Out of the roughly 1800 different species of cactus known to man, a few species are known to contain the psychedelic substance known as mescaline. Mescaline is the first psychedelic that was isolated as a chemical substance. Mescaline containing species are also known to have been used for psychedelic purposes for at least thousands of years, the first known use of Peyote was in modern day Texas, around 5600 years ago.
In South America, another cactus grows that’s known for its high mescaline content. This cactus is known as the San Pedro cactus. Surrounding regions have related species, but these species generally tend to contain lower concentrations of mescaline. Compared to other psychedelic substances, mescaline is relatively inactive per unit of weight. In addition mescaline differs from other psychedelics in other ways. Mescaline, like all the traditional psychedelics, binds to the 5ht2a receptor, from which it derives most of its psychedelic effects.
However, unlike the other natural psychedelics, mescaline is not a tryptamine. For this reason, it’s thought that mescaline is not broken down through the monoamine oxidase pathways that break down psychedelics like DMT, Psilocin and 5-MeO-DMT. Another psychedelic not broken down by this pathway is LSD. Monoamine oxidase breaks down our natural neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which bind to the receptors that LSD binds to.
For this reason, whereas substances that inhibit monoamine oxidase strengthen the effects of DMT and Psilocin by prohibiting these substances from being broken down, combining a monoamine oxidase inhibitor with LSD has the effect of increasing the concentration of natural neurotransmitters, which thereby reduces the strength of the effects of LSD. For mescaline, it’s less clear what the effects are of monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
The reason for this is, because mescaline appears to have an effect through the dopamine receptor. When the dopamine receptor is blocked, mescaline loses some of its psychedelic effects in test subjects. For this reason, mescaline can be expected to have effects on people’s minds that uniquely differ from those of most other classical psychedelics, in relatively subtle ways. Something I personally expect, based on the involved pathways, is that mescaline would have the effect of reducing anxiety, particularly in social situations.
A study has been done that looked at Navajo participants in the Native American church, who have taken Peyote 300 times on average. The study found that there was no cognitive harm from taking Peyote in the participants. Instead, it was found that their mental health had improved in a number of aspects. Compared to non-participants, the participants had improved psychological well-being. In addition, the study looked at the effect of the lifetime number of doses of Peyote on the mental health on participants in the church. Those who had taken Peyote more often, had overall improved mental health and reduced anxiety.
How is this possible? To me, it seems that the classical psychedelics have an effective therapeutic effect on people’s mental health. The Psilocybe mushrooms are very effective in reducing severe depression and preventing suicide, even compared to other psychedelics. On the other hand, LSD seems to be relatively unique in its energetic high, that delivers increased creativity to those who take the substance. My suspicion is that Mescaline, like the other psychedelics, also has its own unique character. Based on its activity through dopamine receptors, I expect that mescaline may be relatively unique in addressing anxiety.
Why do I expect this? To start with, one study found that mescaline was the only psychedelic that was found to be associated with a significant reduction in agoraphobia. Those who had ever taken mescaline were roughly 40% less likely to suffer agoraphobia. Largely, I expect this as a consequence of what I have read about psychedelics, from user experience reports. Those who have taken different psychedelics, tend to report that mescaline is less prone to cause a bad trip than other psychedelics. Others report that mescaline reduces their social anxiety. This also fits what we know about dopamine, as dopamine patterns are altered in social anxiety.
How psychedelics address mental problems
Mental health problems, are believed to be caused by the brain getting stuck into particular patterns, according to one interpretation. The brain creates various networks between different parts. These networks however can end up strongly reinforcing themselves, especially after experiencing certain traumatic events. Once this happens, positive feedback loops ensure that disordered patterns remain stuck in place.
This interpretation of mental illness, explains how psychedelics can resolve mental illness. Most studies done on psychedelics tend to find that the risk of mental health problems is reduced in people who have taken high doses of psychedelics at least once in their lives. Current research done on psychedelics suggests that these substances temporary create a state of hyper-connectivity in the brain, which allows the brain to form new connections between different parts, thereby moving past disordered patterns that had been stuck in place for a long time However, the form of connectivity between different parts of the brain, differs depending on the particular psychedelic taken. For this reason, it may be beneficial to try different psychedelics, or even to combine different psychedelics, although there hasn’t been enough research to draw firm conclusions on this yet.
