Echinopsis Pachanoi - San Pedro Cactus
Echinopsis pachanoi (syn. Trichocereus pachanoi)—known as San Pedro cactus—is a fast-growing columnar cactus native to the Andes Mountains at 2,000–3,000 m (6,600–9,800 ft) in altitude. It is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru,and it is cultivated in other parts of the world. Uses for it include traditional medicine and traditional veterinary medicine, and it is widely grown as an ornamental cactus. It has been used for healing and religious divination in the Andes Mountains region for over 3,000 years. It is sometimes confused with its close relative Echinopsis peruviana (Peruvian torch cactus).
Echinopsis pachanoi is known by many names throughout South America such as achuma, huachuma, wachuma, aguacolla, hahuacollay, San Pedro or giganton.
Echinopsis pachanoi is native to Ecuador and Peru. Its stems are light to dark green, sometimes glaucous, with a diameter of 6–15 cm (2.4–5.9 in) and usually 6–8 ribs. The whitish areoles may produce up to seven yellow to brown spines, each up to 2 cm (0.8 in) long although typically shorter in cultivated varieties, sometimes being mostly spineless. The areoles are spaced evenly along the ribs, approximately 2 cm (0.8 in) apart. Echinopsis pachanoi is normally 3–6 m (10–20 ft) tall and has multiple branches, usually extending from the base but will emerge around broken branches. The tallest recorded specimen was 12.2 metres (40 ft) tall. White flowers are produced at the end of the stems; they open at night and last for about two days. Large numbers can be produced by well established cacti and may open new flowers over a period of weeks. The flowers are large, around 19–24 cm (7.5–9.4 in) long with a diameter of up to 20 cm (7.9 in) and are highly fragrant. There are black hairs along the length of the thick base leading to the flower. Oblong dark green fruits are produced after fertilization, about 3 cm (1.2 in) across and 5–6 cm (2.0–2.4 in) long.
Hordenine, an alkaloid found in Echinopsis pachanoi
Echinopsis pachanoi, San Pedro Cactus, the tall cactus in the mid-foreground, in its natural habitat in Peru. Several fruits with shrivelled flowers can be seen.
Echinopsis pachanoi has a long history of being used in Andean traditional medicine. Archaeological studies have found evidence of use going back two thousand years, to Moche culture, and Chavín culture. Although Roman Catholic church authorities[who?] after the Spanish conquest attempted to suppress its use, this failed, as shown by the Christian element in the common name "San Pedro cactus" – Saint Peter cactus. The name is attributed[by whom?] to the belief that just as St Peter holds the keys to heaven, the effects of the cactus allow users "to reach heaven while still on earth.
San Pedro cactus sliced to be brewed
The San Pedro cactus contains a number of alkaloids, including the well-studied chemical mescaline (from 0.053% up to 4.7% of dry cactus weight), and also 3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine, 3-Methoxytyramine, 4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenethylamine, 4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine, anhalonidine, anhalinine, hordenine, and tyramine.
Mescaline is a psychedelic drug and entheogen, which is also found in some other species of genus Echinopsis (i.e. Echinopsis lageniformis, Echinopsis peruviana, and Echinopsis scopulicola) and the species Lophophora williamsii (peyote).
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the highest concentration of active substances is found in the layer of green photosynthetic tissue just beneath the skin.