Please note that the following is for information purposes only and that preparing San Pedro is illegal in many countries around the world.
A lot of people like to make what is a rather simple and easy process much more difficult and time consuming than it needs to be, based solely off of internet rumors, misinformation and conjecture. For some reason, certain people have decided that they know better than the traditional Andean people who have been using these plants for at least 10,000 years. The following guide is based off of the traditional method of preparation that has been used for millennia.
The first thing you will need is obviously some San Pedro, with the typical dose being around one foot or 30 cm of a potent San Pedro cactus. Whilst Trichocereus pachanoi is the most commonly used San Pedro cacti, there are in fact numerous other members of the Trichocereus genus than can be and are used as San Pedro.
Once you have your potent San Pedro, you need to stress the plant to increase its alkaloid levels. The best way to achieve this is by leaving the cutting in a dark place for at least a few weeks to a month. Really, the longer the better. See the following link for more information ~ Trichocereus Potency: A Basic Guide for Getting The Most Out of San Pedro.
Next you will need a sharp knife and a chopping board. Then a large pot, pressure cooker or slow cooker depending upon your preference. You may also need a pair of pliers depending on which type of Trichocereus you’re actually using to remove the spines, especially with plants that have long spines, such as Trichocereus bridgesii which is widely regarded as being the most consistently potent Trichocereus species. Now this is not strictly necessary, but does make handling much easier.
Now, all you actually need to do is to cut your section of San Pedro into thin slices and place them into the pot, pressure cooker or slow cooker.
Then cover with water and boil for at least 4-6 hours. At which time the liquid will become discolored, having extracted the active ingredients into the water.
Once you have done this, you can strain out the solid material leaving only the remaining liquid. For this you can use a colander, cheese cloth or even an old T-Shirt. Just make sure that you squeeze the solid material to get out as much of the liquid as you can.
The next step in the process is to reduce the volume of the liquid to around a cup sized portion. Simply keep boiling the liquid to reduce its volume. Once your San Pedro tea has been reduced to a cup sized portion, all you have to do is allow it to cool enough for consumption and it is ready to go.
Now, the flavor really isn’t the best, but at such as small amount it really is not a problem at all to get it down. Just hold your nose and down it goes. When you hold your nose and drink the small amount quickly, you do not even taste it, but you will get a sour/bitter after taste that you can easily get rid of with a nice tasting chaser like orange juice to wash it down.
If you want to improve the taste, you can add sugar and salt to counteract the bitterness and spices like cardamon and cinnamon whilst it is boiling. Another good way to improve the flavor is to further reduce to around a half a cup portion and then mix with pineapple juice and lemonade.
You can also further reduce to a gum, roll this into balls and consume, but you will want to be very careful not to go to far and burn it whilst you’re doing this. Once reduced to around a quarter cup you can place it in a shallow tray or dish and put in front of a heater or in the oven on low with the door left ajar. Or allow it to dry completely and then scrape it up and put it into capsules. Although all of this will be time consuming and quite frankly unnecessary.
A lot of people will try to tell you that you need to remove the skin of the plant and only use the dark green layer that is just under the skin, discarding the white inner layer and core, but this is a huge mistake. Some people say that removing the skin and inner white layer improves the taste, but in reality it makes no difference at all. Usually they will say that the skin, white layer and core will cause nausea and that removing them will reduce the nausea. That is correct in a sense, but also extremely wasteful and completely unnecessary as I will explain below.
The fact of the matter is that the active ingredient in San Pedro, mescaline, itself causes nausea. Mescaline is a non selective serotonin receptor agonist, which means that it works on all of the serotonin receptors. Now the psychedelic experience is caused by the serotonin receptor 5ht-2 being agonized by psychedelic substances. The feelings of nausea that come with many psychedelic plants is caused by the serotonin receptor 5ht-3 also being agonized. For more information on how psychedelics work in the brain, see the following link ~ Inside the Psychedelic Mind: The New Frontier for Consciousness Studies, Innovative Therapies, Micro-dosing & Creativity.
Now, contrary to popular belief, not all of the mescaline and other alkaloids in a given San Pedro cutting is in the outer dark green layer. Up to 45% of the total alkaloids in a given San Pedro cutting is in the inner white layer beneath the outer dark green layer. So when you discard the inner section it will reduce nausea, in the sense that you’re throwing away almost half of the usable mescaline and other alkaloids. See the following link for more information ~ Distribution of Alkaloids in Cacti, from San Pedro and Related Species by Keeper Trout.
The problem of nausea is usually vastly overblown and is actually not really that bad, but we all do have different systems, different numbers of receptors and different people will react differently. If the nausea is a problem for you, there are a number of things that you can do to reduce the discomfort, namely use anti-nausea medication, plants or 5ht-3 antagonists. Cannabis, ginger and lemon essential oil work well in this regard. You can also use a small amount of datura or brugmansia as in the traditional “Cimora” San Pedro cocktails, although all due care should be used with these plants and please do your research before consuming them.
There are also other ways you can help to extract the active ingredients from a San Pedro cutting, being the freeze/thaw method, adding a weak acid such as lemon juice to the water you use to boil the sliced San Pedro or putting it into a blender. The freeze/thaw method is quite simply freezing and thawing your San Pedro cutting or slices a number of times to break down the cell walls, better allowing the alkaloids to extract into the water. The same applies to weak acids like lemon juice and blending. Now, this is not actually needed as simply boiling the slices for long enough will do this itself, but you can do it if you want, if anything it will just speed up the process. Using a pressure cooker will also speed up this process. If you’re worried about extracting every last bit you can, just boil it for a longer period of time, this is where a slow cooker is useful as it is quite forgiving if you happen to forget about it and with the lid left on the water will not boil away.
Of course then some people will tell you that boiling San Pedro for too long will degrade the alkaloids, this is complete nonsense. The boiling point for mescaline is 180 degrees Celsius, where as the boiling point for water is 100 degrees Celsius, meaning the water will boil off long before the mescaline ever will. So, obviously keep an eye on your pot as it boils so the water does not boil off.
The last thing you need to worry about is of course what is known as “set and setting.” Being the mindset taken into the experience and the place in which you take the medicine. Ideally you should be in a comfortable space, with people you trust and have prepared your mind for what is to come and have set your intention as to what exactly you hope to achieve in taking San Pedro.