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San Pedro Retreats: The Complete 2023 Guide

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San Pedro = (W/Hu)achuma = Trichocereus peruvianus (echinopsis pachanoi)

“San Pedro Is the Shaman, the facilitator is your trusty guide to meeting that shaman, well.”

As far back as 10,800 years, the San Pedro Cactus of the Andes in Peru, South America has been revered for its ability to heal sickness, provide insight, and bring good fortune. Increasingly popular in contemporary psychedelic renaissance, this entheogen remains one of humanity’s oldest ancestral medicines with untapped potential.

While many experience gentle heart opening and ego dissolution, some endeavour to explore the depths that Huachuma holds. First time seekers and veteran psychonauts can find something remarkably transformative on their healing journey through contact with this medicine at every level. Regardless of the level of experience, the take away is profoundly enriching.

At milder doses the participant is physically quite charged and our heart is revealed to our consciousness, lending itself to a very unique vitality and union of body, mind, and spirit. This is a very user friendly experience; many choose to utilize this energy for day hikes, yoga, and chi gong. For most, this is the expected extent of what the cactus can teach and is a misnomer as the medicine goes much much deeper.

At higher doses the participant is more and more immersed within an internal and yet cosmic dialogue in the most spectacular of ways. There’s still plenty of physical energy, but coordination is challenged by the gravity of the medicine undertaken. Many equate this experience to DMT/ AYA/ IBOGA / PSILO, and find cacti to feel safe while other medicines have triggered intense paranoia at equal depths.

San Pedro, Cactus. Source: Maxwell Wieland


While DMT/ AYA/ PSILO are tryptamine, cacti like huachuma and peyote are phenethylamine (the same category as MDA / Ecstasy) which might be in part why they are often reported to be incredibly pleasurable and kind.

In contrast to ayahuasca and other more purgative entheogens like Iboga, huachuma need not be purged and in doing so the medicine's digestion is inhibited and the fullest effects cannot be discovered.

Additionally its metabolism is 16-20 hours compared to AYA/ PSILO at 4-6. The Cactus’ alkaloid dose is hundreds to thousands of milligrams, while DMT/ AYA/ PSILO all have only single to double digit milligram range.

The volume of medicinal alkaloid metabolized lend itself to a more thorough physical healing process. The comparative slowness of this medicine offers a more comfortable integration especially with more heroic type doses.

Often strong medicines can feel disorienting at higher doses in part due to the rapid onset. Meanwhile the cactus does a great job of gently escalating the experience, wave after wave.

While tryptamine based entheogens provide a sense of “experience” there’s something remarkably “real” about the dopamine spiking medicine that in a way doesn’t seem to fade, as it always was you, but now revealed. The awareness attained feels accelerated and different than the tryptamine kingdom which has a peculiar sense of stark “differentness” compared to the way the mind feels outside of “tryptamine” medicines. It feels more welcome in many ways but it's difficult to explain how or why. In a way this is why experiences with San Pedro can be less guided and more a protected space of blossoming consciousness. They are an unveiling of Self on many levels.



All medicines have their own feeling, and many cactus medicines (a phenethylamine cocktail) produce a very good, ecstatic even. Anecdotally, this is at a much higher frequency to occur than other medicines, in part why most might’ve fallen in love with it after even a single experience. For folks worried it may be unpleasant, there’s a large population who would lovingly suggest otherwise.

There’s no prerequisite to working with huachuma and because of its spectrum of applications it’s a welcomed first and final step for those called to commune with the medicine. Although it’s inadvisable to use psychedelic medicines while following other prescriptions, It is very safe in concert with other pharmaceuticals and has very few contraindications. This offers a gentle opportunity for more mild/micro dosing and learning to work through a weaning off of other antidepressants.

Individuals suffering from psychological and neurological conditions may find relief as it balances the nervous system through a mass resetting and formation of new neural pathways. Once a pathway is established it is more likely to be used. A mind stretched to new dimensions can never return to its previous limitations, you cannot unsee it. Also the neurogenic Law of Facilitation states, the more a neural pathway is used, the more dominant it becomes. Through the revelation process the mind is rewired in a less traumatized way, the more the mind explores that network the more that new cognition becomes dominant. This renders previous environmental triggers benign, reducing them to pure stimuli devoid of negative context. The PTSD community has a tremendous tool waiting to be discovered here.

Additionally and somewhat exponentially by practicing expansive neural pathway medicine, mental diseases like depression are fundamentally unable to root. The mind / brain is refreshed prior to fresh traumas creating secondary and tertiary complications, a buoyancy of health for the nervous system in the sea of chaos that life can feel like. This is also why once and done medicine tourism cannot provide the fullest benefit. Unlike typical “antidepressants” this medicinal plant works as a needed perception adaptor, revealing forgotten joy and awe that makes life seemingly more meaningful as well as balancing the neural/physiology of the person when they feel “out of tune”.

