Psychedelic mushrooms are also known as magic mushrooms, shrooms, sacred mushrooms, and, more generally, hallucinogenic mushrooms. They are also known simply as mushrooms. See the section below on nomenclature for further discussion.
Psychedelic mushrooms are fungi which have psychedelic, i.e., "mind manifesting", properties when ingested and can be roughly divided into two groups: psilocybin/psilocin containing mushrooms found mainly in the genus Psilocybe (though there are also psilocybin containing species belonging to the genera Conocybe, Copelandia, Gymnopilus, Inocybe and Panaeolus) and the muscimol containing mushroom Amanita muscaria. Both groups belong to the Agaricaceae family of fungi. A third group of ergoline alkaloid containing psychoactive fungi like ergot, which is a precursor to LSD, could be defined in connection with the Kykeon.
The principal actives in the psilocybin mushrooms are the tryptamines psilocybin and psilocin, which are closely related to DMT, serotonin and LSD. Several psilocybe species also contain the alkaloids baeocystin and norbaeocystin, which are also suspected of being psychoactive. The fly-agaric Amanita muscaria contains the principal active muscimol which, however, is both chemically and symptomatically unrelated to psilocybin.
Various cultures throughout the ages have used psychedelic fungi for shamanistic and other purposes. Mesoamerican mushroom stones of the pre-classic Mayans representing deified mushrooms date back to approximately 500 BC, while rock paintings in the Sahara of mushroom effigies date back to 7000 BC. Some scholars believe that Soma, the drink mentioned in Vedic literature, was derived from psychedelic mushrooms (R. Gordon Wasson suggests that this was amanita muscaria), while Albert Hofmann and Carl Ruck contend that the Eleusinian Mysteries made use of the psychedelic fungus ergot in the Kykeon. Amanita muscaria is known to have been used in Siberian shamanism.
S. Odman first suggested in 1784 that Nordic Vikings used fly-agaric (Amanita muscaria) to produce their berserker rages. Supposedly, the Norse took these mushrooms so that the effect came on during the heat of battle or while at work. During the berserker rage they performed deeds which otherwise would have been impossible. The rage started with shivering, chattering of the teeth and a chill. Their faces became swollen and changed color. A great rage developed in which they howled like wild animals and violently killed anyone in their way, friend or foe alike. Afterward their mind became dulled and feeble for several days. The potency of North-American fly agarics has been confirmed by Siberian shamans, but the methodology of effective use has eluded modern experimenters.
Psilocybin mushrooms were a revered tradition in native Central American cultures at the time of the European invasion and have been in continuous use up to the present. Named teonanacatl in Nahuatl, ("flesh of the gods"), they may have been employed for healing, divination and for intercession with spirits. Since the beginning of colonial times, their use has been hidden due to persecution by the Christian church, which branded all native religious practices and especially those employing entheogenic sacraments as "Devil worship".
According to the BBC, the first documented use of psychedelic mushrooms was in the Medical and Physical Journal: in 1799, a man who had been picking mushrooms for breakfast in London's Green Park included them in his harvest, accidentally sending his entire family on a trip. 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".
In 1957, amateur mycologist R. Gordon Wasson published an article for Life magazine describing his experiences with psilocybin mushrooms while a guest in the rituals of the Mazatec shaman Maria Sabina in a mountain village in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. His account triggered a wave of experimentation with these mushrooms which resulted in their eventual classification in the United States as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
The introduction of westerners into the previously secret rites was later rued by Maria Sabina, who declared that "From the moment the foreigners arrived, the 'holy children' [Mazatec euphemism for the mushrooms, which are otherwise not named directly] lost their purity. They lost their force, they ruined them. Henceforth they will no longer work. There is no remedy for it."
Psychedelic mushrooms can elicit a range of bodily and mental effects, such as:
- Closed-eye visuals
- Open-eye visual effects
- Auditory effects
- Looped or confused thinking
- Introspective thinking
- Extreme mental lucidity
- Transcendent insight
As with many psychoactive substances, the effects of any mushrooms consumed are unpredictable and strongly dependent upon set and setting. Generally speaking, the experience of psilocybin containing mushrooms lasts four to six hours or more, is inwardly oriented and there can be strong visual and auditory components. Visions and revelations may be experienced and the effect can range from exhilarating to terrifying. There can be also a total absence of effects, even when under the influence of large doses.
Non-western native practice suggests that the effects are also affected by the user's preparation. The Mazatecs purify themselves before a velada, abstaining from meat, eggs, alcohol and sex for four days prior to a velada. The veladas are always done in the dark, in a protected and sealed space which no one may enter or leave until all have regained their composure. Modern psychonauts often speak of "packing" for the "trip," by which is meant a loading of information into the brain prior to "departure," for example, by reading a philosophical writing or watching natural history or science documentaries in the days immediately prior to a planned experience. Regular or experienced users find that there are ways of adjusting their environment to enhance their trip.
In addition, there have been calls for the medical investigation of psychedelic mushrooms in regards to the treatment of chronic cluster headaches following numerous anecdotal reports of benefits.
