“The fear, as I analyze it in retrospect, was of being overwhelmed, of disintegrating under a pressure of reality greater than a mind, accustomed to living most of the time in a cozy world of symbols, could possibly bear.”
― Aldous Huxley
There’s a lot to be said about the inherently reverent nature of mescaline, the active ingredient in an interesting cactus called Peyote — which is also the commonly used colloquial to describe this substance in general.
Like DMT, mescaline is a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid that can be found in various species of cacti, most notably the San Pedro and Peyote cacti species.
Its hallucinogenic effects are also comparable to LSD and, much like psilocybin, its historical use in religious ceremony is prolific amongst the Native inhabitants of the Americas. These characteristics all culminate into an intriguing history that standardizes a level of robust respect associated with this particular hallucinogen.
Unlike any other psychedelic, mescaline perhaps stands alone for its ability to provoke the more transcendental effects of a consumers experience, though this often has to do with the context and setting of its consumption.
Culturally, Peyote has been recognized as being able to spur the deepest forms of reverence and revelation, making it a staple amongst those seeking mystical or self-revelatory insight.
Clash of Cultures
While its use has been documented to span over five millennia, Mescaline’s history post European arrival has been rather tumultuous at is has been subject to the cultural frictions between Native and non-Native populations.
Used among Native Americans along the Pacific Coast, religious prosecution after European contact threatened to dwindle its prominence, and with it an identity which emanates from the ancient Aztec Empire, flowing through time and culture alike.
In the 1920’s, religious ceremonies surrounding the consumption of Peyote became legally incorporated, protecting the practice and substance and allowing it to remain an important part of the Native American culture, all the way from the Southern regions of Mexico and Peru to the Northern spans of Texas and beyond — as far North as Saskatchewan, Canada.
Given its symbolism and the fact that it encapsulates a spiritual method of transcending the immediate realms around us, mescaline will likely live on forever as one of the most revered psychedelics available.
Peyote is traditionally prepared by cutting off the top of the spineless cactus, leaving a tap root and allowing the subsequent growth of disc-shaped buttons, which themselves are then cut from the roots and dried.
The dried buttons, due to their bitter taste, are typically ground into a powder and often consumed in the form of capsules, the most popularized intake method, though can be blending with just about anything.
Mescaline had first been identified in 1897 by Arthur Heffter, later becoming synthesized for the first time by Ernst Spath, a German chemist at the University of Vienna. Synthetic mescaline was soon marketed in hopes of being able to cure a range of psychological disorders before falling short of expectations to do so.
Despite its clinical inefficacy, creative communities across the world had been quick to adopt it as a supplement to their artistic endeavors, finding immediate success, from spheres of philosophy to literature; famed author Aldous Huxley had described its effect on expanding consciousness in his work The Doors of Perception.
Like many psychedelics, mescaline will cause a distortion to sensory perceptions, along with the likelihood of visual hallucination and euphoric sentiment. It affects the neural circuits in the brain involving the serotonin neurotransmitter, provoking changes to mood or emotion.
As with most hallucinogens, the effects will depend on the amount ingested and the potency; though, unlike its psychedelic cohorts, mescaline is usually regarded as being less powerful than LSD or psilocybin, with a more subtle effect imposed upon consumers.
Typically, effects will settle in within the first hour and peak within the first three hours, then dwindle over the course of the next six to twelve hours.
A Timeless Therapeutic
Accordingly, it’s no surprise that mescaline presents enormous potential with respect to its therapeutic use, specifically in regards to the reformation of habits and the treatment of additions.
Its ability to provoke deeper perspectives and expand conscious perception can assist a consumer in re-contextualizing life on a small or large scale, prompting a reshuffling of priorities and a reconsideration of existential thoughts.
Its for this reason that researchers have linked mescaline to reduced thoughts of depression, anxiety, and suicide. As hundreds of millions of people are said to suffer from depression around the world, mescaline has offered an avenue of hopeful investments into companies that offer psychedelic-based therapies.
At the time of this writing, numerous bioscience companies are in the midst of coordinating studies that will seek to use a variety of psychedelics — mescaline among them — to monitor the role they have in altering consciousness for the purposes of treating depressive thought habits.
This is just one of the ways by which mescaline, from its past to its future, encapsulates our ambition in the next step of our relationship with psychedelics.
DOsage & Experience
Like most psychedelics, Mescaline offers an intensely subjective experience, meaning that there's no universal dosage guide applicable to everyone. Rather, differentiation is usually specified by way of describing low, medium, or high amounts which equate light, moderate, or heavy trips.
Peyote is consumed either fresh (in the form of cactus 'buttons') or dried - typically in powder form.
Consumed fresh, a light trip of peyote can consist of 100 grams or less, whereby a consumer can experience the initial onset of typical hallucinogenic experiences - subtly euphoric sensations, a slight distortion of typical thought patterns and a minor shift in sensory perception. Higher doses - 200 grams or more, will consist of strong effects and visual hallucinations, greater feelings of euphoria or emotional states, synesthesia, and a possible proclivity towards anxiety or panic.
Consumed when dried, light trips consist of only about 5-20 grams whilst heavy trips will consist upwards of 50 grams or more, with the same aforementioned effects taking hold on the user.
A typical and moderate peyote trip can last anywhere from 6-10 hours, with heavier dosages lasting well beyond 12 hours.
Mescaline (known as 3, 4, 5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) is one of the oldest known hallucinogenic compounds; despite this, the psychoactive manners by which it operates remains largely unknown.
The pharmacodynamics of its action are, like most psychedelics, interactive with the serotonergic receptors in the brain, specifically the 2A receptors (formally referred to as 5-HT2A-C), which amounts to effects similar to substances like LSD. Other sources have concluded that mescaline will bind with a stronger affinity to the 1A receptors as well.
Mescaline is metabolized into trimethoxyphenylacetic acid, binding with dopamine receptors as well as the serotonergic receptors throughout the central nervous system.
Research & Footnotes
Erowid Dosage Guide / Peyote
The Epidemiology of Mescaline Use
Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Aspects of Peyote and Mescaline
Altered Minds: Mescaline's Complicated History