Lophophora williamsii description

Description and characteristics of Lophophora williamsii

Plants are typically low growing, often almost flush with the ground. (Sometimes occurring as low mounds.) Rains and resulting water flow can rearrange the top surface of the soil leaving peyote plants with up to several cm of exposed stem or they can become completely buried by several cm. They are specialized at growing on sloping terrain.


East of Rio Grande City in Starr County


Presidio County


In habitat at Wirikuta.
Photo by Hjeran

During times of drought, and in preparation for winter, peyote can pull itself into the ground. New growth will occur as soon as favorable conditions return.

hunkered down in Presidio County

A welcomed rain following drought in Presidio County

Peyote has a deep taproot that is napiform (fat carrot or ice-cream cone shaped in general outline), tapering slowly from the above ground portion’s diameter, and weakly branching mainly at the distal end. It can be seen in instances such as Henning’s Anhalonium williamsii illustration that roots can sprout from almost anywhere on a cut peyote plant after it has been replanted.

peyote with root

Lophophora williamsii roots
Cactus Conservation Institute image

Especially towards the top there are greyish or brown coarse barky rings, formed by the shriveling of the outermost row of areoles that are becoming the top part of the nonchlorophyllaceous stem.


Lophophora williamsii root bark in Jim Hogg County


The roots are usually 8-11 cm long (4.) 3-5 inches long (5.)

broken crown

Crown broken by passing traffic showing a cross section of the stem, the vascular bundle and the barky outer layer

Only with substantial age will the roots on rooted cuttings get tap-root like. Cuttings can never reform the single fat root peyote is noted for but each of their pups can go on to form their own tap roots, especially after their mother was decapitated. In this latter case the rootstock of the mother may eventually be sucked dry of life as the pups go on to become independent plants.
The roots that form are often whitish to tan, fleshy and weakly branching.


pups forming separate roots following crown death (due to rot) of the mother Cactus Conservation Institute image

Roots that form tend to branch primarily at their base and only sporadically and weakly as this partially uncovered young plant illustrates. Notice how similar the branching of this seedling is to the branching of the solitary herbarium specimen that was shown earlier.

Young plant with the underground stem and roots largely exposed

Grows as, often dwarf, solitary heads. Occasionally budding at the base to form pairs or clusters. Budding occurs rarely in young plants and is more frequent in older plants. Many plants remain single, even if large. Small intact plants of double heads are sometimes encountered. One that initially looked cristate within several years had divided into two perfect heads.
Many times plants can be found joined underground. This is especially noticeable on plants which have pupped due to flush cut harvesting. As the wound heals, the cactus shrinks into its root and the pups form from an old areole on the subterranean stem, this most often occurs underground.
It must be mentioned that some people cut the plants below ground level and apparently obtain clumps as a result. It is clear the mortality goes up but how much has seen very few studies. The lower the cut the less stored tissues remain. If the cut is above the subterreanean stem there is almost a certainty of regrowth. If it occurs below that transition and leaves just root tissue there is no chance of regrowth as the requisite areoles were removed. If the cut falls someplace within the nonchlorophyllaceous stem itself there is still a chance for regrowth but the mortality goes up as the stored food reserves goes down adding an increased susceptibility to extremes of drought and weather. (See the studies of Terry & Mauseth 2006 for details on morphology and Terry et al. 2011, 2012 & 2014 for details on post harvesting regrowth and mortality.) One factor interfering with an adequate perception of loss by harvesters is that when deep cutting kills a plant the carcass often decomposes under the earth leaving no trace.


Harvested Lophophora williamsii with a new pup emerging at base

The base of pups not induced from injury only occasionally send out, mainly weak, roots of their own. Often in previously harvested rooted heads, there is no independent formation of roots by the resulting pups and they rely on the vascular system of the mother. Unless forcibly divided [Note 18] the pups remain connected as a part of the parent. In cases where the mother plant has been compromised or dies the pups can and do go on to form new tap roots.


Pups forming independent taproots following the crown death of the mother plant

In clumps, there is often one plant far larger than the rest unless clumping was induced by injury. New plants forming from injury, especially partial decapitation, are usually produced from the healthy and intact areoles peripheral to the injury, and, if multiple, will normally be of the same size. All variations of growth can normally be found in a large population of old plants.

Pupping is enhanced greatly by injury, especially if to the terminal portion of the head (apical meristem).


Regrowth after removal of the original crown

Occasionally peyote forms large mounds with great age. Mounds over a meter in diameter have been reported by many different reliable sources. Weniger says “often clustering to form up to 50 [heads] in one variety.”
These mounds are rarely encountered in Texas anymore. It was not always this way.


Jim Hogg County

The heads are rounded and usually more or less flattened on top. The center of the top is depressed and filled with woolly hair. They may be globose or somewhat cylindrical but all have depressed centers except when severely etiolated [Note 19] (6.).

Peyote infrequently forms crests [Note 20] but these are not infrequent in major cactus and succulent collections as they are highly sought after by cactus collectors. It is probable that crests can occur in any of the wild populations and in any Lophophora species. Occasionally, they are offered for sale as horticultural specimens that can sometimes exceed a foot in diameter. Belgian seed suppliers have offered seeds from cristate plants but it is doubtful crests would develop on the offspring. They showed no germination, in contrast to the ready germination of their other “species” and varieties.

More images can be found at sacredcacti.com

Pictures of a crested specimen can be found on Page 2904, fig. 2732 of Backeberg 1961 and on page 178 (# 738) in Hirao 1979 and also on page 1298 of Lamb & Lamb 1978 and on the back cover and pages 44 & 45 (as in-habitat color photos) in Grym 1997 and also in the black & white plate facing page 177 of Martin et al 1971.
A very useful search phrase for amazing images is “烏羽玉綴化“.

Lamb & Lamb commented that peyote crests grow quite well on their own roots so that grafting is not necessary (unlike many crests which are slow growing and rot prone.) Grafting of peyote crests is a common practice though as it is how most crests are multiplied for commercial propagation.

Lophophora williamsii echinata from Val Verde County with a crest starting

Lophophora williamsii echinata from Val Verde County starting to develop a crest. Cactus Conservation Image

Plants are firm and very succulent. Said by Lamb & Lamb 1974 and Weniger 1984 to be soft but I have found them only to be soft when in poor health or wet such as after heavy or prolonged rains, especially if during cool weather. Normally they are turgid and firm as a green tomatillo, but with an almost velvety feel. The friendly ‘touchability’ of this plant may be a part of its allure for many otherwise mainstream cactus growers.


Jim Hogg County


Val Verde County


Val Verde County

The flesh of peyote, like many other cacti, typically has a gritty or sandy texture due to the presence of oxalate crystals as can be observed exposed by a predator in the image below. (In some cacti such as Echinocactus horizonthalonius oxalate can comprise 60% of the dry weight of the entire plant!)


Lophophora williamsii in Jim Hogg County showing oxalate crystals inside of its flesh.

Peyote may be blue-green, greyish-green, bright glaucous green (usually only seen in bloated overfed cultivated plants), chalky blue and occasionally appearing reddish-green. All usually have a pronounced grey glaucescence or haze on their surface unless it has been abraded off by rough handling. This haze on their surface is due to a layer of small flakes of waxy material. Brown areas can develop during droughts and reddening or even purple coloration can be induced by cold and freeze stress.


Boquillas, Mexico (in cultivation)


Val Verde County


Val Verde County

Anderson notes that a brown corky layer of unknown origin sometimes develops on cultivated specimens. This was encountered this once in a wild population in southwestern Zapata County. It doesn’t seem to hurt the plants but when present, sometimes spreads and becomes unsightly. I’m at least assuming this is what Anderson refers to:

Val Verde County (under cultivation)

Val Verde County (cultivated wild plant)

There are no leaves except microscopically during early development. (2.)

Literature gives sizes usually falling in the 4-12 cm. in diameter and 2-8 cm. tall range.

Weniger says Lophophora williamsii var. williamsii reaches 3 inches and var. echinata reaches 5 inches (5.)

In previous editions of Sacred Cacti I mentioned seeing larger – huge – many-ribbed Lophophora williamsii in the late 1970s. I now believe this was in error and that ALL of those plants were actually Lophophora fricii. I now believe that I was being lied to by the collector concerning their point of wild-collected origin.

Plants over 4 inches have always been of rare observance. Weniger comments that “var. echinata” can reach five inches in the longest dimension of its crown. Bohata et al. 2005 also pointed out the existence of some interesting larger Lophophoras in Mexico. They appear to need some study.
Normally Peyote reaches somewhere towards 3 or 4 inches and then fluctuates in size seasonally, occasionally by as much as an inch in all directions, for the rest of its life. It will continue to grow larger only in the sense that the root will continue growing into the earth, the crown will continue to replace most of what tissue is lost due to local environmental extremes and predatory challenges, and, in many cases, pups will be produced by the original stem.
Notice the extremely long roots in this next image (modified from Bravo 1937). It must have taken a long time the plant on the right to go from being a seedling to having its roots that deep in the earth. Hopefully the viewer noticed how the diameter of the plant itself did NOT steadily continue to grow larger during that process.


In the neighborhood of 8 ribs is what is most often thought of with peyote but the number is highly variable in any population. Anderson 1980 says 4-14 ribs. If a peyote has more ribs than 14 it should be suspected to be Lophophora fricii.

Jim Hogg County, Texas

Jim Hogg County, Texas

Boquillas, Mexico (cultivated)

5 ribbed plants are rare past somewhere around one inch in size. Only occasionally do they not soon go on to form more ribs. While some authors have stated that it is simply a juvenile form of the plant, 5 ribbed plants do occasionally reach at least 3 inches in diameter and other 5-ribbed plants will sometimes stay tiny even with age.


seedlings from Starr County seeds (Cactus Conservation Image)

More images can be found at sacredcacti.com

The ribs are defined by furrows which are easily divided in a cut plant, and may be straight or in spirals. Sometimes the ribs are irregular or even indistinct. Usually they are broad and rounded and have shallow transverse furrows, forming tubercles or podaria. Schultes & Hofmann 1980 refer to them as “more or less regular, polyhedral…” and Benson 1982 calls them “irregularly hexagonal”. They may bulge outward but especially in older tubercles they tend to flatten out and become low, broad and rounded. They can reach an inch in “diameter”.



Brewster County


The ribs and tubercles or podaria are highly variable in appearance from individual to individual, as well as seasonally. Part of the reason for this is that the ribs serve an important function for cacti as they enable the body to swell or contract in response to the available water.



Drought-stressed in Presidio County


Rain-soaked in Jim Hogg County

The highly variable nature of peyote’s appearance underlies the problems it gave some botanists in Europe who had never seen an actual population first-hand (it has also caused many problems even for those who had field experience).

Many more images can be found at sacredcacti.com

Areoles are usually arranged linearly along ribs or at the apices of the hump-like tubercles or podaria. They are set from 1/2 inch to 1 inch (1.3-2.5 cm) Lamb & Lamb, 0.9-1.5 cm Anderson, 12-25 mm Benson, apart. The areoles are flat and round. They range from 2 to 4 mm in diameter.

The areoles in peyote only bear flowers when young.


wild seedling in Jim Hogg County

During the first year of growth each areole bears a dense tuft of white and more or less silky hairs to 7-10 mm long. (2.)


Val Verde County

Chihuahua, Mexico

Chihuahua, Mexico (under cultivation)

Later, each mature areole bears a dense, cylindroid tuft of soft trichomes (woolly hairs), 8-15 mm apart, 1-5 mm in diameter. (1.)

Val Verde County (under cultivation)

Val Verde County (under cultivation)

The persistent tufts of hairs are usually equally spaced on the ribs. (4.). They usually feel silky and may stand erect and matted or have the ends bent or broken off entirely.


Wool is yellowish or whitish, usually turning grey with age and it is sometimes broken or worn off.


Lophophora williamsii seedlings.
Photo by Anonymous

Spines are usually absent except in very young seedlings which bear a few weak bristle-like, usually white, sometimes yellowish, spines on their crown.

seedling of Lophophora williamsii echinata

While this is what is easily observed, Mauseth 1983b points out that peyote does in fact “…have spines, but they are so short that they do not even reach the top of the depression in which the areole is located.” However, occasionally tiny spines can show up noticeably on wild L. williamsii.

More images can be found at sacredcacti.com

A known exception to this concerns those plants referred to as L. jourdaniana which normally show some longer & quite noticeable spines, especially on young areoles.


Lophophora jourdaniana

Lophophora williamsii in Jim Hogg County, Texas

Jim Hogg County

Both flowers and fruits form on young areoles, near apex of stem, [borne at umbilicate centre of crown, (4.)], each at apex of a low new tubercle in a felted area adjoining the spine-bearing part of areole and partially merging with it. A circular scar persists at the site after the fruit has fallen. (2.)

Flowers are normally solitary but occasionally there will be several flowers either rapidly following each other or blooming together. 5 is the most I have ever witnessed first-hand. They couldn’t open fully because they were so close together. See photo of 3 in McLaughlin 1973 and in Schneck. See Mount 1993 for a picture with 5 blossoms open at one time.

Flowers are 1 cm to 2.5 cm in diameter, and 1-2.4 cm long (3 cm long. 2.). The floral tube has been described as “rotate-campanulate”(4.), “funnelform”(2.), and “bell shaped”(5.). Each flower is surrounded by a mass of long hairs.

Val Verde

Val Verde

Flower size, color and petal shape can be variable even within single populations. Pinkish, whitish blushed pale pink or rose (5.) are the most common flower colors. Dirty white, pure white, or pale yellow yellow are very rarely encountered.

More images can be found at sacredcacti.com

Populations observed in Texas usually were light pinkish with a darker pink, occasionally greenish, mid-stripe on each petal or whitish with a pink mid-stripe. More rarely they were whitish sometimes having a faint greenish mid-stripe on each petal that is most colored on the outside.

More images can be found at sacredcacti.com


grown from Starr County seeds (JAV)


The flowers in Weniger’s echinata have so far have had light pink petals with a darker pink midstripe. (6.) They have tended to be a bit more oval rather than round.

More images can be found at sacredcacti.com

Outer perianth segments and scales ventrally greenish, callous tipped (4.) Outermost perianth segments greenish with entire edges (5.)

Sepaloids with greenish middles & pink margins, largest narrowly oblanceolate, 9-15 mm long, to 3 mm broad, acute and strongly cuspidate, the margin entire. (2.)

Jim Hogg County

Outer perianth segments have greenish midribs and greenish-pink or whitish margins, the largest ones elliptical, 3-12 mm. long, 1-3 mm broad, mucronate, marginally minutely ciliate distally (1.)

[Outer perianth segments = sepaloids = sepals]

Presidio County (Chinati)

Presidio County (Chinati) under cultivation


Inner perianth segments pink, pinkish-red, or white, often with a darker midstripe, the largest ones are typically elliptical, 8-22 mm long, 2-4 mm broad, mucronate or occasionally attenuate, margins ciliate or entire. (1.)

Inner segment almost linear, pale pink to rose, white or yellowish. (5.)


Presidio County

Petaloids often pink in their middles, pale to nearly white at margins, largest oblanceolate, 12-15 mm long, to 4 mm broad, acute and cuspidate, entire; filaments pale, more or less 2 mm long. (2.)

[Inner perianth segments = petaloids = petals]

Flowering will usually begin around 5-6 years of age (or when they reach around 1 inch in diameter) from seed. It can begin much sooner if they are grafted; often within a year after making the graft even if starting with a young seedling.


Presidio County

The style is white, tinged with pink, reddish or rarely magenta, to 9 mm (2.) [5-14 mm (1.)] long, more or less 1-1.5 mm at greatest diameter;

The (3-)5-7 lobed stigmas are naked, linear, thin and flattened; 2 mm long, 1+ mm broad, and can be reddish, pink or yellowish;

Ovary is small, naked and surrounded by hairs (to 12 mm long). “Ovary in anthesis [is] turbinate”, 3-4.5 mm. long, smooth, not scaly. (2.)

Filaments are whitish, or rarely magenta (1.) and shorter than perianth segments (4.).

Presidio County

Presidio County


They bear 3-7 yellow anthers, 1-1.4 mm long.


Jim Hogg County


Val Verde County

The stamens of L. williamsii are thigmatropic so respond to touch by curling. A toothpick was used to gently touch the anthers in the photo below.

More images can be found at sacredcacti.com

The pollen in L. williamsii is highly variable in size, shape and aperture. The grains are more or less spheroidal (around 12 different geometric shapes), 0-18 colpate, and is (14.9-) 26-63.4 mm in diameter (averaging 40 microns) (1.) [Image]

[See also Anderson & Stone 1969]

Normally flowering from March through September (1.)

There are usually two peaks of flowering, one in spring and one in summer, generally these are following rain.

Cultivated plants have been observed to flower both earlier and later and can seemingly occur any month of the year if the conditions are right (6.)

Pizzetti 1985: entry #154. Has picture of a plant with a flower and pups.

