For centuries, and since humankind can remember, plants and herbs have helped save (and treat) millions thanks to their medicinal properties. One such plant is peyote, which, besides its medicinal properties, is also used for ceremonial (and religious) purposes by the Native Americans.
Peyote belongs to the flowering plant family of Cactaceae, a group of spineless cacti found chiefly in dry regions. The peyote’s worth can depend on several factors, including seller/distributor, dealer, location/region, availability, and – most importantly – legality.
The spineless cactus is rendered illegal (except for religious purposes) in several States of the U.S. and some other foreign countries, like Germany, France, Brazil, Australia, and India. That said, you can expect prices of a peyote cactus to start from $80 and go all the way up to $300.
However, then again, the prices may depend on availability. For instance, in countries such as the U.K., where the possession and sale of peyote cacti are legal, peyote can be grabbed for under £100.
Moreover, several sellers/distributors can be seen selling the cacti in terms of their measurements (specifically, centimeters).
Before discussing peyote’s effects and (health) benefits, let’s shed some light on its controversial (and quite racist) history. After all, a significant part of the cactus’s struggle and success lies in its history.
The exact origin of peyote used for ceremonial and religious purposes is still unknown and, therefore, a topic of speculation and debate.
Native American tribes, such as the Tonkawa, the Mescalero, the Karankawa, and the Lipan Aache, are said to be responsible for fostering the use of peyote in their religious and ceremonial activities.
Peyote was first excavated in 1930 in Shumla caves, which can be seen in the Southwestern region of Texas. A later study in 2005 revealed that the peyote extracted from the Shumla caves had a 2% mescaline concentration. Mescaline is a hallucinogenic and stimulating compound responsible for causing indifference in one’s mind and consciousness.
The study also revealed that the specimens gathered from the Shumla caves date as far back as 3780 and 3660 BCE, proving that the Native American tribes used peyote for more than 5,000 years.
The late 1500s saw certain restrictions imposed on the use of peyote for religious and ceremonial activities. In June 1620, the Spanish Inquisition banned the use of peyote and labeled its use as witchcraft and fortune-telling. The ban was soon followed by a sharp decline in peyote users and its demand.
However, the policy made by the Spaniards was short-lived when the Spaniards lost control of Mexico in 1821. Certain Indian tribes, like the Huichol, the Cora, and the Tarahumara, continued using peyote for their religious and ceremonial activities, if not its medicinal applications.
In the 19th century, the modes of transport (and trade) became broader and more accessible, and so did the popularity and usage of peyote. James Mooney, regarded as an important personality in the history of peyote, fought for the Native Americans’ use (and legal right) of peyote for their religious purposes.
James Mooney devoted his life to studying and analyzing the sacred and curative properties of the spineless cactus and considered peyote, “…a symbolic representation of God.” (SOURCE)
Such statements passed by the leaders made peyote even more popular among the (Native) Indian tribes. However, the Indian Service Agents and missionaries made certain anti-Native American attempts (and policies) to nullify the use of peyote for ceremonial activities.
Despite full efforts provided by the peyote leaders, peyote still couldn’t secure ‘legal’ status. For instance, in 1918, a ‘peyote prohibition bill’ was nigh, preventing peyote use in America. Prosecutors would face a year’s jail time and a $500 fine.
Even though legislators didn’t pass the bill, it marked a significant conflict (and outright bias) of the political parties towards the Native Indians over the tribes’ cultural practices.
Zitkála-Šá, a major opposer of Peyotists, summarized the use of peyote as:
“Believing peyote (is) a cure-all for every human ailment, they ignore the advice and aid of physicians. Attending the weekly peyote meetings, they waste time, strength, and money, consequently neglecting their homes and farms.” (SOURCE)
However, the Peyotists’ victory was brief when in 1918, peyote was banned in states such as Utah, Colorado, and Nevada, thanks to the efforts of prohibitionists.
Fast forward to 1970, the use of peyote was federally made illegal under the ‘Controlled Substance Act,’ which labeled peyote as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. With that said, peyote leaders fought for their legal right to use peyote.
