Peruvian Torch vs San Pedro Cactus

The Peruvian torch cactus and San Pedro are so similar that the two species are almost synonymous to each other. Let’s know some more facts about these two cactus species.

What is Peruvian Torch? – About Peruvian Torch

Photo: Flickr
  • Peruvian torches are also known as popular as Echinopsis peruviana or Trichocereus peruviana (Latin names), Peruvian Apple, Peruvian Apple Cactus, and Apple Cactus. 
  • It is a species of cacti native to the Andes mountain regions of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
  • It grows rapidly about 1 to 2 feet (0.3 to 0.6 metres) per year and can be found at an altitude of 1,000 to 3,000 feet (0.3 to 0.91 kilometres). 
  • The Peruvian torch cactus is a columnar, bluish-green cactus with reddish-brown spines that grows up to a height of 5 metres(16 feet). 
  • Torch cacti are robust plants that are cultivated by the Inca people indigenous to Peru and their antecedents of upto 900 BC for holy rituals. 
  • Among cacti, it is the utmost hallucinogenic, with the compound mescaline in the amount of about 0.5% once totally dried. 
  • They are used as fencing, in cacti and succulent gardens, in pots when small, in clusters in dry parts of the garden and in rock gardens.

Care for Peruvian Torch

  • Echinopsis peruviana likes lots of sun and hot, dry climates.
  • It can endure intermittent frosts and in winters, the minimum temperature resistance is 5 ºC.
  • Peruvian torch grows well in sandy soil that is well- draining and contains organic matter. Early spring is the best time for pot transplantation. 
  • Water adequately and wait for the substrate to dry before next watering; avoid watering from mid-fall to early spring.
  • Pruning is not required for Peruvian torch.
  • Fertilise in early spring using compost and in summers, use a cactus fertiliser once a month.
  • Avoid over-watering to keep pests and diseases away from Peruvian Torch.
  • Propagation by cuttings can be done easily in spring and propagation by seeds is slow and complicated process

What is San Pedro?

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San Pedro Cactus is a rapid-growing columnar cactus that is native to the Andes Mountains. It is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, and it is cultivated in other parts of the world.


  • San Pedro is a columnar cactus with a few spines growing 10 to 20 feet tall.  
  • A single stem soon grows pups and branches, forming a stunning clump of fast-growing pinnacles with astute appearance.
  • Contrary to other columnar cacti, San Pedro is getting increasingly popular to grow in patios and passageways, indoors, in pots, and in sunny places.
  • San Pedro is a native to the Andes mountains of South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru).
  • It contains mescaline—a  psychoactive compound that was the first to be labelled as “psychedelic”.
  • For thousands of years, San Pedro has been an integral element of the spiritual celebrations of various primitive cultures. 
  • In these ceremonies, the San Pedro experience is known to be similar to MDMA and possibly life-changing, encouraging thorough contemplation, therapeutic, and a sense of bewilderment.
  • Customarily, San Pedro has been eaten either single or with other plants in a ritual brew called cimora. Using San Pedro as a psychedelic is unlawful in the US; the plant can be seen adorning farms and gardens throughout the country. 
  • It is also found in ample quantities as San Pedro or Huachuma at the witches’ markets of Peru, as Achuma in Bolivia, and as Aguacolla or Giganton in Ecuador.
  • San Pedro is a powerful psychedelic, and a San Pedro ceremony can be profound and bittersweet. Consuming San Pedro will give everyone a unique experience, but some general things can be expected.
  • Echinopsis pachanoi is a very ornate and disease-resistant plant. It can be propagated from seeds and cuttings.

Care for San Pedro Cactus

  • San Pedro flourish in direct sun, but seedlings may get sunburned in direct sun. Trichocereus pachanoi thrives in light shade in hot summers.
  • Slowly introduce an overwintered indoor plant to direct sunlight, as they may be sunburnt if kept directly in the sun.
  • San Pedro grown indoors will need additional lighting from grow lights.
  • A healthy San Pedro can’t resist temperatures lower than 50° F (10° C) with sporadic dip as low as 15.8° F (-9° C). This cold resistance can be boosted by using Valerian flower extract. 
  • It can grow well in USDA hardiness zones 8B to 10B.
  • Like other succulents, this cactus undergoes dormancy in winters. Avoid watering between October and April to lower the risk of rot.
  • Seedlings can be given a very diluted mix of fertiliser from time to time, but give an undiluted concentration to the fully grown plants. 
  • Use a diluted liquid fertiliser to feed San Pedro and fertilise during the growing season only.
  • Trichocereus pachanoi needs moderately acidic, fertile potting soil that is well- draining.
  • A little bit of humus will lower the risk of rot.
  • One year old seedlings can be  transplanted to pots safely.
  • For grafting or pupping, Trichocereus pachanoi can be clipped. Clip 12” inches or more, as bigger plants grow fast. No other grooming is required for a healthy plant.
  • A little sulphur or diatomaceous earth can be added to the soil to use as a natural pesticide.

Traditional Medicine

Echinopsis pachanoi contains hordenine, (N, N-Dimethyl-hydroxyphenylethylamine) that shows an hindrance against 18 strains of penicillin resistant Staphylococcus bacteria.

