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Psilocybin is a naturally occurring hallucinogenic compound that belongs to the tryptamine family. It’s found in various species of mushrooms, commonly known as magic mushrooms. From its mind-altering effects to its therapeutic potential, Psilocybin holds immense promise as a tool for personal growth, healing, and understanding.
As experts in spore research and dedicated advocates of open science, we are committed to fostering a greater understanding of Psilocybin and its implications for mental health and well-being. Follow along to discover more about the history, usage, and legality of this mysterious compound.
This remarkable substance has a long history of use in spiritual and shamanic practices. It is one of the two hallucinogenic substances found in Teonanácatl, the sacred mushroom of Mexico.
Indigenous cultures, particularly in Central and South America, used Psilocybin mushrooms in religious and healing rituals. The Aztec Indians called them “teonanácatl,” meaning “god’s flesh,” and considered them sacred.
The ritual of consuming mushrooms is called monanacahuia, which translates to “mushroom oneself.” These mushrooms were revered as tools for introspection, healing, and gaining insights into the nature of reality.
The meeting of Moctezuma II and Hernán Cortés By unknown Tlaxcalan artists
Despite efforts by Spanish missionaries to suppress their use in the 1500s, the knowledge of Psilocybin-containing mushrooms persisted and intrigued 20th-century ethnopharmacologists.
In the Western world, Psilocybin gained widespread attention in the mid-20th century. In 1957, a photo essay in Life Magazin by amateur mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson introduced Psilocybin mushrooms to a broader audience, reigniting curiosity about their effects and potential.
Source: Life Magazine
This led to the acquisition of mushroom specimens, and the identification of Psilocybin as the active component, in Mexican mushroom Psilocybe mexicana. Scientists began studying Psilocybin to unravel its effects on the human mind and explore its potential therapeutic applications.
Mushroom Species that contain Psilocybin
Psilocybin mushrooms are naturally occurring and extremely widespread. There are more than 200 different species of psilocybin-containing mushrooms found all around the world. These beauties belong to the psilocybe genus.
The concentration of Psilocybin in mushrooms can vary widely depending on the species, the part of the mushroom used, the growing conditions, and the harvesting and storage methods. In general, concentrations are highest in the caps of the mushrooms and decrease towards the stems and the base.
These are the ranges you can expect in dry mushrooms.
|Psilocybe Semilanceata||0.2% – 2.37%|
|Psilocybe Cyanescens||0.66% – 1.96%|
|Psilocybe Cubensis||0.37% – 1.30%|
|Psilocybe Azurescens||0.40% – 1.80%|
|Psilocybe Baeocystis||0.15% – 0.85%|
Let’s take a closer look at their features and distribution.
The small yet powerful Liberty Cap mushroom holds a special place as one of the most widespread species in Europe. Discovered in the UK, it belongs to the Hymenogastraceae family.
Source: Dr. Hans-Günter Wagner
Semilanceata mushrooms can be found in:
- New Zealand
- North America
- The United States
Although less common in South America, there have been reports of its occurrence in Chile.
Featuring a bell-shaped, pale brown cap and a slender yellowish stripe that’s up to 6 inches long. It is small yet very potent.
Also known as Wavy caps or potent Psilocybe, its primary residence is the Pacific Northwest. It extends its reach to:
- The San Francisco Bay Area
- East Coast of the United States
- New Zealand
- Western Europe
- Central Europe
- Parts of West Asia (Iran).
Source: Tosh Suo
While some say that Psilocybe cyanescens is a native of the coniferous woodlands in the northwestern United States the first one was spotted at Kew Gardens by Elsie Wakefield back in 1946.
It has a very distinct wavy caramel-colored cap. With a slender white stripe. It prefers cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels.
Commonly known as Gold top or Gold cap. This unique mushroom, belonging to the Hymenogastraceae family, has fascinated researchers, enthusiasts, and spiritual seekers alike for centuries.
Source: Farmer Dodds
Its presence is reaching regions like:
- The Gulf Coast states
- Central America
- The Caribbean
- South America
- Southeast Asia
Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms were found in Zimbabwe for the very first time in March 2018. Its convex brown cap rests on a hollow white stripe that can be up to 6 inches tall.
Or the Blue angel, when the stem of Azurescens is bruised, it transforms into a vibrant blue color, earning it the affectionate nickname.
Sometimes it’s also referred to as the Flying saucer.
