pedro tea.
6. Store or use.
You can keep cactus tea safely in the fridge for up to a week.
If you want to keep your tea for longer, freeze individual doses or microdoses so that you don’t have to defrost more than necessary at any one time.
A final word on mescaline dosage and safety
Mescaline concentrations can vary considerably between individual plants. As such, a preparation of San Pedro, made with 200-300 grams of cactus, could be anywhere between mild and robust in psychedelic strength. It’s common to estimate dose by the length of pieces of cactus.
But remember that thicker pieces of cactus weigh more and could contain much more mescaline.
For example, a section of cactus 3.5 inches in diameter would have more than twice the mescaline of a section that is 2.4 inches in diameter.
As recommended by Fire Erowid herself, the point here is to not assume too much about the mescaline content of any given cactus. Erowid estimates the maximum “safe “dose of mescaline to be around 1000 mg, however, Erowid also calls that dose “dangerous ground to tread on.”
Even 500 mg is considered an “extreme dose” So, always stay well below that threshold and somewhere between a low to moderate dose. Erring on the side of caution is critical until you have a source of cactus that is predictable in potency.
It’s also worth remembering that mescaline is much longer-acting than other psychoactive plant medicines like psilocybin. So when it comes to planning your psychedelic experience, allow plenty of time for your journey and rest afterwards.
Suppose you’re a beginner or aren’t comfortable dealing with the uncertainty around dosing. In that case, the San Pedro providers in Third Wave’s directory may be a good option for you.
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