Psilocybin mushrooms

Psilocybin mushrooms (also called psilocybian mushrooms or teónanácatl) are fungi mainly of the psilocybe genus that contain the psychedelic substances psilocybin and psilocin, and occasionally other psychoactive tryptamines. There are multiple colloquial terms for psilocybin mushrooms, the most common being magic mushroomscite book | title=Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy| last=Kuhn| first=Cynthia| coauthors=Swartzwelder, Scott and Wilson, Wilkie| date=1998 & 2003| pages=pg. 83| publisher=W.W. Norton & Company Inc| id=ISBN 0-393-32493-1] or shrooms. [cite web|url=|title=Taking care of ourselves|publisher= [ Cornell University: Women's Resource Center] |accessdate=2007-04-04]



The writer Terrence McKenna speculated that hallucinogenic mushrooms may have a history that dates back as far as 1 million years ago, originating in East Africa. He suggests that early hominids such as "Homo africanus", "Homo boisei", and the omnivorous "Homo habilis" expanded their original diets of fruit and small animals to include underground roots, tubers, and corns. [cite book|first=Terrence|last=McKenna|title=Food of the Gods: the Search for the original Tree of Knowledge|Publisher=Bantam|origyear=1993|isbn=0553371304|pages=336] McKenna claims that at this particular time, early hominids gathered Psilocybin mushrooms off the African grasslands and ate them as part of their diet. He suggests that the Psilocybin-containing mushrooms that were thought to have grown on the grasslands at that time were the "Panaeolus" species and "Stropharia cubensis", also called "Psilocybe cubensis", which is the famous "Magic Mushroom" widely distributed today. [cite book|first=Terrence|last=McKenna|title=Food of the Gods: the Search for the original Tree of Knowledge|Publisher=Bantam|origyear=1993|isbn=0553371304|pages=336]

There is abundant archaeolgical evidence for their use in ancient times. Several mesolithic rock paintings from Tassili n'Ajjer (a prehistoric North African site identified with the Capsian culture) have been identified by author Giorgio Samorini as depicting the shamanic use of mushrooms, possibly "Psilocybe". [cite web|url=|title=The oldest Representations of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in the World.|publisher= [] |awhoreccessdate=2007-04-04] . Hallucinogenic species of "Psilocybe" have a history of use among the native peoples of Mesoamerica for religious communion, divination, and healing, from pre-Columbian times up to the present day. Mushroom-shaped statuettes found at archaeological sites seem to indicate that ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms is quite ancient. Mushroom stones and motifs have been found in Mayan temple ruins in Guatemala,cite book|first=Paul|last=Stamets|title=Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World|Publisher=Ten Speed Press|origyear=1996|isbn=0898158397|accessdate=2007-04-03|pages=11] though there is considerable controversy as to whether these objects indicate the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms or whether they had some other significance with the mushroom shape being simply a coincidence.Fact|date=April 2007 More concretely, a statuette dating from ca. 200 AD and depicting a mushroom strongly resembling "Psilocybe mexicana" was found in a west Mexican shaft and chamber tomb in the state of Colima . Hallucinogenic "Psilocybe" were known to the Aztecs as "teonanácatl" (literally "god's mushroom" or, more properly, "flesh of the gods" - agglutinative form of teó (god) and nanácatl (mushroom) in Náhuatl) and were reportedly served at the coronation of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II in 1502. Aztecs and Mazatecs referred to psilocybin mushrooms as genius mushrooms, divinatory mushrooms, and wondrous mushrooms, when translated into English. [cite book|first=Paul|last=Stamets|title=Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World|Publisher=Ten Speed Press|origyear=1996|isbn=0898158397|accessdate=2007-04-03|pages=7] Bernardino de Sahagún reported ritualistic use of teonanácatl by the Aztecs, when he traveled to Central America after the expedition of Hernán Cortés.

