(I’ve never even seen the stuff, and probably wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole, but apparently it is a right frikin good time if you’re on walkabout in the desert, searching for yourself and all that hippy shit. When I think of peyote, I think about the episode of The Simpsons when Homer eats the insane chili and ends up tripping out in the desert with the coyote with the voice of Johnny Cash – Fats)
The various species of the genus Lophophora grow low to the ground and they often form groups with numerous, crowded shoots. The blue-green, yellow-green or sometimes reddish green shoots are mostly flattened spheres with sunken shoot tips. They can reach heights of from 2 to 7 centimeters (0.79 to 2.76 in) and diameters of 4 to 12 centimeters (1.6 to 4.7 in). There are often significant, vertical ribs consisting of low and rounded or hump-like bumps. From the cusp areoles arises a tuft of soft, yellowish or whitish woolly hairs. Spines are absent. Flowers are pink or white to slightly yellowish, sometimes reddish. They open during the day, are from 1 to 2.4 centimeters long, and reach a diameter from 1 to 2.2 centimeters.
Lophophora williamsii seedling at roughly 1 1/2 months of age
The cactus produces flowers sporadically; these are followed by small edible pink fruit. The club-shaped to elongated, fleshy fruits are bare and more or less rosy colored. At maturity, they are brownish-white and dry. The fruits do not burst open on their own and they are between 1.5 and 2 centimeters long. They contain black, pear-shaped seeds that are 1 to 1.5 mm long and 1 mm wide. The seeds require hot and humid conditions to germinate. Peyote contains a large spectrum of phenethylamine alkaloids. The principal one is mescaline. The mescaline content of Lophophora williamsii is about 0.4% fresh (undried) and 3-6% dried. Peyote is extremely slow growing. Cultivated specimens grow considerably faster, sometimes taking less than three years to go from seedling to mature flowering adult. More rapid growth can be achieved by grafting peyote onto mature San Pedro root stock.
The top of the cactus that grows above ground, also referred to as the crown, consists of disc-shaped buttons that are cut above the roots and sometimes dried. When done properly, the top of the root will form a callus and the root will not rot. When poor harvesting techniques are used, however, the entire plant dies. Currently in South Texas, peyote grows naturally but has been over-harvested, to the point that the state has listed it as an endangered species. The buttons are generally chewed, or boiled in water to produce a psychoactive tea. Peyote is extremely bitter and most people are nauseated before they feel the onset of the psychoactive effects.
When used for its psychoactive properties, common doses for pure mescaline range from roughly 200 to 400mg. This translates to a dose of roughly 10 to 20g of dried peyote buttons of average potency; however, potency varies considerably between samples, making it difficult to measure doses accurately without first extracting the mescaline. The effects last about 10 to 12 hours. Peyote is reported to trigger states of “deep introspection and insight” that have been described as being of a metaphysical or spiritual nature. At times, these can be accompanied by rich visual or auditory effects.
In addition to psychoactive use, some Native American tribes use the plant for its curative properties. They employ peyote to treat such varied ailments as toothache, pain in childbirth, fever, breast pain, skin diseases, rheumatism, diabetes, colds, and blindness. The US Dispensatory lists peyote under the name Anhalonium, and states it can be used in various preparations for neurasthenia, hysteria and asthma. Peyote also contains an alkaloid which was given the name peyocactin. It is now called hordenine.