Huachuma is a cactus native to the highlands of Peru. It has been more commonly referred to as San Pedro since the time the conquistadors encountered its use. Some say that the conquistadors experienced the medicine as opening the gates of heaven, thus naming it after Saint Peter, or San Pedro in Spanish. The Huachuma cactus is actually a number of interrelated species within the classification Trichocereus pachanoi (also called echinopsis pachanoi). The varieties range from thin nearly spineless cactus that grow in the lowland deserts to thick varieties with long spines, which grow more commonly in the Andes mountains at higher elevations. In the United States, various strains of San Pedro have been cultivated for decades for ornamental gardening purposes. Many people are often surprised to learn that they have San Pedro growing (literally) in their own backyard. The primary alkaloid in Huachuma is Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine), though it contains other alkaloids that contribute to its biochemical effects.
Benefits of Working with Huachuma (San Pedro)
Huachuma is a heart-opening medicine that, when taken in the right context, can facilitate physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. In some ways, the experience can be one of an amplified sense of everything. Emotions feel stronger, sensations in the body are more prominent, and the external world appears clearer though all of the senses. However, it is more likely that what is happening is not an amplification of the senses, but a stripping away of the filters of perceptions that usually prevent clear perception. Physically, one is able to connect with emotions that have been stuck in the body in various areas, and often through movement, massage, or simply being with the sensations, one is able to resolve these physical blockages. On the emotional level, Huachuma allows full access to all emotions that need to be felt. The whole range of human emotions can be experienced in one ceremony, often leaving one feeling much better afterwards. In the spiritual sense, Huachuma helps people to see their true purpose in life, separated from the egoic notions that usually predominate. A sense of connection to all of the Universe is often experienced directly, as well as a strong connection with plants, animals, and other people.Though anecdotal, there are many who experience sustained improvement in vision after working with Huachuma, especially during outdoor daytime ceremonies.
The Huachuma Experience
Huachuma ceremonies are conducted both at night and during the day, though the most common ceremonies are daytime ceremonies that begin in the morning and continue all day. The effects of Huachuma can last more than 12 hours, so it is necessary to prepare properly for the ceremonies and allow time after for integration. Ceremonies usually involve the use of sound, intentions or prayers, and connection with nature. When experienced during the day, ceremonies are much more social than Ayahuasca ceremonies and those participating together may interact more. In contrast, nighttime ceremonies are often conducted around a fire and tend to be more internal experiences–an opportunity to be fully with one’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and sensations in the body. In some ways, the nighttime ceremonies resemble traditional Ayahuasca ceremonies and interaction amongst participants is usually minimal.
The feeling of Huachuma is often described as vibrational. One can feel vibrations moving through the body as well as sense the vibrations in everything from rocks, to fruit, to the Earth itself. It’s as if Huachuma opens additional senses that are not usually available. The experience of sound can be quite profound for this reason. Sound is usually experienced under the medicine as quite vibrant and beautiful. Sound is usually also felt physically in the body and may also appear as light in closed eye visuals. Full open-eye visuals, other than the alterations of ordinary perception, are rare on most dosages but are sometimes experienced. The full range of alterations of ordinary perception is, however, possible and likely. This includes seeing various objects as other objects (for example seeing the side of a mountain as the face of a person), or seeing within another something not usually seen (for example seeing an animal as someone once known who is passed). Those traditions that work with Huachuma do not view these alterations as hallucinations, but rather simply seeing what’s already there with clarity or as a reflection.