Innes & Glass 1991 Also features a nice color picture in flower; on p. 150.

Color pictures can also be found in Grym 1997.

Fruits are small, slim, elongate, nude and clavate (club-shaped), or nearly cylindroid and enlarged gradually upward, (12-)15-20 mm (1, 2.) (3/8-3/4 inch) (5.) long, more or less (2-)3-5 mm diameter (1, 2.) The umbilicus is large or the perianth parts persistent, and the fruit emerges rapidly from within the trichome at maturity.(1.)

They are red to pale pinkish when ripe. Fleshy and indehiscent at first, they become dry and brownish-white, or eventually blackish, at full maturity. Seeds are released by the pods drying and breaking.


ripe & dying


Ripe & dry

full of ripe seeds

full of ripe seeds

The fruit walls are thin, transparent when fresh, and bare, without tubercles, scales, spines, hairs or glochids, although a few small hairs can rarely persist on the end of the fruit.

Fruits mature 9-12 months after fertilization. (1.) It is common to find fruit emerging around the same time as the flowering periods. Gerhard Koehres (who has extensive experience with commercial seed production using grafted seedlings) has commented that fruit can form from the early flowers within around 8 weeks but has also found that the fruit for the later blossoms often do not emerge until the following year. Clearly this subject is apparently not as cut and dried as was presented by Anderson and merits some study.

Seeds are usually are spread by water and possibly sometimes with the help of ants. It is almost certain that ants harvested the seeds from this Lophophora fruit in Presidio County.


Characteristic hole made by ants

Whether they are what is responsible for the placement of these two plants with their crowns at an almost vertical orientation is a matter of fascinating speculation.

Presidio COunty

Presidio COunty

Seeds are black, tuberculate-roughened (4.), (verrucose) pyriform (1.), densely papillate (2.), longer than broad, 1-1.5 mm. (2.) [“about 1/16 in.” (5.)] long, 1(+) mm broad, 0.8 mm thick; with broad whitish basal hilum (large, flattened, depressed and sometimes v-shaped), enlarged upward from the hilum, resembling those of Cereus (2.), Ariocarpus and Obregonia (1). [Image]


Check out all those seeds. You can actually see the shape of the hilums clearly in the larger viewing sizes!

They set seed readily even in cultivated plants. It is not uncommon to find seedlings growing in with older specimens.


Spontaneous seedlings (Boquillas, Mexico)
(under cultivation)

Cotyledons coalescent (1.), accumbant, not foliaceous. (2.)

Chromosome number 2n=22

The closest living relative to Lophophora williamsii, based on the molecular cladistics of Rob Wallace, is Obregonia denegrii.

Obregonia denegrii

Obregonia denegrii

Description adapted from (1-5 include pictures.)

1. Anderson 1980: pp. 179-181.

2. Benson 1982: pp. 680-683.

3. Lamb & Lamb 1974: pg. 196.

4. Schultes & Hofmann 1980: pp. 221-222.

5. Weniger 1984: pp. 138 -140.

6. Personal observation.

Useful search terms for locating additional imagery:

烏羽玉 & 乌羽玉(Lophophora williamsii

子吹乌羽玉(Lophophora williamsii f. caespitosa

乌羽玉缀化(Lophophora williamsii f. cristata)

大型乌羽玉(Lophophora williamsii “var. texensis“)



Many thanks to the Cactus Conservation Institute and to the assorted cultivators who permitted me the opportunity to acquire these photographs!

Lophophora williamsii

The new home for this page (with more images) is now at: http://sacredcacti.com/wp/blog/lophophora-williamsii/

Lophophora williamsii (Lemaire ex Salm-Dyck) Coulter

Charles Antoine Lemaire on Salm-Dyck‘s behalf (1845) Allgemeine Gartenzeitung, 13: 385-386, as Echinocactus williamsii.
John M. Coulter (1894) Contributions from the US National Herbarium, 3 (3): 91-132, as Lophophora williamsii.
Lophophora williamsii  in Jim Hogg County

Lophophora williamsii in Jim Hogg County, Texas

Peyote has experienced many names in its history but the important older ones to be familiar with are Echinocactus williamsii, its confused moonlight appearance as the brief-lived Anhalonium lewinii and as Anhalonium williamsii (outside of a brief period of problems produced among some ethnobotanists, chemists and pharmaceutists by the appearance of A. lewinii.)
More details are in the Anhalonium lewinii commentary.

Mescaline is present in highly variable amounts.

Lophophora williamsii echinata tuft Presidio County

A peyote “tuft” in Presidio County

Lophophora is known to mean “I bear crests” (in reference to the hairy tufts) [from the Greek; lophos: “crest” and phoreo: “I carry”. Pizzetti 1985].

Lophophora williamsii A peyote bearing its tufts in Jim Hogg County

A peyote bearing its “crests’ in Jim Hogg County

The name williamsii was said by Rümpler (in Förster 1885) to be in honor of C.H. Williams, who was said to have traveled in Bahia, Brazil.
According to David Hunt (2006), C.H. Williams was a former British ambassador to Bahia.
dict.leo.org disputes the certainty of this, offering instead Theodor Williams, a Vicar of Hendon with a large garden in Middlesex that was noted for its many cactus specimens.
dict.leo.org also noted that another claim exists asserting it was named for botanist J.W. Williams; the Williams they refer to appears to have been a botanist in the USA with an interest in forensic science so it makes no sense as a choice of whoever assigned the name.

Any rationale underlying the specific name choice for any of those proposed names is unclear to this author. Especially as Rümpler 1888 mentioned that its country of origin was unknown to him at that time.


Salm-Dyck, Coulter & Schumann
They all look
so serious.

The person who actually selected the name is also not clear. I would assume that would have been Charles Lemaire but there seems to be some question raised about that.

Among the many names worn by the peyote plant, one is particularly convoluted. It was for a time commonly known as Anhalonium lewinii due to a strange twist of fate caused by a drug company, a handful of botanists, a couple of pharmaceutical chemists and a following of unquestioning ethnobotanists. See a detailed discussion and references herein under Lophophora diffusa and, more pointedly, under Lophophora lewinii.

See also Anderson 1980, Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974 or Ott 1993.

Lophophora williamsii echinata in Terrell County

Lophophora williamsii echinata sensu Weniger in Terrell County, Texas


Common names used for or names applied to peyote


Description & characteristics of Lophophora williamsii


Occurrence & Distribution of Lophophora williamsii


Human uses of peyote


Archaic peyote, some beans and a rock


Flora often associated with Lophophora williamsii


Analysis reported for Lophophora williamsii


Suggested reading on peyote


Peyote Music & Icaros


Inquisition Law


Suggested reading (rock art, entrainment & entoptic imagery)





Starr County


Lophophora williamsii analysis

This article, & the book Sacred Cacti, is best viewed at http://sacredcacti.com/blog/lophophora-williamsii-analysis/ My apologies for any 404 pages that may exist as the transfer is completed.


Reported analysis of Lophophora williamsii

Mescaline content of Peyote

As is true for the alkaloid level of any plant, the mescaline content of peyote exists as a range that is influenced by at least several factors. The following simply summarizes the literature. Only some type of actual analysis or bioassay can say something accurate concerning a plant in front of a viewer. Literature should be viewed with caution and regarded to be only guidelines suggesting potential values.

“Arthur Heffter, a German pharmacologist of the nineteenth century estimated that there are about 4.6 to 5.8 grams of mescaline in every kilogram of dried peyote.” (Anderson 1980)
Heffter reported a maximum recovery in his work of 6.3% mescaline, 5.3% anhalonidine, 3% anhalonine, 0.5% lophophorine, 5.3% anhalamine.
Späth later reported having much lower yields working with old material.

Mescaline has been reported from L. williamsii with a min and max value of 0.10% and 6.3%. A range of 0.9-6.0% by dry wt is what is generally given. [Anonymous 1959, Heffter 1896a, Lundström 1971b, Martin & Alexander 1968, McLaughlin & Paul 1967 & Siniscalco 1983);
Anderson 1980 cited Kelsey 1959 (0.9%), Bergman 1971 (1.5%), Fischer 1958 (3%), Heffter 1896a (4.6-5.6 %[-6.3%])

Crosby & McLaughlin 1973 commented that mescaline content in dried peyote can reach 6% but rarely exceeds 1% in dried whole plant.

6% appears in Anderson, Kapadia & Fayez, Lundström 1971b, Martin & Alexander 1968, and Reti 1950. These are all second-hand accounts of that 6% value; referring to its publication by Heffter.

0.1% dry wt is the lowest value in the literature; reported in Siniscalco Gigliano 1983.

Ott 1993 estimated 2.4-2.7% mescaline by dry weight (~400 mg. per 16 grams of dried cactus) citing Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974 and Lundström 1971b.

Friends with extraction experience found fresh plants to average 0.2% mescaline from fresh plants and 1-2% from dried material. This refers to peyote originating from South Texas during the mid-1970s. This work was always done under fairly primitive and inefficient conditions. 2% is usually cited as an estimate in counterculture drug manufacturing literature. (50 grams of dried peyote per gram of mescaline recovered.).

Recently, a meme of “1% max” has been circulating; perhaps reflecting the current decrease in the average age and size of harvested plants due to careless overharvesting and harvest practices?

75-125 mg of HCl was recovered from 70-140 gm plants greenhouse grown in northern Europe. Lundström & Agurell 1971b (This approaches 0.1% by fresh weight; ; 0.1 to 0.2% by fresh weight is a commonly reported range.) [Also in Habermann 1978a & 1978b (from Štarha nd)]

Mescaline has been reported to comprise around 30% of the total alkaloid content of L. williamsii: Lundström 1971b.

Container grown plants in Italy were reported to contain 0.255% by fresh weight (2.55 mg/gm fresh was an average value derived from two specimens; estimated using HPLC). They also reported an average of 1.75% by dry weight. (Ed.: Note the obvious discrepancy)
Gennaro et al. 1996;

As L. williamsii var. typica Croizat:
0.709% (± 0.032) dry wt. Habermann 1978a (from Štarha 1997)

Variations across range:

Starr Co.: 2.77%;
Jim Hogg Co: 3.2%;
Val Verde Co: 3.5%;
Presidio Co: 3.52%.
(Averaged % by dry weight: Used batched samples.
Hulsey et al. 2011.


3.80% mature crowns,
2.01% small regrowth crowns (4 year after the prior harvest).
(Jim Hogg Co. Averaged % was by dry weight: – Used batched samples.)
Kalam et al. 2012 & 2013.


Batched samples were used to deliberately create an average value and lessen the possible contribution from potential high or low outliers. Comparison of Hulsey with Klein’s paper shows the wisdom in choosing that approach even if it does deprive us of an understanding of the max/min values. The ideal approach is a screening using batched plants followed by a more detailed look at a set of the individuals.
One peer reviewer suggested that batching in Kalam invalidated their results, which if true would invalidate the results of almost all published analytical work appearing in the history of phytochemistry. Almost all workers analyze multiple individuals to minimize the influence of potential outliers, the only actual difference between the acceptable approach of those workers (including in the same journal) and what was complained about with Hulsey or Kalam is the earlier workers did not REFER to their batched samples as being a batched sample.

Distribution in the peyote plant

Janot claimed to have established that mescaline was largely produced in the peripheral green parenchyma of the crown. As this was during the 1930s the identification would have been established using microchemical methods.

Todd 1969 found mescaline in the tops to be substantially greater than in the roots (using co-TLC). (See Note B)

Anonymous 1959, citing Rouhier 1927 “Le Peyotl”, gives the following percentages of alkaloid content in different parts of the cactus (% by dry weight unless otherwise stated):
Upper slices dried 3.70%
Lower slices dried 3.43%
[The above refers to the practice sometimes employed of horizontally sectioning the top of the cactus into two parts prior to drying.]

Peyote head dried 3.14%

Fresh peyote head 0.41%
Roots dried 0.73%
Fresh roots 0.244%

A closer look using 13 individual plants divided into three parts (crown, stem & root) that were then each analyzed separately:
1.82-5.50% in crown tissue,
0.125-0.376% in subterranean stem tissue,
0.0147-0.0520% in root tissue.
(Starr Co.; Analyzed individually. All % by dry wt.)
Klein et al. 2013 & 2015.
Notice that there is an order of magnitude decrease from crown to stem and again from stem to root?

Growth conditions

Siniscalco Gigliano 1983 reported his isolation of mescaline as:
0.10% from well irrigated plants,
0.93% from his grafted plants, and
up to 2.74% dry weight after 6 months of dry conditions.
All from peyote plants being cultivated in Italy.

Dried plant is said to have 3% Roland Fischer but Fischer claimed that only if chewed well or ground finely can this be extracted. He presented a study as indicating that less than one percent is obtained by chewing and swallowing. While finely grinding or chewing well is important for obtaining the best possible absorption (especially if using dry material) it must be pointed out that Fischer’s reasoning had some problems.
Fischer was able to get 3% mescaline from dried peyote by grinding it to a powder before beginning his extraction procedure. He found that if this dry grinding was omitted and the buttons rehydrated by soaking in water for two hours and then ground before extraction he could only recover 1%.
He went on to conclude “The only safe conclusion would be that the chewing of peyote and the swallowing as a bolus are certainly less thorough extraction procedures than our “wet grinding” procedure which recovers only about 1% of mescaline.”There several major flaws in Fischer’s reasoning and procedure, in so far as applying it comparatively to humans.
The more trivial of the two concerns Fischer basifying the buttons after soaking in water and then grinding, filtering, washing and adjusting the pH to 3.4 to 4.
In the stomach the chewed buttons are repeatedly macerated and massaged by peristaltic contractions in a dilute but fairly strong solution of hydrochloric acid (normally pH 1.5 to 2.5) which converts the rather poorly soluble mescaline base into the exceedingly water soluble mescaline hydrochloride. This means that the acidity used in human in vivo extraction is several orders of magnitude greater than that used by Fischer. (The effects of the digestive enzymes in the stomach do not contribute much as they consist primarily of pepsin which is specific for proteins.)
A more significant point was Fischer’s choice of base. When recovering 3%, he had used sodium hydroxide to bring it to pH 8.6, which is nearing the lower limit for good mescaline extraction as the free base. (97% at pH 8.6 according to Woods et al. 1951; 100% extraction is said to occur at pH 9 or above.). When he recovered 1%, for some reason he had decided to use sodium carbonate instead. This base is a good choice for many alkaloids. (It would have been acceptable if, for example, he was isolating DMT.) His bringing the pH to 8.8 might have enhanced his yield a trivial amount but mescaline has a tendency to form an insoluble carbonate, whether the carbonate source is in air or solution. This may have decreased his yield. [This may also have caused Reti some loss with Trichocereus terscheckii as well. This is just a hunch as rigorous evaluation has not been conducted. I should add that the presence of CO2 is also said to be critical for crystallization of mescaline to occur; according to LaBarre 1989.]
Although in agreement with the idea that chewing well or fine grinding is important to the best absorption, any direct comparisons of his findings to human rates of internal utilization need questioning.
While direct measurements of internal absorbence may not be possible, it would be feasible to administer known dosages of mescaline and subjectively compare them with known amounts of mescaline in cactus material. If a series of such bioassays were performed using experienced users a rough estimation could be determined which would be at least as accurate as Fisher’s extrapolation. It may also be possible to determine the percent of absorbence by monitoring the initial rise in blood levels during the early stages. This also would require the use of pure mescaline to establish a baseline. It also would require repeated evaluations using both different and the same individuals to be certain that biochemical individuality did not affect the results.


There are two additional accounts in the literature that are important to be aware of:

Sasaki et al 2009 and Aragane et al. 2011 published details from an interesting study of Lophophora demonstrating that genetic and chemical differences exist between L. williamsii and L. diffusa.

They additionally included three specimens of L. fricii but apparently renamed it based on what they found in publications by Edward Anderson, by Yoshio Ito & by H. Hirao. Aragane presented it to be a nonmescaline variant of L. williamsii. Earlier, Sasaki had said they had reidentified it as L. williamsii var. decipiens.
It is clear without any doubt that those three specimens were Lophophora fricii.

Aragane noted them to differ from their Lophophora williamsii:
1) by the word grey appearing only in the descriptions of their body color and not in those of any of their L. williamsii,
2) bearing large protuberences on the epidermis rather than small ones,
3) 2 of the 3 were noted to have a darker pink flower,
4) The primer sets were different from all of their L. williamsii (and closer to what was noted for diffusa),
5) They were purchased identified as Ginkangyoku (which is the Japanese trade name for L. fricii).

I’ll quote from those two papers as their contained comments provide more than adequate support for my line of reasoning:

We identified the materials according to Anderson’s morphological classification.” Sasaki et al 2009.
The pertinent point being that Anderson recognized both Habermann’s Lophophora fricii (and wild plants he had encountered of Lophophora koehresii) to be L. williamsii. His view that only two species exist (L. diffusa and L. williamsii) is the basis for Aragane & Sasaki’s name assignment.

