Cacti produce alkaloids as a defense mechanism against stressors, so it is possible to increase the level by causing external stress. Stressing your cactus should be done carefully: if a cactus undergoes too much stress, it may die. It should also be noted that cacti have a slow metabolism, so it may take an entire growing season for the alkaloid level to rise. Here are a few methods:
This is probably the most common method used to increase alkaloid levels. Watering your cacti less will stress them and cause them to produce alkaloids. Some accounts suggest that you should stop watering your cacti the entire season before harvest to create a good increase.
It is thought that if you place a San Pedro cactus in complete shade (but not in the dark) for a few months, the concentration of alkaloids present is greatly increased.
Too much sunlight can cause cacti to burn. This certainly causes stress, but it should be noted that your cactus can also die from sunburn. Consider placing one or two San Pedro cacti in direct sunlight for a few hours a day and monitoring their reaction closely before putting all your cacti in the sun.
Exposing San Pedro cacti to uncomfortable heat (above 35 degrees Fahrenheit) for long periods of time can also cause stress and increase alkaloid levels. Again, do be careful and don’t go overboard.
Additional nitrogen can also be administered to cacti to increase the concentration of alkaloids. Excessive nitrogen can draw water from the cacti and this induces stress. However, high nitrogen levels can cause withering.
Laboratory studies have shown that increasing the levels of precursors to alkaloids can cause a significant and rapid increase in the actual level of alkaloids. The main precursor is dopamine, which San Pedro converts to mescaline. It is possible to make a dopamine solution and inject it into the cactus before harvest to increase mescaline levels.
Here’s how to proceed:
- Do not water your cactus for 2 weeks before giving the solution.
- Prepare a saturated solution of free-base dopamine in a 0.05 N hydrochloric acid solution. If you cannot find dopamine, you can also use a mixture of tyramine and dopa, which the cactus will convert to dopamine.
- Put 5cc of the solution in a syringe.
- Inject half under the plant, around the roots, and the other half into the green tissue at the bottom of the cactus and at various other points on the stem. Do this slowly and allow the needle to sit in the tissue for a few seconds to promote absorption.
- Wait 4-8 weeks for the dopamine to be converted by the cactus into mescaline.
- The cactus can now be harvested, or the process can be repeated again to further increase the level of alkaloids.
That’s it! You now have all the knowledge you need to become a full-fledged cactus grower.