Cactus -> Mescaline, A Trichocereus Extraction

Nan's Nook : Archives : Botanicals : Cactus : Mescaline Extractions

The raw material for the extraction was midwest suburban grown San Pedro. I ran approx 20 clay pots with an average diameter of 10 inches. The pots were started with 12-18 inch tip cuttings rooted in my lime soil mix.* The picture below shows cactus wintering dormant inside. They are not growing indoors.

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See threads: San Pedro, Peyote, Mescaline : Growing San Pedro* - Lime Soil Mix

The cactus was harvested with a smooth sharp knife and a pair of heavy pruning shears where it was required to cut through woody joints. I left 12-18 inch stalks behind in the pots in order to regenerate quickly.

The harvested cactus was washed and scrubbed with a stiff vegitable brush and liquid detergent then rinsed well. It was then sliced lengthwise into quarter strips and fed into a 1/2 hp garbage disposal. A syphon stream of Distilled or RO Water acidified with 20 mls of concentrated H2SO4 (Sulfuric Acid) per 5 gallons was used to assist the processing.

Some pics of the cactus processing:

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^ Sorry about the mess. You see the 1/2 HP garbage disposal (courtesy of OneDiaDem) mounted in a printer stand with the discharge tube going into a 7 gallon food grade plastic bucket. You can see the end of some cacti columns on the coffee table in the rear of the photo.

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^ The consistency of elephant snot with lots of chopped grass for body. Needs water to process thru the disposal though.

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^ A whole stalk dissappears down the hatch. I found it was better to feed in sliced strips than entire stalks like this, this popped the motor protection circuit and required a cool down.

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^ That started out as a stack weighing 50lbs at the start of this grind.

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^ Poking it on through... That's a good shot of the raw material I had to work with. The coffee table is 4-1/2 feet long, most stalks go from end to end (or pretty close) that harvest is a 4 year grow from 20 pots. There is a lot still unharvested, but I got enough.

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^ Now we are rolling. The plastic carboy contains RO Water acidified with about 20 mls of conc H2S04 to aid in the grinding and extraction. Cutting the cactus into strips also speeds the process and lightens the load on the disposal.

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^ The raw product: foamy elephant snot with chopped grass laugh.gif

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The raw acidified cactus pulp was poured into a stainless steel pot and placed in a large pressure cooker where it was brought to 15 lbs steam for 45 mins to break down the plant cells, denature the slimy proteins, and release the juice. The cooking process used a "double boiler" arrangement to prevent scorching the cactus pulp. The pressure cooker had several inches of water in it, the stainless steel pot containing the cactus pulp sat in the water on a stand-off plate, so it cooked in a water/steam bath. This slowed the cooking time, but prevented scorching the goodies.

Once the cooking was completed, the hot pulp was dumped into a dress shirt rubberbanded around a 5 gallon bucket to filter and the free liquid was strained off. After draining, the shirt was carefully removed without dumping pulp, and the whole works was then transferred into a wine press. The shirt was left in place as a filter, the arms were cut back, and extra material was folded over on top and covered with the press plate. The pulp was slowly squeezed down to about 1/3 of it's orginal volume. Cactus requires chopping, heat, and pressure, and a lot of all of it, to give up the goods smirk.gif

The first liquid extraction produced 23 gallons of strong juice.

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See: Nan's Pedro Syrup

The squeezed pulp was dumped into a plastic cooler and 10 gallons of RO Water was added with about 40 mls of concentrated H2SO4. The pulp was allowed to soak and rehydrate for 48 hours and then the pulp was cooked, strained and pressed a second time. After the second pressing all that was left of the solid plant material was blocks of fiber which were discarded. The second liquid extraction yielded 11 gallons of liquid.

All strained and filtered liquid from the acidic water extraction process (34 gallons) was boiled down and combined. I used a 10 gallon stainless steel brew pot on a jetted out turkey fryer for the boildown. It puts out nearly two feet of flame and boils off water at about 2 gallons an hour. A vented hood ducted out the smell into the dead winter night.

