This is an excerpt from San Pedro: The Gateway to Wisdom, by Ross Heaven.
San Pedro (Trichocereus pachanoi) is a tall blue-green cactus reaching heights of 23 feet (7m) or more. It enjoys a tough desertlike environment and grows readily in the highest parts of its native Peru, but can also be found in central and north America and in some Mediterranean countries. In most countries, including the UK, the cactus can be bought openly in garden centers as owning and growing it is not illegal, and even if the weather is not conducive to planting it out (countries like the UK, for example, are too wet and cold to sustain it), it will thrive as a house plant and is easily maintained, putting on maybe 12 inches to 18 inches in height a year if treated well.
Sitting in a plant pot or in a garden border at home, the plant looks attractive, innocent and innocuous. In terms of its spiritual, healing and consciousness-expanding properties, however, it is one of the most powerful teacher plants in the world. This contradiction between appearance and spiritual potency is one of the
reasons why, in medicine circles, San Pedro has come to be known as the Cactus of Mystery.
It has other names too among the shamans and healers of the Peruvian Andes, including cardo, chuma, gigantón, hermoso, huando, pene de Dios (literally, ‘penis of God’), wachuma and,
simply, el remedio: the remedy, the latter referring to its healing
powers. One of its Quechua names is punku, which means ‘doorway’ or ‘gateway’, since the cactus is also considered able to open a portal into a world beyond illusion so that healing and visions can flow from the spiritual to the physical dimension. Its more common name, San Pedro, has similar connotations. It refers to Saint Peter, who holds the keys to Heaven, and is suggestive of the plant’s power to open the gates between the visible and invisible worlds so those who drink it enter a realm where they can heal, know their true natures and find purpose for their lives. Because of these protective and nurturing qualities, others refer to it affectionately as simply Papa or Grandfather.