Although the presence or absence of mescaline can easily be checked by chromatography, it is difficult to identify the species because not all L. williamsii contain mescaline. Chemotaxonomic identification of L. williamsii seems insufficient. DNA sequences of chloroplast trnL intron region in Lophophora plants were revealed to be beneficial for identification and showed a good correlation with mescaline content.” Sasaki et al. 2009.

These samples were identified as L. williamsii in this study but were identified as L. williamsii var. decipiens in the literature.” [citing two illustrated cactus books by Y. Ito and by H. Hirao) Sasaki et al. 2009

Interestingly, although Lo-14, Lo-15, and Lo-16 were identified as L. williamsii in this study, these three samples were also identified as L. williamsii var. decipiens in previous literature. 16,18
Sequence alignments in the trnL intron region of those three samples were different from those of Lo-2 to Lo-11. Moreover, another study of ours revealed that Lo-14, Lo-15, and Lo-16 contained no mescaline (Table 1). Using this method, we can distinguish mescaline-containing Lophophora plants from mescaline-free ones if the reaction is stopped at 65 min.”
Sasaki et al. 2009 (Lo-14, Lo-15, and Lo-16 were their Lophophora fricii specimens. Lo-2 through Lo-11 were all L. williamsii.)

morphology of Lo-14 to 16 was similar to that of L. diffusa (Lo-17 to 20).” Aragane et al. 2011

It was reported that L. williamsii contained mescaline, but that L. diffusa did not [15, 16]; however, it was unknown whether that L. williamsii was within the wide classification that included L. fricii. In this study, we clarified for the first time that there are two groups of L. williamsii, one with mescaline (group 1) and the other without it (group 2), and that L. diffusa contained no mescaline.” Aragane et al. 2011

It is fascinating that they did not grasp that they had just produced might could be considered to be adequate proof that L. fricii merited recognition as a species separate from L. williamsii rather than being considered to be a nonmescaline form of L. williamsii.

Aragane et al. 2011 reported mescaline concentrations in their Japanese horticultural specimens to range from 1.27-4.83%. (The concentrations reported for those 13 averages to 3.2%.) This is a range AND an average value that is quite comparable to what has been reported from wild plants.

Their presented sources produced some questions. In Sasaki et al. 2009 their plants were said to have been obtained from the “Medicinal Plant Garden, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health“. In Aragane et al. 2011, most were listed as having been acquired through the “Internet” with all of the remainder coming from “Market (Mie Pref.)“.
Whether Aragane’s comments on dates and sources referred to the origin for the plants that Sasaki listed as being from the “Medicinal Plant Garden, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health” or if Aragane’s comments were intended as a correction to Sasaki is not made clear.

These are the results from Aragane et al. 2011 concerning their specimens that were actually Lophophora williamsii:

# Mescaline Name Date Source
Lo-1 3.72% Ubatama 4-2005 Internet
Lo-2 4.83% Ubatama 4-2005 Internet
Lo-3 2.22% Ubatama 1-2005 Market (Mie Pref.)
Lo-4 4.27% Ubatama 1-2005 Market (Mie Pref.)
Lo-5 3.85% Ubatama 1-2005 Market (Mie Pref.)
Lo-6 2.62% Ubatama 4-2005 Internet
Lo-7 3.82% Ubatama 4-2005 Internet
Lo-8 2.46% Ubatama 4-2005 Internet
Lo-9 2.94% Ubatama 4-2005 Internet
Lo-10 3.07% Ubatama 4-2005 Internet
Lo-11 3.54% Ougataubatama 4-2005 Internet
Lo-12 2.5% Kofukiubatama 3-2005 Internet
Lo-13 1.27% Ougataubatama 4-2005 Internet




Alkaloid content of Peyote:

Of the total alkaloid content:
30% is present as mescaline; 17% as pellotine.
Schultes & Hofmann 1980: 221.

Total alkaloid reported:
8.41% in dried “buttons”;
0.47% in fresh whole plants;
0.2% in fresh roots
0.93% in fresh tops.
Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974.
See more farther below.

Lewin was the first to isolate an alkaloid from peyote but it turned out to be both inactive entheogenically and a mixture of several alkaloids.

Heffter isolated 3 alkaloids from Lophophora williamsii and published his results and pharmacology in 1898. He named the active compound mescaline; determining it to be the active alkaloid by personal bioassays. [Heffter 1898a] Heffter named the other two alkaloids Anhalonidine and Lophophorine.


In 1976, 50 alkaloids had been observed;
(29 as substituted phenethylamines and 23 as tetrahydroisoquinolines):
Shulgin 1976 cited Kapadia & Fayez 1973

A total of 35 isoquinolines had been reported prior to 1986, according to Menachery et al. 1986.
The number of compounds now mentioned in the chemical literature as actually being detected in the plant is 72. Of which some are questionable inclusions, some are clearly errors and a number alkaloids still need a second-party confirmation by someone. At the moment the presence of 63 alkaloids has been established.
No doubt new trace alkaloids in peyote will continue to be found in the future so long as people devise more sophisticated techniques and/or continue to look for them.
It should be pointed out that any and all recent finds of alkaloids have been in trace quantities. Most have been identified using elaborate ‘trapping’ techniques for identifying short-lived biosynthetic precursors. Which also means it is a bit of a stretch to consider those components in the alkaloid fraction since normal extraction processes will not be able to recover them.
Any alkaloids discovered in the future will similarly be of purely biochemical interest rather than pharmacological contributors to the action of peyote.

In an incredible move suggested more than a small level of ignorance (and, at best, a serious lack of factual information), in 1997 Congress made law a provision declaring every alkaloid contained in peyote to be a Schedule One controlled substance.
Since several of these are normal components of human body fluids (including blood, CSF and urine) and many are present in a wide variety of plants, what this actually means remains to be seen.
It is more than a bit disconcerting that there are now AT LEAST a handful of normally present endogenous substances that are presently considered Schedule 1 (potentially as many as 9 different compounds); placing every human on the planet in measurable and perennial violation of US federal law.


According to Anderson 1980, Todd found little variation in the alkaloid concentration between roots and tops of plants except for hordenine which he found to be present only in the roots. This is misleading as stated.
Todd 1969 analyzed two populations of Lophophora williamsii (and also L. diffusa from Querétaro) collected during June, [a time considered to be poor for mescaline and good for isoquinoline effects.] His collections were made by Anderson near Monclova, Coahuila and El Huizache, San Luis Potosí.
Todd found lophophorine to be present at higher concentrations than mescaline in the plants collected from both locations. [It has been noted by other workers that N-Methylated compounds, such as Lophophorine, are higher during summer than winter. See below.]
Anhalamine and anhalonidine were present at nearly the same concentration as mescaline in plants collected in Coahuila and at the same concentration as mescaline in plants collected from San Luis Potosí.
Anhalonine and anhalinine were present at about half the concentration of mescaline in both populations.
While pellotine in the tops was present at lower concentrations than mescaline in the Coahuilan population, it was present at roughly equal concentrations to mescaline in the San Luis Potosí population.
Mescaline concentrations were found to be substantially higher in the population collected from Coahuila.
The difference in mescaline concentration between the roots and tops was found to be far greater in plants from San Luis Potosí than Coahuila. The mescaline concentration in the roots of Coahuilan plants was equal to the concentration of mescaline in the tops of the San Luis Potosí originating plants. Only traces of mescaline were observed in the roots of the San Luis Potosí originating plants (the Texas ‘Peyote Gardens’ population is believed to be similar).
Pellotine was found to be equally distributed between roots and tops in both populations but was present in higher amounts in the San Luis Potosí population.
Anhalamine, anhalonidine, and anhalonine were found to be equally distributed between roots and tops and were present in similar concentration in both populations.
Anhalinine and lophophorine were found to be equally distributed between tops and roots in the population at San Luis Potosí and less concentrated in the roots of those from Coahuila. Concentration in the tops of both populations were the same.
I suspect that it was the collection during June that caused the marked differences between his results and those of other investigators. A similar examination should be made using collections taken at two month intervals during December through mid-May, the usual time of indigenous people’s collection for use. The isoquinoline content proportional to mescaline, as reported by Todd, is far higher than is normally mentioned in the literature. [All of Todd’s concentrations were estimated by co-tlc with known amounts.]
The Coahuilan population is considered to be a stronger variety or even a separate species by some. Chemically there may be justification for this [Note 21] and it should be targeted for propagation. Plants originating from the Texas “peyote gardens” are believed to be similar to the San Luis Potosí population.
Todd’s descriptions do not allow comparison with the published descriptive differences between var. williamsii and var. echinata.
Lundström 1971b reported that the N-methylated alkaloids (such as Lophophorine) were highest during summer in greenhouse maintained plants. N-Demethylated compounds were found to be higher in fall and winter than N-methylated derivatives.
This corresponds well to Peyote using peoples traditionally gathering plants from November through April or mid-May (actual period of harvest varying from group to group but largly falling within this time frame with thre being at least one group of Huichols harvesting in October) and also with subjective observations that December through early March are the times for the best psychological effects and the least somatic distress. I believe that January and February are the most ideal months of the year.


Siniscalco 1983 reported that keeping cultivated peyote plants under arid conditions for 6 months substantially increased their mescaline content. Their corresponding reported values differed as 0.1% compared to 2.74% by dry wt. That is a 27.4X difference which is highly significant as taking a plant from fresh to total dryness only increases the concentration ~10X.


In whole fresh plants of L. williamsii, a total alkaloid content of 0.47% was found. (Of this 60% was present as phenolic alkaloids and 40% as nonphenolic alkaloids.)
The fresh roots had a total alkaloid content of 0.20% (67% phenolic/ 33% nonphenolic). The fresh tops had a total alkaloid content of 0.93% (58% phenolic / 42% nonphenolic)
Plants were harvested in ?? (they mentioned that L. diffusa was harvested in June).
[They added that Lundström 1971b found 0.4% total alkaloids in whole plants of which 57.5% was phenolic and 42.5% was nonphenolic alkaloids.]

Analysis of old materials

Dried peyote buttons, freshly prepared, had a total alkaloid content of 8.41% (64% phenolic versus 36% nonphenolic).
87 year old peyote buttons (sent to Watson by Rusby in 1887) had an alkaloid content of 8.86% (65% phenolic and 35% nonphenolic).
The mescaline content of the 87 year old buttons was much less than the new ones but they did not have enough variables to account for the difference. Only minor differences were observed with regards to most of the other alkaloids. Anhalinine was also markedly lower in the old material. Hordenine and 3-Hydroxy-4,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine were almost completely lacking from the old material. The latter of these had been noted earlier by both Späth 1922 and Agurell & Lundström 1968 as being rather unstable.
Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974



Percentages of alkaloids reported in peyote:

Ott 1993 gave a nice summary; citing Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974 and Lundström 1971b:
8% Total alkaloids in dried peyote buttons, of which:
30% is mescaline (= 2.4-2.7%) (~400 mg. per 16 grams of dried cactus)
17% is pellotine (peyotline) (= 1.4-1.5%)
14% anhalonidine (= 1.2-1.3%)
8% anhalamine (= 0.6-0.7%)
8% hordenine (= 0.6-0.7%)
5% lophophorine (= 0.4%)

Alkaloid percentages according to Kapadia & Fayez 1973.
References cited are theirs. (All percentages of total alkaloid content are from Lundström 1971)

Mescaline 6% (30% of total alkaloid content.)
Anonymous 1959

Pellotine (peyotline) 0.74% (17% of total alkaloid content.)
Heffter 1894b [This may have been from L. diffusa.]

Anhalonidine 5% (14% of total alkaloid content.)
Heffter 1896a

Anhalamine 0.1% (8% of total alkaloid content.)
Heffter 1901
(Späth & Becke 1935b also reported 0.1%.)

Lophophorine 0.5% (5% of total alkaloid content.)
Heffter 1896a

Anhalonine 3% (3% of total alkaloid content.)
Heffter 1896a

Anhalinine 0.01% (0.5% of total alkaloid content.)
Späth & Becke 1935a & 1935b

Anhalidine 0.001% (2% of total alkaloid content.)
Späth & Becke 1935a & 1935b

Hordenine 0.004% (8% of total alkaloid content.)

N-Methyl-4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenethylamine (<0.5% of total
alkaloid content.)

N,N-Dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenethylamine (0.5-2% of total alkaloid content.)

3-Demethylmescaline (1-5% of total alkaloid content was found in fresh material by Lundström & Agurell 1971)

N,N-Dimethyl-3-demethylmescaline (0.5% of total alkaloid content.)

N-Methylmescaline 0.002% (3% of total alkaloid content.)

O-Methylanhalonidine (<0.5% of total alkaloid content.)

Isopellotine (0.5% of total alkaloid content.)

Peyophorine (0.5% of total alkaloid content.)

Isoanhalidine (trace)

Isoanhalonidine (trace)

Isoanhalamine (trace)

Tyramine (trace)

N-Methyltyramine (trace)

Epinine (trace)

3,4-Dimethoxyphenethylamine (trace)

3,4-Dihydroxy-5-methoxy-phenethylamine (trace)

N-methyl-3-demethylmescaline (trace)

[All others found by other workers were also trace components.]
For more information on isolations and dates see elsewhere here.

Lundström 1971b found a total alkaloid content of 0.4% w/w to be present in the fresh buttons and noted that 0.41% had been determined by Rouhier (as cited by Anonymous 1959).


First pharmacological study of peyote was published in Lewin 1888a & 1894a.


An Abbreviated Chronology of the Identification of the Peyote alkaloids

The first report of alkaloids in peyote was the laboratory report of F.A. Thompson at Parke-Davis but Lewin was the first to publish. (Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974)

Anhalonine (crystalline but not a pure compound)
Lewin (1888) Naunyn-Schmiedebergs Archiv fur Experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie, 24: 401-411

Pellotine This probably was from L. diffusa rather than L. williamsii. [The source of Heffter’s material is not known as this apparently came from German collectors with no identification of locality. Considerable trade of peyote collected from the locality of L. diffusa existed in early times and it was not differentiated from L. williamsii so it is probable that pellotine was not actually isolated from L. williamsii by Heffter. He referred to the material in this analysis as Anhalonium williamsii rather than A. lewinii, the latter being his source of mescaline below. See Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974 or the A. lewinii discussion herein.]
Heffter (1894)b Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 27: 2975-2979.

Heffter (1896)a Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 29: 216-227.



Kauder (1899) Archiv der Pharmazie und Berichte der Deutschen Pharmazeutischen Gesellschaft, 237: 190-198.

Späth & Beck (1935) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 68 (3): 501-505.
Späth & Beck (1935) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 68 (5): 944-945.

Späth & Bruck (1937) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 70 (12): 2446-2450.

Späth & Bruck (1938) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 71 (6): 1275-1276.

Späth and Bruck (1939) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 72 (2): 334-338.

McLaughlin & Paul (1965) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 54 (4): 661.<
(Confirmed in McLaughlin & Paul 1966 Lloydia, 29 (4): 315-327.)
See Todd 1969 Lloydia, 32 (3): 395-398.

Candicine (Identified by tlc. Presence in peyote is in question, see Kapadia et al. 1968 Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (2): 254-262.)
McLaughlin & Paul (1966) Lloydia, 29 (4): 315-327. (In addition to hordenine)

Kapadia & Shah (1967) Lloydia, 30: 287. (Proceedings.)
See also Kapadia & Highet (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57: 191-192

Agurell & Lundström 1968 The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 1638-1639.
(Confirmed by Kapadia et al. (1969)a Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 58 (9): 1157-159.)
Mescaline maleimide
Mescaline malimide
Mescaline succinamide
Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
Kapadia & Fales (1968)b Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (11): 2017-2018, and Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications,24: 1688-1689.
Anhalotine (as iodide)
Lophotine (as iodide)
Peyotine (as iodide)
Kapadia et al. (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (2): 254-262.
Lundström & Agurell (1968) Journal of Chromatography, 36 (1): 105-108.

Peyoxylic acid
Peyoruvic acid
Kapadia et al. (1969) Paper presented at the 116th Meeting of the American Pharmaceutical Association, Montreal, Canada. May 18-22, and Kapadia et al. (1970)b Journal of the American Chemical Society, 92 (23): 6943-6951.

Mescaline citrimide
Mescaline isocitrimide lactone
Kapadia & Fales (1970)a Lloydia, 33 (4): 492. (Proceedings.) (Paper presented at the “11th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy (Vienna, Austria) July 1970)
Kapadia et al. (1970)a Lloydia, 33 (4): 492. (Proceedings.)

Mescaloxylic acid
Mescaloruvic acid
Kapadia et al. (1971) Paper presented at the 118th Meeting of the American Pharmaceutical Association, San Francisco, California, March 27-April 2. “Some newer synthetic cactus alkaloid analogs.” and Kapadia and Hussain (1972) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 61 (7): 1172-1173.
Dopamine (3,4-Dihydroxyphenethylamine)
Epinine (N-Methyl-3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine)
Lundström (1971) Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 25 (9): 3489-3499.
Lundström (1971) Acta Pharmceutica Suecica, 8: 485-496.


