Plant Medicine: The San Pedro Cactus

“The healer doesn’t choose the plant, but the plant chooses the healer instead.”

I never actively looked for an experience with San Pedro, but this medicine reached out to me and found me all on its own.

I like to think that the universe is mischievous sometimes, but mischievous like a playful child. The universe turned my world upside down and I found myself in Cusco, Peru. I was in a healing house right next to some Inca ruins known as the temple of the moon and I was moments away from taking part in a San Pedro ceremony.

The ceremony took place in the morning, at 10 am to be exact, and there I was sitting in a circle with four other participants. We were all poured a large glass of a yellow substance which had the consistency of mucus, but before drinking this concoction we all took turns stating our intentions and what we hoped to heal during the ceremony.

I remember that I was nervous and uncomfortable. First off, nervous because I didn’t know how this substance would affect me and if I would enjoy the process or not. I was also feeling somewhat awkward because we were all taking turns talking about what we wanted to heal and being completely vulnerable with each other. Even though we were all complete strangers, I felt a bit out of my element seeing people so honest and open about their flaws and emotional scars. When my turn came to talk about what I wanted to heal all I could muster to say is “Today I want to heal on an emotional level.” I couldn’t go into further detail because I knew there was a lot I needed to address, but where would I start?

After we all shared our intentions, I drank from the glass and had to stop midway simply because it was so difficult to swallow something that tasted like bitter slime. I pinched my nose and downed the second half, but felt a lingering nausea for a few moments.


After drinking the San Pedro, we were given blankets and thin foam mattresses to lay out in the garden as we let the medicine take effect. Something I should mention about this healing house is that it was surrounded by a beautiful garden with all sorts of flowers, plants, and cacti growing all over. I remember that the sun was shining down on all of us and as we all got ready to lay down and let the medicine take effect, a few hummingbirds suddenly appeared and began feeding from the tulips on the other end of the garden. One of the healers leading the ceremony came over to us and said that the hummingbirds were a positive omen and he assured us that today would be a day filled with light and healing.

After having settled into a spot next to a fountain surrounded by tulips, I decided to meditate and try to relax. I wasn’t quite sure if I was feeling any effects, but a part of me was feeling scared. I wondered if I would panic or have a “bad trip” with San Pedro and I even felt scared to see the root of my emotional issues. A part of me felt a bit of delayed hesitation, but it was too late now. The San Pedro was already being absorbed into my body, there was no turning back.

I closed my eyes and said to San Pedro “I’m so nervous right now, but I’m going to surrender to you.”

Within a few moments I felt like my bladder needed an urgent release, which was very odd because I had been fasting for the past 12 hours and I only had a small cup of chamomile tea before drinking San Pedro. I rushed over to the bathroom and I remember it was as if I drank an entire liter of water because I was urinating for what seemed like an eternity.

When I finally finished, I washed my hands and stepped out of the bathroom to discover that the effects of San Pedro had taken over me. I suddenly felt very calm and all of the nervousness and anxiety I was feeling minutes ago had completely gone away. There was a huge smile on my face and as I looked around at the garden it felt like the grass below my feet was breathing. The tulips a few yards away from me also seemed to have a very mild aura surrounding them.

I slowly walked over to my mat and covered myself with my blanket. I laid down, closed my eyes and in my head I said “San Pedro, are you there?” I quickly heard another voice which sounded just like mine saying “Of course I am!”

I was surprised by how easily I was having an open dialogue with the plant spirit so I asked “is there something I should address right now? Maybe something I need to start off with?” and immediately (with eyes closed) I saw my root chakra spinning rapidly at my base. I suddenly felt a pulling sensation followed by what looked like grey smoke clouds coming out of it. This went on for a minute until the pulling sensation moved up to the center of my belly and then onto my solar plexus chakra.

When the sensation got to my solar plexus I felt more pressure and discomfort than I did in the sacral and root. I began to see what appeared to be long black threads being pulled out of my solar plexus, followed by a black slime that just oozed out for a few minutes. Just when I thought the clearing was finished, more strange objects began to pour out of my chakra. Large “spiky balls” began to come out and then to my shock and horror, a large, black octopus looking creature was forcefully pulled out of me. Once that creature was removed I felt like the clearing had finished, but then out of nowhere I began to see images from my childhood.

I started to see memories of my stepfather and I said to myself “oh shit…I knew this would happen.” Memories of him being violent and abusive towards me flashed before my eyes. I recalled every single moment he hit me, insulted me and made me feel worthless. I breathed in deeply and felt my eyes tear up, but then I heard San Pedro’s voice.

“The way your stepfather treated you was not OK. You never deserved any of that treatment, do you understand?” and I replied “I know that very well, but why did he do that to me?”

As soon as I asked, I began to see images of my stepfather as a child with his father. I saw a brief image of his father being a complete monster, followed by various images that flashed through my eyes so quickly that I wasn’t able to register them completely. What I could take away was that his childhood was worse than mine.

San Pedro said to me “your stepfather went through so much pain as a child and he was so deprived of real affection that he honestly thought his actions were acceptable. I hope you can understand that he thinks he is a good father simply because he isn’t as much of a monster as his own father”

When the spirit of San Pedro said that to me, I realized that I could no longer feel anger or resentment towards my stepfather. Instead, the anger that I held onto for so long transformed into sympathy. At that moment I was able to forgive my stepfather and allow myself to let go of everything that happened. And that’s exactly what I did at that very moment.