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Photo by ShroomVator: Cactus Syrup by Shroomvator

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Photo by ShroomVator

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Photo by ShroomVator

My boildown resulted in ~5 gallons of Pedro syrup which was then strained into a 25 liter glass jug (carboy). To this syrup bottle was added 3 pounds of sodium hydroxide (lye, NaOH) slowly with plenty of agitation, then I added 1.5 gallons of xylene to set up an extraction. This process requires no defatting I discovered, the only oily plant material coming into the solvent is yellow chlorophyll and it does not defat effectively. There is a much easier process I discovered wink.gif

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^ 25 liter extraction bottle. Cactus syrup on the bottom, a curdy layer of emulsion (it had just been shaken), solvent on top.

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^ Closeup of the solvent layer on the extraction bottle. Yellow tint is from chlorophyll picked up by the solvent (along with freebase mescaline wink.gif )

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^ Syphoning solvent off from the extraction bottle for precipitation.

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^ Into an empty solvent can for holding and pouring.

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^ Solvent poured into a glass precipitation bottle. Notice it's clear.
At this point I diluted conc. sulfuric acid with 2 parts of distilled water and began introducing squirts of dilute (but still very stong) acid from a dropper into the solvent. SEE: Mescaline Extractions

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^ Diluted sulfuric acid has been introduced into the solvent and the bottle has been shaken. Mescaline sulfate crystals precipitate out of solution.

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^ It's snowing!!! It's snowing!!!! wacko.gif

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^ Clumps of mescaline sulfate drop to the bottom biggrin.gif

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^ Returning the exhausted solvent back to the extraction bottle. A pound of lye (sodium hydroxide, NaOH) has been added and gently worked into the syrup previously.

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^ Rolling the extraction bottle on carpet to mix the solvent and syrup up for the next day's precipitation.

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^ The wet precipitation bottle is placed in a crock pot to dry off the solvent. That upside down wash tub is actually my vented hood which deals with the vapors blush.gif

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^ Mescaline sulfate crystals coat the glass walls too.

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^ The one pint precip bottles take too long when working with over a gallon of solvent a day... This 50 oz apple sauce jar finds itself coated with mescaline too wink.gif

At then end of every precipitation I added another pound of lye to the syrup/solvent extraction bottle and worked it several times over a period of hours (see photo 24) before setting it up to settle overnight for the next days precipiation.

Some more detailed notes on the handling the precipitate...

Once the solvent is poured off the mescaline sulfate (and it matters not what drug salt you are working with really) you will end up with solvent wet bottles (highly flammable guys) containing a slurry of water, acid, and salted out drugs in the bottom.

The best way to dry these is in a hot water bath under an exhaust hood to vent the fumes. There are cheap ingenious ways to work around (I once did this in a dorm room and dried/vented the bottles with a two holed rubber stopper, some plastic tubing, and an aquarium pump which exhausted out a crack in the window. The bottles were heated with hot water ferried from the bathroom down the hall.) - A crock pot and a ventilated hood are the best.

The precipitate on the bottom of the bottle is likely to go into solution upon heating. It will darken too as extraction residue (like my yellow pigment) oxidizes from exposure to acid, heat, and air. I let the precip bottles stay in the hot water bath for about an hour under moving air before I am ready to wash the precip bottles out.

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A wash bottle ^ is filled with distilled water and placed in the crock pot. Hot water from the wash bottle is sprayed into the precip bottle to dissolve all the solids. The warm precip bottle is capped and shaken throughly, then the liquid is emptied into an glass storage bottle. The precipitation bottle is then washed again with a few mls of hot water and all the rinse water is collected. The idea is to use as little water as possible, and all water used must be Deionized or distilled or you will have problems later.

Now every day I collected more washed solution from my precipitation bottles. To help control the liquid growth I rested the wide mouth glass storage bottles containing my collected precipitate solution in the crock pot set on low. I had a bucket of water set nearby and a syphon hose going into the crockpot to maintain the water level. This keeps the collection bottles heated, driving off much of the water and makes highly acidic concentrate. It also drives off solvent residue and solidifies gum. This accomplished a complete defatting and concentration without the use of another chemical step and it worked beautifully. Gentle application of heat over a day or two wink.gif

So I took all my jet black acidy concentrate. Combined it in a large beaker, and added strong ammonia to neutralize the acid. I added too much and make the solution very basic (it's called a titration, they are a little tricky, I had not done one in a while, and I was anxious)... No big deal, it makes things a little salty after you add acid back in to compensate. You want the pH at 7.0 - 7.2

BTW, I was working with 400 mls of very acidic concentrate. It took 200 mls of strong ammonia to neutralize the acid in the concentrate, and push it the other way making it basic.

