Psilocybin is a psychedelic prodrug compound that produces naturally in over 200 species of fungus. These mushrooms are commonly referred to as “Magic Mushrooms,” or simply “Shrooms.” Psilocybin in its natural state is most notably present in the fungus genus Psilocybe. For instance, Psilocybe Cubensis is one of the more powerful and common forms of Psilocybin, with recognizable strains like Amazonian, Big Mexican and Golden Teacher.
After ingestion, psilocybin is quickly converted into Psilocin by absorption through the gut. Psilocin activates serotonin receptors in the pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for mood, cognition and perception. It also works closely with the parts of the brain that control both panic and arousal. In small doses, Psilocin is non-hallucinogenic. However, high doses of Psilocin can cause intense mind-altering effects. In fact, in some cases, these effects can include hallucinations that resemble LSD or even DMT.
For the most part, Psilocybin causes feelings of euphoria, light visual and auditory hallucinations, changes in perception and cognition, and a distorted sense of time. Indigenous to Central and South America, Psilocybin-containing mushrooms have been a part of religious and spiritual ceremonies for thousands of years. Dried magic mushrooms are said to be about 10x more chemically active than fresh ones. In some cases, Psilocybin can cause extreme nausea and vomiting or even induce panic attacks. These are the side effects that people associate with a “bad trip.”
Effects of Psilocybin and Psilocin
Much like the liver’s process of converting THC into 11-hydroxy-THC, thus increasing its potency and duration, so too does it convert Psilocybin into Psilocin, with similar results. Once ingested, Psilocybin is absorbed through the stomach wall. After that, like most other compounds, it is processed in the liver. This process is known as dephosphorylation. As a result of this breaking down process, the creation of Psilocin occurs. Psilocin is the compound that is responsible for the psychedelic effects associated with magic mushrooms.
Unlike pharmaceutical remedies, Psilocybin and Psilocin both create short-term tolerance increases. In other words, the more you take over a short period of time, the lesser the effects become. As a result, it is challenging to abuse Psilocybin, and there are no physical or psychological dependence cases. In most cases, psychedelic effects are present within 20-45 minutes of ingestion. They can last anywhere from 2-6hrs depending on potency and other situational factors.
Similar to LSD or DMT, Psilocybin is hallucinogenic. Like most psychedelic substances, their effects can rely on a multitude of different factors. Factors like dosage, preparation method, personal metabolism and set and setting can profoundly impact the overall experience. Because of this high possibility of variables, it is imperative to plan your experience accordingly. The more thought you put into providing yourself with a space free of worry or restriction, the more pleasant your overall experience will be. However, if you do not prepare mentally or don’t provide yourself with adequate time and space to use Psilocybin, it can cause paranoia and increased sensations of fear.
You can physically expect pupil dilation and changes in heat rate, either increases or decreases based on the situation. Psilocybin can also cause changes in blood pressure. As a result, those who have pre-existing conditions due to high blood pressure or are susceptible to similar conditions should avoid magic mushrooms. Psilocybin can also induce nausea and even vomiting in some cases. Because Psilocybin reacts with the gut, sometimes the body tries to reject and remove it.
Other physical effects can include muscle weakness and loss of coordination; however, this is only in rare cases. The effects of psilocybin often lead the body to want to wander as the mind does, so it is important to drink lots of water to avoid muscle cramping or fatigue. In most cases, Psilocybin and Psilocin cause both the mind and body to reach a state of total relaxation, melting you into the couch, like a powerful Indica Cannabis edible.
Finally, and almost assuredly most notably, even in small doses, Psilocybin can cause “fits of hilarity.” A single word or object can cause excitement and uncontrollable laughter, depending on the situation. Especially when taken in a group setting, inside jokes or phrases can seem to hold extreme power.
Effects on Perception
In terms of perception, Psilocybin and Psilocin can both cause distortions with time. Time can seem to either stretch or shrink in untold intervals. Some experience time more slowly. To others, hours seem to blink by in minutes. Everyone experiences the effects differently. Additionally, these changes in time could be different for two users who have taken the same strain of mushroom. In some instances, the perception that time doesn’t exist or is “standing still” can occur. Similarly, several studies of Psilocybin have shown that it impairs the ability to gauge time in intervals longer than 2.5 seconds. Psilocybin reduces the “preferred tapping rate,” a factor controlled by the pre-frontal cortex and a psychological sign of loss of the perception of time.
Psilocybin also increases feelings of connectivity. Closeness to other people, an affinity with nature and a feeling of oneness with the universe are common feelings that Psilocybin and Psilocin release. Both compounds greatly intensify emotions and work directly with the parts of the brain that regulate panic and arousal. For instance, users can experience overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude for just about anyone or thing with the right set and setting. However, if you don’t prepare mentally, or the environment isn’t suitable, Psilocybin and Psilocin can amplify feelings of fear and anxiety.
