The San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi), also called Huachuma or Wachuma, is a native cactus species from the South American Andes Mountains used in traditional medicine and spiritual practices. It’s considered a so-called Master Teacher Plant able to cure a range of physical, mental, and spiritual health issues.
The San Pedro medicine is derived from the green flesh of the cactus and — just like the Mexican Peyote cactus — contains Mescaline, a psychedelic drug and entheogen. San Pedro ceremonies are notably performed in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador for prayer and religious ceremonies, communication and connection with nature, to gain access to the spirit world, to expand ordinary consciousness, for introspection and wisdom, and to heal people on the physical, emotional and spiritual plane.
Some health benefits attributed to the San Pedro cactus are its ability to boost creativity, mood, and inspiration, diminish anxiety, nervousness, depression, and chronic pains, promote cardiac health, heal emotional trauma, combat addictions, and balance blood pressure, while having a range of anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
The San Pedro cactus is usually ingested as a dried powder (straight or soaked in water), as a tea (brew) made by boiling parts of the cactus for several hours, as a drink blended with fruit juice, but it can also be eaten raw. The preparation for the ceremony often includes fasting, cleansing, and purifying practices in the days before. Ceremonies are often held at night, typically beginning around midnight, but they may also be held at day time.
The psychedelic effects of San Pedro can start about an hour after ingestion and may last up to fourteen hours. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and digestive discomfort. Emotional release is another phenomenon, which may involve laughter, crying, screaming, trembling, coughing, fear, panic, joy, and/or feelings of unity and love, among others. Mind also that San Pedro may not be suitable for those with certain physical and mental conditions. In fact, consuming San Pedro medicine has more or less the same contraindications and risks as taking the Ayahuasca brew.
There are a number of Ayahuasca retreats that also offer San Pedro cactus treatments as an additional traditional healing modality to enforce, enlighten, and balance out the Ayahuasca experience, but San Pedro ceremonies are also carried out without the context of Ayahuasca ceremonies.
Although it’s usually legal to grow the plant, San Pedro medicine is often illegal in many Western countries (or pending in a “grey area”). However, its use is legal in, for instance, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, and Ecuador, but also in Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, and in the United Kingdom.