Echinopsis pachanoi is a native cactus of the Andes Mountains that is a popular ornamental and medicinal plant. In its native region, echinopsis pachanoi has been used in traditional medicine for more than 3,000 years, and it is also employed in divination rites. Medicinal uses include the treatment of drug addictions, high blood pressure, nervous conditions and cardiac disease. The cactus also is valued for its antimicrobial properties.
A variety of methods have been devised to use echinopsis pachanoi medicinally, mostly with the plant’s stem. In treating wounds, for example, a cactus stem is crafted into a kind of patch to cover the area. The stem also is crafted into a bandage or dressing to fight inflammation. Certain skin lesions that are not inflamed also benefit from treatment with the stem. The plant's stem is even used as a dandruff treatment when made into a fermented wash. Skin fungus can be combated with the stalks, which are ground up before application to the skin. A piece of the stem also can be warmed and placed on a patient’s forehead to combat sinusitis. Healers remove thorns before using the stems.
The plant, found in Ecuador and Peru and also known as the San Pedro cactus, is used in some veterinary treatments. Combined with lime and alum in a boiled solution, it is effective in fighting a fungal skin infection called tinea that affects goats and cattle. Liquid from the echinopsis pachanoi’s stem is fed to animals suffering from foot and mouth disease.
The cactus has other uses around the home. A shampoo is made from a substance distilled from the stem, as is laundry soap. The soap is valued for washing wool products. The cactus is also used in the Andes to induce spiritual healing and it is said to produce a state of mind that is somewhat similar to peyote, but more enjoyable.
The San Pedro cactus can reach a height of 20 feet (6.09 meters). Larger specimens can have up to seven ribs, and the cactus produces branches from its base. At maturity it is a blue-green shade.