Explorer’s Guide: Picking Peyote

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What Is Peyote?

Peyote is a small spineless psychedelic cactus native to Mexico and southwestern Texas – scientific name Lophophora williamsii. Peyote contains psychoactive alkaloids, and like the San Pedro cactus, the main one is mescaline.

peyote cactus mexico hikuri
Peyote cactus, known as ‘hikuri’ to the Huichol people of Mexico

Spiritual Tool? Healing Agent?

Peyote has a long history of ritualistic and medicinal use by indigenous Americans and continues to be used as an entheogen by people worldwide today. It is reportedly capable of triggering states of deep introspection and insight that have been described as being of a metaphysical or spiritual nature. In addition to psychoactive use, some Native American tribes use the plant for its curative properties; to treat all kinds of ailments, from various types of physical pain to fever and skin diseases. More commonly, ointments for pain are made with peyote and sold on the streets of Mexico.

peyote cream ointment
An peyote ointment for pain, sold in Mexico.

In Danger of Extinction

Peyote’s Natureserve conservation status is a G3, meaning that as a species it’s vulnerable on the global level. This is because, despite not being used that commonly worldwide, it’s extremely slow growing and the number of people on the planet consuming peyote exceeds the species’ ability to regenerate.

baby peyotes
A couple of baby peyotes

Harvesting Problem

The main problem is not that people are picking peyote, but how they are picking it. If the entire plant is pulled from the earth then the roots come with it and that’s the end of the plant’s life cycle. For the cactus to live on, only the head -the green part that grows above ground- should be removed. This leaves the roots intact in the earth which can then form a callus and grow back. The head is actually the valuable part – that contains all the mescaline – so there isn’t really any need to take the root too.

peyote information pick harvest cactus
A paper containing information on the proper harvesting of peyote cactus – found in a house near to the desert in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

How To Pick Peyote

If you’re planning to pick peyote, here is a method which leaves the roots intact, allowing the peyote to regenerate and grow back. You’ll need a piece of string, nothing more. Any type of string will do so long as its thick enough that it won’t snap too easily – think shoelace. [If you have a knife – check this video]

1. Firstly, you’ll need find a peyote. In Mexico it typically grows in the shade of this shrub. Can you spot the peyote in the first picture below?
desert peyote cactus

desert peyote cactus

2. Found it? Nice. Now clear the earth around it, making what is like a small moat.

desert peyote cactus

3. Loop the string around it at ground level, as if you’re going to choke it.

desert peyote cactus

4. Pull the string tightly from either side so the string cuts through the flesh, beheading the cactus. This will leave the root intact, and you with the head.

desert peyote cactus

5. Cover the remaining root with some earth, and sprinkle a few drops of water on top.

6. Enjoy your peyote, happy in the knowledge it will grow back and someone else may discover it one day!

peyote hikuri cactus psychedelic

Reminder – It’s Illegal 🙁

peyote cactus hikuri

I don’t like to end the post with this but unfortunately possession of peyote can land you in a lot of trouble. If you are caught by the police with peyote heads in Mexico you will probably go to jail. I imagine the same is the case in the States. For this reason I’d recommend eating peyote in the desert and not bringing any back with you after. Luckily police don’t generally hang out in the desert, so you can have your peyote journey there with no worries. Anyway, I think the desert is a fantastic setting for a peyote experience 🙂

Have you ever tried peyote?

What was the setting? How was your experience? I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment below.

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3 thoughts on “Explorer’s Guide: Picking Peyote”

  1. Here is a story about Mescaline the active ingredient of peyote. Many years ago I lived on a farm. One day I was alone and took a large capsule of Mescaline. As you may know it takes a long time for the drug to become active. I waited some time and decided to take a walk until the drug took effect.

    I began walking down a dirt road that ran off a highway in front of the farm. it led to another farm futher off the highway.

    I suddenly had a very strong feeling someone was observing me. I stopped and looked around it was early March there was nothing but a barren field around me. I put the feeling down to paranoia which can sometimes happen on Mescaline. I started walking again and the feeling came back even more strongly.

    I stopped in my tracks and again looked around. It was at this moment the Mescaline took effect. I again looked at the barren field, only this time it was transformed. I became aware of the immense energy coiled in the ground waiting to spring. Yes Spring it was Spring waiting to spring out so to speak and yell surprise. It was beautiful mother nature preparing to put on a show in all it’s glory. I am trying to use words to describe this experience. It was not like some poetic nonsense about spring flowers and birds chirping. It was much much deeper than that.

    I was so moved I reached down and picked up some dirt and squeezed it tightly in my hand as through it was the most precious thing in this world.

    I looked at a old barren tree across the field which in my normal consciousness I would not think twice about.

    Now I was looking at the garden of Eden before the fall.

    I realized it is we who were blind. The garden of Eden never disappeared it was right here before my eyes. I gazed back at the highway at the cars speeding by. I thought don’t they realize they are driving asleep through Paradise.

    I stood transfixed by what was around me. I noticed how the curve a small mounded hill perfectly matched the curve of my body, how we were inextricably linked. While standing there I actually felt the old earth rocking gently in it’s orbit. Yes that’s right I felt the earth move literally.

    I went back to the farm and put on some music and sang songs of gratitude for hours for what Mescaline had shown me.

    I went up to my bedroom and saw my personal belongings. Things that belonged to someone that thankfully did not exist anymore for me in that moment. It was was like they belonged to a rather simple child. I realized at that point with bittersweet regret when the drug wore off, I would soon be inhabiting these things once again. I would return to being that simple unconscious child.

    The feeling however stayed with me the next day. I was walking down the highway the sun was setting and I could feel it in my stomach a feeling of contentment with the world and joy.

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