After the Spanish conquest, Catholic missionaries campaigned against the "pagan idolatry," and as a result, the use of hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms, like other pre-Christian traditions, was quickly suppressed.cite book] The Spanish believed the mushroom allowed the Aztecs and others to communicate with "devils". In converting people to Catholicism, the Spanish pushed for a switch from "teonanácatl" to the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist. Despite this history, in some remote areas the use of "teonanácatl" has remained.Fact|date=September 2007

The first mentioning of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the Western medicinal literature appeared in the London Medical and Physical Journal in 1799: a man had served "Psilocybe semilanceata" mushrooms that he had picked for breakfast in London's Green Park to his family. The doctor who treated them later described how the youngest child "was attacked with fits of immoderate laughter, nor could the threats of his father or mother refrain him." [cite journal
author = Everard Brande
year = 1799
title = On A Poisonous Species of Agaric
journal = London Medical and Physical Journal
volume = 11
issue = November 16
pages = 41–44
url =


By the twentieth century, hallucinogenic mushroom use was thought by non-Native Americans to have disappeared entirelyFact|date=September 2007. Some authors even held that Mesoamerican cultures did not use mushrooms as hallucinogens at all and that the Spanish had simply mistaken peyote for a mushroomFact|date=September 2007. Later investigations by Blas Pablo Reko, Richard Evans Schultes, and R. Gordon Wasson demonstrated that hallucinogenic mushrooms were still widely used by several indigenous Mesoamerican peoples, particularly the Mazatecs of Oaxaca.

In 1955, Valentina and R. Gordon Wasson became the first Westerners to actively participate in an indigenous mushroom ceremony. The Wassons did much to publicize their discovery, even publishing an article on their experiences in "Life" in 1957. [cite journal | author = Wasson RG | year = 1957 | title = Seeking the magic mushroom| journal = Life | issue = June 10 | pages = [ article reproduced online] ] In 1956, Roger Heim identified the hallucinogenic mushroom that the Wassons had brought back from Mexico as "Psilocybe" and in 1958, Albert Hofmann first identified psilocin and psilocybin as the active compound in these mushrooms.

Inspired by the Wassons' "Life" article, Timothy Leary traveled to Mexico to experience hallucinogenic mushrooms firsthand. Upon returning to Harvard in 1960, he and Richard Alpert started the Harvard Psilocybin Project, promoting psychological and religious study of psilocybin and other hallucinogenic drugs. After Leary and Alpert were dismissed by Harvard in 1963, they turned their attention toward evangelizing the psychedelic experience to the nascent hippie counterculture.

The popularization of entheogens by Wasson, Leary, and others has led to an explosion in the use of hallucinogenic "Psilocybe" throughout the worldFact|date=August 2008. By the early 1970s, a number of psychoactive "Psilocybe" species were described from temperate North America, Europe, and Asia and were widely collected. Books describing methods of cultivating "Psilocybe cubensis" in large quantities were also published. The relatively easy availability of hallucinogenic "Psilocybe" from wild and cultivated sources has made it among the most widely used of the hallucinogenic drugs.

At present, hallucinogenic mushroom use has been reported among a number of groups spanning from central Mexico to Oaxaca, including groups of Nahua, Mixtecs, Mixe, Mazatecs, Zapotecs, and others. There has not, however, been any confirmed observations of hallucinogenic mushroom use among the Maya peoples, either in the pre-Columbian or post-Contact erasFact|date=September 2007.


Psilocybin mushrooms are non-toxic and non-addictive although they do create short term increases in tolerance of users. [ [ Psilocybin Fast Facts ] ] Oral ingestion can produce nausea, dizziness, and sometimes vomiting. The greatest danger from recreational use is a "bad trip" which can cause severe emotional and psychological distress. Also, extremely poisonous wild picked mushrooms can be easily mistaken for psilocybin mushrooms. [ [ Psilocybin Fast Facts ] ] Mushrooms should be identified by a professional mycologist if ingestion is deemed appropriate. When psilocybin is ingested, it is broken down to produce psilocin, which is responsible for the hallucinogenic effects. [Cite web|url=|title=Psilocybin Fast Facts|accessdate=2007-04-04|publisher=National Drug Intelligence Center]

