Psilocybin Mushrooms (Magic Shrooms)
Psilocybin mushrooms (or magic mushrooms), do not just contain psilocybin, they also contain psilocin. These mushrooms, of which there are around 200 species globally, may also contain alkaloids such as aeruginascin, baeocystin, nor-baeocystin, nor-psilocin, and beta-carbolines. These other compounds may modulate the overall psychedelic experience, known as either the “entourage effect”, or “ensemble effect”.
But what is psilocybin anyhow?
Psilocybin is a prodrug of psilocin — it is one of the classic psychedelic compounds, along with DMT, LSD, MDMA, and Mescaline. It is one of the most commonly used of these compounds, as it is found in many species of mushrooms, which grow worldwide.
This alkaloid is a tryptamine, a class of psychedelic compounds that include some simple tryptamines (e.g. DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, Bufotenine), and the ergolines (e.g. LSD and LSA). The other classes of psychedelics are phenethylamines (e.g., mescaline, MDMA, and 2CB).
Psilocybin is referred to as a tryptamine due to its chemical structure, distinguishing it from phenethylamines.
Psilocybin is actually a prodrug and not psychoactive itself. When you consume psilocybin, be it as a synthetic compound or as it is naturally found in magic mushrooms, your body will convert it into the psychoactive psilocin. It is this latter alkaloid that causes psychedelic effects.
Psilocybin mushrooms often contain varying amounts of psilocin and a host of other compounds, which may modulate the overall psychedelic experience.
Contents of this article
- What Are Psilocybin Mushrooms?
- What Do Psilocybin Mushrooms Taste Like?
- How To Use Magic Mushrooms
- Magic Mushroom Effects
- The Duration Of Magic Mushroom Effects
- Psilocybin Benefits
- Where Is Psilocybin Legal?
- What Is Psilocybin Used For?
What Are Psilocybin Mushrooms?
The most commonly used species of psilocybin mushrooms include Psilocybe cubensis, Psilocybe semilanceata (Liberty Caps), Psilocybe azurescens (Flying Saucer mushrooms), Psilocybe cyanescens (Wavy Caps), Psilocybe subaeruginosa (P.subs), and Panaeolus cyanescens (Blue Meanies).
There are also many magic mushroom strains, which are varieties of a single species. Common strains of Psilocybe cubensis, for instance, include Penis Envy, Golden Teachers, and B+.
Psilocybe tampanensis produces sclerotia (or truffles), and you can find these sold at specialty shops in the Netherlands (they go by the name “philosopher’s stones”).
Different species and strains of psilocybin mushrooms will contain differing amounts of active alkaloids. Some types will be more potent than others, such as Liberty Caps, Flying Saucer mushrooms, Blue Meanies, and Penis Envy mushrooms. Meanwhile, psilocybe cubensis — with common strains like Golden Teacher — are moderately potent.
Psilocybin is a tryptamine compound, chemically related to the amino acid tryptophan and structurally similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin. In the body, through a reaction known as dephosphorylation (removal of a phosphate group), psilocybin is converted into the psychoactive chemical psilocin. After this conversion, psilocin binds to the 5-HT2A receptors (a type of serotonin receptor) in the brain, which causes the psychedelic experience.
What Do Psilocybin Mushrooms Taste Like?
People have differing opinions about the taste of magic mushrooms; some don’t mind them, whereas others can’t stand them and will try to mask the taste.
The taste has been compared to that of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, mushroom-coated raw almonds, and uncooked button mushrooms. People may also describe the taste as metallic, earthy, nutty, bitter, or like dirt.
Magic mushrooms do not have the umami flavor that culinary mushrooms have. Instead, they taste more earthy, like soil, with a spongy, chewy, and fibrous texture to them.
The taste also differs depending on whether your shrooms are fresh or dried. In the case of the former, the taste is farinaceous (a term from mycology, which describes a starchy flour-like flavor). When dried, on the other hand, psilocybin mushrooms can take on different flavors, depending on the species, their quality, and their age.
People who find the taste of magic mushrooms unpleasant have some options for hiding the flavor. These include powdering the shrooms, putting the powder into capsules, or adding it to coffee, tea, smoothies, or even a pasta sauce.
You can also eat the dried psilocybin mushrooms like any other mushroom — added to food, such as a pizza.
Lemon tekking — soaking the magic mushrooms in lemon juice prior to consumption — is another way to mask the taste. You should be aware, though, that the citric acid in the lemon juice may begin to break down the mushrooms before consumption, resulting in a strong and fast onset.