Source: Kevin Smith
It can be found in some beautiful parts of the world like:
- The West Coast of the United States
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
With its caramel-colored cap, wide saucer-like shape, and a noticeable nipple on top, it really resembles a UFO.
Also known as Bottle caps, Knobby tops, Blue bells, or Olive caps. It thrives in the hidden corners of coniferous forests.
Source: Caleb Brown at Mushroom Observer
Often found adorning the picturesque vistas of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. It can be found in:
- North America
- West Coast
- British Columbia
It has a very distinctive appearance, a very convex and smooth dark olive cap, with a sturdy white stripe that can be up to 2.8 inches.
It really resembles a bottle cap!
It’s worth noting that even though all “magic mushrooms” get their psychoactive effects from psilocybin, each species can offer a unique range of psychedelic experiences. Scientists are continuously studying how these effects can vary in type and intensity across different strains.
The Mind-Altering Effects of Psilocybin
Psilocybin’s effects on the mind are nothing short of extraordinary. When ingested, psilocybin is metabolized by the body into psilocin, this powerful compound interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain, leading to a cascade of psychedelic experiences.
Some users report a heightened sense of perception, vivid visual hallucinations, and a profound alteration of their thoughts and emotions. These effects can vary from person to person, creating a deeply personal and introspective experience.
“Psilocybin produced a range of acute perceptual changes, subjective experiences, and labile moods including anxiety. Psilocybin also increased measures of mystical experience.”
This was concluded in a study from 2006 about the safety and positive effect of Psilocybin by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research.
Psilocybin and the Brain
Psilocybin operates by activating serotonin receptors, primarily in the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain plays a role in mood, cognition, and perception. Additionally, hallucinogens impact other brain regions responsible for regulating arousal and panic responses.
The potency of magic mushrooms depends on, the species, origin, growing conditions, harvest period, and whether they are consumed fresh or dried. Dried mushrooms can contain up to ten times more psilocybin compared to their fresh counterparts when considering the weight-to-potency ratio.
- Psilocybin stimulates the serotonin 2A receptor in the brain, triggering a cascade of events that lead to altered states of consciousness
- This stimulation disrupts the default mode network (DMN), a network of brain regions responsible for self-reflection and mind-wandering
- The temporary inhibition of the DMN allows for enhanced connectivity between brain regions, facilitating novel insights and expanding perception
- These neural changes may explain the profound sense of interconnectedness and introspection often experienced during a Psilocybin journey
Psilocybin doesn’t always induce vivid visual or auditory hallucinations. Instead, it alters the perception of objects and people in the user’s existing environment.
The effects can vary based on factors such as dosage, past experiences, and expectations of the experience.
Typically, the hallucinogenic effects of psilocybin manifest around 30 minutes after ingestion and last for approximately 4–6 hours. Sometimes, changes in sensory perception and thought patterns can persist for several days.
Unlocking Therapeutic Potential
Beyond its mind-expanding effects, Psilocybin holds great promise as a therapeutic tool.
In small-scale clinical trials, the potential of psilocybin has emerged as a transformative therapy for individuals with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, a condition that often doesn’t respond to conventional antidepressants. These trials have demonstrated that just one or two carefully administered doses of psilocybin, within a therapeutic setting, can lead to profound and enduring positive changes.
“I’m excited about the future of psychedelics because of the relatively good safety profile and because these agents can now be studied in rigorous double-blinded clinical trials. Then we can move from anecdotal reports of ‘I tripped on this and felt better’ to ‘Try this and you will be statistically, significantly better. “ ‒ Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic in the Center for Brain Health at Florida Atlantic University.
- Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy has shown remarkable results in treating depression and anxiety, providing individuals with a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh perspective on life.
- Psilocybin is also displaying promising results in the treatment of cluster headaches, anorexia, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Addiction is another area where Psilocybin is being explored as a potential therapy. It has demonstrated the ability to disrupt addictive patterns, allowing individuals to break free from the chains of substance abuse.
- The therapeutic effects of Psilocybin are not limited to mental health. It has also shown promise in alleviating existential distress for patients in palliative care, offering solace and a newfound appreciation for life.
The findings from this research have led the US Food and Drug Administration to recognize psilocybin as a breakthrough medicine.
Psilocybin biosynthesis and conversion to psilocin
Source: Katie M. Collette, Ph.D.
These insights are showing us that Psilocybin has the potential to revolutionize psychiatric medicine and offer new avenues for healing and personal growth.