Auditory and Visual Effects
High levels of Psilocin can cause both auditory and visual hallucinations. In other words, if you ingest larger doses of Psilocybin, there is a change that you may experience both sights and sounds that do not exists. For instance, the most common visual effects include distortions of colour, the appearance of “auras or halos” around sources of light, and the effect that objects or surroundings appear to be “breathing”. In even higher doses, objects can appear to be melting or sweating.
In some cases, people have had full-on physical hallucinations of seeing or hearing people, animals or fictional characters that aren’t actually there. These effects are similar to those of LSD or DMT. However, they are reserved for only very strong doses of Psilocybin or Psilocin. Some users also experience a sensation known as synesthesia, where auditory signals trigger visual responses. The most common representation of this is visually experiencing a change in colours while hearing a particular sound or music. In addition, the mind tends to have a particular fondness for music while under the effects of Psilocybin.
Emotional and Spiritual Effects
One of the most important factors in the magic mushroom experience is set and setting. If you go into your experience on a positive note with the right surroundings and people, your experience can be one of wonder and enlightenment. However, because Psilocybin heightens your emotions, it can be easy for negative thoughts or experiences to impact you. No matter what emotions you bring into your experience, psilocybin will augment them without your control. As a result, you should always make sure you have positive intentions before using Psilocybin.
The use of Magic Mushrooms was primarily spiritual for thousands of years. They can impart states of consciousness or “mystical experiences” that have a profound and lasting impact on the user. Many revelations and epiphanies experienced while using Psilocybin can impart a permanent change in religious philosophy or spirituality. Psilocybin and Psilocin offer a feeling of great connectedness to the universe, nature, and oneself.
History of Psilocybin
There has been documentation of prehistoric murals and paintings found in Northern Australia, modern-day Spain, and Algeria, suggesting the earliest use of Psilocybin around 10,000 BCE. Some historians claim that the use of Magic Mushrooms was paramount in the development of consciousness in apes. This “Stoned Ape” theory claims that Mushrooms acted as the catalyst for evolution from Ape to the modern-day man.
Central and South america
In Central America, the use of Psilocybin by the Aztec and Mayan Civilizations was common during spiritual and religious ceremonies. They called the Mushrooms “Teonanácatl”, which translates directly to “flesh of the gods”. Many of their religious writings have multiple mentions of psychedelic mushrooms. One such writing even stating that Magic Mushrooms were a gift from the creator of life himself.
Many of the species of Psilocybe that still exist today originated in Central and South America. More and more, historians are finding ruins, statues and carvings depicting their use. Amazonian Psilocybe Cubensis are one of the more spiritual and “shamanistic” strains of magic mushrooms still to this day.
Indigenous tribes in Siberia and other far-reaching Northern European cultures also used Psilocybin. They used it not only for spiritual purposes but also for practical applications as well. The Muscaria genus of mushroom offers users an altered state of consciousness. Also, they offer an elevated physical capacity to endure harsher climates. This heightened tolerance was one of the effects of Muscimol, the active compound in the Muscaria Mushrooms.
As time progressed, the use of Psilocybin became more philosophical than spiritual. It eventually made its way into Egyptian, Roman and Greek cultures. In ancient Greece, cults worshipped the goddess Demeter with rituals involving consuming psilocybin. These ceremonies were not only mysterious but also highly exclusive, with attendees solely from the upper-class. They were a common practice for scholars and philosophers like Aristotle, Homer and Plato.
The return of their profound influence on modern culture began in the late 1950s. It was then that Gordon Wasson and his wife Valentina P. Wasson, a physician, travelled to Huautla de Jiménez, Mexico. They would study the use of Psilocybin in the Mazatec village, home to dozens of fungus strains.
This research was continued through experiments conducted at Harvard University. Led by Timothy Leary, almost all participants gave reports that they had “profoundly religious experiences.” This experiment was then repeated 25 years later. In this case, participants experienced elements of “a genuine mystical nature.” They would go on to explain it as “one of the high points of their spiritual lives.”
- Kathleen Davis (2019) “What are magic mushrooms and psilocybin?” Medical News Today (online) Available from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308850 (Accessed on January 25, 2021)
- Gigen Mammoser (2019) “Mushrooms as medicine? Psychedelics may be the next breakthrough treatment Healthline (online). Available from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/benefits-of-medical-mushrooms (Accessed on January 25, 2021)
- “Psilocybin mushroom” “Psilocybin” Wikipedia (online) Available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psilocybin_mushroom https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psilocybin