Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian brew of various psychoactive plants. Usually, the main ingredient is the Ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, which contains Mono Amine Oxidise inhibitors (MAOi). The Mono Amine Oxidise inhibitor inhibits the MOA present in our stomachs so that the dimethyltryptamine (DMT)in the other main ingredient, usually Chacruna (Psychotria viridis) or Chaliponga (Diplopterys cabrerana) can be orally activated. This enzyme prevents us from accidental tripping out on our food.

There are many plants that contain different quantities of alkaloids, but these are the most commonly used in ceremonies in the Amazonian jungle.

In the jungle, vine will be cleaned, chopped and brewed with the leaves of either one of the DMT containing plants. In the Western world, we resort to using dried vine and dried leaves, phyllodes or root bark of many different species of DMT containing plants.

Ayahuasca may be useful to treat substance abuse disorders, anxiety and depression. Experiences are individual and often what we seek is not what we find. Although preliminary, current research suggests that when administered in therapeutic settings, Ayahuasca may help reduce problematic substance use by helping promote personal or spiritual insights or self-knowledge. 

Ayahuasca is often likened to 10 years of psychotherapy, but this does not mean that we advocate the self-administration or reckless use of Ayahuasca. While this brew is generally quite safe, there are serious dietary considerations. In addition to diet, any prescribed drugs or recreational drugs ALWAYS need to be declared as interactions can be detrimental to your health or even fatal.

People who suffer from serious mental illness or who have a history of mental illness will need to be very cautious.

Epileptic seizures may be triggered and since the medication, across the board, used to treat epilepsy is contra-indicated, the best way to get any benefit from Ayahuasca is to micro-dose.

While there are many physical, mental and emotional benefits to drinking Ayahuasca, people with serious health conditions should first discuss these conditions with their doctor or a knowledgeable Ayhuascero.

  • Why do I want to drink Ayahuasca?
  • Who should serve it to me?
  • How do I find the right person to serve me Ayahuasca?
  • How do I prepare for Ayahuasca?
  • Why is the diet important?
  • What pharmaceuticals should I stay away from before drinking Ayahuasca?

The very first thing is to trust your gut. Feel into what feels right for you. There are many people serving Ayahuasca and while Peter and Paul may serve the best brew, Peter may work for you, but not for me and maybe Paul isn’t good for either of us. Generally, the social media pages of people who serve Ayahuasca reflect only the successes, not the failures, so if you want to really know, it is down to trusting yourself.

I will discuss diet after this, but once you have chosen a person to serve you Ayahuasca and your date is booked, you want to start paying special attention to your dreams, your mental state and your health. Having committed to drinking Ayahuasca, the medicine is already working on you.

My first time, I felt so physically ill the week prior to drinking Ayahuasca that I almost did not attend the ceremony. Fortunately, a little voice in my head convinced me that this was part of my journey and thankfully, I went ahead and had an incredible awakening. I am deeply grateful to Ayahuasca for guiding me in my parenting and exposing my greatest fears.

Cocaine, Ritalin or other Methylphenidates, SSRI’s, MOAi’s, opiates, alcohol, mood-stabilisers, barbiturates or benzo’s are either dangerous as a combination with Ayahuasca or completely block the receptors, making the entire experience a waste of time. Either way, it is important for the greatest benefit to stop all medication for two weeks before taking Ayahuasca. Please do educate yourself on how to wean yourself off SSRI’s and other habit forming drugs so as not to put your body into shock or withdrawal.


Huachuma journeys may seem mild in comparison to some of the other plant medicines. We are often asked,”what is it like?” To put it simply, it is like heaven on earth, hence the name given to the cactus after the Spanish Connquesdadors tried to ban ritual all use of the cactus. San Pedro is Saint Peter, who holds the keys to heaven and this experience is gently euphoric in smaller doses. The most profound effect is that it brings us wholly into the present moment.  The beautiful grounding and connecting provided by this plant medicine is ideal for long, scenic hikes. Through the subtle and gentle cactus, we find ourselves as part of all that is, not a separate being experiencing nature, but nature experiencing itself.

Evidence of the use of Huachuma dates back millennia to early cultures such as the Chavin culture and the Moche culture.

