Peyote (botanical name Lophophora williamsii) is basically a cactus that grows up to a height of 2 inches (5 cm) and has a thick body with clumped bristles. Precisely speaking, peyote is a small cactus having the shape of a button, generally found growing in the rural areas. While the body of the herb has a gray-green color, the flowers of the plant are pink or white.
It has been documented that several centuries prior to the Spanish traveler Hernando Cortez setting foot on Mexico, the Aztec Indians have been using peyote. In effect, the Aztecs had identified that peyote possessed specific magical or supernatural attributes. They ate small portions of the juicy stem of this herb during their religious ceremonies with a view to listen to and witness bizarre sounds and illustrations, which are said to have augmented their religious understanding.
Even to this day, many people, especially those belonging to American Indians, have the habit of chewing small segments of peyote, which is frequently referred to as mescal button. While it is now illegal to consume peyote in the United States, the law of the land permits the use of the herb in religious rites of the Native American Church, which mostly comprises people from the American Indian tribes.
So far, scientists have been able to classify about 56 separate alkaloid substances in peyote, which are likely to act inside the body. In effect, the most familiar and active among these alkaloids is called mescaline – a potent psychotomimetic agent (any medicine that has the aptitude to change the mind and result in behaviour akin to what is demonstrated by individuals who are psychotic). People taking mescaline are likely to experience a variety of hallucinatory or make-believe consequences when they are under the influence of this medication. For instance, they are likely to experience courageous as well as gorgeous hues as well as lights, the conversion of their friends as well as themselves into bizarre creatures or intangible forms, the delusion of buoyancy and even complete liberty from their body. Nonetheless, there exists a fundamental similarity in the reports of majority of the users. Precisely speaking, it is actually a sensation of adulation as well as a conviction that the apparition is weighed down with divine implication.
Numerous people are of the view that they have obtained valuable insights regarding themselves as well as their surroundings following the mescaline experience. On the other hand, there are many people who have returned with enduring nervousness, apprehensions and fright after using mescaline. Although using mescaline is never habit-forming, it is probable that consumption of peyote on a regular basis might cause psychological damage to individuals.
Interestingly, despite the chemical punch packed in peyote, this cactus has a somewhat modest appearance. Unlike many other typical cacti, peyote does not have any sharp spines, but only produces clumps of woolly white hairs that are akin to pencils. These tufts of hair are found along every 5 to 23 ribs of the plant. In addition, just a small portion of the plant is visible above the sand in the limestone deserts in southern Texas and Mexico, where peyote grows in the wild, while the thickset, gray to chalky blue hued stem is positions on top of a very big tap root that has resemblance to carrot. The herb produces minute pinkish to creamy white color flowers that appear on top of the stem.
Being a storehouse of various chemical substances, it is very natural that several studies have been undertaken with peyote. Since the fundamental experience of majority of the individuals using peyote is very alike, scientists contemplate that mescaline may possibly function on a specific part of the brain. Hence, researchers are continuing with their studies with laboratory animals in their endeavour to describe the action of mescaline further and more precisely. Moreover, as the effects of this medication have a very close resemblance to mental ailments, it is anticipated that the work of the researchers would bring about further effectual treatment of people who are psychologically disturbed.
A shamanistic (any religion involving spiritualism) plant, peyote is consumed during the religious ceremonies of the Native Americans with a view to have a profound spiritual perception. In effect, this cactus plant has a vital role in the emotional as well as mental condition of the community. In addition, peyote is also employed for treating fevers, in the form of an analgesic for easing symptoms of rheumatism and also to cure paralysis. This herb is also applied externally in the form of a poultice to treat wounds, fractures, and snake bite. Moreover, this plant is also employed to encourage vomiting.
It is said that congestion of peyote activates states of profound introspection as well as understanding, which have been portrayed as being spiritual or metaphysical in nature. Occasionally, these aspects may go along with abounding visual or hearing consequences. Besides psychoactive application, a number of indigenous American Indian tribes utilize peyote for its therapeutic attributes. They use this plant to cure an assortment of health conditions, including fever, toothache, skin complaints, diabetes, and rheumatism, pain during childbirth, blindness, breast pain and colds.
The fleshy tissue of peyote can also be applied externally to enhance production of breast milk. A number of Native American tribes like The Tarahumara, generally employed masticated (pulverized) peyote in the form of an external therapy for wounds, burn injuries, insect and snake bites as well as throbbing muscles.
Peyote has been employed to cure an assortment of medical conditions even in the contemporary times. In a number of cases mental health professionals have prescribed this herb (Lophophora williamsii) to treat neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion). In addition, it has been established that peyote works excellently to ease symptoms like nervousness, exhaustion, headache and depression, which are related to neurasthenia.
Habitat and cultivation
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a small button-like cactus that is indigenous to northern regions of Mexico and the south-western areas of the United States.
All species of genus Lophophora grow very sluggishly, most of the time taking as many as 30 years to attain the flowering age when growing in the wild. In the wild, the plant is approximately of the size of a golf ball, excluding its roots. However, species cultivated by humans grow rather rapidly, generally taking anything about six to ten years to mature from the seedling stage to a flowering adult.
As peyote has a tap root, they have a propensity to decay. Hence, it is advisable that when you grow this plant you should use extremely coarse fertilizer having sufficient drainage. To grow well, this plant needs partial shade to partial sunlight. This species does not require much water and, hence, watering ought to be done only occasionally to ensure that it does not become too long and appear to be deviant. It may be noted that watering peyote is usually a difficult task since this plant has a tendency to rupture or decay in case of excessive watering. It has been noticed that peyote retracts into the soil and its color changes to gray-green between watering, but this is absolutely normal and does not harm the plant in any way.
It is important to keep the plant totally arid and cool during the winter months. In fact, growing the plant in a greenhouse that is unheated is ideal. Since this plant has the aptitude to stay alive for a short period in low temperatures (about -7°C), it grows in places where the temperature during the night descends below 10°C. While growing peyote it is essential to ensure excellent ventilation.
Peyote has been listed by the US Dispensatory under the category Anhalonium and it says that this herb can be employed in a variety of formulations for treating hysteria, neurasthenia and even asthma. Extracts obtained from peyote have shown to possess anti-microbial actions in a variety of solvents and this has been found to be effective in inhibiting the growth of microbes. The main antibiotic agent enclosed by peyote has been named peyocactin, which is a crystalline substance soluble in water. In effect, peyocactin has been isolated from an ethanol extract of peyote.
In a number of studies, researches used mice for initial animal toxicity tests as well as protection studies to ascertain the extent of the inhibitory exploits of peyocactin against generally deadly infections caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. In all the instances, the mice which had been administered a peyocactin extract succeeded in surviving. On the other hand, the mice in the control group died within 60 hours of developing the infection by Staphylococcus aureus. Peyocactin has also proved to be effectual against as many as 18 strains of Staphylococcus aureus, many other bacteria as well as a fungus, which are known to be resistant to penicillin.
Peyote contains alkaloids, mainly mescaline, which is a potent hallucinogen.
Side effects and cautions
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is not a very toxic plant. Thus far, there is no report of any deaths due to consumption of medication prepared from this plant. Using peyote has one positive side – the side effects caused by it disappear within 10 hours to 12 hours of taking this herb. As the effects of this herb do not last for long, it does not require any treatment by physicians. Nevertheless, since the body of all individuals respond differently to peyote, a number of people are likely to endure unlikable reactions.