“I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you” I repeated, almost like a mantra, and the image of him began to slowly fade away in my mind until all I saw was darkness.


My heart chakra was next. Again I began to see black slime being pulled out of my chest. I saw black threads again along with what seemed to look like small bugs coming out of me. Once again I began to see flashes of memories from my childhood, but this time it was my mother. I saw her in her usual distant and emotionally unavailable state. I saw her allowing my stepfather’s physical abuse and never stepping in to make him stop. For a few seconds all I could see was an image of her standing back, observing and never interfering with what was going on.

I also saw other memories of her rejecting hugs from me as a child. I saw all the times she would get very uncomfortable with physical affection and how she struggled to express any kind of compasion. Suddenly the images changed and I began to see all of my past lovers. I saw all my flings and relationships and how they would make me feel just as abandoned and unloved as my mother. I suddenly had a break through and I understood the connection between my issues with my mother and how they relate to my romantic life.

At that moment I felt a tear run down my face and I felt the pain of my last relationship all over again. I felt a sadness that quickly transformed into frustration and then anger. I remembered how my last relationship left me feeling like I could never be enough for someone. It was as if I had convinced myself that I had nothing to offer someone else in a relationship and they will eventually replace me with someone better.  But suddenly I began telling myself  “I don’t deserve that shit, I am good enough.” and I felt a release.

But things didn’t stop there, the images in my mind began getting very complicated and scattered for a moment. Suddenly I made sense of the images and I saw every single person I dated flash through my eyes. I saw my first love at 18 and how vulnerable and insecure I felt when things got serious. I saw how this pattern repeated itself and how I would convince myself that I was unlovable and inadequate every single time I met someone new. I even discovered that I saw myself as “broken goods” simply because of my childhood.

When I understood the connection I was able to release that “programming” in my mind. I took a deep breath and let go of everything. I told myself “I don’t consent to this anymore, I give myself permission to release all of this, I am not my past.”

I opened my eyes and sat up for a moment. The clouds in the sky swirled and twisted, the grass rippled and breathed, and my sense of hearing and smell were amplified.

One of the house helpers suddenly came by and brought me and each of the other participants a bowl of fruit. It seemed that three hours had already passed by and we needed to break our fast.


I took a bite from a piece of cantaloupe and felt like some energy had just come back to me. The visions I had recently gone through had actually worn me out and I felt like I was taking a break from my work.

After finishing my multicolored fruit bowl, a thought came into my head, almost as if the various colors in the fruits was nourishing each chakra after I had cleared them out earlier.

I laid back down and closed my eyes again. I spoke to San Pedro and said “what more do I have to heal?” and then I went inward again.

I saw myself in high school self mutilating and cutting my thighs, legs and arms. I saw all the drugs and pills I “experimented” with in my teen years and then suddenly those images faded and disintegrated. All I saw was darkness for some time.

I opened my eyes and saw the leader of our ceremony looking over at me. I sat up and looked over at the other end of the garden for a few moments and then turned my head to see him staring at me again. I heard San Pedro say “not all men are the same and you can trust your male companions… Do you like him?”

His question floored me for a moment and I looked over at this man staring at me and smiling. I wondered “why is San Pedro asking me if I like him?” and I realized that I felt threatened by him as I did with most men. The only difference here is that this man was a healer and I could actually see the light in him and admire what he does. He was not an enemy or someone to perceive as a threat. I replied to San Pedro “Yes, I do like him. He’s OK with me” and I felt something shift in me, almost as if my guard had gone down after several years of being in defense mode.

I laid down again and went for round three. This time San Pedro didn’t show me any more memories or clear out my energy centers. I had an inner knowing that there was more to heal but I would have to address it in another ceremony.

San Pedro began speaking to me and giving me advice, much in the way that a grandfather would give his grand kids advice. There was never any talk of “needing” or “having” to do anything, but his advice came in gentle suggestions.

Some of the things San Pedro told me are very personal but I can say that he told me what path to take regarding my career and what things I need to eliminate from my diet. He also urged me to go back to the US for the holidays and even made it very clear that it would be a big mistake not to see my family this year.

As a few more hours passed, the medicine began to slowly wear off and I began to come back down to reality. It was already 5 pm at this point and we all began “waking up” from our daze, so to speak.

About an hour later we said our goodbyes to the man who lead our ceremony and we shuffled into a rental car that drove us into Cusco’s central plaza.

The days following the ceremony, the medicine continued to do its work on me. I had several more painful memories surface days and even weeks after the ceremony. More and more layers began to unravel in me, but what I can say is that after that first ceremony I decided to take part in  a few more which forced me to go deeper and deeper into myself.

My final encounter with San Pedro was one that had me in tears. I remember being in a fetal position crying uncontrollably and purging the last remaining remnants of my emotional baggage.

San Pedro’s gave me an important message on my final encounter with him and he said: “Remember who you are. Remember, Eric! You’re so much bigger than this body and you keep forgetting. Remember who you were before you came into this life.”

Ever since then, I’ve remembered and I won’t ever let myself forget. I am forever grateful for having met San Pedro and if anyone ever hears his “call”, I highly encourage them to respond. The day you meet San Pedro will be a day you will never forget.

Eric Vargas