How To Use Magic Mushrooms
As can be seen from the methods for masking the taste of psilocybin mushrooms, there are different ways to consume them.
- Eating them as they are (fresh or dried)
- Powdering them and adding the powder to capsules, so you don’t taste them at all
- Adding mushroom powder to a drink or food. (See our guide on how to make magic mushroom chocolates)
- Adding the mushrooms as they are to food or drink. Making magic mushroom tea is a popular option, for instance
- Lemon tekking
(Note: you cannot get any psychoactive effects from magic mushrooms by smoking them.)
Do magic mushrooms go bad? Yes, they will eventually.
Fresh psilocybin mushrooms are difficult to store and won’t stay viable for long. They are susceptible to mold, contamination, and oxidation over time.
How To Store Magic Mushrooms
If kept in the fridge, fresh, whole mushrooms can last for 5-10 days. This short shelf life is why people tend to dry them.
Dried magic mushrooms — when stored in a tightly sealed mason jar with silica gel packs and placed in a dark cupboard out of direct sunlight — can last up to a year. However, many users report that their shrooms have stayed good for 2-3 years when stored in this way.
The longer you store them, the greater the chance they will have lost some potency. Improper storage (allowing them to be exposed to heat, light, and moisture) will cause a faster loss of potency.
Magic Mushroom Effects
The effects of magic mushrooms are many and varied, and they often depend on the psilocybin dosage and set and setting. Let’s explore what kind of effects may be present during a low, medium, and high dose experience.
We will base this magic mushroom dosage on Psilocybe cubensis.
Low Dose Magic Mushroom Effects (0.25-1 grams)
|Perceptual effects||Emotional effects||Physical effects|
|Colors become slightly brighter||Positive mood||A slight feeling of nausea|
|The edges of objects appear more distinct||Calmness||Dilated pupils|
|Things look as if they’re in high definition||Anxiety||Increase heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature|
|The features of objects moving slightly||Increased appreciation for music||A light body high|
|Music and external sounds have a different quality to them|
Medium Dose Magic Mushroom Effects (1-2.5 grams)
|Perceptual effects||Emotional effects||Physical effects|
|Colors become noticeably enhanced and vivid||Euphoria (including when listening to music)||Nausea (this feeling of uneasiness in the stomach usually only lasts at the beginning of the trip)|
|Objects move, morph, and ‘breathe’||Empathy||Sometimes vomiting|
|You can see geometric patterns overlaid on objects and the environment, as well as behind closed eyelids||Anxiety, fear, dread, or panic||More dilated pupils|
|You can see tracers (trails left behind moving objects, similar to those seen in long exposure photography)||A feeling of contentment or peace of mind||A further increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature|
|Synesthesia: when different sense perceptions become mixed, so you can see sounds and hear colors, for example||Gratitude||Perspiration|
|Sounds become noticeably distorted||Paranoia||A stronger body high|
High Dose Magic Mushroom Effects (2.5-5 grams)
|Perceptual effects||Emotional effects||Physical effects|
|Visions of imagery, scenes, and entities (both with eyes opened or closed)||Ecstasy||Strong nausea|
|Seeing objects and people morph in intense and strange ways||Bliss||A greater chance of vomiting|
|Strong geometric and fractal hallucinations||Boundless love||An intense body high|
|Auditory hallucinations||Intense feelings of gratitude||Loss of coordination (this is why it’s important to have a trip sitter when taking a high dose, as they can ensure that you don’t jeopardize your physical safety in any way)|
|A strong feeling of euphoria and joy when listening to music|
|Intense states of dread or despair|
|A feeling of sacredness|
A Medium Or High Psilocybin Dosage Can Induce Mystical Effects
If you take a high dose of magic mushrooms (and potentially if you take a medium dose), you can experience mystical effects, which classically include:
- A feeling of unity (also known as oneness)
- Noetic quality: the feeling of gaining insightful knowledge, experienced at an intuitive level. You may have the sense of encountering ultimate reality
- A sense of sacredness or reverence
- Positive mood: feelings of peace, tranquility, ecstasy, awe, or joy
- Transcendence of time and space: you may have the sense of being ‘outside time’, being in a realm with no spatial boundaries, or existing in a timeless state
- Ineffability: you feel that you cannot adequately describe the experience in words
The Duration Of Magic Mushroom Effects
A magic mushroom trip will generally last between 4-6 hours. This duration is mostly consistent. In clinical trials involving psilocybin, most sessions will last up to six hours. After this time, the participants will no longer experience any psychedelic effects.
But the duration of a psilocybin experience for any individual depends on a few factors.
