COMMON NAMES: Hikuli Mulato, Button Cactus
Epithelantha micromeris is a small, globular cactus that grows up to 6 cm in diameter. The tubercles are arranges in numerous spirals, almost hidden by white spines. The small flowers arise from the center of the spines in a tuft of wool, and are white to pink in color. The acidic fruits are known as chilitos, are edible, and contain large shiny black seeds. E. micromeris is found in limestone or igneous soils in rocky hills and ridges in grassland and desert areas. It grows wild in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and northern Mexico (Hofmann et al. 1992, 42).
In 1902 Lumholtz stated that “híkuli rosapara” was “a more advanced vegetative stage” of E. micromeris, but he also stated that híkuli mulato and híkuli rosapara looked “quite different” than each other. In 1899 Rose first proposed, as gathered from earlier publications by Lumholtz, that híkuli rosapara was in fact Mamillopsis senilis due to its description by Lumholtz as being “white and spiny” and due to other reports describing the reverence the Indians held for M. senilis (see M. senilis) (Voogelbreinder 2009, 167).
TRADITIONAL USES: Epithelantha micromeris is one of the false Peyotes of the Tarahumara of Chihuahua and the Huichol of northern Mexico. The medicine men of the tribe take the cactus, which they call Hikuli Mulato, in order to clear the sight and allow communication with sorcerers. The cactus is also said to prolong life and to drive evil people to insanity or to jump from cliffs (Hofmann et al. 1992, 42). The Tarahumara name “híkuli mulato,” the “dark skinned peyote”, may offer a clue to the effects and traditional use of the plant. Just why it is considered “dark skinned” is not fully understood since the plant has very small white spines almost completely hiding a green epidermis. It is likely the name has a symbolic rather than literal meaning.
E. micromeris is credited with great intellectual and moral qualities. Both the plant and fruit are ingested as a stimulant and protector by traditional Tarahumara foot-runners, though E. micromeris is considered less effective than L. williamsii or A. fissuratus. The fruits are laid before the altar in ceremonies, and the plant continued to play a minor part in Tarahumara festivals well into the 20th century. Similar to terms surrounding A. fissuratus, any words describing the effects of E. micromeris must be viewed as only abbreviated renderings of traditional reports, and may not be interpreted according to a Western understanding (Voogelbreinder 2009 166-167).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The cactus is usually despined, and the flesh, either fresh or dried, is then consumed (Voogelbreinder 2009, 167).
MEDICINAL USES: Very little is known about this cactus, and we are not at present aware of any traditional medicinal uses. If you have any sources or information regarding the medicinal properties of this cactus, please do let us know.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: In addition to numerous alkaloids, five triterpenes and one sterol have been reported within E. micromeris. Alkaloids that have been isolated from E. micromeris include Tyramine, N-Methyltyramine, Hordenine, 3-Methoxytyramine, 3,4-Dimethoxyphenethylamine, N-Methyl-3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine, Epithelanthic acid, Methylepithelanthate, Methylmachaerinate, Oleanolic acid, ß-Sitosterol and Methyl oleanate (Voogelbreinder 2009, 167).
One individual reported consuming a single specimen of E. micromeris. Thirty minutes after consumption he experienced a pleasant, lucid state of mind with enhanced perception and increased energy level. That night he reported easy sleep and vivid dreams. He reported no negative side effects. Smoking the cactus is reported to produce CNS stimulation and a few hours of mild perceptual change (Voogelbreinder 2009, 167).
Hofmann, A., Ratsch, C., Schultes, R., Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1992.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.