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Scientific Name(s): Lophophora williamsii (Lem. ex Salm-Dyck) J.M. Coult.
Common Name(s): Anhalonium, Peyote, Peyotl, Peytote, Ubatama

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 22, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Clinical studies of peyote are lacking. CNS effects, including hallucinations, have been described. Peyote may have immune-related activity against cancer cell lines; however, clinical studies are lacking to support this use. The use of peyote is illegal in the United States, except for religious use by the Native American Church.


Clinical studies of peyote do not provide a basis for dosage recommendations. No standardization of preparations exists.

When used for its hallucinogenic properties, doses have ranged from 400 to 700 mg of mescaline (a component of peyote), equivalent to 10 to 20 g of dried peyote buttons.


Contraindications have not been identified; peyote use may increase the risk of psychoses in individuals with mental health conditions.


Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy during pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Symptoms of mild to moderate toxicity, including hallucinations, tachycardia, agitation, and mydriasis, have been reported with peyote use. Peyote buttons are bitter and may cause vomiting and other GI effects when consumed.


Few toxicological studies of peyote have been conducted. Mescaline is distributed into the liver and brain. In one human study, no chromosomal abnormalities due to peyote use were detected.

Scientific Family

  • Cactaceae (cactus)


L. williamsii is a small, fleshy, spineless cactus plant native to Mexico and southern parts of the United States, preferring scrub or limestone conditions. The plant is slow growing, forming clusters of grey-green, bulbous shoots (up to 12 cm wide) close to the ground. The tops of the shoots (called "buttons") are harvested and dried. Peyote produces pink (sometimes white or yellow) flowers that open during the day, forming small (2 cm), edible, flesh-colored fruits. When mature, the fruits are dry and off-white colored and contain small (1 to 1.5 mm), pear-shaped black seeds.Duke 2002, Kapadia 1968, Kapadia 1970, USDA 2016 A synonym for L. williamsii is Echinocactus williamsii.


Peyote buttons dating back to at least 3000 BC have been found at Texas archaeological sites. For thousands of years, American Indians have used peyote for ritual and healing purposes. The plant has been traditionally used for pain (eg, toothache), rheumatism, colds, blindness, and alcoholism. Peyote use is illegal in the United States, except for religious use by the Native American Church.Blum 1977, Carod-Artal 2015, Carstairs 2010, El-Seedi 2005


Peyote contains more than 60 hallucinogenic alkaloids of the phenethylamine family, especially mescaline.Bruhn 2008, Carod-Artal 2015 Other identified compounds include tetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloids (including peliotine, anhalonidine, lophophorine, anhalonine, and others), tyramine and its derivatives, and other alkaloidal amides.Duke 1992, Kapadia 1970, Ma 1986, Monte 1997

Uses and Pharmacology

CNS effects

Animal data

Mescaline has demonstrated high affinity for the 5-HT2A (serotonin) receptor.Monte 1997, Nichols 2004

Clinical data

Few clinical studies have been reported. A study among healthy volunteers showed that mescaline induced an acute psychotic state, while in another study, mescaline (500 mg as mescaline sulfate) increased frontal cerebral blood flow.Nichols 2004 A retrospective study among Native American Church members who used peyote occasionally for religious purposes showed no evidence of psychological or cognitive deficits according to standard neuropsychological tests of memory and attentional/executive functions.Halpern 2005 Other analyses have also shown that use of mescaline and other psychedelics does not contribute to long-term mental health issues; however, this is still being debated.Krebs 2013, Nesvåg 2015

Other uses

Limited in vitro studies have reported stimulation of lymphocyte function and activity against certain human cancer cell lines.Franco-Molina 2003


Clinical studies of peyote do not provide a basis for dosage recommendations. No standardization of preparations exists.

When used for its hallucinogenic properties, doses have ranged from 400 to 700 mg of mescaline (a component of peyote), equivalent to 10 to 20 g of dried peyote buttons.Duke 2002 In a clinical study, mescaline sulfate at a dose of 500 mg was sufficient to produce a psychotic state.Nichols 2004

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Clinical information regarding safety and efficacy during pregnancy or lactation is lacking.


None well documented. Additive effects are likely if used with other hallucinogenic compounds.

