Visionary Cactus Guide
CONCENTRATING AND INCREASING ALKALOID LEVELS
There are several different methods of increasing the concentrations of alkaloids in most if not all species of Cactus. One of the main defenses of Cacti is to increase the production of protective alkaloids in response to numerous external stresses. The growing Cactus plant can be "stressed" in a number of ways to help increase the concentration of alkaloids prior to harvest. It should be noted that, since Cacti have a slow metabolism, it may take an entire growing season of stress to significantly affect alkaloid levels. Here are some of the most common and widely tested methods:
Shade - There have been several reports that leaving live, or cut Tricocereus in the shade for several months prior to harvesting does increase the percentage of alkaloids in the tissues of the plant. It is also common in Mexico and South America to leave cut Cacti in large covered stacks for some time prior to being sold. There may be a good reason for that practice.
Excess Sun and Heat - Too much Sun or heat will most definitely stress a live Cactus. It must be realized however, that increasing the alkaloids through stressing will greatly affect the plants growth rate, and might just kill it. Cactus can and do get sunburned, which can be fatal.
Nutrient level variations - Different formulas of fertilizers will affect the growth rate, and therefore the alkaloid mix and percentages. Very high Nitrogen levels in the soil would help to draw water out of the cactus, and promote stress. Use caution as too much Nitrogen will burn your plant. Remember though, a fast growing Cactus is also lower in alkaloids per volume.
Mechanical stress - A much ignored method of significantly increasing alkaloid buildup. The Cactus is cut or gouged in several places to simulate predator damage. The stem can also be girdled by wire, twisted or bent. Care should be taken when penetrating the skin, use sterile techniques to minimize the chance of infection. Although infection would be a major stress on the plant, it would probably die before any useful effects were manifest. Stressing has been practiced on Marijuana for millennia in certain parts of the world, to increase potency.
Watering stress - Depriving the intended victim of water is the most widespread method of trying to increase the alkaloid content. Many people advise to buy your Cactus at least one growing season in advance, and then let them sit, without water, until they are ready to harvest.
Chemical doping - There has been some pioneering work in this area done by Adam Gottlieb.
Increasing the levels of the precursors that lead to mescaline has proven to be a relatively quick and effective way to significantly increase the level of mescaline in a Cactus. There are three major precursors to mescaline, namely dopa, tyramine and dopamine. During mescaline synthesis in the plant, tyrosine is broken down into tyramine and dopa. These then combine to form dopamine, which is later converted to nor-mescaline, and of course mescaline.
It is possible to take advantage of this synthesis route, and use it to vastly increase the mescaline content of the Cactus that will be harvested.
This method can be used successfully on any mescaline bearing Cacti. The steps are as follows:
1. Withhold water from the plant 2 weeks prior to doping. This helps the plant to absorb any injected material more readily.
2. Prepare a saturated solution of free-base dopamine in a .05 N solution of HCL. If dopamine is not available a second best alternative is to use a mixture of tyramine and dopa.
3. Inject approximately 5cc of the solution, half towards the bottom of the plant by the roots. Inject the other half into the green tissue at the base of the plant, and in several other spots up the stem. Do this slowly ,carefully, leaving the needle in place for a few seconds to allow absorption.
4. Wait 4 to 8 weeks before harvest to let the additives metabolize and convert to mescaline. I would not stress the plant during this period, as an actively growing plant is necessary for efficient metabolism.
5. The harvest can be delayed further and a series of booster injections can be given every 6 - 8 weeks to bolster alkaloid levels even more.
Unfortunately many of these precursor compounds are hard to come by or controlled.
Donana ( Coryphantha macromersis ) can be processed in a similar manner to increase its levels of macromerine. Injections of nor-epinephrine can be given in a similar manner about a month prior to harvest.