Anyways... The hot water bath, the acid, the air... It oxidized the residues in the concentrate solution. The solution turned jet black with a rich mescaline smell and the oxidized gum, oil, and pigment began collecting on the glass walls of the heated storage bottles. Fresh moving air took away the volitiles. I let the solution cook for 36 hours. Then as soon as the acid solution was neutralized with the ammonia, the oxidized gum, oil, and pigment clumped up and collected like soot on the stir rod and the sides of the beaker... The crap precipitated out of solution and the concentrate cleared to a remarkable degree. I used a filter disk cut from a cotton/polyester shirt and caught big chunks of this burnt crap with a fast filter biggrin.gif biggrin.gif biggrin.gif

First time I have tried this, I was very pleased. Heating the precip concentrate solution for a good while really simplifies the cleanup.

Then I added activated carbon, boiled, let it sit until cool (overnight is better) and that picks up the rest of whatever... I got remarkably clean solution. Still had some yellow chlorophyll, the solution had exactly the same yellow tint as the solvent in the extraction bottle pictured above. That's pretty damned clean.

Once again: The trick is gently heating the dark mescaline concentrate solution in a crock pot (or by other similar means) for a day or two (steady, below boiling temps) in order to oxidize the unwanted crap. When you add ammonia to neutralize the excess sulfuric acid in the concentrate, the crap will precipitate out when the pH hits about 7.2. At this point a fast filter through cloth will pick up most the oxidized residue that did not stick to the beaker or stir rod. Polyester cloth filter material seemed to be a magnet for this crap.

To this cloth filtered solution I added a couple of tablespoons of activated carbon (partially powdered), stirred, boiled, stirred, let cool overnight. The solution was then slow filtered through fine paper to remove the carbon dust. This leaves the mescaline sulfate solution very clean angel.gif

Pop it in the freezer. As the solution drops to near freezing, light tan mescaline needles grow out in the yellow tinted solution. The slower you drop the temp, the larger the crystals get. Fast cool = small crystals (good for tooting) slow cool = long fat shards of mescaline (nice for show but need to be dissolved in water to dose). Anyway the cold crystals/solution needs to be fast filtered through cloth in order to get the liquid out from under the crystals. Once the solution is removed from the freezer or sub zero bath it begins to warm, as it warms mescaline sulfate that had been crystalized goes back into solution. The solution must be filtered ice cold, and the liquid has to be removed from the crystals QUICKLY before the liquid warms and the mescaline goes back into solution. The filtration can be done through cloth in a big funnel in the freezer, but I use a vacuum funnel...

In fact I use this exact rig  minus the fancy vacuum machine (I use an Aspirator Pump)

The right tools for the job wink.gif

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^ That is mescaline sulfate produced by this process and ready to use. The curly object on the plate in the upper right is the cloth filter disk used to separate solid mescaline from the liquid solution it was crystalized from.

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^ Sorry I did not get the weight beam fully included in this pic. The scale was tared with the waxed paper on there, the weights actually read 17.7 grams. First crystalization!!! I was so pleased biggrin.gif biggrin.gif biggrin.gif

Let's see... There is actually good detail in this photo too. The white bread plate is the same in both photos. The mescaline being weighed is minus the filter cloth and some loose needles... Still on the plate. The cloth disk was weighed previously at 1.0 gram, it was coated in mescaline and weighed in at 2.0 grams later, the loose needles totaled .25 grams.

You see my gas burner there right above the plate, this crystalization only required one brief lab boil smile.gif Above the gas burner is a 1 liter beaker with about 100 mls of raw mescaline solution. The color is correct, it looks like dark crude oil. The beaker is greasy with acid oxidized chlorophyll... That's what mescaline precip concentrate solution looks like.

