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Full Review
Trout's Notes on San Pedro and Related Trichocereus Species
by Keeper of the Trout & Friends
Better Days 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Justin Case, 8/15/2006

This book, which began as a chapter in Sacred Cacti and Some Sacred Succulents, concerns San Pedro cacti (Trichocereus species). Trichocereus contain mescaline, the powerful hallucinogen also found in peyote. Conveniently, the full title of this book—Trout’s Notes on San Pedro and Related Species: A Guide to their Visual Recognition with Notes on their Botany, Chemistry and History—gives a precise indication of its content. The blurb on the back cover also proclaims that the book is “more than you need to know” and this is probably true, even for those readers particularly interested in Trichocereus—unless you truly desire very exhaustive discussions that split hairs about species, subspecies, strains, varieties, botanical identification, classification and naming of Trichocereus cacti and so on.

In addition, only the most technically apt readers will appreciate (or even begin to understand) the information provided on the chemical extraction and analysis of “tricho” cacti. However, more information is better than not enough information, and this book is certainly a great contribution to the body of ethnopharmacology. No one else seems to be providing even a fraction of the detail contained in this book and the authors are to be highly commended for all their research. One could say that Trout’s Notes on San Pedro is to Trichocereus cacti species what Alexander Shulgin’s TiHKAL
is to tryptamines. And just as only chemists with interest in tryptamines could fully appreciate TiHKAL, only botanists with a special interest in mescaline-containing cacti can fully appreciate Trout’s Notes.

The entire book is packed with black and white photos of various tricho cacti. Many of these photos show specimens that are far larger or more varied than what most of us are accustomed to seeing on the internet. Throughout the book one can also find material on extraction and bioassaying of various species of Trichocereus. Perhaps this would be a better book if the authors had stooped to the level of readers who do not have degrees in chemistry and botany. Then again, perhaps this is not possible. I cannot claim to know, as most of this book is over my head.

Hidden in the thickets of highly technical material, however, are a few pockets of information geared for less technically oriented readers. Trout offers some notes on the legality of these cacti, and examines the myths surrounding the supposed dangers of mescaline. He gives basic notes on dosage and a selection of strains that compare dosage required and effects gained, including dosage information for Trichocereus pachanoi.

To this reviewer, the real gem of the book begins on page 106, where the authors give a very detailed history of San Pedro, including citations of the literature. Neither Jonathon Ott’s Pharmacotheon nor Christian Ratsch’s Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants offer anything like this much detail on the history of the cacti. Trout and friends include a long list of psychoactive plants traditionally used with San Pedro cacti, as well as suggestions for further reading grouped by subcategories.

Disappointingly, this book contains no info on the cultivation of these cacti. It is difficult to imagine why the authors would not provide such details when they seem to know everything there is to know about these cacti. Be that as it may, the information found in Trout’s books is important to preserve for the entheogenic community. It is for this reason alone that this reviewer chose to buy the book. Besides, sooner or later, the book will be out of print and sought after the way that Pharmacotheon and other choice books are—although by a smaller and more specialized group of readers.

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