I tend to be cynical about anything anyone claims is a miracle cure - but if accounts of San Pedro, the "Cactus of Vision", in The Hummingbird's Journey to God are even partly true, then I might just consider being a bit more open-minded.
The Hummingbird's Journey to God: Perspectives on San Pedro - the Cactus of Vision by Ross Heaven is a lovely book about healing and the search for God in the Peruvian Andes as seen through the eyes of those who have taken a hallucinogenic brew made from the plant Trichocereus pachanoi.
This cactus has been used by Peruvian healers, shamans and spiritual seekers for thousands of years, but its effects have not received the same amount of attention as some other hallucinogens and "teacher plants".
Ross Heaven's book is not a scientific study of San Pedro, it is more a collection of personal accounts of people's experiences while under its effects and how the visions they have experienced have altered their lives afterwards. Many have claimed to have been healed of emotional or physical problems.
The Peruvian healers who work with the plant claim that most illnesses, if not all, are psychosomatic and that the key to getting well is "a change in spirit or mental perspective on the part of the sufferers".
The cactus offers people visions that not only help them heal themselves by overcoming emotional issues but also also by realising that they can simply choose to get well. The idea behind this is that the mind has the ability to affect the body - the power of belief. Those whose stories are told in The Hummingbird's Journey to God claim to have been cured of ailments from altitude sickness to diabetes and even cancer.
Psychedelic plants are also often reputed to grant spiritual insights and Ross Heaven explains that one of his personal reasons for taking San Pedro was to find God. His wish was granted in a vision of symbols and allegories leading to his understanding that God - and all gods - "are all around you, in everything" and "we are all part of God".
The Hummingbird's Journey to God is a delightful book to read - well written, engaging and thought-provoking. I must admit I am still somewhat cynical that all its claims are true, but I'm certainly intrigued enough to want to find out more.
The Hummingbird's Journey to God: Perspectives on San Pedro - the Cactus of Vision is available through Amazon
Note: This book review is not advice. Drugs can be dangerous. Never take illegal drug. Always consult a qualified doctor or qualified medical herbalist before taking any drug or herbal remedy.
The Hummingbird's Journey to God: Perspectives on San Pedro - the Cactus of Vision