- Dosage: taking a low dose of magic mushrooms could result in a trip lasting only a few hours, whereas consuming a high dose could lead to an experience that is longer than six-hours.
- Method of consumption: it takes around 30 minutes for shrooms to kick in. But you can quicken this process through lemon tekking — it is believed the citric acid in the lemon juice breaks down the mushroom material, saving your body some time it would otherwise spend breaking it down. The lemon tek technique may result in a faster onset and a stronger and shorter journey than eating dried mushrooms as they are.
- Eating psilocybin mushrooms on an empty stomach can lead to a faster onset than consuming them on a full stomach.
- Cannabis may elongate a magic mushroom trip if you smoke it towards the end of the experience. This is because cannabis tends to potentiate the effects of psychedelics. Not everyone may experience this effect, however.
The duration of a mushroom trip is comparable to that of ayahuasca (also 4-6 hours).
For many users, 4-6 hours of tripping is ideal; it means the experience is easier to fit into a day and less likely to interrupt sleep than mescaline or LSD. But it is also not so quick and short-lived — as DMT and 5-MeO-DMT are — that the journey feels like being blasted out of a canon while struggling to absorb what’s happening.
Research from institutions like Imperial College London, King’s College London (KCL), Johns Hopkins, and New York University (NYU) is revealing that psilocybin therapy may be a safe and effective way to treat the following:
Major depression Treatment-resistant depression End-of-life anxiety Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Smoking addiction Alcohol dependency Cluster headaches.
Many clinical trials involving psilocybin are currently underway. There is hope that psilocybin can help patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) find relief from their distressing symptoms.
Wesana Health – co-founded by ex-NHL star Daniel Carcillo, who suffered from the condition and related emotional distress for years – is working to support research into psilocybin as a treatment for TBI.
Imperial College London is also looking into anorexia nervosa as a condition that may respond well to psilocybin therapy. This mental health condition is known to be extremely difficult to treat, with a relatively high mortality rate.
Alternative options are needed for patients who have tried standard treatments with little success. Researchers believe psilocybin could also ease obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms.
People may benefit from psilocybin outside of the context of psilocybin therapy or during psilocybin retreats, either using magic mushrooms on their own, with fellow trippers or with a sober sitter. These experiences can be transformative and result in long-term benefits. However, these settings do not involve support from trained guides or therapists.
It is true that a sober trip sitter could be caring, reliable, and supportive and that individuals can design their trips to emulate features of psilocybin therapy and/or retreats. Someone may even seek a psychedelic integration therapist or coach to help them process their experience, further enhancing the benefits.
Nevertheless, if you use psilocybin mushrooms to treat your emotional distress, the risks may be greater than if done in the context of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy.
Where Is Psilocybin Legal?
In most countries, psilocybin — and, therefore, any mushroom containing it — is a controlled substance. It is typically on the list of the most prohibited drugs. So, in the U.S., it is a Schedule I drug (alongside cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine), while in the UK, it is a Class A drug.
As a Schedule I drug, psilocybin is seen by the federal government as having no recognized medical value and a high potential for abuse. Possessing or selling psilocybin mushrooms also, by law, can result in the harshest legal punishments.
As we have already seen, there are several countries where psilocybin is fully legal, including Jamaica. But there are other countries where it is still possible to use psilocybin without getting into any legal trouble.
Since 2020, the Canadian government has allowed patients with life-threatening conditions to legally partake in psilocybin therapy.
And, in November 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize this form of treatment.
Additionally, as we have already highlighted, psilocybin mushrooms have been decriminalized in a number of U.S. cities.
Where to buy magic mushrooms? Strangely enough, even though selling psychedelic mushrooms in Canada is illegal, there are still magic mushroom dispensaries in operation (in cities like Vancouver and online).
For most people who want to use shrooms, however, to source them, you will have to pick them, grow them, be gifted them, or buy them from a dealer or a darknet market. Nonetheless, any of these options entail legal risks if you are in a country where psilocybin is a controlled substance.
What Is Psilocybin Used For?
To summarize, psilocybin benefits include:
- The alleviation of emotional distress
- The experience of more positive states in everyday life
- Enhanced creativity
- Personal growth
- Finding a more fulfilling direction in life
- Healthier beliefs about oneself
- Greater connection to oneself, others, humanity as a whole, the natural world, or the universe
- An increased interest in spirituality
- Philosophical insights
We have already gained many insights into the manifold ways psilocybin can be used. Psychonauts use psilocybin mushrooms for purposes ranging from healing to exploring the depths of the mind.