Mescaline is a psychedelic alkaloid found naturally in several species of cactus, mainly peyote (Lophophora williamsii), but also in other plants such as San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi) and Peruvian Torch (Echinopsis peruviana). It is known for its hallucinogenic effects and has been used for centuries in religious ceremonies and rituals by indigenous peoples of North and Central America.
Mescaline was first isolated in 1897 by the German chemist Arthur Heffter, who identified it as the active compound in peyote. Since then, mescaline has been the subject of study by scientists and psychologists interested in its effects on the human mind and behaviour.
When consumed, mescaline can produce a wide range of psychological effects, including alterations in visual, auditory and tactile perception, as well as changes in consciousness and cognition. The effects of mescaline can last for several hours, depending on the dose and form of administration.
Although mescaline has been used in religious ceremonies and rituals for centuries, its use has also been the subject of controversy and prohibition. In many countries, mescaline and the cacti that contain it are controlled by law and its possession, sale and consumption may be illegal.
The cactus varieties containing the highest amount of mescaline are peyote (Lophophophora williamsii), San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi) and Peruvian Torch (Echinopsis peruviana).
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a mescaline-containing cactus plant traditionally used in religious and spiritual ceremonies by indigenous peoples of North America, such as the Huichol, Tarahumara and Navajo. In the United States, peyote is protected by the Religious Freedom Act of 1993, which allows members of the Native American Church to consume peyote as part of their religious ceremonies.
In the case of peyote, the percentage of mescaline can vary between 2% and 6% of its dry weight, which means that a typical dose of 10 to 20 grams of peyote can contain between 200 and 1200 milligrams of mescaline.
However, possession and consumption of peyote outside of a religious context may be illegal in some US states. In addition, collection of wild peyote from the wild is prohibited in many states due to overharvesting of natural peyote populations.
In some regions of the southwestern United States, such as Texas and New Mexico, nurseries have been established that cultivate peyote for religious use by members of the Native American Church.
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is currently endangered due to overharvesting and illegal trade. Although its original distribution is in Mexico, it is also found in some regions of the United States, particularly in southern Texas and New Mexico.
Due to the growing demand for peyote for religious and spiritual purposes, as well as for recreational and therapeutic use, illegal harvesting and habitat degradation are threatening its survival in the wild. In addition, overexploitation of wild peyote populations may affect indigenous communities that depend on peyote for religious and spiritual ceremonies.
In response to this situation, some groups of people and organisations are working to protect peyote and promote its conservation. Some initiatives include cultivation of peyote in controlled nurseries and education about the cultural and ecological importance of peyote in its natural habitat.
The currently accepted scientific name for San Pedro is Echinopsis pachanoi, not Trichocereus pachanoi. Both names were used in the past to refer to this species of cactus, but Echinopsis is now considered to be the correct genus.
San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi) is also known as "huachuma" in Quechua, and as "wachuma", "achuma" or "aghuacolla" in other South American indigenous languages. In some countries, it is also known as "San Pedro cactus", "cactus of the apostles" or simply "San Pedro".
The Peruvian torch (Echinopsis peruviana) is also known as "huachuma" and as "achuma" or "wachuma" in Quechua and other South American indigenous languages. In some places it is also known as "cardón" or "cactus cardón".
In the case of San Pedro and Peruvian Torch, the percentage of mescaline is somewhat lower, usually between 0.1% and 1% of their dry weight. However, these cacti are much larger than peyote, which means that they can contain a significant amount of mescaline in absolute terms.
It is important to note that the percentages of mescaline can vary between different cactus samples and depend on several factors, such as age, size, geographical region and the environmental conditions in which the cacti grow. In addition, extracting mescaline from cacti can be a complicated process and requires experience and expertise.
Uses and customs:
There is no specific date marking the beginning of the recreational use of mescaline, as its use has been linked to ceremonial and ritual practices for centuries by indigenous peoples in North and Central America. However, the use of mescaline for non-ceremonial purposes became popular in the 20th century, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, when psychedelics in general, and mescaline in particular, began to be studied by scientists, doctors and psychologists.
In the 1950s, mescaline gained popularity among counterculture intellectuals, artists and writers, who explored its psychedelic effects and its potential to expand consciousness and creativity. In 1954, psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, who also coined the term 'psychedelic', administered mescaline to Aldous Huxley, author of the novel Brave New World, who wrote about his experience in the book 'The Doors of Perception'. This book, along with other works such as Leary, Metzner and Alpert's "The Manuscript of the Ages", helped popularise the use of mescaline and other psychedelics in popular culture.
Despite their popularity, the recreational use of mescaline and other psychedelics was subject to controversy and criticism, and in the 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned their use in research and clinical practice, leading to a ban on their recreational use in many countries. Since then, scientific research on psychedelics has experienced a resurgence, and mescaline is currently being investigated for its therapeutic potential in the treatment of psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mescaline, like other psychedelics, acts on the brain in a different way to most traditional psychiatric medications. Rather than acting as a symptom 'quencher', mescaline can act as an 'amplifier' of consciousness and thoughts, which may allow patients to approach their problems from a broader and deeper perspective.
In addition, mescaline has been shown to increase neuroplasticity, i.e. the brain's ability to adapt and change in response to new experiences, which may be useful in treating mental disorders involving ingrained patterns of thought and behaviour.
In clinical studies, mescaline is being investigated for use in combination with psychological therapy, known as psychedelic-assisted therapy. Preliminary results suggest that mescaline may be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and in improving the quality of life of PTSD patients.
However, it is important to note that research on the therapeutic effects of mescaline is at an early stage and more studies are needed to assess its long-term safety and efficacy. Mescaline remains a controlled substance in many countries and its therapeutic use is only legal in some places under medical supervision.
The indigenous ceremonies in which mezcalina is consumed are very diverse and vary depending on the culture and region. Mezcaline is traditionally consumed in religious and spiritual ceremonies in various indigenous cultures in South America, such as the Quechua, Aymara and Mapuche peoples.
In general, ceremonies in which mezcalina is consumed are usually led by a spiritual guide or healer who helps participants navigate their experience with the substance. Rituals may include chanting, prayer, meditation, dance, purification and other elements that seek to foster introspection, connection with nature and spiritual healing.
In the Quechua culture, for example, mescaline is consumed in "mesada" or "velada" ceremonies, which can last several hours and involve the whole community. During these ceremonies, offerings are made to the gods and prayers and chants are performed in Quechua. Participants may also drink herbal tea and follow a special diet before and after the ceremony.
In Mapuche culture, mescaline is consumed in ceremonies known as "machitún", which are performed to seek spiritual protection and healing from illness. These ceremonies include singing, dancing and offerings to the protective spirits of nature.