Adverse Reactions

Epidemiological studies suggest few adverse effects associated with the use of peyote for religious purposes. Peyote use may increase the risk of psychoses in individuals with mental health issues.Halpern 2005 Peyote buttons are bitter and may cause vomiting and other GI effects when consumed.Carstairs 2010 In animal studies, mescaline doses exceeding 20 to 60 mg/kg produced hypotension, bradycardia, and respiratory depression. Cardiovascular and respiratory effects in humans may be variable and dose dependent.Barceloux 2012


Few toxicological studies on peyote have been conducted. Mescaline from peyote is distributed to the liver and brain.Henry 2003 A review of the California Poison Control System database records from 1997 to 2008 suggest mild to moderate toxicity from peyote consumption or insufflation; adverse reactions include hallucinations, tachycardia, agitation, and mydriasis.Carstairs 2010 No chromosomal abnormalities were found among American Indians who used subhallucinogenic doses of peyote for ceremonial purposes compared with controls.Dorrance 1975

Index Terms

  • Echinocactus williamsii


Barceloux DG. Medical Toxicology of Drug Abuse: Synthesized Chemicals and Psychoactive Plants. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
Blum K, Futterman SL, Pascarosa P. Peyote, a potential ethnopharmacologic agent for alcoholism and other drug dependencies: possible biochemical rationale. Clin Toxicol. 1977;11(4):459-472.201426
Bruhn JG, El-Seedi HR, Stephanson N, Beck O, Shulgin AT. Ecstasy analogues found in cacti. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2008;40(2):219-222.18720674
Carod-Artal FJ. Hallucinogenic drugs in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures. Neurologia. 2015;30(1):42-49.21893367
Carstairs SD, Cantrell FL. Peyote and mescaline exposures: a 12-year review of a statewide poison center database. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2010;48(4):350-353.20170392
Dorrance DL, Janiger O, Teplitz RL. Effect of peyote on human chromosomes. Cytogenetic study of the Huichol Indians of Northern Mexico. JAMA. 1975;234(3):299-302.1174242
Duke J. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and Their Activities. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Inc; 1992. Accessed 2014.
Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke P. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
El-Seedi HR, De Smet PA, Beck O, Possnert G, Bruhn JG. Prehistoric peyote use: alkaloid analysis and radiocarbon dating of archaeological specimens of Lophophora from Texas. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;101(1-3):238-242.15990261
Franco-Molina M, Gomez-Flores R, Tamez-Guerra P, Tamez-Guerra R, Castillo-Leon L, Rodríguez-Padilla C. In vitro immunopotentiating properties and tumour cell toxicity induced by Lophophora williamsii (peyote) cactus methanolic extract. Phytother Res. 2003;17(9):1076-1081.14595591
Halpern JH, Sherwood AR, Hudson JI, Yurgelun-Todd D, Pope HG Jr. Psychological and cognitive effects of long-term peyote use among Native Americans. Biol Psychiatry. 2005;58(8):624-631.16271313
Henry JL, Epley J, Rohrig TP. The analysis and distribution of mescaline in postmortem tissues. J Anal Toxicol. 2003;27(6):381-382.14516493
Kapadia GJ, Fayez MB. Peyote constituents: chemistry, biogenesis, and biological effects. J Pharm Sci. 1970;59(12):1699-1727.5499699
Kapadia GJ, Highet RJ. Peyote alkaloids. IV. Structure of peyonine, novel beta-phenethylpyrrole from Lophophora williamsii. J Pharm Sci. 1968;57(1):191-192.5652132
Krebs TS, Johansen PØ. Psychedelics and mental health: a population study. PLoS One. 2013; 8(8):e63972.23976938
Lophophora williamsii. USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (, 2016). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. 2016.
Ma WW, Jiang XY, Cooks RG, et al. Cactus alkaloids, LXI. Identification of mescaline and related compounds in eight additional species using tlc and ms/ms. J Nat Prod. 1986;49(4):735-737.3783171
Monte AP, Waldman SR, Marona-Lewicka D, et al. Dihydrobenzofuran analogues of hallucinogens. 4. Mescaline derivatives. J Med Chem. 1997;40(19):2997-3008.9301661
Nesvåg R, Bramness JG, Ystrom E, Suzanne Krebs T, Johansen PØ. The link between use of psychedelic drugs and mental health problems. J Psychopharmacol. 2015;29(9):1035-1036.26395581
Nichols DE. Hallucinogens. Pharmacol Ther. 2004;101(2):131-181.14761703


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