More about Peyote S
If you have heard about mescaline cacti, you probably have heard about peyote. One of the most talked about psychoactive cactus, peyote has had a bumpy ride throughout history. From ‘medicine of God’ to ‘Devil’s root’, talking about peyote is entering a world of religion, colonization and psychedelic revolution. It was the peyote cactus that, in 1953, led Aldous Huxley to write his famous book ‘Doors of Perception’.
Peyote has been known by indigenous populations such as the Toltecs and Chichimecas since at least 1890 years before the Europeans invaded America. Even before that, it is possible that the peyote was already being used as a source of entheogenic experiences. It is thought that the Tarahumaras were the first to discover the psychoactive properties of the plant and that the Kiowas and the Comanches were the first tribes in the United States to get to know this godly plant. It was with the Kiowas and the Comanches that the Native American Church took its first steps!
The peyote cactus is originally from the regions that extend from South Texas to San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila and Chihuahua. Since the rise of its popularity, however, it has become more and more difficult to find this cactus in the wild as the over-harvest and the slow growth of the cactus have brought it close to extinction. In 1991 the peyote cactus was classified as an endangered species by the Mexican government and its wild harvesting was made illegal.
The scientific name of the peyote cactus is Lophophora williamsi. ‘Lophophora’ means that which bears tufts and ‘williamsi’ is a possible reference to Reverend Theodore Williams, who owned a cactus collection in England. Peyote is one of the few cacti that only bears spines during its youth. As it grows, the spines develop into its characteristic tufts that make the peyote what it is.
Lophophora williamsi cacti are known for its bluish-green colour and its somewhat flattened structure, which can grow to up to 6cm tall and reach around 12cm in diameter. As its name says, the Lophophora williams doesn’t have spines but instead, they form exuberant tufts that protrude from its ribs. Speaking of ribs, the peyote cactus tends to have around 5 ribs when young and anything between 7 and 13 ribs when older.
Its flowers are of a pink, sometimes whitish colour and they tend to appear sporadically during summer. The peyote cactus is a slow grower and in the wild it can take around 30 years for it to reach the flowering phase. When cultivated by humans this time can be shortened to 6 to 10 years. The fruits that this cactus produces are considered a delicacy and have a very sweet taste when eaten.
Native to desert environments, peyote is one of those that really cannot take too much water. When planting it you should make sure that you use a highly gritty compost with much drainage. It can be difficult to leave your little green friend without water for such a long time but you can be assured that is exactly what it needs. If you notice that the cactus retracts in between watering and that it acquires a more greyish colour, do not be afraid, that is absolutely natural. When it comes to temperatures, the peyote likes it warm. During winter, it is ok for it to be kept at a relatively cool temperature but don’t forget that it won’t survive for too long if you leave it at temperatures below -5°C!
When it comes to psychoactivity, peyote has been described as a ‘little green chemical factory’. Over 60 different alkaloids have been discovered in this plant. Amongst all the different compounds found in this cactus there are 56 nitrogen containing compounds and 20 tyramine-like alkaloids. The two most famous compounds in the plant: mescaline and hordenine. When dry, the mescaline content can range from 3 to 6%, whereas fresh it may be around 0.4%.
After delivery, place the plant in a light spot but not in direct sunlight. After about a month, you may give it a little bit more sunshine and very carefully start watering the plant.
Make sure that you let the plant get used to full sunlight gradually to prevent sunburn and don't overwater it. Allow for the soil to thoroughly dry out between waterings, in spring or autumn you're going to water less then in summer and in the winter you don't need to water your cactus at all.