The San Pedro Cactus, Echinopsis Pachanoi or Trichocereus Pachanoi, of the cactus family, is known in traditional medicine, for human use and for veterinary use.
Native of the Andean mountain range, so its habitat is at altitudes between 1,000 and 3,000 meters.
Originally from Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, but we can find it cultivated anywhere in the world.
However, the San Pedro Cactus is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant.
In South America it is generally used to make delimiting hedges or zone separators.
It is also known as, wachuma, huachuma, colla water, giant, etc.
History of the San Pedro Cactus
In Peru it is known and cultivated for at least a thousand or two thousand years before Christ, being used in shamanic rituals. The shamans, or persons of knowledge, are in charge of guiding the experience (a certain parallelism can be found with Western psychiatry), usually in nocturnal sessions. It is the plant, with magical property, oldest of South America, it is believed.
According to the traditional testimonies, in times before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Native Americans already used it in religious healing rites, calling it achuma. Its current name derives from the belief that it allows to connect with the divinity, since Saint Peter is the guardian of the gates of heaven.
Its cultivation was carried out near the houses, to protect its inhabitants, and it was collected at night. Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru grow naturally.
Description of the San Pedro Cactus?
The San Pedro Cactus is a columnar plant, it is very branched and its stem is green. This can grow up to 6 meters or more.
The flowers are born near the top of the stems, they open at night, they are white, about 20 cm and very smelly.
The fruits are dark green and about 5 to 6 cm long.
It is a shrub-like cactus with erect branches from the base. The stems are cylindrical, dark green, 5 m long and 8-15 cm in diameter.
It usually has up to 7 spines, brown, between 0.5 to 2 cm long.
The fruit is edible and has a mild flavor.
How to cultivate the San Pedro?
It is a spiny cactus, fast growing, but you can have it in pot all your life, since it has superficial roots and its stem does not measure more than 30cm thick.
The San Pedro Cactus does not withstand frost. The ideal is that the ambient temperature remains above 3-5ºC, otherwise, it could have problems to grow well or even to die.
They differ from most columnar cacti in their rapid growth, and they like a rich mixture of nutrients in the soil and more frequent waterings than most cacti. They are quite hard, and will grow well in a wide range of conditions (I have seen many large and vigorous unattended specimens in lawns with automatic irrigation).
However, to maximize the speed of growth we must imitate their natural habitat as much as possible.
These cacti grow naturally on the western slopes of the Peruvian Andes, where the soil is very rich in humus and minerals and rain is not very scarce, and exposure to sun and air is maximum.
I will describe the ideal growth conditions (compiled from the personal experience, books and advice of a person who cultivates several dozen of them). However, these conditions also produce cactus with low mescaline content.
The alkaloids in these cacti are apparently a defense mechanism against invaders, and they increase under stress conditions … especially when the cacti are irrigated with less water than they need.
One of the most important variables. The growth of these cactus occurs mainly during the brightest months of summer. In places where there are days of intense sun for a few months the cacti will not grow quickly.
The growth is widely promoted using high intensity growth lamps such as those used in the cultivation of marijuana, although the expense produced by these bulbs is very high. In addition, as these cacti become very tall you have to be careful not to burn the upper part of the plants. For the lighting to be ideal you have to light the cactus from all sides.
When there is a shortage of irrigation to increase the power, these cacti should be placed in a place where they receive less light exposure, with partial shade.
If the light is too bright for maximum power the cactus will turn a light greenish color. This response occurs after a few weeks, so the light must be adjusted to achieve a darker green color. Although he likes direct sunlight, he can get burns sometime if he stays overexposed. For this it is to leave it in semi-shade during the summer, where it is very hot.
Land and soil
The cactus should be planted in a very porous soil. A typical mix of cactus soil works well, but can be improved by adding pumice / perlite.
The more porous the soil, the more often the cactus will have to be watered and the lower the risk of rotting the roots and other problems of watering too much. However, the land mixture should be quite rich.
I used three parts of high earth mixture in pumice stone and mixed it with a part of forest compost. I also use a lot of plant fertilizer. Cactus can be damaged by a high nitrogen content, so be sure to use a fertilizer with little nitrogen. Look at the label, there are three digits (type 10-7-12) and the first one is the Nitrogen content.
It uses fertilizer with the lowest proportion of nitrogen with respect to the other two (P and K). There are special fertilizers for cactus, I use one called “Cactus Juice” which has a ratio of 1-7-6, in addition to calcium which is an extra nutrient for the cactus. Feed my cactus to the solution recommended by the manufacturer approximately once a week.
Do not start this treatment immediately after the transplant, let the roots settle down sooner. When we want to increase the power of the cactus fertilize is not necessary since the cactus will not receive water. let the roots settle down first.
When we want to increase the power of the cactus fertilize is not necessary since the cactus will not receive water. let the roots settle down first. When we want to increase the power of the cactus fertilize is not necessary since the cactus will not receive water.
In summer we will give you a weekly watering, and the rest of the year every 20 days; and in winter you hardly have to water it (a monthly watering will suffice).
