False Peyote (Ariocarpus fissuratus) is a small cactus that grows only a few centimeters in height and about 4-6 inches in diameter. Its nodes end in pointed triangles, giving the cactus a star-like appearance. The flowers are pink-violet in color. These little cacti are often mistaken for rocks in the stony desert in which they grow and are therefore difficult to find. Ariocarpus fissuratus is found only in New Mexico, northern Mexico and southwest Texas.
Ariocarpus fissuratus is usually referred to as false or dangerous Peyote, and has been known in the Americas since pre-Columbian times. This cactus was very possibly used as a Peyote substitute when Peyote was unavailable. The Huichol strongly warn against consuming Ariocarpus fissuratus, and associate it with dark sorcery. They believe that those individuals who do not properly purify themselves at the start of the Peyote hunt pilgrimage by admitting all of their sexual encounters outside of marriage may mistake Ariocarpus fissuratus for real Peyote, the consumption of which will result in a deliriant-hallucinogenic state. The Tarahumara, meanwhile, consider they to be even more powerful than Peyote.
Ariocarpus fissuratus, and the related Ariocarpus retusus may have been used to treat malaria by some peoples in Mexico. The related Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus is used as an external medicine to treat wounds. Certain reports of the consumption of Ariocarpus fissuratus also mention that it has strong narcotic pain-killing properties.
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