Echinopsis pachanoi is used to cure drug addictions, nervous conditions, cardiac disease, high blood pressure etc. It has special antimicrobial properties and it’s stem can be applied to heal wounds, scars, sinusitis, inflammation and fungal infections of the skin.

Veterinary uses

  • Antiparasitic: In cattle and goats, boil the stems of san pedro with alum and lime to get rid of tinea.
  • Foot and mouth disease: The cactus stem is pressed to get a liquid that can be fed and applied on the infected part of the animal.

Other uses

The extract of the stem can be used as a shampoo.

Laundry soap: Soak the cut stem and filter it with or without adding salt or alum to use it to wash wool.


San Pedro has many alkaloids, including the common chemical mescaline (0.21 – 1.8%), and also 3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine, 

4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine, anhalonidine,

4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenethylamine, 3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine, anhalinine, hordenine, tyramine, and 3-methoxytyramine.


  • Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) is a psychoactive drug and entheogen, also found in certain other types of genus Echinopsis like Echinopsis peruviana, Echinopsis scopulicola, Echinopsis lageniformis and the species Lophophora williamsii (peyote).
  • Informal evidence shows that the layers of green photosynthetic tissue under the skin have maximum concentrations of active substances. 
  • The alkaloids will be more in the dark green cactus which can be created by “stressing it” with less sunlight in shade or indoors, keeping a cut section indoors for 6+ weeks, dehydrate, and inoculate the plant with dopamine or a mixture of tyrosine and levodopa.
  • Mescaline is practised by Native American tribes in America because it occurs in a cactus species extensively in the deserts of the US state of Texas and Mexico, named as Peyote.
  • Mescaline is procured from the compact, spineless cactus Peyote (Lophophora williamsii), Peruvian torch cactus, the San Pedro cactus, other mescaline-containing cacti and some members of the Fabaceae (bean) family. It can also be made synthetically.
  • Mescaline has an effect like LSD or psilocybin (magic mushrooms) or other hallucinogenic drugs.
  • Some common effects after use are altered consciousness, visual hallucinations, euphoria, visualisations with open or closed eyes, dreamy mind state, laughter, mixed senses or synesthesia like hearing colours and dilation of pupils etc.
  • Side effects of mescaline use include: increased heart beat, anxiety, fear, dizziness, feeling weak, tremors, diarrhoea,vomiting, nausea, sweating excessively, headache, panic or paranoia, psychosis accidental injury, seizures, amnesia (loss of memory) and post hallucinogenic perceptual disorders etc.
  • Mescaline is not addictive physically like other psychedelic hallucinogens, but a person can become tolerant i.e. higher doses are required to have the same hallucinogenic effect. 
  • Mescaline-containing cacti can trigger severe vomiting and nausea, which is an integral part of traditional Shaman or Native-American celebrations and is observed as a religious and  cleansing ritual.

Extraction of Mescaline

Mescaline can be extracted by using various techniques:

1. Simple like boiling in water for 5 to 7 hours and complex e.g. an acid-base extraction.

2. The complex technique yields a substance with a remarkably higher concentration of mescaline.


Peruvian Torch / Trichocereus Peruviana San Pedro or Echinopsis/ Trichocereus Pachanoi
A fast-growing, bluish green, columnar cactus with a frosted stem and has 6 to 9 broadly rounded ribs.

It can grow up to 6 metres (20 feet) in height.

Initially, it remains fully erect, but  may start leaning as it gets taller.

The San Pedro cactus is a pale green to blue green, multi-columnar small tree that grows fast, about 1 foot per year. 

Each column is about 2.4 inches to 5.9 inches thick and has between 4 and 8 ribs each with upward facing areoles. 

It can be 5 metres tall and have multiple branches, usually originating from the base


A native to the western slope of the Andes in Peru  about 6,600–9,800 ft(2,000-3,000 m) above sea level.  It grows naturally in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, and is also cultivated in other areas of the world.
The thorns of Peruvian Torch are reddish brown in colour, much larger and grow with more width and firmness. The thorns are light brown or dark yellow in colour and smaller in size.
Peruvian torch produces white flowers, but some varieties may produce red flowers.

They bloom at first light. They produce flowers in large numbers of about 50 per specimen.

The flowers last for two to three days.

This cactus produces edible fruit that tastes like dragon fruit. This fruit can be used to make wine.

San Pedro has pointed buds that bloom into  fluted, whitish, fragrant flowers 8.7” inches in diameter in July. 

They bloom at night when the temperature lowers.

The flowers are ephemeral and live only for a day. 

The fruit of San Pedro is mild flavoured and can be consumed. The fruits are covered with black or brown hairs and scales.

The Peruvian torch contains higher alkaloid mescaline than the San Pedro cactus. The Grandiflora of Peruvian torch cactus is consumed for psychedelic effects. Psychedelic brew is obtained from cactus shavings.


Mescaline-containing cacti are legal to grow, but they are prohibited from human consumption. 

I do not support or disregard the illegal use of these plants. However, I assume that illegal drug use takes place. Also, I think that providing wholesome knowledge is important for the safety of people. Keeping this in mind, this article is structured for the well-being of those who choose to use San Pedro cactus as hallucinogen.


Nikita is a Succulent lover. She really enjoys planting and nourishing them. She loves to share information about various Succulents on this blog to aware people more about these awesome plants.

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