Note: see the very bottom of this article to learn more about a short film we shot in Ecuador about the use of wild-harvested San Pedro. Filmed under the influence of the cactus itself.
San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi) is a cactus native to the Andean slopes of Ecuador and Peru. It is the South American cousin to peyote, and most notably contains the psychoactive alkaloid known as mescaline. It’s a plant I’ve been working with for over eighteen years by now, strictly in-situ in Ecuador and almost always wild-harvested. No, I do not claim to be a shaman. I’m just someone who knows a very reliable way to prepare this cactus for consumption and who has a few insights to share about its usage.
In recent years, there has seen an explosion of interest in Ayahuasca and, to a lesser extent, San Pedro. Both of these plant medicines are found in Ecuador. In fact, wild San Pedro cactus grows only a few hundred kilometers from the native range of the Ayahuasca vine and its various DMT-containing companion plants such as Chakruna. Whereas Ayahuasca and Chakruna are lowland Amazon species, San Pedro prefers the mid-elevational valleys and slopes on both sides of the Andes Mountains. In Quechua, it’s called Huachuma (also Wachuma). San Pedro is the colonial name, which I use here because it’s more commonly recognized.
Like Ayahausca, San Pedro has been used for healing purposes and to open doors in the minds and hearts of people for thousands of years. Only recently have these plants found their way to a broader audience in distant countries. Most people consume San Pedro as part of a collective ceremony, usually administered by a guide, and sometimes in a land far outside of San Pedro’s native range.
I have nothing to say against that way of doing it; for many people, this method works quite well. My personal approach is different. I prefer to work with wild San Pedro that I harvest, prepare, and consume by myself. For those of you interested in exploring San Pedro in a similar fashion, here’s what I can tell you.
Author’s Update (Nov. 2024): Consuming large doses alone in the wilderness, along the lines described in this article, continues to be my preferred method of working with San Pedro. In recent years, however, I have grown close with a…