As with many psychoactive substances, the effects of psychedelic mushrooms are subjective and unpredictable. A common misconception, even seen in the professional environment, is that the effects experienced from psilocybin are due to a poisonous nature of the compound, yet the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a branch of the Center for Disease Control, rated psilocybin less toxic than aspirin.Cite web|url=|title=Magic Mushrooms – Frequently Asked Questions|accessdate=2007-01-04|publisher=The Good Drugs Guide|author=The Good Drugs Guide|work=Frequently Asked Questions|format=htm] The intoxicating effects of psilocybin-containing mushrooms typically last anywhere from 3 to 7 hours depending on dosage, preparation method and personal metabolism.Cite web|url=|title=Effects of Psilocybin Mushrooms|accessdate=2006-12-01|publisher=Erowid|year=2006|author=Erowid and contributors|format=shtml] Cite web|url=|title=Psychedelic Effects of Magic Mushrooms|accessdate=2006-12-01|publisher=The Good Drugs Guide|author=The Good Drugs Guide|format=htm]

The experience is typically inwardly oriented, with strong visual and auditory components. Visions and revelations may be experienced, and the effect can range from exhilarating to distressing. There can be also a total absence of effects, even with large dosesFact|date=August 2008. This depends on the species (and to a much lesser degree the strain) of mushroom, substrate they grew from, the quality of the yield and conditions of growth.


Depending on the amount of mushrooms ingested, a myriad of physical reactions can be experienced: a loss of appetite, coldness in the extremities, increase of pulse rate, numbness of the mouth and adjacent features, nausea, elevated blood pressure, weakness in the limbs (making locomotion difficult), muscle relaxation, yawning, swollen features and pupil dilation.Cite web|url=|title=Physical Effects of Mushrooms|accessdate=2006-12-01|publisher=Mind Media|year=2003|author=Soochi|work=Shroomery]


Noticeable changes to the audio, visual, and tactile senses are apparent thirty minutes to an hour after ingestion. These shifts in perception, visually, include enhancement and contrasting of worldly colors, strange light phenomena (such as auras or "halos" around lights sources), increased visual acuity, surfaces that seem to ripple, shimmer, or breathe; complex open and closed eye visuals of form constants or images, objects that warp, morph, or change solid colors; a sense of melting into the environment, and trails behind moving objects. Sounds seem to be heard with increased clarity; music, for example, can often take on a profound sense of cadence and depth. Some users experience synesthesia, wherein they perceive, for example, a visualization of color upon hearing a particular sound.

Dr. Frank van der Heijden at the Vincent van Gogh Institute for Psychiatry in the Netherlands claims brief psychotic disturbances, such as transient hallucinations and dysperceptions are more common in psilocybin mushroom users than in nonusers. [cite news|first=Clint|last=Witchalls|url=|title=Trip down the high street|date=2006-06-16|accessdate=2007-04-016|publisher=The Independent (reproduced on LookSmart [ Find Articles] )]


During the psychedelic experience, emotions can rapidly and inexplicably change. Contradictory emotions, such as wonder, bliss, sadness, fear can all be encountered within minutes of each other or simultaneously. High doses carry the increased possibility of a spiritual event known as ego death, whereby the user loses the sense of boundaries between their body and the environment, creating a sort of perceived universal unity. Users may experience profound feelings of connectivity with a higher power or the universe.

As with other psychedelics such as LSD, the experience, or "trip," is strongly dependent upon set and setting. A negative environment could likely induce a bad trip, whereas a comfortable and familiar environment would allow for a pleasant experience, although neither side of this binary is without exception.cite book|first=Paul|last=Stamets|title=Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World|Publisher=Ten Speed Press|origyear=1996|isbn=0898158397|accessdate=2007-04-03]

In 2006, the U.S. government funded a randomized and double-blinded study by Johns Hopkins University which studied the spiritual effects of psilocybin mushrooms. The study involved 36 college-educated adults who had never tried psilocybin nor had a history of drug use, and had religious or spiritual interests; the average age of the participants was 46 years. The participants were closely observed for eight-hour intervals in a laboratory while under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms.

One-third of the participants reported that the experience was the single most spiritually significant of their lives and more than two-thirds reported it was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences. Two months after the study, 79 percent of the participants reported increased well-being or satisfaction; friends, relatives, and associates confirmed this.

Despite highly controlled conditions to minimize adverse effects, 22% of subjects (8 of 36) had notable experiences of fear, some with paranoia. However, the authors reported that all these instances were "readily managed with reassurance". [cite web|title=RR Griffiths, WA Richards, U McCann, R Jesse. Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance|publisher=Psychopharmacology 187(3):268-83|month=August|year=2006|accessdate=2008-09-25|url=] It should also be noted that subjects in this study received psilocybin randomly, without prior notice, in one of three scheduled sessions. In ordinary settings, a user would have more control over the experiences. Further, with mushrooms, a person could test smaller doses first, before experimenting with a larger dose in a later session, thereby gaining familiarity and confidence. Thus the rates of negative experiences reported in this study may be an overestimate.