Preventing bad trips on psychedelics
We know some people suffer bad trips on psychedelics. As I mentioned earlier, this appears to be relatively less common with mescaline, because of the involvement of the dopamine system in mescaline. However, with this knowledge the risk of a bad trip can be reduced for the other psychedelics too. Consider for example, the fact that people who take mushrooms often take “bad trip stoppers”. One bad trip stopper used is simple sugar. It’s imagined this reduces the strength of the psychedelic state, however this seems to be the wrong interpretation of the effect. What actually seems to happen is that sugar causes a dopamine rush. When this happens, a person’s mood is suddenly elevated. This can be sufficient, to change the direction of the mushroom trip to a more positive outcome.
Another substance used in bad trip stoppers, is Valerian. Valerian is an anxiety reducing herb, because it binds to the 5ht1a receptor. Other herbs that have similar effects are Lavender, chamomille and other herbs used for relaxation and sleep promotion. It’s generally easy to find herbal tea in the supermarket, based on lavender, valerian and other herbs with similar effects. These herbs interact in a synergistic manner, to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. For psychedelic use, these teas work well in my own experience guiding others through the psychedelic state.
Preventing nausea with mescaline
One unfortunate side-effect of mescaline is that the substance is known to cause nausea during the initial moments after ingestion. This is mostly caused by the fact that mescaline binds to serotonin receptors in our gut, specifically the 5ht3 receptors. This nausea can be prevented however, through use of anti-emetic herbs. An example of an effective anti-nausea herbal brew taken before taking mescaline can be found here. The recipe is as following:
2oz Fresh Squeeze Ginger Juice from Juicer
7 Drops Essential Oil of Lemon
3 Drops Essential Oil of Peppermint
3 Drops Essential Oil of Clove
3 Drops Essential Oil of Lavender
Important to note is that mescaline that binds to serotonin receptors in your gut is effectively wasted. In other words, it can be expected that preparing for the nausea caused by mescaline also leads you to need less mescaline to reach the same psychedelic effect. People who take 5ht3 antagonists before taking mescaline tend to report that mescaline becomes a stronger psychedelic as a consequence.
The future of the San Pedro cactus
The Peyote cactus is a relatively slow-growing cactus, that can thrive under rather specific circumstances. The San Pedro cactus however, can grow fast and can tolerate a broad range of conditions. All cactus species originate on the American continent. One species however, the prickly pear cactus, has spread around the world, as it is cultivated for its fruit. In a similar manner, the San Pedro cactus is a good candidate to spread around the world. It’s easy to grow a San Pedro cactus yourself, I am cultivating them myself. Small ones can be bought on the internet and will root quite easily in cactus soil. The San Pedro cactus is one of the first plants in my growing psychedelic botanical collection.
Many invasive species spread into new environments, without causing harm to indigenous species. In fact, the San Pedro cactus can be expected to cause very few harmful side-effects, when introduced to new environments. The San Pedro cactus grows under conditions where most plants can’t grow. Cactuses are pioneer species, that stabilize soils and make an environment habitable to other species that settle down after them.
Consider the fact that another psychedelic plant, Syrian Rue, has turned into an invasive species in the United States. The Syrian Rue plant tolerates dry conditions and now happily thrives in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Washington. In a similar manner, the San Pedro cactus is capable of spreading to the Middle East and other arid landscapes. To accomplish this however, the San Pedro cactus will need the help of human beings.
For this reason, I wish to make the following proposal: Anyone who lives in an arid landscape should seek to help the San Pedro cactus spread in his environment. There are different ways to accomplish this. You can take a San Pedro cactus, chop off the top and allow it to root in the soil. Instructions for this can be found online. Alternatively, you can order San Pedro seeds online and allow them to sprout in some cactus soil, before transplanting the small cactus to your local environment.