The solution that passed through the vacuum filter was combined with the last of the precips and washed waste (filter papers etc)... The pH was adjusted again, a second dose of activated carbon, a hot filter... Then the liquid was boiled down to 300 mls and cooled again to produce another 13.7 grams of mescaline... And the solution still holds more I need to work out yet. It's a good process, low loss, high yield if you have the raw plant material to work with biggrin.gif


Posted by: Nanook Jan 19 03, 10:59 PM GMT
Ok, cleaning up from the pedro extraction brings me back to thinking about ways to improve things. Which brings me to the ever present problem of concentrating the pedro down to the bare minimum.

When cactus gets boiled down to syrup, you still have considerable volume of material, and it becomes highly viscous and prone to overheat and degrade. Without a doubt, the bulk of this material is plant sugar, and if you could easily figure out a way to remove it, you would make any extraction run on this material much much easier.

What about letting yeast break down the sugar and turn it into alcohol? I know there are yeasts that will do the job, I have seen wild yeasts grow in cactus tea before (not nearly as concentrated as syrup).

Would yeast activity break down the mescaline?

Posted by: monkeyod Jan 20 03, 01:29 AM GMT
Is the mescaline soluble in the alcohol? Or would it be in the leftovers after you extract the alcohol?

If it stayed in the alcohol that might make for one interesting 'tequila'. You could call it "Come on baby light my firewater..."

Posted by: newman Jan 20 03, 07:21 AM GMT
The Idea sounds good, If you can get the yeast to live in the syrup.
This may proove quite tricky.

What about adding it to half way reduced pedro, remove sugars, then continue the process.

I would Love to hear more on this coffee.gif

Posted by: Nanook Jan 20 03, 11:48 AM GMT
That is what I am thinking, syrup is too strong to ferment. But a 100% juice solution should ferment fine I would think. Then boil off (or distill) the alcohol, then the water... You would be left with very little bulk after the sugars are reduced methinks smile.gif

So yeah the mescaline should be left in the concentrate after the sugars are fermented and most of the liquids are removed.

Commercial wine yeasts are all bred to ferment in acid solutions. I think with the rate I added H2SO4 into the process would not bother yeast as long as I was not fermenting concentrated solutions.

There is not much protein in cactus. I ended up with a little coagualted protein like egg white on a large batch. There is not much fat either despite what people say about defatting... It's yellow chlorophyll and you can defat for days without getting most of it. It's sugar... That is what you need to get rid of to produce strong concentrates from cactus without chemicals I think.

Posted by: DirtyWOP Jan 20 03, 12:06 PM GMT
Thats an excellent idea.....
You are quite the innovator!
Can you make a still out of a pressure cooker?

Posted by: Nanook Jan 20 03, 12:42 PM GMT
You can make a crude still (even a refluxer) out of a pressure cooker, but it's not nearly as clean, efficient, or as fast as a decent column with the proper diameter tap into the boiler. You ideally want some refluxing in the tower, which means careful temperature control someplace... Either the boiler has to be carefully set with a thermostat or the column is cooled, or both.

The classic moonshine still used a "thumper barrel" to boost the efficiency and proof... But it's messy, takes forever to heat, and has to be filled with mash... Too much work, better to use a column and temperature control somewhere and distill off 198 proof alcohol.


Posted by: ion Jan 22 03, 04:30 PM GMT
I have actually thought about similar things for extraction and production of chems in plants and in vitro... kind of a symbiosis of the chemist and the microorganism. smile.gif

It is probable that the yeasts would do the job... but the main problem then, would be to remove the abundant yeasts in the solution. I don't know how well they would fare in such an acidic environment. Perhaps this question is best suited to our brewers?

As for the removal of sugars in a water solution, in general, I am still looking into it from the last time you asked me, Nan. Not much promise, but I have some ideas about coalescing them and such.

I think this is a great idea as long as yeast is easier to remove than sugar...

I don't think any harm would come to the mescaline. You would have to know what kinds of enzymes exist in your yeast species, of course, to know for sure...

This is where my ideas usually come in... the biological transformation of chem A into chem B by action of enzymes in microorganisms present in a given solution. Like if a bacterium contained a great deal of the enzyme N-methyl transferase, we could feasibly use it in some liquid substrate containing tryptamine to form DMT...

However, I have some suspicion that the mescaline molecule would be most stable in the yeasty solution as a suspended free base, rather than a salt...

What would be truly great, is if we could find a solvent with a higher solving affinity for sugar than water, that is insoluble in water...


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