What is Mescaline?

Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in various cacti, including the San Pedro and peyote. It has a long history of use in spiritual and healing practices by indigenous people in North and South America. Mescaline was the first drug to be coined as ‘psychedelic’ and was famously described in Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception

Key Takeaways:

  • Mescaline is a natural psychedelic drug and hallucinogen.
  • It is found in cacti such as the San Pedro and peyote.
  • Mescaline has a long history of use in spiritual and healing practices.
  • The drug is known for altering perception and enhancing sensory experiences.
  • It is a naturally-occurring substance rather than a synthetic drug.

The Effects of Mescaline

Pharmacology research shows mescaline increases the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter important for regulating mood. Similar to LSD and psilocybin, it interacts with a serotonin receptor called 5-HT2A, which is thought to be responsible for causing visual hallucinations. Mescaline also acts on the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline, which are both associated with causing stimulatory effects.  

The effects of mescaline can last between 10 to 12 hours, and the intensity of these effects depends on the dosage you take. Some people may experience mild changes in body sensation and intense sensory perception, while others may experience a profound shift in consciousness and hallucinatory visuals.The effects of mescaline can be positive or negative depending on the individual, the dosage, and the setting in which it’s consumed.

Some of the common effects of mescaline include:

  • Distorted perception of time and space
  • Enhanced sensory experiences, such as seeing bright colors and patterns
  • Increased introspection
  • Altered thought processes
  • Intensified emotions, including euphoria or anxiety
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea

It’s important to note that mescaline is a potent psychoactive substance, and its effects can be unpredictable. If you choose to consume mescaline, it’s essential to do so in a safe and controlled setting, preferably with a sober friend or a guide who can help you navigate the experience.

Therapeutic Potential of Mescaline

While mescaline is commonly known to be a mind-altering substance, researchers are now considering the drug’s usefulness to enhance therapy for mental health disorders. 

AddictionAnxiety and Depression
Peyote, a mescaline-containing cactus, has a long-history of use to treat chronic alcoholism among members of the Native American Church.In a survey study, people who used mescaline in ‘naturalistic,’ non-clinical settings reported long-lasting improvements in depression and anxiety. Another population study found lifetime mescaline use was associated with decreased levels of psychological distress and agoraphobia. 

Of course, further research is needed to fully understand the therapeutic potential of mescaline. However, these findings suggest that mescaline could hold significant promise for individuals struggling with addiction or mental health issues. Researchers at the University of Basel, Switzerland, have announced plans to begin the first controlled clinical trials investigating mescaline’s potential therapeutic usefulness.

The History of Mescaline

Archeological evidence for the ritualistic use of mescaline-containing cacti dates back to over 5000 years.. The use of mescaline in these rituals was believed to facilitate communication with the gods and provide access to divine knowledge.

Mescaline was first discovered by Europeans in the early 16th century after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis began offering tonics of peyote in 1893 as a cardiac stimulant, bringing the substance to medical attention. Three years later, German chemist Arthur Heffer identified alkaloids from peyote, including mescaline, which were sold to Parke-Davis beginning a series of research experiments into the substance.

Following the discovery of LSD, mescaline became a substance of great interest among early psychedelic researchers. Humphrey Osmond coined the term ‘psychedelic’ from the Greek words ‘psyche’ (mind) and ‘delous’ (to manifest), after observing how drugs like mescaline could reveal unconscious parts of one’s mind. Research into mescaline was banned, however, following Nixon’s 1971 ban on psychoactive drugs..  

Today, while mescaline is still not widely used, it remains a fascinating topic of scientific and cultural interest. Its rich history and significance in indigenous cultures are an important reminder of the diverse ways humans have sought to connect with the divine.

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Mescaline and Psychedelic Culture

One of the most notable effects of mescaline is its ability to enhance sensory experiences and alter perception. This has made it a popular choice among artists, musicians, and writers who have used the drug as a tool to explore new realms of creativity.

The influence of mescaline can be seen in some of the most iconic works of art and literature of the 20th century. Artists such as Salvador Dali and Henri Michaux are reported to have experimented with mescaline, while writers such as Aldous Huxley and Carlos Castaneda have written extensively about their experiences with the drug.

Though perhaps less popular than psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, mescaline continues to captivate the minds of those interested in exploring altered states of consciousness.


So there you have it, a brief overview of mescaline and its fascinating properties. It is a psychoactive compound found in cacti such as the San Pedro and peyote cactus, with a long history of use in indigenous cultures for religious and spiritual purposes.  Though mescaline may currently have a small presence in today’s psychedelic renaissance, increased research could see a revival of interest in mescaline, and a potentially new major candidate for psychedelic-assisted therapies. 


What is mescaline?

Mescaline is a psychoactive compound and a natural hallucinogen found in cacti such as the San Pedro and peyote. It is known for its mind-altering effects.

What are the effects of mescaline?

Mescaline acts as a psychedelic drug and a hallucinogen, altering perception and enhancing sensory experiences. It is classified as a mind-altering substance.

Does mescaline have therapeutic potential?

Yes, there is research suggesting that mescaline, in combination with therapy, could be effective in treating addiction to alcohol and drugs. It may also help reduce the effects of anxiety and depression.

What is the history of mescaline?

Mescaline has a rich historical background, with its cultural and indigenous use in rituals and ceremonies. Scientists and researchers have also studied mescaline throughout history.

How does mescaline relate to psychedelic culture?

Mescaline has played a significant role in psychedelic culture, influencing art, music, and literature. It is associated with the counterculture movement of the 1960s and is known to inspire creativity and spiritual experiences.

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