Even individuals who have been terrified of psychedelics can explore huachuma deeply. One said after a terrifying 5-MEO experience which turned him off of entheogens for years that it was “a perfect way back to the multiverse” as it “gently guides you”. Addiction therapy potential is also incredibly vast, not entirely dissimilar to iboga’s remarkable effects, but incredibly understudied at present.

While miracles have been known to occur they are difficult to understand and physical healings have been known to occur with this medicine, adding to its awe. There has been at least one case of terminal colon cancer being reversed as well as some other incredible instances including but not limited to relief from chronic conditions.  At the very least the medicine can direct the mind to attaining insight to the root of the disease so that the person can live a life in such a way they no longer contract such disease. Spoiler alert, it's usually a dietary awakening at the very least.



Glad you asked, the huachuma cactus medicine is rich in phenethylamines, most notably mescaline.

While the plant medicine can be prepared as a powder that you can add onto food or in a smoothie, the highest efficacy of digestion is tea. The effects begin within minutes and build over a few hours into rolling peaks from hours 3-9, before tapering off for another 5-10 hours. The higher the dose the longer the session, and the recovery period.

San Pedro, Cactus. Source: Maxwell Wieland


Luckily the plant is easily sustainably grown and harvested with love by an increasing number of enthusiasts and garden centers world wide. It grows throughout the entire Andean mountain chain and has now been found in the wilds of even Africa and Australia. It’s available in (although commonly a weaker form) at many home and garden stores across the world and is a great way to begin caring for succulents and cactus at home. There’s nothing more special than sharing medicine you’ve helped grow.

However most commercial San Pedritos use commercially made San Pedro powder. Often this powder is poached from the Andes in an unsustainable as well as potentially hazardous manner. The plant absorbs much from the environment and poached plants are most easily accessed near roads where trash and debris are more dense. If possible, attempt to clarify the source of the plant medicine in any non native ceremony.

San Pedro grows prolifically and with mild effort can be cultivated into an abundance. The rapid growth from mature plants produce several ceremonial doses each year and can live well over a hundred years. Most other medicines are much slower growing and require much more effort to cultivate, giving huachuma a tremendous edge in sustainable use. Consider mature iboga is a 50 year old plant, while peyote and ayahuasca vine are 5-10-15 years as well. San Pedro in a few weeks to months produces an equivalent dose of medicine.

Importation and production of this plant medicine into powder is in most parts of the world a severe criminal act, while growing the plant in most of those places is entirely welcome to its citizens.



From neurogenic and epigenetic physiological transformation to psycho-spiritual revelation, the sacred medicine is on every level astounding. Mescaline cactus use has even been known for its effects in radically affected populations with addiction like alcoholism as witnessed in American Indian reservations during the post prohibition era. The medicine releases increased levels of human growth hormone and prolactin in our bodies allowing for both physical growth and healing/immune benefits. Familial and social healing are achieved by means of neurotransmitter-stimulated fellowship / bonding. Not only does it inspire a feeling of connection to life, planet, and even fellow man, most people come to feel rejuvenated in body and mind after working with the cactus. Re-centered and inspired, we feel truly ALIVE.

Psychoactive effects include boundary dissolution of self, space, and time. Contact with the divine via synthesia rich entities. This is truly the part of the puzzle we collectively are attempting to unveil and map. Listen to some others experience with these types of exposures ->

Users report insight into the nature of reality. This existential probing yields revelations oft concerning God, dualism, self, and meaning of life.

These profound shifts in consciousness are typical of entheogens and psychedelic medicine. Due to the transformative nature of the experience it may take some time to appropriately integrate the lessons into daily and non ceremonial life as well as share in confidence or group the experience they had. For this reason it is important to have an experienced practitioner when working with this and any medicines’ depths to achieve the highest potential of communion.

Compounding the practice with other practices is a great way to deepen both and secure more of the medicine mind state in your other disciplines. For example breath meditation can be used during the ceremony as well as on its own after. Physical practices like yoga and chi gong also inspire new neurological pathways for the practices and build the core of the systems that flow with what some call Chi. We really have only just begun to explore this multidisciplinary approach as a species.

Commonly huachuma is not administered in the context of “heroic”/ macro doses. When seeking this type of experience it's been the trick of a charlatan “shaman” to add other psychoactive plants like “toé” aka tree datura, a reliably potent and very dangerous deliriant hallucinogen. This cheap explosive trades powerful effects for health, and is often the reason why an unknowing ayahuasca tourist is found dead after a ceremony. San Pedro need not be combined with any other plant- and if it has been its safest to enquire which and why.