Microdosing with Magic Mushrooms
Microdosing with magic mushrooms is a practice that involves taking a very small dose of psychedelic mushrooms, typically around 1/10th to 1/20th of a full “journey” dose.
Microdosing aims to experience subtle effects without entering a fully psychedelic state. This concept was introduced by James Fadiman, a renowned psychedelic researcher, who backed it up with a study exploring the possibility of microdosing being beneficial for improving negative moods, especially depression.
Unlike a full dose of psychedelics, a microdose is considered “sub-perceptual,” meaning the effects are barely noticeable. The intention behind microdosing is not to induce visual distortions or profound shifts in perspective but rather to heighten the senses and enhance awareness during daily activities.
People who engage in microdosing often report an increased sensitivity to their surroundings, a greater presence of mind, an uplifted mood, and a heightened awareness of their thoughts and emotions.
An experienced mycologist and author of seven books on psychedelic mushrooms Paul Stamets believes that microdosing offers a potential solution to maintaining brain health and a creative perspective on life.
“I’m going to make a bold statement, but it stems from my deep belief: Psilocybin cultivates kindness, Psilocybin can enhance our intelligence and contribute to us being better members of society.” – Paul Stamets
Scientific research on microdosing is still limited, and experts hold varying perspectives on its efficacy. Some studies indicate that full doses of psychedelics offer mental health benefits and promote neuroplasticity, prompting researchers to investigate whether microdosing can yield similar effects.
The evidence for microdosing remains inconclusive, and it continues to be a subject of debate.
Some people who use psilocybin may experience lasting and distressing changes in how they perceive the world. These changes can include intense and upsetting visual memories of past experiences, which may occur weeks or even years after taking the hallucinogenic substance.
Medical professionals now refer to this condition as a hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder.
Additionally, users can feel fearful, restless, confused, delirious, or even have experiences similar to those seen in schizophrenia after using psilocybin. In these cases, seeking medical help, including a visit to the emergency room, may be necessary.
Fortunately, doctors can often help with these effects using appropriate medications, like benzodiazepines. As the effects of psilocybin gradually fade away, symptoms usually improve within 6 to 8 hours.
While the risk is relatively low, there is a possibility of accidental poisoning for some psilocybin users who unknowingly consume poisonous mushrooms. Symptoms of mushroom poisoning may include muscle spasms, confusion, and delirium.
If any of these symptoms occur, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention at an emergency room.
In most cases, accidental consumption of mushrooms leads to minor stomach discomfort, and only the most severe situations require medical intervention.
Psilocybin and psilocin, being psychoactive substances, are subject to international control measures set forth by the United Nations Drug Control Conventions to ensure their responsible use and prevent misuse.
In the United States, psilocybin (and psilocin) became subject to federal regulation in 1965 under the Drug Abuse Control Amendments. This amendment, aimed to regulate the possession, manufacture, and sale of certain drugs, including depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens.
A federal law passed on October 24, 1968, explicitly banned psilocybin and psilocin.
These substances were classified as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act on October 27, 1970, falling into the category of hallucinogens. Schedule I drugs are considered illicit with no recognized therapeutic benefits.
In 2020, the voters in Oregon showed their support by approving a ballot initiative to legalize magic mushrooms for mental health treatment in supervised settings.
At the moment, there is a bill being considered in California that aims to legalize the possession, obtaining, giving away, or transportation of specific amounts of psilocybin, and psilocyn. The bill has received positive approval from the California State Senate and is currently under review.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins suggest that if psilocybin completes phase III clinical trials, it should be reclassified as a Schedule IV drug with tighter control, similar to prescription sleep aids.
Are Psilocybin Mushrooms Legal?
Psilocybe mushrooms are also classified as Schedule I controlled substances at the federal level, this means that their possession, cultivation, or distribution is considered illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. This classification is primarily because of their hallucinogenic properties and the potential for misuse.
The District of Columbia put into effect Initiative 81, known as the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, which allows for the possession and non-profit gifting or distribution of psilocybin mushrooms, following regulations similar to marijuana products. This initiative became effective in 2021.
Are Psilocybin Mushroom Spores Legal?
At the federal level, the possession of Psilocybe spores is not explicitly regulated since the spores themselves do not contain any controlled substances. However, certain states like California, Georgia, and Idaho have implemented restrictions on spore possession due to concerns about their potential for the cultivation of hallucinogenic drugs.
Explore Magic Mushroom Spores with Fungushead
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For a more detailed exploration of the spores we offer, visit our YouTube channel and enjoy our latest videos!