The psychological effects of mushrooms can range from insightful to disorienting. Users report an increased ability to concentrate on memories, feelings of time dilation, abstract or disorganized thought patterns, glossolalia and, sometimes, sudden, intuitive realizations. In a way, mushrooms allow what would typically be bypassed by the brain's own natural filters to be magnified, along with the ideas and emotions that may accompany such thoughts. This can be seen as both good and bad, as it may allow for an ease of the ability to focus on stressful matters, or it could also lead to a bad trip. Significant amounts of time can be spent in deep philosophical or introspective silence. This introspective mindset, if negative, can often be painful and uncomfortable for the user to experience.

Medicinal use

There have been calls for medical investigation of the use of synthetic and mushroom-derived psilocybin for the development of improved treatments of various mental conditions, including chronic cluster headaches,Cite web|url=|title=Psilocybin Mushrooms|accessdate=2006-12-01|author=Clusterbusters|format=html] following numerous anecdotal reports of benefits. There are also several accounts of psilocybin mushrooms sending both obsessive-compulsive disorders ("OCD") and OCD-related clinical depression (both being widespread and debilitating mental health conditions) into complete remission immediately and for months at a time, compared to current medications which often have both limited efficacy [Cite web|url=|title=Effects of Psilocybin in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder|format=html:"In spite of the established efficacy of potent 5-HT reuptake inhibitors in the treatment of OCD ... the length of time required for improvement of patients undergoing treatment with 5-HT reuptake inhibitors appears to be quite long ... and the percentage of patients having satisfactory responses may only approach 50%, and most patients that do improve only have a 30 to 50% decrease in symptoms (Goodman et al., 1990)"] and frequent undesirable side-effects.Cite web|url=|title=Effects of Psilocybin in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder|format=html] One such study states:

:"Developing drugs that are more effective and faster acting for the treatment of OCD is of utmost importance and until recently, little hope was in hand. A new potential avenue of treatment may exist. There are several reported cases concerning the beneficial effects of hallucinogenic drugs (psilocybin and LSD), potent stimulators of 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors, in patients with OCD (Brandrup and Vanggaard, 1977, Rapoport, 1987, Moreno and Delgado, 1997) and related disorders such as body dysmorphic disorder (Hanes, 1996)"

:" [I] f it can be established that this class of drug can indeed lead to rapid and substantial reduction in OCD symptoms, then it opens the way for a variety of future studies with new drugs that might possibly have the anti-OCD but not the psychedelic effects. [...] Psilocybin, LSD, and mescaline are extremely potent agonists at 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors and their binding potency to these receptors is correlated with their human potency as hallucinogens (Glennon et al., 1984). The acute improvement in symptoms described in the published case reports (Brandrup and Vanggaard, 1977, Rapoport, 1987, Moreno and Delgado, 1997) suggests that interactions with 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors may be an essential component of anti-OCD drug action. The observations that administration of the non-selective 5-HT antagonists metergoline or ritanserin exacerbate OCD symptoms further supports this view."


Dosage of mushrooms containing psilocybin depends on the potency of the mushroom (the total psilocybin and psilocin content of the mushrooms), which varies significantly both between species and within the same species, but is typically around 0.5-2% of the dried weight of the mushroom. A typical dose of the rather common species, "Psilocybe cubensis," is approximately 1 to 2 grams,Cite web|url=|title=Dosage Chart for Psychedelic Mushrooms|accessdate=2006-12-01|publisher=Erowid|year=2006|author=Erowid|format=shtml] corresponding with 10 to 25 milligrams psilocybin and psilocin, while about 2½ to 5 grams dried material or 25 to 50 milligrams of psilocybin/psilocin is considered a heavy dose. Fresh mushrooms are approximately 90% water. Exposure to heat generally breaks down the psychoactive ingredients.When eaten dry, 1 to 1.5 grams of mushrooms provide a small "trip" that can last up to 3 hours. The effects then are relatively mild, depending on the tolerance of the subject.With 3 to 3.5 grams one experiences a strong effect which can last more than 5 hours.


