Name: Peyote (Lophophora Williamsii)
Otherwise known as: Mescal Button
Habitat: A small, compact, spineless member of the Cactacea family growing to no more than 7cm in desert soil in Mexico and the southern United States. It is grey/green and displays tufted hairs with pink to white flowers. All parts are poisonous.
What does it do: The Aztecs and Native Americans used Peyote in their religious ceremonies to induce a sense of euphoria which was necessary when sacrificing prisoners to placate the Gods. The Aztecs considered the plant sacred. The plant was dried into buttons and used to induce a trance-like state by Shamen in search of knowledge and prophesy.
Peyote contains the alkaloids Anphalamine, Mescaline, Anhalonidine and Lophophorine. Medicinally it is used as a cardiac tonic, an emetic, and is said to be useful in cases of neurasthenia, hysteria and asthma, also recommended in treating gout, neuralgia and rheumatism. Psychiatrists have experimented with extracts from the plant in treating cases of violent insanity inducing sleep and muscle relaxation without undesirable side effects.
Excessive use of the plant can lead to mental instability causing visual excitement involving disturbing visions and distressing night and day-mares. In addition, it has been noted that regular users appear to be unaware of pain and suffer from insomnia.
Alexander McCowan is author of The World’s most Dangerous Plants