Information about San Pedro
In reality, the primary use of cacti is as decorative plants. Cacti consist of various species, among which are the globular cactus of the genus Matucana, Oroya, Pygmaeocereus, and Echinopsis. Some of these species are offered on the various online gardening store. Another very important use of cacti lies in their nutritional value.
The fruits of several species of cacti are edible and are part of the diet of various local people.
Those with stronger properties are used in traditional medicine sessions (Reyna & Flores, 2001). These cactus fruits have been part of various magico-religious manifestations dating from pre-Hispanic times: the Chavín (1200 ± 200 BC), Paracas (300 ± 0 BC), Nazca (100 BC ± 700 AD), Mochica (200 ± 700 AD), Chimú (1100 ± 1470 AD), the Inca (1438-1532 AD), and Ostolaza, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998a, 1999, 2000). This history of magico-religious manifestations of cacti still informs artistic practices, such as in Ayacucho traditional craft (See Figure 1). In this introduction, when we refer to San Pedro we are specifically talking about the variety E. This variety is also known as Pachanoi and has a prevalent role in the history of traditional medicine.
Traditional use of San Pedro
In Peru, several plants with psychoactive components are known and used. The most commonly used in traditional medicine are coca leaves (Erythroxylum coca, Erithroxylaceae), ayahuasca liana (Banisteriopsis caapi, Malpighiaceae) and wachuma cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi)–also known as San Pedro.
The psychoactive effects produced by this cactus are mainly alterations in the perceptions, in the affectivity, and in thought and consciousness. These effects are due to the presence of the mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxy-phenylethylamine) alkaloid which constitutes approximately 0.8 ± 2.4% of the cactus dry extract (0.12% of the fresh product), although this value may vary widely depending on the method of extraction, the cultivar chosen for the extraction and/or the origin of the plant.
Pre-Incan cultures, such as the Chavin, discovered the benefits of San Pedro and gave much importance to it, as shown in the figure below.