6,7-Dimethoxy-8-hydroxy-3,4-dihydroisoquinolinium inner salt

1,2-Dimethyl-6,7-dimethoxy-8-hydroxy-3,4-dihydroisoquinolinium inner salt
2-Methyl-6,7-dimethoxy-8-hydroxy-3,4-dihydroisoquinolinium inner salt
Fujita et al. (1972) Yakugaku Zasshi, 92 (4): 482-489
Lundström (1972) Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 26 (3): 1295-1297.

O-Methylpeyoxylic acid
O-Methylpeyoruvic acid
Kapadia et al. (1973) Journal of Heterocyclic Chemistry, 10 (1): 135-136.

Pellotine determined to exist in optically active form in the cactus. (This had been an unresolved question for many years due to rapid and ready racemization)
Cymerman Craig et al. (1977) Journal of the American Chemical Society, 99 (24): 7996-8002.

Serotonin was claimed; using ion-interaction HPLC. Its identity was never actually proven and it was not isolated. It presently lacks confirmation.
Gennaro et al. (1996) Analytical Letters, 29 (13): 2399-2409.

3,4-Methylenedioxyphenethylamine (Homopiperonylamine)
3-Methoxy-4,5-methylenedioxyphenethylamine (Lophophine)
N,N-Dimethyl-3,4-methylenedioxyphenethylamine (Lobivine)
These three compounds were reported but this needs to be taken with caution as their actual isolation and characterization was never performed. All identifications relied entirely on the spectral data of the extracted alkaloids and their corresponding derivated forms. The actual presence of these alkaloids still needs to be independently confirmed. A number of comments from this paper also need questioning, especially concerning their peculiar speculative assertions of their contributions to activity and their baseless allusions to MDMA or designer drug activity. (It was incredibly entitled “Ecstacy analogues found in cacti.” as if the activity of MDMA analogs did not require alpha substitution.) In a personal conversation, shortly after the appearance of this paper, Shulgin described the inclusion of his name as an author to be an “embarassment“.
Bruhn et al. (008) Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 40 (2): 219-222.
Shulgin had however voiced his anticipation, in PIHKAL, that someday someone WOULD find 3-Methoxy-4,5-methylenedioxy-phenethylamine in a cactus and that it was a surprise that it had not been reported already.

Mrs. Anna B. Nickels, a long-time collector of cacti, is generally given credit for bringing peyote to the attention of Parke-Davis. [Safford 1908 is the first source I can find which claims this.]
Slotkin 1955 dismisses this on three counts:
1) Parke, Davis and Co. was unable to find any records concerning Mrs. Nickels,
2) Peyote from Parke, Davis and Co. was used by Lewin, and was said by both sources to have originated in Mexico; Mrs. Nickels lived in Laredo.
3) Mrs Nickels referred to peyote as mescal buttons.
Slotkin presented some circumstantial evidence that J.R. Briggs may have been the one who brought peyote to the attention of pharmaceutical science:
1) Briggs’ brother lived in Mexico and supplied him with peyote.
2) Park, Davis’ files on peyote begin with a clipping of a Briggs article.
3) Both Lewin and Briggs used the unusual name of muscale buttons.

Mrs. Nickels did bring the fact of this plant having medicinal use among native people to the attention of John M. Coulter (around 1892-3). She referred to them as “mescal buttons”.
It might be added that Mrs. Nickels had a large cactus exhibit in Chicago’s 1893 Colombian Exposition and was noted by Liberty Hyde Bailey as having published the first catalog of cacti published in the US (as the price list issued for her cactus retail business ~1876)
A couple of points arise concerning the claims of Slotkin; neither of which am I able to resolve:
Omer C. Stewart was furnished (By G.A. Bender) with a copy of a letter that Mrs. Nickels had sent to Parke-Davis and Company in Detroit dated 11 July 1888.
In this letter, she referred to Anhalonium Williamsii as Piotes.
Bender 1969 presents a somewhat different spin on the same account and presents Parke-Davis as becoming aware of mescal buttons due to reading J.R. Briggs’ published account of his ingestion. In Bender’s account, Briggs was contacted by Parke-Davis and requested to procure some mescal buttons on their behalf, which he eventually accomplished. Interestingly, Parke-Davis apparently lacked any understanding of the nature of their source plant so they sought outside help at identification. One of the dried buttons they had mailed to Lewin in Germany is what ended up in Hennings’ hands and became Anhalonium lewinii.


Effects of peyote summarized

See more details under Mescaline pharmacology (in the book PDF Part C The Cactus Alkaloids) or briefly in the following section.
Perhaps the best summation of peyote’s overall effects to-date was made in 1940 by Richard Evans Schultes:
Because of the physiological activity of these constituents of the cactus, peyote is capable of inducing an intoxication which is characterized by a feeling of ease and well-being, by control of the limbs and senses, by absence of violence, and occasionally by visual and auditory hallucinations and abnormal synaesthesiae. There are seldom uncomfortable after-effects among users. As a result of this remarkable type of intoxication, peyote has come to be regarded by many Indians as the vegetal incarnation of a deity.” (page 177)
The sustaining and stimulating properties of Lophophora Williamsii which enable the user to do an excessive amount of work without feeling fatigue are hardly separable from those properties which may be called curative.” (page 178)



Anhalinine HCl crystals from Prentis & Morgan

Pharmacological overview of the non-mescaline alkaloid content of peyote

No hallucinogenic activity has yet been demonstrated for any peyote alkaloid other than mescaline. [There is one mention of hallucinations experienced with a very large dosage of pellotine and at least one claim of a hallucinogenic experience resulting from the ingestion of L. diffusa but they stand in contrast to all other observations.]
Pharmacology of mescaline and more details concerning the rest of the alkaloids can be found in the book PDF Part C The Cactus Alkaloids. Only a relative few of the peyote alkaloids are mentioned in this section.
Those listed have some nature of activity or lack of activity reported in the literature. Other alkaloids present in peyote, such as anhalinine are unlikely to contribute substantially, if at all, to its effects. This is due to their inactivity pharmacologically and/or, most often, to their extremely low concentrations.



Found to be hardly active as anticonvulsant, tranquilizer or muscle relaxant by Brossi et al. 1966


Found to be hardly active as anticonvulsant, tranquilizer or muscle relaxant by Brossi et al. 1966


Probably does not contribute to the pharmacology as it is one fourth as active as pellotine. Shulgin 1973
Heffter found doses of 20-25 mg of the hydrochloride produced narcosis in frogs followed by increased excitability. Complete paralysis was produced by larger dosages. A curarizing effect was caused by dosages of 30 to 50 mg. No significant effects were seen in mammals. Heffter 1898a
Said to produce slight sleepiness and a dull sensation in the head. LaBarre 1975 citing Rouhier’s Monographie pp. 227-232.
Found to be hardly active as anticonvulsant, tranquilizer or muscle relaxant by Brossi et al. 1966.


Heffter 1898a found 5-10 mg injected into frogs produced an increase in the reflex excitability after a phase of paresis. Similar action was noted in rabbits but hyperexcitability was predominate. (Heffter also described other effects.)


Active as a stimulant [Bruhn & Bruhn 1973] but a 100 mg. dose was found by Heffter to be inactive. [Ott 1993] Hordenine may potentially contribute some activity as a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor: Barwell et al. 1989. However, the extent of its actual contribution remains to be studied.
As Todd found this present only in the roots it may be doubtful that it contributes to the pharmacology of peyote although the claim from some users that they get mroe when eating the roots might merit evaluation. It is presently unknown whether the reported presence of hordenine in peyote buttons by other researchers reflects its occurrence in the tops during normal times of traditional harvest (perhaps before use as a biosynthetic precursor) versus Todd’s analysis occurring during June or whether it is due to the presence of roots or partial roots on the plants these other workers analyzed. (Some other workers did analyze WHOLE plants during their work.
See McLaughlin & Paul 1965, 1966 & 1967 and Rao 1970.
McLaughlin & Paul 1965 purchased their material from Penick.
McLaughlin & Paul 1965 was cited by McLaughlin & Paul 1966 for their procedure in processing the plants. In their 1966 work on biosynthesis they used plants obtained from Mexico which were maintained in a greenhouse.]

Found to cause paralysis of the CNS in frogs without previous excitation by Heffter 1894a.
Small doses have no effect on blood circulation but larger ones cause hypertension and accelerated pulse. Very large doses cause death by respiratory arrest.
Pressure effect is not of central origin but is due to stimulation of cardiac muscle. [Rietschel 1937a & 1937b]
Less active than adrenaline, more similar to ephedrine than adrenaline.
Other researchers reported a nicotine like action [Raymond-Hamet 1933a, 1933b & 1939 and Ludueña, as cited in Reti 1959]
Large doses decrease or reverse the hypertensive action of adrenaline. [Raymond-Hamet 1936]

Reported highly antiseptic and to have inhibiting effect on some soluble ferments. [Camus 1906a-d]
Comments partially adapted from Kapadia & Fayez 1970

The antibacterial and wound healing reputation of peyote and other cacti has been attributed to the presence of hordenine. See:
McCleary 1960 who studied the effects of a water soluble crystalline material extracted from peyote, which they named peyocactin, in vitro on 18 penicillin resistant strains including Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus pyogenes. It inhibited all strains.

McCleary & Walkington 1964 found inhibitory effects in vivo on
mice inoculated with toxic strains of S. aureus. Found that other cacti were effective on some strains but none were as widely effective as peyote.

Rao 1970 showed that peyocactin and hordenine were identical.
Hordenine has well known antibacterial properties and was generally assumed to be the reason for the bacterial inhibition observed by McCleary above. It should be noted that in spite of peyote’s greater activity in this regard, other cacti they evaluated have been found to have higher hordenine contents. While most people have assumed that the activity is due solely to hordenine, this suggests that the matter is not yet cut and dried and some study might be worthwhile.
McLaughlin & Paul 1966 also found in vitro antibiotic activity against a broad range of microorganisms but were unable to document any significant in vivo activity.

Effects of Lophophorine on blood pressure in a cat (Dixon 1899)

Effects of Lophophorine on blood pressure in a cat (Dixon 1899)


“…is highly toxic and produces strychnine-like convulsions at 12 mg./kg. doses but it produces nausea in human being at much lower doses.“ [Ott 1993 citing Anderson 1980]
Heffter 1898a “found a 20 mg. dose of lophophorine to produce vasodilation and headache.” [Ott 1993]
Shulgin 1973 & 1976 noted that all toxicity data and the assertions of its “highly toxic” nature is based on animal studies and human evaluations limited to Heffter’s single published report.
Administration of the alkaloid was said to produce an accentuated sickening feeling in the back of the head after 15 minutes, accompanied by hotness, blushing of the face and a slight slowing of the pulse. The effects are said to disappear after 40 minutes. [LaBarre 1975 citing Rouhier’s Monographie 227-232 who was referring to Heffter.]
Heffter found that 0.25-1 mg of injected hydrochloride produced a lengthy tetany in the frog. The increased excitability may last for several days but the animal recovers. (He noted no apparent action on the isolated frog heart.)
In rabbits hyperexcitability and accelerated respiration were noted at 7 mg/kg. Tetany was induced at 12.5 mg/kg and death at 15-20 mg/kg.
Intravenous injection of 2.5 mg increases blood pressure but higher doses are hypotensive, lacking a specific action on the heart. [Heffter 1898a]


Sedative effects at 50 mg. levels in adult humans. From Ott 1993
Temporary convulsion were caused in frogs, dogs and cats by dosages of 5-10 mg. [Ott 1993 citing Heffter 1898a]
Said to reduce the pulse by approximately a quarter in about an hour. Reported to cause heaviness of the eyelids, sensation of fatigue and an aversion to all physical and mental effort. [LaBarre 1975 citing Rouhier’s Monographie pp. 227-232]
Believed by some to be useful in man as a relatively safe narcotic. [Kapadia & Fayez 1970 referred to authors cited by Joachimoglu & Keeser 1924]
It was found to be hardly active in animals as anticonvulsant, tranquilizer or muscle relaxant by Brossi et al. 1966

Sasha Shulgin & out-of-this-world friends circa 2003

Sasha Shulgin & three out-of-this-world friends circa 2003

Alkaloids identified in peyote

More than 70 alkaloids have been published in the literature but some of those are clear errors, others have been questioned or lack confirmation. Only around 63 of those are actually confirmed.
Candicine and O-methylpellotine are disputed, the first as other workers were unable to identify it and the second as it apparently is in L. diffusa but not L. williamsii.
One could also question 1,2-Dimethyl-6,7-dimethoxy-8-hydroxy-3,4-dihydroisoquinolinium inner salt as it was was identified entirely by UV and comparison with similar structures.

The following list was organized after Anderson but has been updated and expanded to include a summation of the available reports for each alkaloid.
For physical data: please see the book “The Cactus Alkaloids

Mono-oxygenated phenethylamines:


McLaughlin & Paul (1966) Lloydia, 29: 315.
(0.001% dry wt: McLaughlin & Paul 1966; trace: Lundström 1971a.
Also in Habermann 1978b (from Štarha nd)



tlc, mp, mmp, ir
McLaughlin & Paul (1966) Lloydia, 29 (4): 315-327.
(0.012% dry wt: McLaughlin & Paul 1966; trace: Lundström 1971a.



tlc, mp, mmp, ir
McLaughlin & Paul (1965) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 54 (4): 661.
(Confirmed in McLaughlin & Paul (1966) Lloydia, 29 (4): 315-327.)
(0.6-0.7% dry wt: Lundström 1971b; (0.008% dry wt.) McLaughlin & Paul 1966; Todd 1969 found it only in roots (tlc).
[Also in Habermann 1978b (from Štarha nd)]
[8% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b]



(tlc) Presence in peyote is in question
McLaughlin & Paul (1966) Lloydia, 29: 315-327. (Suspected presence based on tlc.)
Kapadia et al. 1968 could not confirm. Found other quaternary alkaloids but were unable to find candicine. Nor could Davis et al. 1983


Dioxygenated phenethylamines:



glc, gc-ms<
Lundström (1971)a Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 25 (9): 3489-3499
(trace: Lundström 1971a)



glc, gc-ms
Lundström (1971)a Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 25 (9): 3489-3499
(trace: Lundström 1971a)



glc, gc-ms
Lundström (1971)a Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 25 (9): 3489-3499
(trace: Lundström 1971a)



glc, gc-ms
Lundström (1971)a Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 25 (9): 3489-3499
(trace: Lundström 1971a; <0.5% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b]



glc, gc-ms
Lundström (1971)a Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 25 (9): 3489-3499
(trace: Lundström 1971a; 0.5-2% of total alkaloid content: Lundström



glc, gc-ms
Lundström & Agurell (1968) Journal of Chromatography 36 (1): 105-108.
(trace: Lundström & Agurell 1968 and Lundström 1971a. Also in Habermann 1978b: from Štarha nd)



glc, gc-ms
Lundström (1971)a Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 25 (9): 3489-3499
(trace: Lundström 1971a)



Bruhn et al (2008)
(Reportedly observed but lacking isolation & characterization and independent confirmation.)



Bruhn et al (2008)
(Reportedly observed but lacking isolation, characterization and independent confirmation.)


Trioxygenated phenethylamines and related amides:



glc, gc-ms
Lundström (1971)a Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 25 (9): 3489-3499
(trace: Lundström 1971a)



gc, gc-ms
Kapadia et al. (1969)a Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 58 (9): 1157-1159.
Agurell & Lundström (1968) The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1638-1639.
(5% of total alkaloid: Agurell & Lundström 1968; 1-5% of total alkaloid content in fresh material: Lundström & Agurell 1971b. Also (identified) by Kapadia et al. 1969a and Agurell & Lundström 1968)



gc, gc-ms
Lundström (1971)c Acta Pharmaceutica Suecica, 8 (5): 485-496
(trace: Lundström 1971c)



gc, gc-ms

Lundström (1971)c Acta Pharmaceutica Suecica, 8 (5): 485-496

(0.04% dry weight i.e. 0.5% of 8% total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971c; 0.5% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b)



gc, gc-ms
Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)





Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.

(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)



Bruhn et al (2008)Lacking isolation & characterization. In need of confirmation.


