live San Pedro (Trichocereus pachanoi) and slice into 15cm sections and then stand them upright on a chopping block to “de-core”
by placing a sharp knife approximately 1cm to 2cm from the outer edge of the inner core, depending on the diameter of the
plant, and slice downward. You can take four cuts all at right angles or more at whatever angles you prefer. Throw away the
core and cut any of the larger pieces lengthwise to make any number of 15cm long strips of cactus. Lay these down horizontally
and cut like a loaf of bread into 1cm slices. You can grab a handful of these to cut at once for speed. You should end up
with 1cm thick pieces that are anywhere from 2 to 3cm across. Empty these into an appropriate stock pot. Squeeze the juice
of 1 fresh cut lemon into the pot for every 60cm of cactus as it will assist with the extraction and lessen the bitter flavor
of the end product. Add more lemon juice if you want as it won’t cause any harm.
Trichocereus pachanoi you needn’t worry about the spines at all, nor should have to worry about the waxy out skin since
you aren’t blending the plant matter. This skin remains in place throughout the cooking and is simply thrown away in
the end. Some of course think it necessary to freeze the plant and blend for proper extraction, but for someone who wants
an easy preparation method there really is no need. If you are using more spiney forms of cactus, such as Trichocereus bridgesii,
T. macrogonus, or T. peruvianus, the entire spine pad (areole) and spines can easily be grabbed a hold of with a pair of pliers
and ripped off the plant fully in one or two yanks.
you have the cactus loaded in the pot add enough water to reach the height of the cactus. Let the cactus soak in this strong
lemon juice bath for an hour or so. If you are using dried material then let it soak in the lemon water until hydrated, adding
water as needed. When you are ready to begin the heat extraction add enough water so that it is double the height of the cactus.
If the cactus chips are 8cm high then add enough water so that the water line is 16cm from the bottom of the pot. Bring the
water to a very light rolling boil, not a rapid one. Keep on eye on it and stir occasionally, knocking any buildup on the
edges of the pot back into the water to dissolve. Let it boil like this for about an hour and a half to two hours, adding
more water as it cooks down so as to keep the original water level. At this point you are not interested in boiling down the
fluid levels, but rather allowing the maximum amount of alkaloid to leach into the water. Feel free to cover the pot with
a lid if you want, just be sure that if doing so the contained heat doesn’t cause more than a light rolling boil Once
done with the initial boiling strain through a standard colander into a new pot. Since you didn’t mash up the cactus
the chips should still be intact and very little besides fluid will go through the strainer. Any spines that may have come
off the plant will have been completely softened in the boil and are harmless.
the strained fluid to a low rolling boil in an uncovered pot while putting the cactus material back into the pot while adding
a touch more lemon. Use the same double up scale of water and add just a little more lemon. Bring this back to slight rolling
boil for another hour or so. This second boil will not darken up as much as the first but will allow further extraction. Once
this is done then strain again and you can either add this second batch of fluid with the previous extraction or put in its
own pot to lessen the cooking time needed to get the final product. Boil these until they are condensed via evaporation to
a degree you are comfortable with. The less, and lighter, you boil the better as it will avoid any possible destruction of
the extracted constituents, as well as avoid any “burnt” flavor, but you would need to balance this out with what
you are willing or able to consume and how much time you have for the process.
the end stir the final product well to mix up any material that settled. Divide the portions as wanted by the participants
and drink, making sure that if you condensed the fluid in two different pots you combine them together first. Some like it
chilled, others like it slightly warm. A slice of lemon on hand is helpful to kill the bitter taste after drinking. Some also
prefer to sip it, but others stand by the need to “chug” all you plan on consuming as quickly as possible to avoid
any “gag” reflex common in sipping it. If you don’t get it all down quick chances are you might not want
to get it all down at all.
San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi) represents undoubtedly
one of the most ancient of the magic plants of South America. The oldest archaeological evidence, a charvin stone carving in a temple in northern
Peru, goes back to 1300 B.C. Peruvian ceramics
made between 1000 and 700 B.C. show the plant in association with the deer. The
use of Trichocereus was widespread in Peru when the Spanish arrived. San Pedro is now
employed to cure sickness, including alcoholism and insanity, for divination, to undo love witchcraft, to counter all kinds
of sorcery, and to assure success in personal ventures.
stems of the cactus, normally purchased in the market, are sliced like bread and boiled for up to seven hours in water. After the drinking of San Pedro, other medicinal herbs, the help of which is frequently
sought, begin to talk to the shaman, activating his own “inner power.” Form
The Plants of the Gods, Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hofmann, McGraw-Hill Book
Company, New York, 1979, p.155-56