Mescal Buttons

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Mescal Buttons

Botanical Name: Anhalonium Lewinii (HENN.)
Family: N.O. Cactaceae

Synonyms: Lopophora Lewinii Pellote. Muscal Buttons. Anhalonium Williamsii. Echinocactus Lewinii. Echinocactus Williamsii.
Part Used: The tops, consisting of blunt leaves round a tuft of short, pale yellow hairs.
Habitat: Mexico.

Description: These South American Cacti, formerly regarded as belonging to the Anhalonium genus, by the name of which they are chiefly known, were later attributed to the genus Echinocactus of the Mammalaria species, being spineless and flexible.

The principal species of Williamsii and Lewinii, found in the Rio Grande valley, grow to a height of only 1/2 inch, and the tops, or Mescal Buttons, are from 1 to 1 1/2 inch across and 1/4 inch thick. When dry they are hard and brittle, but become soft when moistened. The taste and smell are peculiar, bitter and disagreeable. The surface of E. Lewinii, or Anhalonium Lewinii, is crossed by thirteen irregular furrows, and that of E. Williamsii and A. Williamsii by eight regular ones. Small pink flowers are borne, but these do not appear in the drug.

The Kiowa Indians have used Mescal Buttons from ancient times for producing exaltation in their religious ceremonies.

Constituents: Four alkaloids have been separated: Anhalonine, Mescaline, Anhalonidine, and Lophophorine, and two other bases, pellotine and anhalamine.

Pellotine is said to be found only in the Williamsii variety, but this is always present in the commercial drug.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Cardiac, tonic, narcotic, emetic. The value of the drug in practice is uncertain, but it is stated to be useful in neurasthenia, hysteria, and asthma, and has been recommended in gout, neuralgia and rheumatism.

Four to five buttons, or 215 to 230 grains of the drug will produce a strange cerebral excitement with visual disturbance, the visions being at first of varied beauty and later of gruesome shapes and monsters. The physical effects include dilatation of the pupil, muscular relaxation, loss of time sense, partial anaesthesia, wakefulness, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. The mental symptoms in some ways resemble those of Indian Hemp.

Pellotine, in doses of 1/3 to 1 grain, has been used in hypodermic injection in cases of insanity, producing sleep without undesirable reactions. Care is needed, as collapse is said to have been observed after a dose of, 7/10 of a grain. The uses of the various alkaloids are in the experimental stage.

Dosage: Of the crude drug, 7 to 15 grains. Of fluid extract, 10 to 15 minims. Of 10 per cent tincture, 1 to 2 teaspoonsful.

Other Species:
There are also found in parcels of the tops specimens of Mammalaria fissuratus, M. retusus, and A. jourdanianum.

Mescal is a name given in Mexico to a liquor distilled from a number of species of Agave.