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ARCHIVE:  May 15, 2001

Tryptamines in Phalaris & Phenethylamines in Cacti

Dear Dr. Shulgin:

I wondered if you could tell me if the tryptamine alkaloids in Phalaris sp. are directly soluble in supercritical butane?  Or for that matter are any of the significant PEA's found in some cacti?

--WhiteRasta

Dear WhiteRasta:

The most significant phenethylamine (significant at least from the psychoactive point of view) to be found in cacti is the alkaloid mescaline.  Its presence has been reported in some 65 different species, but usually only in trace amounts.  It is almost unknown in nature outside the Cactaceae family, but there is one published report of it being a trace component of a Texas Acacia tree, Acacia rigidula

There are over a dozen other phenethylamines known to be present in the cactus world, but none of them have been established as being active in man, at least as pure compounds.   There are a number of psychoactive cacti that contain both phenethylamines and tetrahydroisoquinolines and which are devoid of mescaline, so it is possible that some phenethylamine in admixture with other alkaloids might account for the cactus activity.  

As to the extraction of tryptamine alkaloids such as DMT from natural sources by the use of a supercritical solvent, it sounds very reasonable.  However, I know of no such extraction having been tried with grasses.

-- Dr. Shulgin

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