The main alkaloid in San Pedro is Mescaline (dimethoxyphenethylamine) is only one of many alkaloids. In a traditional hiking brew, more of the white part is cooked. It is thought that the green plant material right under the waxy skin has the highest concentration of Mescaline and that the white, fleshy part nearer the core is a more energizing substance, similar to ephedrine without the horrible side effects. This makes it a very useful and safe substitute for people who are battling to overcome addiction to Methamphetamine and Methcathinone.

As with all psychedelic experiences, set and setting are very important. Huachuma brings issues into the light so that we can work through them gently.

The most commonly used mescaline cactus used for preparing Huachuma is Echinopsis/Trichocereus pachanoi. While there are many Echinopsis species contain varying quantities of the numerous alkaloids are used, either individually or in combination, traditional Peruvian Huachuma is usually only made from the pachanoi species.

The Spanish conquistadors brought Christianity to the native people of many South American countries and banned their “heathen” use of cactus. This is why, to this day, we refer to Pachanoi as San Pedro (Saint Peter), who holds the keys to heaven.

While many people feel as though the subtleness of Huachuma means that it is not a particularly powerful medicine, but for most of us who have experienced connection, insight and healing through this plant, we understand its power.

Typically, traditional Huachuma ceremonies start at midnight and then run through until after noon the next day, but there really is no wrong time to take San Pedro, except perhaps when operating heavy machinery.

  • Cactus
  • Lemon juice
  • Filtered water or spring water
  • Paring knife un-serrated
  • Large sharp knife
  • More knives can be used
  • Potato peeler
  • Chopping board
  • 1 Container for cleaned cactus
  • 1 container for spines
  • 1 container for compost
  • 3 stainless steel pots
  • Sieve
  • Cotton pillowcase or cheese cloth
  • Blender
  • Gas stove (or fire and cast iron)
  • Freezer containers
  • Optional: Bicarbonate of soda
  • Scissors or side cutters
  • Potato masher

Step 1. ~ Cleaning the cactus

1a) If cleaning cactus with small or no spines, use a potato peeler to remove the spines and put these strips in their own container. Cut them into smaller pieces (about 4cm) and place in the freezer

1b) If you are cooking cactus with big thorns, remove the thorns with side cutters or scissors in a box so that they don’t fly around and get collected in your feet later. Use the sharp paring knife to remove the spines with skin and repeat a).

2. With the paring knife, carefully remove the waxy skin. This can be left in the cook, but it seems to make the taste even worse and also elevates the nausea factor. Cactus that cooks for 20 hours very rarely results in nausea.

For a purer mescaline journey, it is preferred to limit the white content of the cactus which contain more stimulant like alkaloids. We cut the green away with either the large sharp knife or the paring knife, depending on which is more comfortable. These strips are also cut into 4cm lengths and frozen.

Step 2. ~ Freezing the cactus

3. Remove and defrost the cactus and then refreeze it. This cannot be done too often, but twice is good. The reason for this is to break the cells down so that the alkaloids are released.

4. Defrost the spines, add lemon juice 1:5 with water to cover and start cooking

Defrost the chopped cactus and place it in the pot. Put 50ml of lemon juice for every litre of cactus. It is usually not necessary to add water to this cook.

Step 3 ~ Cooking the cactus

5. Cook with the lids on for at least 3 hours.

6. Mash the spines with the potato masher and strain through the sieve and the pillowcase into the reduction pot.

7. Strain the plant pulp through the sieve and the pillowcase into the reduction pot.

8. The reduction pot cooks for days. While this is happening, put the spines on to cook again.

9. Add filtered water to the cleaned cactus and blend. Return to the pot and cook for at least two hours.

10. Mash and strain the spines and add to reduction

11. Place all the blended cactus into a pillowcase or cheesecloth and strain into the reduction pot.

12. At this point, the spines and the blended cactus can be cooked again, but usually, most of the alkaloids are now in your reduction liquid.

Step 4. ~ Freeze and prepare to enjoy!

Cactus is generally very forgiving and loves being fed. Generally, a light breakfast before drinking the tea will prevent nausea. Then healthy snacks are recommended to enjoy during the experience. Pubs.acs.org ACS Pharmacol. Transl.Sci.2021, 4, 2, 543-552


There is a 68% to 86% improvement in depression, anxiety, PSTD, drug and alcohol use disorders

Huachuma is not recommended for people who suffer from epilepsy. 
Huachuma is not recommended for people with renal disorders.


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