Most huachuma practice is in the light to moderate range, largely due to the unawareness that it can be made into a stronger medicine as well as the lack of continuity through once and done ethno-tourism. While it's likely to be amazed and moved with every single encounter, it is not a healthy expectation to become familiar with what it can do and reveal through encounters of which you can attempt to number. This is a lifelong practice, like any, always growing and deepening with resonance to the soul we all have under these projections of identity we call ego.

If one hopes to work in the higher end of dosing, it is most advisable to find a well practiced guide to tutor your process to openings at such a level. The work is intense and even more-so fulfilling, but should be done with absolute respect and compassion as we are so vulnerable in this metamorphosis. It is the role of the facilitator to be the guardian of such a sacred and deeply psychological process, to ensure the safety and well being of the person coming through these sacred doors of perception.

San Pedro, Cactus. Source: Maxwell Wieland


When we drink the medicine of this sacred plant during a San Pedro ceremony, we enter a covenant. This soul contract is signed by the tea being digested. This signatory must be capable of signing, and if that body is overwhelmed by the medicine, it will be purged and the contract will discontinue significantly. The highest efficiency of this medicine is to finish the paperwork, and not scatter half across the office for next business day. Take on what you can, and build up too, ceremony by ceremony. Trust must first be established but it requires experience. While blind faith is helpful, the relationship with medicine is not one with short cuts. However, the more you work with this medicine, the more the medicine opens to you by cleaning the stomach and co-operating with your body to fully channel health and transformation.


Similar to that of an ayahuasca retreat, where you can expect to head down to a place such as the Sacred Valley of Peru, near the town of Cusco, and embark on a fully immersive 7-14 day retreat in the Amazon Jungle, you will find many comparisons with San Pedro retreat.

In fact there are many ayahuasca retreat centers that also offer a San Pedro ceremony after an ayahuasca ceremony to help ground and integrate the insights of the master plant. Although, if you want to experience San Pedro on its own, you might want to find a retreat center with experts specializing in the medicinal cactus.

A retreat will feature a San Pedro ceremony or multiple ceremonies spread out over a week, along with healing modalities such as yoga, a shamanic plant dieta, cacao sessions, breath work, sharing circles, and massage. The food will typically be vegan or vegetarian and there might be a dining area, ceremony space, activity rooms, hiking trails, pools, libraries, and more.

Retreat centers are typically immersed in nature, in the jungle or by the beach, the perfect place to enhance your connection with Mother Earth. Popular destinations include Ecuador, Peru, Portugal, and Costa Rica. You may prefer to go to Peru if you are also interested in ayahuasca or in visiting cultural sites in the Andes Mountains such as Machu Picchu, or it might be more appealing for you to head over to Ecuador to work with an authentic Ecuadorian shaman.

Before you go, you will want to check on the legal status of San Pedro in the country of choice. Many for example mistake Captain Morgan’s Retreat in San Pedro Town, Belize, for a psychedelic retreat center. Although the town’s name seemingly indicates the legality of the medicinal plant, it is not related.


The last thing you want to do is choose one of the first retreat centers you see, say a little prayer that everything will be great, and head straight to your destination.

Choosing your San Pedro Retreat Center is just as important as choosing your psilocybin mushroom or ayahuasca retreat center. Likewise, choosing the healer who will guide your spiritual deep healing journey is as nuanced as choosing your ayahuasca shaman.  

You can read our in-depth article on how to choose your retreat center and guide HERE which includes important considerations and questions to ask the prospective person/center.

Authentic Ecuadorian shamans may be difficult to find unless you are ready to head down south to the jungle, but there are experienced San Pedro guides around the world who operate both using traditional shamanism and modern healing modalities. It really depends on the spiritual direction you are feeling called to take.

You might want to also consider the location. Are you ready and able to spend a week in the amazon jungle surrounded by natural beauty and all its diversity? Maybe you feel more comfortable on a beach in Mexico? If you’re in Europe you could also go somewhere in Spain, like Cuenca. Or you might be able to find a San Pedro healing retreat somewhere in your own country.

Behold Retreats works with highly experienced San Pedro healers and guides and can assist you in creating the perfect retreat to suit your needs. Book a consultation with them HERE


Preparation and integration are two vastly overlooked elements of plant medicine work. San Pedro is a powerful and incredible healing medicine, but in order to make lasting changes to your daily life, mental and emotional work is needed.

The ritual of taking care of your body, mind, and soul is the most important factor in determining the type of psychedelic experience you will have and the magnitude of your spiritual growth.

Preparation and integration for sacred plants can involve detoxing, eating/cutting out specific food, meditation, journaling, somatic therapy, self-inquiry, and emotional processing. You might even want to take off an extra week after your San Pedro retreat to rest and relax at a yoga retreat.

Behold Retreats offers a 7-week life accelerator to ensure that you make the most of your plant medicine experience, guiding you through preparation and integration before your spiritual retreat with expert coaches who have worked with over 1500 clients on psychedelic journeys.


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