One way to know when they need water is when there is no moisture below the surface of the soil. This will depend on many other factors. In the case of a cactus with very good drainage, soil rich in pumice stone, planted in a clay pot receiving full sunlight throughout the day in a well-ventilated and hot location, the cactus can be fully watered every five days.
One way to check soil moisture is to insert a small stick of redwood on the ground. If sand particles are adhered to it, the soil is sufficiently moist and does not need to be watered.
During winter months of winter, cacti should be watered much less frequently, perhaps once a month or so. This will stimulate root growth and will result in faster growth during the hot season.
As we mentioned earlier, when we want to increase potency, the cactus should not be watered at all during the growing season, and should be placed in a place with less exposure to light and partial shade.
How to propagate the San Pedro Cactus?
The multiplication or propagation of San Pedro, can be achieved by seeds or by cuttings. The seeds does not contain mescaline.
Germination with seeds;
For the substrate, we will use sandy soil with perlite plus peat, fine sand, easy to aerate.
We will introduce them at a shallow depth, without sinking them and after watering very lightly.
At the beginning of the germination process, cover with transparent film.
Generally more than 25% of the seeds will germinate, in 2 to 5 weeks.
Propagation by cuttings;
Root cutting of San Pedro we cut it into pieces of about 8cm and prepare a mineral substrate. For this article a substrate with perlite and silica sand has been used.
After cutting the San Pedro we leave it in a dry place and in the shade until it completely heals. Once healed we put it on this mixture of substrate in a pot with a temperature between 22 and 30ºC, introducing about 3cm of the cactus and moistening the substrate after 14 days and in very little quantity. It is convenient to unearth periodically to check that it has not rotted.
Eventually we will find that the cactus has taken root. One of the symptoms that has managed to root is that they appear lighter green areas that are indications that the cactus is growing.
Once rooted, we prepare a substrate for this cactus. Unlike the Peyote, the Trichocereus LIKE organic matter in the substrate. In this case we use Biobizz Coco mix mixed to the previous substrate of rooting:
We plant it in the same way that we root and water it (in this case Biobizz root juice has been used although it is not necessary). It is important to keep it above about 22ºC to facilitate growth.
After about a week the cactus begins to sprout:
It reproduces well by cuttings, with the help of rooting hormones.
The cut part should be dried a bit and removed from sun exposure.
The plant should be in a wide pot, to facilitate the birth of new shoots.
The buds should be separated from the original, transplanting them to other pots every 2 years and in spring, taking care not to damage the roots.
Care must be taken of the appearance of the cottony scale, as the main pest that can affect it.
Uses of the San Pedro Cactus.
A typical use is that of Traditional Medicine.
This use comes from the tradition of traditional Andean indigenous medicine.
Traces have been found in archaeological studies, which take us back 2,000 years.
In the Andean civilizations, the use of plants with hallucinogenic properties appears, due to the presence of entheogens.
These are, vegetable substances or a preparation of them, with psychotropic properties, which when ingested cause a modification of consciousness.
It is used in spiritual contexts, in rituals and is managed by the shamans of the pre-Columbian peoples or tribes, some until our days.
It also has recreational, recreational, hygienic, sanitary or medical uses.
It was used by native Indians in their spiritual rites for their entheogenic properties, due to the large number of alkaloids that they have, especially mescaline.?
With San Pedro, a drink called “aguacoya” or “cimora” was prepared, which was usually mixed with other entheogenic plants.
The medicinal, sanitary and hygienic uses that it presents are;
With the stem it is used in cooking, serves to rub and wash the head, it is shown that it also maintains the color and softens the hair.
The mucilage (is a thick, gluey substance produced by the cactus) is removed from the fresh, clean stem and used to wash the hair or to rub the scalp.
In the case of dandruff, the stem clean of thorns, cut or scraped is placed in a jar leaving it to ferment (the more fermented the better), you get a product used to wash your hair, replacing the shampoo. It can also be cut and the juice rub on the head.
For the headache, the clean and cut stem in buckles is placed on the forehead and held there subject.
If we have kidney pain, a shield of the stem as plaster in the area of ??pain.
For back pain , very warm stem is plastered on your back tied down with a piece of cloth, changing them 2 or 3 times a day.
As antifungal, the ground stems are applied as a plaster on the affected part. Repeat until the problem is over.
For scar, place a shield or patch of the stem over the wound.
Scar marks, place the ground stems in poultices over the scar.
More uses …
With dermatosis, the sliced ??or ground stem is placed on the affected part.
In case of Edema, place a patch or shield or finite slice of the stem.
For fever , the stem clean and cut into buckets, place as a poultice on the forehead.
The stem is crushed or ground, if the fever is very high.
In the case of suffering from sinusitis, place a shield or hot patch on the forehead of the clean stem.
As antiparasitic, for the elimination of tapeworm, stems boiled with alum and lemon are indicated for cattle and goats.
For foot-and-mouth disease, from the crushed cactus stem a liquid is obtained that is given to the animal to drink.