Psilocybin and psilocin are listed as Schedule I drugs under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. [cite web|title=List of psychotropic substances under international control|publisher=International Narcotics Control Board|month=August | year=2003|accessdate=2007-06-25|url=] Schedule I drugs are drugs with a high potential for abuse that have no recognized medical uses. The classification of psilocybin mushrooms as a schedule 1 drug has come under criticism because "shrooms" are considered soft drugs with a low potential for abuse. Parties to the treaty are required to restrict use of the drug to medical and scientific research under strictly controlled conditions. Some national drug laws have been amended to reflect this convention (for example, the US Psychotropic Substances Act, the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and Drugs Act 2005, and the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act), with possession and use of psilocybin and psilocin being prohibited under almost all circumstances, and often carrying severe legal penalties. Magic Mushrooms in their fresh form still remain legal in some countries including Spain and Austria. On April 25, 2008, The Netherlands decided to outlaw the cultivation and use of psilocybin-containing fungi, but have yet to pass laws to the effect. Psilocybin-containing fungi will remain legal in The Netherlands until the new law is passed. [cite web|title=APF:Netherlands to ban 'magic mushrooms'|publisher=Agence France-Presse|month=April | year=2008|accessdate=2008-07-01|url=] The UK ban introduced in 2005 came under much criticism, however was rushed through at the end of the 2001-2005 Parliament. Before 2005 Magic Mushrooms were sold in hundreds of shops and on internet web sites throughout the UK.

Because mushrooms can be grown indoors (namely "Psilocybe cubensis" and "Panaeolus cyanescens"), they are generally grown within the same national borders as they are sold. There have been few high-profile cases of mushroom producers and traffickers being caught and prosecuted.

The potency of mushrooms can vary greatly depending on the growing conditions and buyers of mushrooms run the risk of ingesting a poisonous, mis-identified species, or being cheated by substitutions or cutting of the mushrooms with other, non-psychedelic varieties, or by non-psychedelic varieties laced with other psychedelics, most often LSD.

New Mexico appeals court ruled on June 14, 2005, that growing psilocybin mushrooms for personal consumption could not be considered "manufacturing a controlled substance" under state law. However it still remains federally illegal. [] []

ee also

* List of Psilocybin mushrooms
* Psychedelic
* Entheogen
* Shamanism



*cite book | first=John W. | last=Allen | year=1997 | title=Magic Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest | publisher=Raver Books and John W. Allen | location=Seattle | id=ISBN 1-58214-026-X
*cite book | first=Andy | last=Letcher | publisher=Faber and Faber Limited | year=2006 | location = London | title = Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom | id=ISBN 0-060-82828-5
*cite book | first=L. G | last= Nicholas | coauthors=Ogame, Kerry | year=2006 | title=Psilocybin Mushroom Handbook: Easy Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation | publisher=Quick American Archives | location= | id=ISBN 0-932551-71-8
*cite book | first=Paul | last=Stamets | year= 1993| title=Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms | publisher=Ten Speed Press | location= Berkeley| id=ISBN 1-58008-175-4
*cite book | first=Paul | last=Stamets |coauthors=Chilton, J.S.| year=1983 | title=Mushroom Cultivator, The| publisher=Agarikon Press | location=Olympia | id=ISBN 0-9610798-0-0
*cite book | first=Paul | last=Stamets | year=1996 | title=Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World | publisher=Ten Speed Press | location=Berkeley | id=ISBN 0-9610798-0-0
*cite book | first=Cynthia | last=Kuhn | coauthors=Swartzwelder, Scott; Wilson, Wilkie | year=1998 & 2003 | title=Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy | publisher=W.W. Norton & Company Inc | location=New York | id=ISBN 0-393-32493-1
*R. Gordon Wasson, "The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica"
*Alvaro Estrada, "Maria Sabina: Her Life and Chants"
*Terence McKenna, "Food of the Gods"
*Ole Högberg, "Flugsvampen och människan". Section concerning the berserker myth is published online [] (In Swedish and PDF format) ISBN 91-7203-555-2

External links

* [ The Vaults of Erowid - Psilocybin Mushrooms]
* ['sSciencePublications.htm Jeremy Bigwood: Scientific Publications] (archived at Wayback Machine)

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