Mescaline (3,4,5-Trimethoxyphenethylamine)

mp, mmp
Heffter (1896)a Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 29: 216-227 (original isolation) but the structure was not actually determined until Späth (1919) Monatshefte fuer Chemie, 40: 129-154.
([0.10-]0.9-6.0[-6.3]% dry wt. has been reported [Note 22] [Anonymous 1959, Heffter 1896a, Lundström 1971b, Martin & Alexander 1968 & Siniscalco 1983);
Anderson 1980 cited Kelsey 1959 (0.9%), Bergman 1971 (1.5%), Fischer 1958 (3%), Heffter 1896a (4.6-5.6%[-6.3%])];
2.4-2.7 % dry (~400 mg. per 16 grams of dried cactus) Ott 1993 citing Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974 and Lundström 1971b
[Crosby & McLaughlin 1973 stated peyote can reach 6% but rarely exceeds 1% (dry wt.)]
[Tops>>Roots; Todd 1969 [Note 23]]
Siniscalco 1983 reported the isolation of 0.10% (well irrigated),
0.93% (grafted) and up to 2.74% dry weight (after 6 months of dry conditions) from plants cultivated in Italy; 0.1 to 0.2% by fresh weight is common

Friends with extraction experience found fresh Texas plants to average 0.2% during 1970s

75-125 mg of HCl was recovered from 70-140 gm plants greenhouse grown in northern Europe. Lundström & Agurell 1971b (This approaches 0.1% by fresh weight) [Also in Habermann 1978a & 1978b (from Štarha nd)] [30% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b]

[As L. williamsii var. typica Croizat: 0.709% (± 0.032) dry wt.
Habermann 1978a (from Štarha 1997)]



mp, mmp
Späth & Bruck (1937) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 70 (12): 2446-2450.
(0.24% dry wt., 3% of total alkaloid: Lundström 1971b)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.

(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)



mp, mmp
Späth & Bruck (1938) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 71 (6): 1275-1276.
Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Späth & Bruck 1938 and Kapadia & Fales 1968a)


Tetrahydroisoquinolines and related amides:



mp, mmp

Kauder (1899) Archiv der Pharmazie und Berichte der Deutschen Pharmazeutischen Gesellschaft, 237: 190-198.
(0.1-0.7% dry wt. has been reported: Späth & Becke 1935b and Lundström 1971b; Also in Habermann 1974a (from Štarha nd); 8% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.

(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)




Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.

(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)



gc, gc-ms
Lundström (1972) Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 26: 1295-1297.
(trace: Lundström 1972)



mp, mmp
Späth & Beck (1935)b Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 68 (5): 944-945.
(0.001% dry wt: Späth & Becke 1935b; 0.16% dry wt. i.e. 2% of 8% total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b)


Anhalotine (4° amine isolated as Iodide)

ir, nmr, uv
Kapadia et al. (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (2): 254-262.
(0.0003% dry wt: Kapadia et al. 1968)



gc, gc-ms
Lundström (1972) Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 26: 1295-1297.
(trace: Lundström 1972 & 1971b)



mp, mmp
Späth & Beck (1935) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 68 (3): 501-505.
(0.01% dry wt: Späth & Becke 1935b; 0.04% dry wt., 0.5% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968)



mp, mmp
Heffter (1896)a Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 29: 216-227.
(1.12% dry wt., 14% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b; Also
in Habermann 1974a: from Štarha nd)



mp, mmp
Heffter (1894)b Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 27: 2975-2979.
Kauder, E. (1899) Archiv der Pharmazie und Berichte der Deutschen Pharmazeutischen Gesellschaft, 237: 190-198.
Kapadia et al. (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (2): 254-262.
(-) Pellotine
Cymerman Craig, J. et al. (1977) Journal of the American Chemical Society 99 (24): 7996-8002.
1.36% dry weight: Lundström 1971b;
Also (%?) Habermann 1974a, 1978a & 1978b: from Štarha nd;
17% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971;
As L. williamsii var. typica: 0.296% (± 0.065) Habermann 1978a: from Štarha in Grym 1997.


Peyotine (4° amine isolated as Iodide)

Pellotine methiodide
mp, UV, IR
Kapadia et al. (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (2): 254-262.
(0.00015% dry wt: Kapadia et al. 1968)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)



gc, gc-ms
Lundström (1972) Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 26: 1295-1297.
(trace: Lundström 1972)



gc, gc-ms
Lundström (1972) Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 26: 1295-1297.
(0.04% dry weight, 0.5% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b)



mp, mmp
Späth & Bruck (1939) Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 72 (2): 334-338.
(0.04% dry wt., <0.5% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)



gc, gc-ms (using L. diffusa)
[Bruhn & Agurell (1975) Phytochemistry,14: 1442-1443.]
Presence in L. williamsii is in doubt. It is included by Mata & McLaughlin 1982 but they do not list individual references for the compounds.
Bruhn & Agurell believed that it is unique to L. diffusa but it was later it was found in Pachycereus weberi.
I am still reviewing Mata & McLaughlin’s references in case someone found this as a trace component in peyote but that does not presently appear to be likely. Štarha did not detect it in L. fricii or L. jourdaniana but DID report it in L. koehresii. Obviously Štarha’s work was not available to Mata & McLaughlin in 1982



mp, UV, IR, NMR, MS
Fujita et al. (1972) Yakugaku Zasshi, 92 (4): 482-489.
(Journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan)
(0.0008% fresh weight: Fujita et al. 1972; as L. williamsii var. caespitosa)


2-Methyl-6,7-dimethoxy-8-hydroxy-3,4-dihydroisoquinolinium inner salt

mp, uv, IR, NMR, MS
Fujita et al. (1972) , 92 (4): 482-489.
(Journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan)
(0.001% fresh weight: Fujita et al. 1972: as L. williamsii var. caespitosa)



mp, UV, NMR, ms
Fujita et al. (1972) , 92 (4): 482-489
(0.0001% fresh weight: Fujita et al. 1972: as L. williamsii var.


1,2-Dimethyl-6,7-dimethoxy-8-hydroxy-3,4-dihydroisoquinolinium inner salt

Fujita et al. (1972) , 92 (4): 482-489.
(0.00008% fresh wt: Fujita et al. 1972: as L. williamsii var. caespitosa)


Lophotine (4° amine isolated as Iodide)

ir, nmr, uv
Kapadia et al. (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (2): 254-262.
(0.0002% dry weight: Kapadia et al. 1968)



mp, mmp
Heffter (1896)a Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 29: 216-227.
Kapadia et al. (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (2): 254-262
(0.24% dry wt., 3% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b)



mp, mmp
Heffter (1896)a Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 29: 216-227.
Kapadia et al. (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57 (2): 254-262.
(0.4% dry wt: Lundström 1971b;
0.5% dry wt: Heffter 1898c.
[Also in Habermann 1974a (from Štarha nd)]
5% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b;
Appeared to be the major alkaloid in 2 sorts of summer collected plants: tlc by Todd 1969)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)



tlc, gc, ir, ms, mp
Kapadia & Fales (1968)b Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences,. 57 (11): 2017-2018.
Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a; 0.04% dry wt., 0.5% of total alkaloid content: Lundström 1971b)


Conjugates with Krebs Acids:


Peyoxylic acid


Kapadia & Fayez (1973) cites Kapadia et al. (1969) 116th Meeting of the American Pharmaceutical Association, Montreal, Canada. May 18-22. “Identification and synthesis of 3-demethylmescaline, a plausible intermediate in the biosynthesis of the cactus alkaloids.”
Kapadia & Fayez (1970) cited “Kapadia, Rao, Leete, Fayez, Vaishnav and Fales, to be published.” i.e. Kapadia et al. (1970)b Journal of the American Chemical Society 92 (23): 6943-6951.
(trace: Kapadia et al. 1970)


O-Methylpeyoxylic acid

mp, NMR
Kapadia et al. (1973) Journal of Heterocyclic Chemistry, 10 (1): 135-136.
(trace: Kapadia et al. 1973)


Peyoruvic acid

Kapadia et al. (1970)b Journal of the American Chemical Society, 92 (23): 6943-6951.
(trace: Kapadia et al. 1970)


O-Methylpeyoruvic acid

mp, NMR
Kapadia et al. (1973) Journal of Heterocyclic Chemistry, 10 (1): 135-136.
(trace: Kapadia et al. 1973


Mescaloxylic acid

tlc, gc-ms, synthesis, NMR, MS
Kapadia & Hussain (1972) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 61 (7): 1172-1173.
Kapadia et al. (1971) 118th Meeting of the American Pharmaceutical Association, San Francisco, California, March 27-April 2. “Some newer synthetic cactus alkaloid analogs.”
(trace: Kapadia & Hussain 1972)


Mescaloruvic acid

tlc, gc-ms, synthesis, NMR, MS
Kapadia & Hussain (1972) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 61 (7): 1172-1173.
Kapadia et al. (1971) 118th Meeting of the American Pharmaceutical Association, San Francisco, California, March 27-April 2. “Some newer synthetic cactus alkaloid analogs.”
(trace: Kapadia & Hussain 1972)


Mescaline succinamide

Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Highet 1968)


Mescaline malimide

Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)


Mescaline maleimide

Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)


Mescaline citrimide

gc-ms, and ir, nmr and ms of synthetic
Kapadia et al. (1970)a Lloydia, 33 (4): 492.
Kapadia & Fayez (1970) cite Kapadia et al. “11th Ann. Meet. Amer. Soc. Pharmacognosy (Vienna, Austria) July 1970, To be published.” i.e. Kapadia et al. (1970)a Lloydia, 33 (4): 492.
(trace: Kapadia et al. 1970)


Mescaline isocitrimide lactone

gc-ms, and ir, nmr and ms of synthetic
Kapadia et al. (1970)a Lloydia, 33 (4): 492.
Kapadia & Fayez (1970) cite Kapadia et al. “11th Ann. Meet. Amer. Soc. Pharmacognosy (Vienna, Austria) July 1970, To be published.” i.e. Kapadia et al. (1970)a Lloydia, 33 (4): 492.
(trace: Kapadia et al. 1970)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)



Kapadia & Fales (1968)a The Chemical Society, London. Chemical Communications, 24: 1688-1689.
(trace: Kapadia & Fales 1968a)


Pyrrole derivatives:


gc, ms, ir, nmr, tlc, glc, uv, mmp, synthesis
Kapadia & Shah (1967) Lloydia, 30: 287. (Proceedings.)
Kapadia & Highet (1967) Lloydia, 30: 287-288 (Proceedings.)
Kapadia & Highet (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 57: 191-192.
(trace: Kapadia & Highet 1968



gc-ms, ir, nmr, ms, color reactions, synthesis
Kapadia et al. (1970)a Lloydia, 33 (4): 492.
(trace: Kapadia et al. 1970)


Other alkaloids:


tlc, gc, ir
Strongly alkaline viscous liquid. 123 mg from 2.3 kg dried peyote.
Identified by mp and mmp of picrate and IR,
Kapadia et al. (1968) Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences,. 57 (2): 254-262.
(0.005% dry wt: Kapadia et al. 1968

See Anderson 1980 pages 191-203 and Menachery et al. (1986) (THIQ); both have line drawings of structures. (See also Cactus Chemistry By Species)


Two other inclusions appear in some listings of peyote alkaloids:


N-(3,4,5-Trimethoxyphenethylamine)-alanine /h2>

[Synonym for Mescaloruvic acid; See Kapadia & Hussain 1972a]


[Synonym forMescaloxylic acid; See Kapadia & Hussain 1972a]

Do not confuse either compound with the
3,4,5-Trimethoxyphenethyl-glycine which Sethi et al. 1973 synthesized
for use as a reference standard but were unable to observe in the

[Note: 3,4,5-Trimethoxyphenylalanine


Other compounds reported from Peyote

Serotonin was claimed in hplc by Gennaro et al. 1996. This identity was never conclusively proven and it has not been confirmed.

Glucaric acid (saccharic acid) (tlc by Kringstad & Nordal 1975).

Calcium oxalate (the forms and degree of hydration have not been established)
Users of fresh peyote have observed it as well due to it being readily perceived as sand or grit present inside of the flesh. Oxalate is sometimes present in appreciable quantities.

Rouhier 1926 observed the presence of oxalate crystals in his histological study of the plant. These are labelled “O” in the drawing below; “C” is said to indicate the shards created by the action of the microtome when making the thin section slice.
Oxalate appears to be present in the form of druses (whewellite?), crystal sand and as additional forms. Rouhier commented on “oursins d’oxalate de chaux [weddellite?] et vaisseaux spiralés” being present in the flesh in addition to “macies d’oxalate de calcium“.
Spiky crystals inside of cacti are often Weddellite (CaC2O4•2H2O) and the rounded druses Whewellite (CaC2O4•H2O) but the nature of the biominerals that exist inside of peyote flesh apparently remains unstudied. (Weddelite is extremely rare in nature outside of cacti biominerals and as a component of kidney stones but it is common in both of those.)


Alexandre Rouhier 1926
Monographie du Peyotl, fig. 26

Oxalate crystals in peyote's flesh exposed by rodent activity

Oxalate crystals in peyote’s flesh exposed by rodent activity

Biosynthetic studies

Studies and route proposals for mescaline and peyote alkaloids(s):

Agurell & Lundström 1968
Agurell et al. 1967
Basmadjian & Paul 1971
Battersby et al. 1967
Kapadia & Fayez 1970
Khanna et al. 1969
Leete 1959 & 1966
Lundström 1971a & 1971b
Lundström & Agurell 1968b, 1969, 1971 & 1972
McLaughlin & Paul 1967
Paul 1973
Paul et al. 1969a & 1969b
Reti 1950
Rosenberg & Stohs 1974 [Comparative utilization studies for tyrosine in protein and alkaloids biosynthetic pathways. They determined the utilization of tyrosine for incorporation into alkaloids is three times the rate of incorporation into protein.]
Rosenberg et al. 1967 & 1969


Peyote alkaloids other than mescaline:

Battersby et al. 1968
Kapadia et al. 1970b
Khanna et al. 1970 [Radiolabeled precursor incorporation studies.]
Leete & Braunstein 1969
Lundström 1971c & 1972 [the latter is not a biosynthetic study per se but does offer some supportive evidence]
McFarlane & Slaytor 1972a [A point on biosynthesis of anhalonidine] & 1972b [Biosynthesis of 3,4-Dimethoxyphenethylamine]


For a review of tetrahydroisoquinolines in peyote and other cacti see pp. 256-276 in:
Jan Lundström (1983) “Simple Isoquinoline Alkaloids.” pp. 255-327 (Chapter 6) in: Arnold Brossi (Ed.) The Alkaloids. Chemistry and Pharmacology. Volume 21.
See also:
Mary D. Menachery et al. (1986) Journal of Natural Products, 49 (5): 745-778. “Simple Isoquinolines” (for a review of physical data and distribution.)


Archaic peyote, the red bean & more.

Peyote: the archaic, some beans and a rock

Archaic points of potential interest

See page 194 in Schultes & Hofmann 1980 concerning the claims of Adavasio & Fry 1976 related to archeological finds of peyote in rock shelters and caves in the Cuatro Cienegas Basin in Coahuila, Mexico.
This is a fascinating article that is often mentioned in conjunction with their proposal that, over the millennia, sacramental plants were progressively replaced by safer ones. While it is a tantalizing notion to entertain, it needs to be understood that Adavasio & Fry did not include adequate evidence to support either of their assertions a) that the use of Ungnadia preceeded that of Sophora and b) both were eventually replaced with Lophophora. Three points need to be made:
First, any evidence presented for the sacramental use of the Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa Endl.) is circumstantial at best, being primarily based on its form of packaging being similar to that of the Texas mountain-laurel (Sophora secundiflora (Ort.) Lag. ex SD), their occasional comingling, and was bolstered with only one second-hand reference to it being a euphoric plant. There does not appear to be any accounts of or archaeological evidence for it actually being used for human ingestion ceremonially. This is not a small point to overlook.

Ungnadia speciosa leaves

Ungnadia speciosa leaves

archaic: Ungnadia speciosa seeds

Ungnadia speciosa seeds

Second, Sophora itself is not known to have ever actually been used as a sacramental hallucinogen per se. It was employed in a highly dangerous form of a vision quest to gain animal spirits as guardians, protectors or familiars. Granted, it was incorporated into the peyote drink as prepared by several tribes and it is reasonable to assume that to be an ancient practice. It has been closely associated physically with peyote rites, strung as beads, as well as reported to have been used medicinally, ritually and as a “narcotic” (a word that has been so misapplied, misconstrued and misused anthropologically as to have little, if any, reliably discernible meaning).

Sophora secundiflora flowers

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora leaves

Sophora secundiflora

I do not dismiss Sophora‘s sacred stature, nor would I want to dispute its long association with the peyote ritual but it is important to keep in mind that its use (or effectiveness) as a hallucinogen has never been adequately demonstrated. It certainly is not supported by any of the published human bioassays involving either the plant or its pure alkaloids.
Descriptions of its effects were given years ago, in an upper division University of Texas at Austin anthropology class taught by Dr. William W. Newcomb (ANT 322M: “Indians of Texas”). Newcomb presented the stage of interaction with animal spirits to occur while the subject was in a deep coma-like stupor. Their successful entry into this state was said to demonstrated to onlookers by their unresponsiveness to a toothy gar-fish jaw being raked across their flesh. After intense headache, profuse vomiting and violent convulsions, a “coma” ensued that was said to last for several days. [That commentary is not included in his book Indians of Texas but rather was taken directly from my class notes.]