Dosage of psychedelic mushrooms depends on the total psilocybin and psilocin content of the mushrooms, which varies significantly between species and can also vary significantly within the same species, but is typically around 0.5-2% of the dried weight of the mushroom. A light dose of P. cubensis is usually cited to be about 1g dried material, corresponding to approximately 10mg of psilocybin/psilocin. A common or average dose is approximately 1-3g, corresponding to 10-30mg psilocybin/psilocin and a heavy dose is about 3-5g dried material or 30-50mg of psilocybin/psilocin. Mushrooms are approximately 90% water and accordingly dosages for fresh mushrooms will be about 10 times higher, i.e. 5-50g fresh material.
Contempory western users rarely consume them raw, instead prefering to prepare them with a meal - usually a soup/stew or a noodle-based dish - or as a specially brewed tea.
The fly-agaric is not a controlled substance in most countries.
Access to ergot and ergoline alkaloids is usually restricted since these substances are precursors to LSD.
In most western countries, possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms is illegal. An exception to that rule are The Netherlands, where fresh mushrooms can be obtained in so-called "smart shops" which specialize in ethnobotanicals. Dried mushrooms however are considered a "preparation" and thus remain illegal, even in Holland; the same law is currently in place in Ireland. Nonetheless there is an active international trade both in mushrooms and in spores, which can be grown in sterile medium. (See Drug policy of the Netherlands).
As of 18 July 2005, both dried and 'prepared' (made into a tea, et cetera) psilocybian mushrooms were made illegal in the United Kingdom. Prior to this date, fresh mushrooms were widely available, but Clause 21 of the Drugs Bill 2005 made fresh psychedelic mushrooms, ('fungi containing psilocin'), a Class A drug.
In New Zealand, psilocybin mushrooms are not illegal in themselves, but extracting the chemicals out of them by means of crushing or boiling is illegal.
In the United States, possession of psilocybin-containing mushrooms is largely illegal. Fresh or unprepared psilocybian mushrooms that grow wild in the state of Florida are legal to possess; however, those caught would be hard-pressed not to be hassled by authorities for having them.
Psychedelic mushrooms are usually sold on the black market dried, but are sometimes incorporated into chocolate or baked into brownies, cakes or muffins.
The word psychedelic is a neologism coined from the Greek words for "mind," ψυχη (psyche), and "manifest," δηλειν (delein) and is usually the preferred nomenclature because of its relative neutrality. The word hallucinogenic, though common parlance, is somewhat of a misnomer in the sense that psychedelic mushrooms do not primarily cause true hallucinations and is often avoided because of negative connotations. See the article on psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants for further discussion of classes and terminology of psychoactive substances.
Below is a list of colloquial terms for psychedelic mushrooms:
- Copper tops
- Eminems (magic mushrooms)
- Fun guys
- God's flesh
- ham scrott
- Laughing Jims
- Liberty caps
- Magic mushrooms (most common name)
- Mexican mushrooms
- Moon children
- Mush (common Canadian name)
- Paddo's (common Dutch name)
- Pizza Toppings
- 'Shrooms (with users being called 'shroomers)
- Zoomies (also common in Canada)
- Psilocybe mushrooms are the most common psychedelic mushrooms.
- Amanita muscaria, or Fly Agaric, is a psychoactive mushroom used by Siberian shamans.
- Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) is suspected of being one of the ingredients in the presumably psychoactive drink kykeon taken by the participants to the Eleusinian Mysteries.
- LSD and DMT are psychoactive compounds chemically related and producing effects similar to those of psilocybin.
- Ayahuasca is a DMT containing psychoactive drink used by South American shamans.
- Mescaline is a phenethylamine found in peyote which produces effects similar to those of psilocybin and has a history of traditional use by native North Americans.
- Serotonin is neurotransmitter closely chemically related to psilocybin.
- R. Gordon Wasson, The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica
- Alvaro Estrada, Maria Sabina: Her Life and Chants
- Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods
- The Good Drugs Guide - The Good Drugs Guide - Mushrooms
- Terence McKenna Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines.
- Shroom safety tips A community dedicated to safe drug use.
- The Shroom GalleryAn open-minded community put together to showcase pictures of exotic, magic and other types of mushrooms.
- Mushplanet Everything you need to know about cultivation of Magic Mushrooms.
- The Shroomery Detailed information about magic mushrooms including identification, cultivation and spores, psychedelic images, trip reports and an active community.
- The Vaults of Erowid - Psilocybin Mushrooms
- Drugs-plaza about magic mushrooms
- PsychedelicJones One man's experiences exploring consciousness with magic mushrooms and other substances.
- Magic Mushroom Consumers in the UK English pro-legal Magic Mushroom campaign.
- Lysergic Book Multiple Entheogen Experiences Described.
- Enthogen Defence Fund UK campaign to challenge the British government's ban on fresh magic mushrooms.
- How UK's love of mushrooms grew
- Illegal in UK as of 18 July 2005
- Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World (1996) ISBN 0898158397
- Psilocybin Mushroom Handbook: Easy Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation (2004) ISBN 0932551645