Luckily, their efforts later bore fruit when in 1993, Congress allowed the use of peyote strictly (and expressly) for religious/ceremonial activities under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
The table below shows the legal status of psychoactive cactus (peyote) in different countries:
|Australia||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||Legal depending on Territory|
|Canada||Illegal except Peyote||Illegal except Peyote||Illegal except Peyote||Legal|
|France||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||Peyote is regulated|
|Italy||Legal except Peyote||Legal except Peyote||Legal except Peyote||Legal except Peyote|
|Mexico||Legal except peyote||Legal except peyote||Legal except peyote||Legal except peyote|
|United States||Legal for religious use||Legal for religious use||Legal for religious use||Legal|
What Is Peyote And Its Uses
In simple words, peyote is a spineless cactus comprising hallucinogenic compounds, such as mescaline. Mescaline is the prime active principle in peyote and is responsible for altering a person’s consciousness or brain activity.
Flowers bloom within the peyote plant and later produce seed-type fruits known as Nigelia Sativa Linn. Such black seeds can be used for curative and pain-alleviating purposes, such as diarrhea, cough, fever, abdominal pain, toothaches, poisonous wounds, asthma, and other psychotherapy-related purposes.
Peyote is not only limited to medicinal purposes; most of its uses arise in psychedelic means. The hallucinogenic content in the cactus interferes with a conscious mind’s receptors and likely causes the person to experience hallucinations, like blurred vision and an amplified field of vision.
Nonetheless, upon consumption of peyote, users may emit signs of sweating, numbness, chills, intensified blood and body temperature, chills, nausea, vomiting, and shivering.
Moreover, the effects of the peyote plant can also be influenced by the amount of dosage supplied.
The table below shows the dosage of dried mescaline peyote and its effects:
|14 – 27 (150 – 300 mg Mescaline)||Low Dose||1 – 3 hours|
|27 – 36 (300 – 400 mg Mescaline)||High Dose||6 – 12 hours|
|40 – 45 (450 – 500 mg Mescaline)||High Dose||+/- 12 hours|
|45 – 55 (500 – 600 mg Mescaline)||Very High Dose||+/- 24 hours|
The Native American tribes regard peyote as a ‘religious sacrament,’ which has been followed for thousands of years. Peyote was used, or instead eaten, by the tribespeople during all-night ceremonial prayers for healing.
Some ceremonial practices include using musical instruments, such as gourd rattles and water drums. Thus, the term ‘peyote music’ is used to describe the use of melody during the consumption of peyote in peyote ‘meetings’.
What are the curative measures of peyote?
Peyote is known for its applications in the field of medicine, including curing diarrhea, fever, cough, toothaches, snake bites, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, and other pain-alleviating purposes like abdominal pain. However, its applications are not only limited to bodily treatments but also include improving one’s mental health. Thanks to the hallucinogenic properties found in the plant, the users are rewarded with a soothing high that can relieve them of anxiety, stress, and depression.
However, there is little evidence and data to support such claims because it is labeled illegal in many regions. Also, whether or not peyote relieves stress depends mainly on the person’s mental health and strength, which may not be the same for everyone.
Is peyote legal in the United States?
The United States DEA categorizes peyote (and mescaline) as a Schedule 1 substance, protected under the ‘Controlled Substance Art’, which is the same categorization as that of LSD and heroin. However, under the ‘American Indian Religious Freedom Act’, peyote harvest, possession, and consumption for religious and ceremonial purposes are legal.
Even though only Native Americans were permitted the use of peyote, later policies and laws allowed people, regardless of their race, to use peyote for traditional Indian use.
According to certain studies and findings, the growth of peyote cacti has stunned, causing the plant to be labeled as a ‘vulnerable species’. In addition, it can take at least 30 years for the peyote plant fruits to fully mature and be ready for harvesting.
In a fast-moving world such as today, farmers realize the not-so-worthy investment of their time and money on peyote plants. Moreover, the attempt of other countries to curtail the spread of peyote has played a significant part in making the plant more vulnerable.
The table below shows the yearly comparison of the peyote harvest:
Although a peyote cactus may promise several health benefits, it is imperative to know that the promise Is still not backed by any scientific data. The content(s) present in the plant can transform one’s mind and consciousness, hence, increasing chances for abuse – especially among youngsters.