Sophora secundiflora seeds

Sophora secundiflora

Dr. Newcomb clearly presented it as being used ritually but not as a ritual sacrament or hallucinogen in the sense of peyote.
[See Schultes & Hofmann 1980 & 1992 for a broader discussion and also Hatfield et al. 1977 for chemical study and a discussion of the reports of ethnological use. LaBarre 1975 also includes a fascinating discussion.]
Ott 1993 mentions that despite claims by a number of people that the use of the ‘Red bean’ was the predecessor to and replaced by that of peyote, this was thoroughly challenged in a monograph by Merrill 1977.
I have had some very curious interactions with this plant; none of which involved its ingestion. It is definitely able to interact with people, and to a surprising degree to direct and influence their behavior to gather its seeds. I also believe it to be a sentient being based on my experiences with it as a living plant. It is not surprising that it was highly venerated by any people who knew it. It is also not surprising that they would gather its seeds in large numbers and store them in a special context. I’ve noticed that this still occurs although I am guessing modern containers of beans are maintained entirely for their decorative value.
Finally, my main objection to the conclusions of Adavasio & Fry concerning peyote is that they only selectively mention one solitary occurrence of the plant found by an earlier worker [Note 30].
It is very peculiar to attempt the support of such important conclusions with a single data point. Perhaps they also encountered additional examples but did not mention the details in this article. It is a puzzling omission considering their core assertion was one of safer plants being sequentially adopted.
Campbell 1958 had flatly asserted that it was not possible to demonstrate the priority of mescal beans over peyote based on the available evidence so something more is required.

It might also be added that there is a lack of evidence suggesting a continuity of culture in which a sequential series of sacramental replacements *could* occur but this seems trivial by comparison to items 1, 2 or 3.

No futher evidence was presented by Adavasio & Fry.
Disturbingly, the only find of peyote mentioned by Advasio & Fry in the same context as Sophora and Ungnadia was that of ONE string of dried peyote buttons dating from several millennia after peyote is known archeologically to have been employed by humans.
[See comments in Boyd & Dering 1996 concerning Ungnadia.]

The omission by Adovasio & Fry of any reference to additional finds is puzzling but it is far from being the only instance of cherry-picking that one can encounter in this area.
Schultes & Hofmann 1992 commented that peyote has been thought to have been in use for at least 4000 years. Dry cave and rock shelter finds in Texas are also said to have yielded dried samples of peyote that were three thousand years old and one find was purportedly dated to 7000 years. Those refer to specimens in the Witte Museum that have been claimed to be of that immense age (more on this in a moment.)
Oddly, until recently the entirety of the radiocarbon dating surrounding peyote has almost been characterized by missing information.
Let’s take a look at what is known concerning ancient peyote dating.
There are five reports where peyote was mentioned as being recovered from archaeological sites but material for only two of these can be located within the known collections. (See Terry et al. 2006 for details and references.)
One of these was from Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila, Mexico. This is a burial site from the transition between the Late Archaic and the Late Prehistoric Periods.
The account of Bruhn et al. 1978 gave its age based not on the actual dating of the peyote but on the dating of material thought to be associated with that single set of 8 strung and remarkably well preserved peyote buttons. Three mats had been dated with a range of 810-1070 AD (uncorrected values).
Due to the burial being a secondary interment, Martin Terry dated one of the actual Cuatro Ciénegas’ peyote specimens establishing its age as 835 ± 35 14C years BP.
Shumla Cave (No. 5, 41VV113) in southwest Texas on the other hand was an inhabited residential site (with intrusion of several burials.) The peyote was believed to have been deposited in the Eagle Nest subperiod of the Middle Archaic Period.
The exact provenience of the materials removed from the caves was not recorded but it is clear that they did mention recovering “a single mummified example” from Shumla Cave No. 5. This later became mistakenly presented as “petrified”. There was clearly more than one such artifact recovered from those excavations as three remained at the Witte for the removal of samples following the consumption of several others for earlier radiocarbon analysis. Terry et al. 2006 also reported their dating of the Shumla Caves’ peyote to 5195 ± 20 14C years BP.


Summary of earlier dating accounts:

Peter Furst was the first to report a date of 7000 BP for the Shumla cave material but due to several reasons the actual test data is either lost or irretrievable. It is therefore not possible to know anything further about the work or the claim. That claim oddly only appeared as a passing mention within a book review written by Furst. His date was repeated by Schultes & Hofmann and now appears stated as a fact throughout the literature.
Bruhn et al. 2002 presented a letter to the editor of Lancet in which they asserted establishing peyote use for 5700 years after dating the Shumla material (Furst’s 7000 BP). They repeated the claims in DeSmet & Bruhn 2003 citing Bruhn et al. 2002 as their primary reference.
El-Seedi et al. 2005 reported dating the Shumla Caves’ material to 3780-3660 BC.
Jan Bruhn (in a personal communication with Martin Terry) reported this was a weighted mean of 4952 ± 44 14C years.
Further investigation by Terry suggests that the discrepancy was most likely due to a failure of Bruhn to remove residual humic acid prior to radiocarbon dating. (See Terry et al. 2006)

Before leaving the subject of Sophora and Ungnadia completely, one point which must be considered is that world wide people have often venerated plants known to be deadly or exceedingly dangerous, with no intentions of using them for ingestion unless perhaps for the purpose of inducing death, or sometimes when ascertaining the guilt or innocence of a person by ordeal poisoning.
Many other ritual purposes besides hallucinogen use exist for plants. As the authors point out, the quantities found far exceed what would be needed for ingestion purposes. [Issue might be taken with their regarding a “crazed” state as being one conducive to, much less equated with, any ritual or sacred act. If anything it reflects a common culture-centric dismissal of what is viewed as a “more primitive” mindset.]
The most common usage of the red bean is that of ornamentation in the form of beads. The Mexican Buckeye would also make fine beads although none were mentioned as such.
Apparently the finds of both seeds consisted primarily of small caches of them, sometimes mixed together, which were sealed in plaited or twilled baskets which had to be torn to access the contents. [Both seeds also make a very nice sound, with good high frequency components, when shook or stirred. In quantity; the sound is absolutely mesmerizing. Such containers might have been musical instruments?]
In some sites, Sophora seeds and pods were found scattered throughout the cultural deposits.

Sophora-fruit-1 3

Sophora secundiflora seedpods

Those twilled containers could also represent power objects used just as they were. We know between almost nothing and nothing about these people’s religious and spiritual beliefs. Some people who later used the beans believed they needed to be roasted until yellow, or forcefully struck and crushed, to ‘kill’ them before use. Since the seeds recovered in those finds were apparently being stored intact perhaps they were intended to assure protection after death, or at least to be available after death.
It may be noteworthy however that in the Murrah Cave many of the individual Sophora seeds were described by Holden 1937 as being “parched”; perhaps indicating preparation for potential drug use. Alkaloids can sometimes be altered using heat so parching can be reasonably suspected to indicate preparation for some type of human use. It does not prove
It is not clear how many of these finds were in funerary context as was the case for the string of peyote and how many were found in residences (suggesting their employment by living people). The context can be complex as it is clear that burials occurred that intruded into older residential remains.
Their hypothesis is intriguing though; further work should be done to evaluate it even if it turns out to be a blind path.
A systematic review of the contents of rock shelter and cave excavations in the Chihuahuan Desert might prove a valuable avenue for anthropological studies of the religious and spiritual beliefs of people in this area before the invasion and occupation. The creation of small painted rocks and large pictoglyphs featuring shamanic themes are among the unique elements left by the archaic people who once lived around the mouth of the Pecos River.


A fascinating analysis was performed, by Bruhn & workers, on the aforementioned specimen of Cuatro Ciénegas peyote (the string of buttons) which was found by Taylor in 1941.
Bruhn et al. 1978 found 2.25% alkaloid in the Cuatro Ciénegas’ material in spite of it being thought to be from around 810 to 1070 AD. Their analysis was reported to show it to contain mescaline, lophophorine, anhalonine, pellotine and anhalonidine present in measurable amounts.
Phenolic alkaloids formed 35% of the total. It was noted that this is substantially lower than the 8% total alkaloid and 64% phenolic fraction which they observed in recently prepared peyote buttons.
They used tlc and GC (both with known reference samples) to determine this. See Bruhn et al. 1978 for more details.
A peculiar assessment was more recently presented by Bruhn et al. 2002, also DeSmet & Bruhn 2003 and also El-Seedi et al. 2005 where it was being noted that the total alkaloid content was lower in the far older Witte material from the Shumla Caves. They then went on to assert that while only 2% alkaloid was present there was no alkaloid other than mescaline that was detectable. That was intriguing enough but was not the end.

Bruhn then made the peculiar proposal that the reason they could only detect mescaline could be due to mescaline being more stable than the other peyote alkaloids. Reasonable enough on the surface yet it is noteworthy that in this Bruhn failed to mention any of his own previous work that contradicts this claim. Clearly something is in need of closer inspection. This claim about the Shumla specimens needs consideration in the light of his 1978 Cuatro Cienegas results. There was also his earlier report concerning degradation of peyote alkaloids in the study of 87 year old peyote buttons in Bruhn & Holmstedt 1974. In particular, their determination clearly showing that mescaline content apparently decreased *ahead* of the rate of decomposition of many of the other alkaloids. The cherry-picked selective presentation of facts in their 2002/2003/2005 account appear to have been overlooked by Bruhn’s peer reviewers or at least they dropped the ball in terms of what peer review is meant to accomplish. That is all actually fairly however when trivial compared to what they AND Bruhn’s crew missed.
The most interesting aspect of this so-called ‘mummified’ material in my mind is that, unlike Bruhn, Furst or Taylor, Terry & coworkers recognized that the specimens were not dried peyote buttons at all but rather were manufactured effigies of peyote created from some type of doughy material. (See images of both the Shumla and Cuatro Cienegas materials in Terry et al. 2006.)


Shumla peyote effigy

There are only the partial and hollowed out remains of three of these effigies are left due to the destructions of the rest of the materials during chemical analysis and radiocarbon dating. They were formed as a mixture of cactus materials combined with some sort of unidentified fibrous noncactaceous plant material and the resulting dough shaped by hand to vaguely resemble a living peyote cactus top. There was apparently at least two different makers of these artifacts over a period of some years as both their compositions and their dates varied. The most recently manufactured effigy had used entirely cactaceous materials.
More remarkable would be the assertion by Bruhn & coworkers that was just mentioned that this material contained 2% mescaline by weight *and* that only mescaline was detectable. Intriguing if true but in light of Bruhn & Holmsted previously establishing the deterioration of mescaline over time occurred at a faster rate than the deterioration of most of the other alkaloids I am left with far more questions than answers. It is obvious that we need to remain skeptical of Bruhn’s claim, no matter how intriguing it may be, as we proceed.
One thing that is clear, these ‘buttons’ were clearly manufactured artifacts. To be able to retain 2% mescaline after 5 millennia would require it to have once have had a far higher alkaloid content. The presence of ONLY mescaline would not be a result of some magical selective degradation process omitting mescaline but would absolutely require the involvement of some type of purification process. Or perhaps there are missing elements of this tantalizing puzzle that are presently defeating our understanding of exactly what has been established in these studies.
Did these prehistoric people really know of a route for purifying or at least greatly concentrating mescaline? It would certainly be interesting if true but establishing that Bruhn’s analytical results were actually valid has to be the starting point for answering this peculiar question and the burden of proof for establishing their validity is on the authors of that work.
Were these potent effigies a prepared drug form that were created for sacramental use rather than for simple use as effigies? No matter how they were prepared and no matter what their alkaloid content, they are clearly both deliberate and sophisticated in their preparation.
Or are Bruhn/El-Seedi/DeSmet’s reported analytical results simply needing to be questioned?


“Petrified” peyote buttons

The first reference to ‘petrified peyote’ was a misnomer in reference to the Shumla Caves’ adulterated & reconstituted 5 millennia old peyote effigies that were mentioned above. (See Terry et al. 2006 for details.)

More recently ‘petrified peyote buttons’ have been offered for sale (and finding at least one buyer) at a large southwestern Gem & Mineral Show and probably elsewhere.


Sold as petrified peyote button (front)


Sold as a petrified peyote button (back)

These do appear on first glance to vaguely resemble dried peyote buttons but are without a doubt either an agate or another form of chalcedony with a fine drusy quartz coating on one side. They lack the critical features (such as ribs, the distinctive apex and areoles) that are typically found in peyote buttons (see below).

Schultes 1937 peyote buttons

peyote buttons

They are amazing natural treasures but clearly are not of botanical origin.

the Peyote Crisis and some Suggestions – Revisited

This article and the rest of the book Sacred Cacti are now best viewed at http://sacredcacti.com  My apologies for any 404 pages resulting from any link on this website that is being overlooked by me.
It appears to be a ripe time for reevaluating the article entitled “the Peyote crisis & some suggestions“.
This was variously positioned as Chapter 2 or Chapter 3 in the revisions of the book Sacred Cacti.
That chapter, as written, is greatly in need of revision & updating; and some additional questions being asked about *its* suggestions. Our use of the word “I” in this article simply means we want to say this with one voice. Use of the word “we” refers to the reader and ourselves.
This commentary, as written, is meant to serve the great need for better accurate public education and has been constructed primarily for clarity of presentation of the contained material. It has not been created with the same density of in-line references such as would be the case for a work that was intended for print publication in a peer reviewed journal. It is hoped that adequate documentation and references are included for the benefit of people wanting to learn more but if YOU want to learn more or need any additional clarification or supportive documentation please drop an email to keepertrout at gmail and ask.
Accompanying this information is the feeling that there is some urgency in it being released. It is therefore being made available for public inspection and comment without further delay.
The plants of tomorrow begin with the seeds that are planted today.

Commentary & thoughts
by Keeper Trout, Blake Edwards & Martin Terry

I also went to survey the gardens in February [1998]. The situation is sad, intolerable, several parcels hunted completely clean. On inquiring with the dealers, I was able to hand sort well over 10,000 dime sizers, most w/roots. They are picked that way because the payment is per unit. […] those 10,000 plus babies are now growing. My idea is to purchase all the babies we can for their eventual re-planting in Texas.”
Leo Mercado 6 July 1998 (personal communication).

Those same plants were later seized (as part of a dump-truck load containing more than 11,230 living peyote plants) and destroyed by a “multijurisdictional task-force” of law enforcement officials despite Leo at that time having been found in court to be in compliance with Arizona state law permitting the sincere religious use of peyote. In the aftermath of what can only legitimately be described as a terroristic home invasion, Leo posted a notice online that he had replanted the 200 or so peyote plants that had been missed or dropped during the raid.
No charges were filed, which fact was likely to prevent a return of his peyote as had occurred after the first time that they seized Leo’s peyote. Instead Leo’s landlord found himself being threatened with the seizure and forfeiture of his property if he did not evict Leo and his family. The basis of that threat was his supposedly renting to a “known illegal drug dealer”, namely Leo!
Apparently Leo’s living example as a human of only modest means successfully propagating and cultivating large numbers of peyote plants outside of Texas was too powerful of an example to be allowed to exist. At the very least, his Kearny, Arizona shade-house and gardens had to be seen as an awkward truth running counter to the lies actively being propagated about it being impossible to grow peyote outside of its native habitat.
From Ch. 3 in Sacred Cacti 3rd edition (with some edits).



Cutting crowns flush at the level of the ground has been established to be the best known harvesting technique for peyote. This approach to enable sustainable harvesting has been known of and employed by peyote consumers in Mexico for millenia. The archaeological peyote specimens discovered strung on a cord at Cuatro Cienegas are more than a thousand years old; the Shumla peyote effigies are over six thousand years old.


First, concerning the “crisis”….

One suggestion, really, is all that is required; assuming that it can be heard, without prejudice, where it matters.

Cultivate the Medicine.

It is really simple yet that simple truth of the matter has been almost completely buried, if not forgotten or deliberately obscured, in rhetoric that has at times variously been self-serving, manipulative, deceptive, disingenuous, confused, based on misunderstandings, culturally bigoted, or sometimes even entirely delusional. There really was not any delicate way to put that so I apologize for trodding on anyone’s conceptual toes.

Some people might ask:
If peyote is a pressured species, why isn’t it cultivated?

The question, “why isn’t it cultivated?” is a really good one. You and I will be exploring its answers in some detail.

We should start by clarifying some things and being certain that we all have a good grasp of an unnecessarily convoluted story.


The conservation status of peyote

Peyote is most certainly not extinct as some people strangely seem to believe and are even willing to say openly as if it were a fact. It is not yet really even an endangered species as more than a million living peyote crowns were no doubt harvested in South Texas again this past year by the licensed peyote distributors (I have to say probably as the numbers are not yet available).

A perception that the pressure from peyote harvesting is endangering the species is nothing new. While it does not appear on any federal listing of endangered species, peyote WAS declared an endangered species by the Texas Organization of Endangered Species (TOES) according to Morgan 1983: 83-84. Despite having a long history of cost sharing with land owners for brush removal and clearing of land, since the late 1970’s the U.S. Soil Conservation Service has refused to do so in any area containing peyote, as the SCS recognizes it to be a potentially endangered member of Texas flora (Morgan 1984: 292). Their lack of financial contribution has not slowed the clearing of land in the development of South Texas.

Only recently was peyote actually finally recognized as having adequately dwindling numbers to merit being assigned a status of “vulnerable” and being placed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. [http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/151962/0].

Debates as to whether it should or should not be placed on the Red List had been going back and forth for some years, Oddly, what seems to have tipped the balance of opinion was the appearance of cosmetic/pharmaceutical industry products known as Pomada de Peyote. [Link 1] [Link 2] [Link 3] [Link 4] [Link 5].
I’m not including these links to suggest that any should be patronized but simply to note what came up in a Google search for “pomada de peyote” on 1 November, 2014.
Here are images of five of the products that were found to be offered on the first search results page.




It is certain that as both a liniment and an ointment, similar formulations have existed for a very long time at the folk level, and more recently as products of a local cottage industry. These products have likely achieved visibility only when the distribution venue was moved from local yerbarias to online marketing.

The use of peyote is traditional among some Hispanics in South Texas, too.
“When I was younger, you could buy it at the market in Nuevo Laredo, or at any of the local yerberias (herb shops),” [Salvador] Johnson said.
His wife, Vicenta, said that elderly Hispanics still use the drug as a cure for a variety of ailments, including as a rubbing lotion to treat arthritis when it is mixed with alcohol.
Grant 2000 Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Sunday, 23 January.

One of the companies now producing pomada de peyote is an established business that is substantial in size and has previously developed other successful product lines. The future development of this product will be interesting to watch. It may be noteworthy that the number of different producers showing up as hits on the first Google search result page went from two to five within the past year.

Peyote is not endangered as a species for a variety of reasons. The most notable being that there are large expanses of the Mexican peyote populations left. The secondary reason is that not all peyote is accessible for harvest. In some cases, harvests are deterred by a lack of road access but in at least one instance a local population (in Mexico) is protected by the resident humans who interestingly do not use their local peyote for any purposes other than as an external analgesic applied to burns, bruises and aching muscles & joints.

In Texas it is a different story. The vast majority of its peyote populations have long since been removed during the course of the modern-day occupation/development of South Texas real estate and the collateral development of its assorted resources. Some peyote finds protection on large ranches with tall fences designed to retain game animals that are hunted for a hefty fee. When the owners of such large tracts of brush also do not permit peyote harvesters to access their land those properties form unintentional peyote reserves. The land that is left as accessible is heavily impacted by the existing peyote trade. In addition, the commercial peyote harvest has been insufficient for meeting NAC needs for some time.

There are two distinct but inseparable subtopics within this main topic of the threats to peyote, whether those threats are due to habitat loss or over-harvesting or any of the other known challenges that peyote faces.

One is the future of peyote as a species and the other is the future of the NAC as a Medicine-based spiritual organization that has both adequate and uninterrupted access to its Medicine.
We will examine both of those subtopics separately as this overview unfolds.


What has happened to create dwindling peyote populations?

Reading the popular press or listening to people talk, one would think that overharvesting by Native Americans or “hippies” is the cause. One or the other or both typically gets the most common and most vocal blame. This is true, despite it being absolutely clear that the vast majority of peyote’s obliteration, both in terms of absolute numbers and in total acreage, has actually been the incidental destruction of populations during the process of land conversion. All other factors combined pale by comparison.

There have been many reasons for this; the development of land for various projects, such as construction projects, shipping centers, parking lots and tract communities, or as a result of the brush suppression methods that enable ranchers to use their land for agriculture or ranching. Once a piece of land has been converted, peyote does not return.


peyote gardens today

Aerial view of a portion of the Peyote Gardens in Starr County showing extent of the land use and clearing. Photo clipping came from a topographic map from the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Most of peyote’s habitat in South Texas is covered with a tangle of dense thorny brush. To make their land available for agriculture or cattle, it was once a common practice for landowners to root-plow the soil due to the tendency of the thorny brush to come back with an aggressive vigor after being cleared.
Root-plowing severs the roots below the soil surface thereby weakening whatever of the roots can’t be uprooted and suppressing their ability for good regrowth. Or at least suppressing it for longer than might be the case without it. Repeating the process a few times does help but it is noteworthy that what actually becomes most suppressed is the diversity of life while the actual species that were attempted to be eradicated often go on to become the predominate vegetation.


rootplowed land

rootplowed land

Land in Maverick County that was root plowed several decades ago. The ranch foreman claimed that peyote was here before that occurred.
Their most likely intended target for eradication was the Acacia rigidula which comprises about a third of the plants seen in the lower image above.


Root-plowing has been determined to have lasting adverse impacts when used in dry regions. In arid environments with abundant limestone, in this case it is present as a calcareous gravel, rainwater dissolves the carbonates and other soluble ions but there is insufficient volume of water to carry what is dissolved more than a fairly short distance into the earth, accumulating and eventually creating a bed of ‘caliche’ at the depth of maximum moisture penetration. Due to rainfall being variable in the total amounts delivered per storm, this eventually forms an irregular gradient of alkali concentrations existing between the caliche and the surface ; with the surface obviously being the most life friendly. The layer of decomposing organic materials at or near the surface adds to the ability of the soil to support life.
This natural zoning develops over long periods of time with whatever level of moisture they DO have accessible. As it becomes increasingly basic with increasing depth this also means that that the surface is most amenable to supporting life. Accompanying that is the observation that, as rains moved part of the soluble alkali into the earth, that action helps make the surface more life friendly.
This fragile balance becomes completely undone with the mixing of the top half meter of soil during root plowing.
In this process, the more basic material that has been migrating away from the surface is partially returned to the surface during the mixing process. Recovery is typically slow since the reduction of the alkalinity at the surface level relies on repeated water percolation over time. The resulting increase of surface alkalinity leads to a die-off of small cover plants following seed germination and adds prolonged difficulty in reestablishing the normal flora. In adjacent areas that are used for agriculture due to being more sandy loamy than gravelly, and additionally due to the topography of the land being flatter & less sloping, this creates problems with blowing dust.

As a result root-plowing is now discouraged for those soil types and when it becomes needed specialized implements are used to selectively remove single plants.
The important thing to understand about root-plowing is that unlike the thorny brush that the root-plowing is intended to eradicate, a single thorough root-plowing will generally permanently exterminate all of the existing peyote on that a given piece of land.
If you want to gain a really solid grasp of this technology and a better understanding about why it would impact peyote so adversely, visit http://YouTube.com and search for “root plow” or “rootplowing“. Nothing describes the process better than watching a root-plow in action.

Other brush-clearing methods are not less destructive to peyote but they do impact the soil and ability of the land to recover less than root-plowing. YouTube can provide looks at modern techniques of “brush clearing in South Texas” as well.


root plow


Root plow Those fins are designed to force the severed roots to the soil surface and into the sun to dry and die.


The root plow is a tool for removing vegetation by cutting it below the soil surface […] killing brush and light vegetation by undercutting it […] at depth from 20 to 50 centimeters (8-20 inches). […] The advantage of the root plow is that it cuts the vegetation below the bud ring, killing brush that would normally resprout if cut at ground level.
US Army 1974 Tactical Land Clearing, p. 3-6


root plowing

Trunnion-mounted root-plow in action.
Both scanned photos came from a 1974 US Army
training manual entitled “Tactical Land Clearing”.

A new threat to peyote in South Texas are windfarms which choose the highest points in the Bordas Escarpment for their placement. These of course need an access road permitting both construction and maintenance. Those roads potentially carve through some of what few undisturbed peyote populations still remain in South Texas.


What do we actually know about the harvesting of peyote?

Surprisingly little study has been done on the impact of harvesting itself. As far as I am aware, only one organization, a nonprofit group named the Cactus Conservation Institute, has taken the time to learn more despite the immense need for this information as regards both the NAC and peyote conservation. It is clear that the peyote plant is a resilient species or it never could have permitted mass harvests to continue for so many years in the face of diminishing habitat. There are many articles that are available concerning the harvesting of the peyote plant and about its habits and habitat.

It IS known that the best way to cut peyote is at ground level. Cutting too deeply increases mortality and weakens those plants which do manage to recover.
The one existing study on the subject was published in Terry & Mauseth 2006. Using a histological evaluation, it was established that only the stem tissue was capable of producing new growth. Root tissue could only grow roots. A visible clear and sharp line of division was noted to exist between the two tissues.

Peyote harvesters often use a shovel with sharpened edge or a machete. Both of those tools can work great for cutting at ground level or they can be mis-employed and produce a deeply angled cut.


a cut peyote

Peyote plant after the crown has been removed


What do we know about the impact of peyote harvesting on wild populations?

A simple overview:

More complete details concerning the items in this list can be gleaned at the Cactus Conservation Institute website or in Kalam et al. 2013, Klein et al. 2015, Terry et al 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014.

1) Peyote harvest causes a small increase in mortality.

2) If harvesting is repeated too frequently, this rate of mortality increases.

3) Harvesting also reduces the amount of harvestable biomass of sacrament per plant.

4) The aforementioned observation (3) is initially obscured by the increase in numbers due to the common occurrence of multiple regrowth. However, the sum total biomass of head (crown) tissue per plant, even after 4 years of uninterrupted regrowth, was still significantly smaller than the biomass of the original single head that had been harvested four years before. The study to determine the minimum sustainable recovery period after harvesting is still not complete, but it now clear that the time required for recovery from a single harvesting event is greater than six years.

5) Analysis has also shown that even after four years the regrowth had regained only half the potency of the original crown. It is not yet known how long it takes for the original potency to be re-established in the regrowth buttons.

6) Current and future seed production contributions to the local population are lost along with the harvested plants. The typical fate for peyote seeds following a harvest is into the trash or compost.
During the late 1990s, Leo Mercado was able to successfully recover (and plant) many thousands of seeds from the piles of hairs and tufts that accumulated from the peyote cleaned in preparation for a large ceremony. That event, at an annual NAC meeting at Mirando City, consumed more than a thousand crowns. (Information from a personal communication with Leo in 1998.)

7) The oldest and largest plants have been selected for by their environment as those are the plants which are best suited to survive the peak adverse periods of weather. These are commonly preferentially harvested – precluding any future contribution they might have made to the genetics of the population.
This last point may be subtle but played out over a long time can become significant. Following the removal of these genetically superior products of natural selection, future adverse periods of weather will likely begin to produce an increased adverse impact on the remaining population.


multiple regrowth

Peyote plant with multiple regrowth



Let’s go over through that overview again but this time from a slightly different angle of thought and consider those factors in terms of recovery.
Recovery after harvesting is a core concept for this subject as it interweaves an impact assessment with a determination of sustainability. If the harvesting of a natural renewable resource is not sustainable, both harvesting and availability are temporary and transient phenomena with an inevitable end point involving either the loss or increased scarcity of that resource. /span>
There is nothing mysterious or unclear about what is being witnessed. A dramatic multiplication of undersized individuals is in fact the classical model resulting from harvesting activities involving an overexploited natural resource, be it fish or ginseng roots. (See Terry & Trout 2013. This link is a PDF file.)

Recovery is best understood not by looking at recovery of the individuals which are involved but of the health of local populations which are composed of many individuals.
Recovery of a population will accordingly have several factors based on what we looked at in our overview:

1) Replacement of the plants which die as a result of harvesting. (Replacement in this case is being considered only in terms of the natural recruitment of new seedlings although cultivation and wildcrafting would also enter the picture in this area. Wildcrafting is the conscious planting of seeds or return of plants in such locations where the plant formerly occurred naturally or could have occurred naturally.) This decrease in survival is thankfully a fairly low rate but it is not insignificant if a field is revisited as each subsequent visit may result in the reharvesting of plants which are still drawing their sustenance from the original reserves of the remaining taproot fragment from their mother and have not yet had time to manage to grow a replacement taproot.
The rate of mortality has increased with each time that reharvesting occurred in what limited study of the topic has occurred so mindfulness is needed not just of how deeply a plant is cut but also when it was last cut. Until after the point that a plant can regrow a taproot it is vulnerable to outright death from loss of its photosynthetic tissues as occurs in harvesting. This subtle but simple fact is somehow often either missed or trivialized: when the crown tissue has been removed the peyote plant loses its ability to use the sunlight. This remains true until after a new crown can be made and it reaches the surface of the ground where it can absorb sunlight to once again photosynthesize and feed itself. Repeated cutting too frequently forces the plant to exhaust its limited reserves and interferes with good regrowth and survival.
Plants that have been harvested need adequate time to replace their missing storage tissues (by photosynthesis in the crowns of the regrowth pups) before being reharvested or their death rate increases; eventually requiring their actual replacement.

2) Regrowing new crown tissue to replace the harvested crown with its equivalent prior to reharvesting.
Even though multiple crowns commonly result following harvesting, it takes some point greater than six years for their combined total weight to match that of the original crown. (The study to determine how long it takes for the sum of the regrowth buttons to equal the weight of the original harvested crown is still ongoing.)
Harvesting prior to following that point of recovery will provide smaller and steadily decreasing volumes of harvests. This is a practice which feeds into the spiral towards smaller, weaker plants with higher loss rates.

3) Recovering the original level of alkaloids.
After four years the average alkaloid level of new growth was only half that of the original crown. It is presently unknown how long it takes for the preharvest alkaloid level to be restored. Harvesting prior to following that point of potency recovery will provide an inferior quality of harvests, requiring consumers to ingest more plants, which also feeds into the extinction vortex towards smaller, weaker plants with higher loss rates.

4) The population also has to recover from the impact of however many years it would take seeds from those harvested plants to be replaced by new seed-producing crowns, and this must be taken into account if wanting to accurately assess the impact of harvesting. Every plant which is taken means that many less seeds are available for the local population for at least a handful of years. This is not insignificant as wild peyote in nature primarily reproduces via seeds. Removing a plant means removing all future seed contribution by that plant.
If older plants are preferentially harvested and as numbers dwindle the age of first harvest also decreases, it rapidly produces a situation where the only plants to harvest may have flowered only once or twice or not at all, creating a huge seed production deficit for the local population.
In the event of adverse weather (whether prolonged drought or beyond average freezing) causing an above average loss rate, this adds to the risk that the local population may not recover.

I’ll let you, the reader, do the math for yourself.


reharvested L. williamsii

This plant was previously harvested multiple times and the severed crowns sold through the licensed distributors. While the harvesting was conservative enough to not lose the original taproot, this individual strains the concept of “sustainability“. Also notice the steep angle showing careless cutting during two previous harvests.


What about the sustainability of harvesting?

Peyote harvesting appears to be a sustainable practice, at least in potential or in theory. In its present-day application however, the slow attrition process leading to the endangered species path has already clearly begun. It is clear that the consumers of peyote still have plenty of peyote to last for some years to come. Maybe even for the rest of our lifetimes, especially if you are middle aged like me.
Sustainability is not something defined by the here-and-now though. A commonly cited definition of sustainability is found in the 1987 Brundtland Report for The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
As Kimberly Cover pointed out in 2005, that report’s definition is curiously similar to the Iroquois concept of thinking with responsibility for the next seven generations.

Much more study is needed to better define what was seen in the limited harvesting studies that exist but this is how it looks at the moment: The increased rate of mortality that results from a one time harvest is low enough so as not to adversely impact the long term survival of a population. That only appears to be true when adequate time is permitted between harvests. Some period greater than six years is all we can say about that number pending future data emerging. If enough plants of adequate size and potency exist to fill the anticipated needs of the active NAC membership and those plants are being reharvested no more often than they can regrow and return to being what they were prior to the point when they were first cut, harvesting appears to be sustainable.
Anything which creates an average result that achieves less than that, such as is presently the case, is not a sustainable practice.


So, let’s come back to our question, “Why ISN’T peyote cultivated?”

Probably the single most important element as to why cultivation is not already a part of the picture is the simple fact that none of the non-NAC people who are legally involved in the supply side have actual legal protection permitting them to cultivate peyote. They are in general law-abiding respected citizens who want to stay out of any trouble. Additionally, the peyote distributors can lose their licenses for violating the law.
As the licensed distributor Mauro Morales told Franks in 2007 . You have to make sure you don’t have a problem with the law, you know?

The portion of South Texas where peyote occurs naturally is commonly referred to as the Peyote Gardens, despite there being a complete lack of historical peyote cultivation. There are presently at least two pertinent stumbling blocks preventing this land from actually being used for creating a real peyote garden (or otherwise addressing the fatal long-term flaws that are inherent within the existing distribution system). Those are located within the Texas DPS (Department of Public Safety) regulations concerning peyote harvesting:

One for the Distributors:
Ҥ13.42. Peyote Distributor Registration. (d) Activity not authorized. A distributor registration does not authorize the distributor to: (1) manufacture or cultivate peyote; (2) ingest or use peyote; (3) deliver to an individual who is an Indian as the term is defined in AIRFA, unless the individual is also an Indian as the term is defined in this subchapter; or (4) import or export peyote except as permitted by federal law.

Another for the Ranchers has two pertinent features of interest:

“§13.55 adopted to be effective July 18, 2001, 26 Tex Reg 5266 (only a part is being included below) Nothing in this subchapter affects the ability of a landowner to: […] (2) burn or clear land for purposes unrelated to harvesting, cutting, collecting, or possessing peyote.” and within that same subsection, (b) Prohibited. Unless registered as a distributor or reported to the director as a current employee of a distributor, a landowner may not sell, harvest, cut, collect, transport, or possess peyote. A landowner does not possess peyote in violation of the Act or this subchapter if the peyote is unharvested and growing in its natural state.”

Landowners are permited to charge access fees for peyote harvesting but interestingly there is another clause in this same regulation that adds:
“(d) Harvest fee limitation. Unless the landowner is registered as a distributor, the director will deem the landowner to be selling or distributing peyote if the landowner bases the fee charged or collected under subsection (c)(1) of this section on the amount of peyote harvested, cut, or collected by the Indian using or entering the land”

Notice that this is a dysfunctional “one-price-regardless-of-harvest-size” scenario that actually encourages the maximum possible harvesting to occur per visit. Since the law further sets the retail price as being per piece (i.e. per button) and not by weight there is just as much financial motivation to harvest tiny plants as older ones. Increasing difficulty in gaining access adds additional motivation to maximize the harvests recovered on every visit.

Many ranchers don’t like peyote or peyote harvesting or peyote people and express a familiar bias directed against them. A not untypical attitude is Sahagun’s 1994 quote of ranch owner Robert East. I don’t want them here. That’s all there is to it. I think it’s a dope business, that peyote.” Racism and bigotry often still exist close to the surface in South Texas, in all directions. When talking with ranchers, several times I’ve heard it said that the cause for the disappearance of peyote wasover-grazing by the Indians.”

While that degrading analogy blames the “Indians” there is actually a highly valuable insight if we look at what IS actually real within that notion — namely, as is also true for a rancher’s grazing animals, the NAC is in fact being constrained and provided with its Medicine in a regulated and controlled manner rather than having the freedom to do as they choose. Blaming Native Americans for the, ahem, “over-grazing” problem is about as sound as a rancher blaming their grazing animals for “eating too much” rather than, in this case, correctly recognizing that any “overgrazing” was the direct result of negligent planning, counter-productive activities and incompetent management on the part of the ranch manager.

Similarly the fees charged by ranchers for access are high enough to stimulate maximizing the harvesting per visit as well. Johnson has mentioned ranchers’ greed raising access costs from what once was a pittance to something more significant.

Grant gave a 2000 estimation of it then typically costing $1,500 or $2,000 a month for a peyote lease; which provided a small work crew with access to locate and harvest crowns that were then being sold at the retail level for around $0.15 each.

There is no question that the public perception of the peyote trade being profitable contributed to that increase in peyote lease fees. Not everyone shares completely identical motivations. Sahagun 1994 described rancher Rick Walker as being fed up with trespassers. But he suggested another reason for guarding the peyote gardens on his land. Peyote, he said, may one day become a hot commodity – for ranchers.”

There is at least one rancher in South Texas, the identity of whom is being withheld, who has discovered a unique way to legally make money from his peyote and still protect them from any harm. Instead of leasing his land for the harvest of peyote buttons, he instead “showcases” his peyote plants. He permits organized “eco-tours” to bring visitors onto his property in a bus as part of a fee-based tour. They are allowed to visit his property under tightly controlled circumstances in order to witness and photograph his healthy population of peyote plants. The tour bus also takes the visitors away at the end of the visit so there is no risk of theft.
That population is, just as importantly, also located far enough away from the nearest road to ensure that none of their visitors will be able to return on foot.

While this may sound cynical, one other highly significant factor in the perpetuation of the status quo is that the peyote distributors actually derive a very good living from their trade.

Despite the low cost per button, it is actually a moderately lucrative profession in what is historically an economically depressed region of Texas since the three remaining peyote distributors combined now typically report a total sales of a little under a half million dollars per year ($530,230 in 2013, $434,609 in 2012, $466,590 in 2011, $459,699 in 2010 and $493,834 in 2009 according to DPS records). This reflects their combined totals so in reality it is split into uneven thirds based on how much they actually sell. Each distributor’s total sales pays for their lease fees, their expenses and is also what they pay to the small group of their ’employees’ who help them harvest peyote. In most cases their employees are their relatives.
Unlike the ranches, the distributors are authorized to pay and charge a fee on a per-button basis. Resale prices to their consumers had risen from around $0.09 in 1990 to $0.15 in 2000 and to $0.33 per button in 2011. (A hidden cost factor within that is that the rise in cost had been accompanied by a decrease in size and potency which meant people were required to eat more buttons. See Terry et al. 2012. Link goes to the PDF at CCI’s website.)
A perceived threat to their income and livelihood is no doubt going to be an important motivating factor and can add some illumination to the larger picture and help us to better understand why there is such resistance to change at the distributor level.

Sahagun 1994 quoted Johnson as saying,

I love what I do, enjoy the hell out of it. But hey, you don’t get rich picking peyote.

It is not a huge amount of money but in a region where relatively few other alternative options for similarly lucrative employment opportunities exist it is certainly something that the people involved are going to care about. Relatively few of the distributors and harvesters could successfully turn into peyote growers without investing resources and time in buying land and/or learning skill sets they do not presently possess. Even if they decided to take that path, it would put them on equal footing at the starting gate along with their new competition only if they had the same level of interest, education and skills as a professional gardener or nursery operator.

While the state law that was mentioned previously as granting the distributors their licensing specifically prohibits the distributors from cultivating peyote, the federal law also recognizes that the NAC, or anyone else who is producing peyote for the NAC, has a need to “manufacture” their Medicine (21 CFR 1307.31). [The regulation says “Any person who manufactures peyote for or distributes peyote to the Native American Church, however, is required to obtain registration annually and to comply with all other requirements of law.” That potentially open door for cultivation would apply to any person, NAC or otherwise. There is no special restriction to NAC members in this regulation.] Manufacturing a plant obviously requires growing it or else modern technology has become much farther advanced than I am aware.

Congress has further added an affirmative clause that suggests NAC cultivation was at least being envisioned as enough of a possibility that its regulation needed inclusion.

(b) Use, possession, or transportation of peyote
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the use, possession, or transportation of peyote by an Indian for bona fide traditional ceremonial purposes in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion is lawful, and shall not be prohibited by the United States or any State. No Indian shall be penalized or discriminated against on the basis of such use, possession or transportation, including, but not limited to, denial of otherwise applicable benefits under public assistance programs.
(2) This section does not prohibit such reasonable regulation and registration by the Drug Enforcement Administration of those persons who cultivate, harvest, or distribute peyote as may be consistent with the purposes of this section and section 1996 of this title. (In 42 USC § 1996a.) [Again, this applies to all persons, but it certainly includes the NAC.]

Which, at the very least, suggests that the road to the future cultivation of peyote by the NAC appears to be open as an available option that is protected by federal law. As AIRFAA treats cultivation in exactly the same manner as it does distribution, and because regulated distribution requires a long-standing registration process that functions daily before our very eyes, it would seem to be obvious that Congress intended cultivation to be not merely a hypothetical possibility, but a real option that should be realizable by the act of registration (to be defined and regulated, of course, by DEA).



Dried peyote buttons from Safford 1916



Robledo 2006 included a thought-provoking comment that was left unexplained but touches on an often overlooked contribution to peyote harvesting by the NAC:

Out of the approximate 5 million buttons sold legally each year in the U.S. and Canada, deep South Texas provides about 2 million, with Salvador and his team of peyoteros providing at least 1 million themselves.
What is not mentioned by Robledo is what source provides the other 3 million of those buttons. It is noteworthy that the amount being estimated as procured independently of the activities of the licensed distributors exceeds their total output by 50%. It is reasonable to assume that he refers to the peyote that is being provided by the independent NAC members who are harvesting their own peyote. This brings us to another element in the story that we will return to again later – in the second part of this chapter.
Before moving onward this also is a great example of how much of the current “wisdom” about the peyote trade is based on untraceable rumor rather than documented fact. In the case of Robledo’s intriguing assertion of an actual numeric value for the unregulated peyote trade there are two glaring and inescapable facts that might be easily overlooked: 1) The claim lacks mention of its actual source or providing any indication about where or how this information came into Robledo’s awareness, and 2) it is an absolute impossibility for anyone to keep track of, much less tally with accuracy, the actual extent of the peyote trade occurring independently of the licensed distributors.


In 1988, after interviewing the active licensed distributors, John Morthland commented:

Dealers worry constantly about running out of stock, so they keep sources secret from outsiders and even from each other. They are also afraid that if Indians ever discovered the choice growing areas, they might try to bypass the dealers.”

An actual attempt by some peyote distributors to control the peyote trade and deliberately try to prevent cultivation by their customers actually goes back a very long time. Some comments from BIA Special Agent “Pussyfoot” Johnson were featured in an intriguing account by his supervisor that appears in a 1909 issue of the Indian School Journal, entitled “History, Use and Effects of Peyote.”

About twenty-three years ago a white man appeared at Laredo from the Territory in quest of peyotes.
He learned from the Indians up north that in a range of hills about forty miles east of Laredo, these peyotes could be found, He employed Mexicans to gather a supply, which he took north with him. He came in contact with a shipper by the name of Villegas, founder of the house known as L. Villegas and Company. Villegas then began buying these peyotes of ignorant Mexicans and shipping them north to the Indians. This house has been doing this for more than twenty years, but the business has been kept as secret as possible. Villegas has always refused to give the Indians any information as to the source of supply and has also refused all these years to supply Indians with the whole plant, fearing that they would transplant them and thus establish their own source of supply. Half a dozen years ago a member of the firm named Wormser withdrew and established the house of Wormser Brothers, of course taking the secret of the peyotes with him.
These two houses very craftily called these peyotes by the name of Japanese buttons, and created the impression locally that they were for some mysterious use by the Japanese.
These two houses, in this way, have built up a commercial monopoly in peyotes for the whole United States, practically.
About forty miles east of Laredo and four miles from the Texas-Mexican Railway, is an ancient Mexican town of about fifteen families, called Los Ojuelos. It has a graveyard larger than the town itself. It is located close to the edge of some rough, rocky graveled hills, on which these peyotes grow wild; none are cultivated anywhere. They grow wild under the shelter of a bush on these rocky ledges.
The Mexicans who gather the plant do not pull it up by the roots, but merely cut off the tops, leaving the potato itself in the ground. The top part of this potato then rots. The lower roots then grow and three or four peyotes often thereby appear where there originally was but one. It requires from one to two months’ time properly to dry these peyote tops for the market.
In this village, Los Ojuelos, are two small stores run by V. Laurel and Bro., and the other by Gayetasio Ochoa, the latter being postmaster. The villagers gather these peyotes and turn them into these two stores for supplies, getting about $2.50 a thousand for them. An industrious worker can not gather more than two hundred per day.


Modern workers appear to be able to harvest faster.

It used to be you’d go out for a couple of hours and you’d find 500 to 1,000 plants,” he said. “Now, you go out for six hours and you don’t come back with much.
Mauro Morales in Roebuck 2004.

In three hours his two brothers gathered about five potato sacks, some 4000 buttons in all.”
De Cordoba 2004 speaking of his time with Salvador Johnson.


Some statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)


# of Buttons

Reported Sold

Total Sales


Price per Thousand



1986 1,913,212 $149,307.52 $ 78
1987 1,766,409 $137,046.30 $ 78
1988 1,575,766 $129,051.01 $ 82
1989 1,572,102 $129,619.62 $ 82
1990 1,772,126 $156.607.29 $ 88
1991 1,859,189 $182,544.02 $ 97
1992 1,886,434 $192,695.25 $102
1993 No data. No data. na [data from DPS in 2005]
1993 1,978,646 $210,247.60 $106 [data from DPS in 2011]
1994 No data. No data. na [data from DPS in 2005]
1994 2,184,739 $246,632.94 $113 [data from DPS in 2011]
1995 No data. No data. na [data from DPS in 2005]
1995 2,252,174 $234,750.20 $104 [data from DPS in 2011]
1996 2,258,993 $278,579.50 $123
1997 2,317,380 $274,500.62 $118
1998 2,076,167 $277,119.71 $133
1999 2,093,335 $335,823.02 $160
2000 2,057,020 $310,722.10 $151
2001 1,934,600 $360,676.00 $186
2002 1,820,847 $422,289.50 $232 [data from DPS in 2005]
2002 1,703,914 $404,859.50 $237 [data from DPS in 2011]
2003 1,779,170 $416,727.00 $234 [data from DPS in 2005]
2003 1,781,170 $416,727.00 $234 [data from DPS in 2011]
2004 1,658,195 $393,572.50 $237 [data from DPS in 2005]
2004 1,304,691 $304,002.50 $237 [data from DPS in 2006]
2004 1,669,806 $393,572.50 $236 [data from DPS in 2011]
2005 1,565,534 $407,789.50 $260
2006 1,619,115 $463,714.75 $286
2007 1,605,345 $474,321.80 $296
2008 1,475,469 $463,148.00 $314
2009 1,604,623 $493,834.00 $308
2010 1,483,697 $459,699.00 $310
2011 1,413,846 $466,590.50 $330
2012 1,106,209 $434,609.00 $393
2013 1,363,978 $530,230.00 $389
2014 1,128,787 $426,300.00 $378

The above reflects the reported activities of the licensed distributors (and their employees) based on figures provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

There are presently three peyote distributors and this has been true since 2006. Four licensed peyote dealers were still in operation in 2003-2005. Prior to that there were five and before that there were more. I have heard that a fourth has submitted his paperwork to DPS. It appears to be a relative of one of the existing distributors who is growing older and facing retirement in the future.

It is an interesting point of clarity that the licensed distributors who sell peyote prefer to be called “peyote dealers” rather than peyoteros.

Math in the fourth column is mine so any mistakes there are mine.

The late 1990s is when the average size plummeted for the buttons showing up in NAC meetings in central Texas. In the late 1990s sacks of Mexican peyote became more common.


It is very easy to see that a lot more peyote populations exist in Mexico than are inside of the USA.

The distribution of Lophophora williamsii


The suggested distribution of peyote
Composite map created from Anderson1980 & Koehres

Concerning this map:
It is important to be aware that peyote grows only in soils that are acceptable to it. This is true within any region it occurs, and therefore this map suggests there is a far more substantial distribution and many more populations than really exist (or have ever existed) within the shaded zones.

Anderson created this map by placing the reported herbarium collections, some of which are now known to be erroneous, as dots on a map and then drawing a line encircling them all.
For those reasons reason it is extremely doubtful that any peyote actually lives within large sections of the indicated areas. To put it another way, the presence of a solidly shaded area does not imply a continuous peyote population anywhere within it. It certainly does not indicate a lawn of Lophophora.

Koehres created his map similarly but incorporates his own field information which is superior to that of Anderson.


How difficult is peyote to grow?

It is easy to find it said that peyote is difficult or even impossible to grow.

After interviewing peyoteros in 1988 John Morthland wrote,

Indeed, peyote is almost impossible to cultivate. Once a seed germinates, the plant takes five years to grow big enough for picking, and the root of a harvested peyote takes nearly that long to bloom again.


Morthland’s “almost impossible” estimates are actually optimistic despite being shorter than reality. A professional cactus cultivator would consider them to be more typical than impossible and would simply take those numbers in stride in his or her production planning.
The reality is that peyote is among the easiest and the most forgiving of the cactus species to grow from seed.

Peyote, like any other cactus species, is fairly slow growing which is why what is developing contains the elements of a crisis-in-the-making. After cultivation begins in a meaningful way, more than a decade can be expected to elapse prior to the first acceptable harvest.

The widely circulated meme that cultivation is somehow either a difficult challenge or an absolute impossibility is probably just simple propaganda that conveniently serves licensed distributors, law enforcement and the powers-that-be alike.
Cactus cultivators have not reported similar results as the image of what is largely Lophophora diffusa in the next photograph should illustrate. These seedlings shown below are growing in Prague.



It is also surprisingly common to find it said that peyote cannot be cultivated anywhere outside of its natural ranges. People like Leo Mercado who, in theory, have proved this to be in error have actually proven just how right Voltaire was when saying:

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”

At least, we now understand WHY peyote cultivation is considered to be impossible: not because of any technical issues but rather because the federal, state and/or local police will come and destroy the peyote plants if they learn of their existence.

The Peyote Foundation 1998

The Peyote Foundation 1998

Leo’s “impossible” shade house in 1998.
Taken with Leo’s permission from their newsletter


That is only the beginning of this story as it is clear that the cultivation of peyote is easy. Cultivation of someone else’s spiritual sacrament, however, rapidly becomes a quite different subject altogether.
The one very significant hurdle for the cultivation of peyote is a lack of acceptance by more than a relatively few members of the NAC.

This will be explored in more detail when this commentary continues.


More is still to come with part 2.


Related Reading Off-Site – Cactus Conservation Institute’s website


Additional Related Reading Off-Site – Edward Anderson’s thoughts on the Peyote Crisis.