Hallucinogenic mushrooms have probably been in existence exactly as long as humanity. Ancient pictures of mushroom-headed humanoids have been found in caves in the Sahara. Siberian shamans use[d] fly agarics to enlighten the path to the spiritworld. In Central and Southern America use of psilocybian mushrooms (and other hallucinogens) was common until the arrival of Spaniards who spread the Catholic faith with sword and fire and forbade the use.
Spanish priest Bernardino de Sahagun (ca. 1500 AD) on the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms by the Aztecs:
"The first thing to be eaten at the feast were small black mushrooms that they called nanacatl and bring on drunkenness, hallucinations and even lechery; they ate these before the dawn...with honey; and when they began to feel the effects, they began to dance, some sang and others wept... ... When the drunkenness of the mushrooms had passed, they spoke with one another of the visions they had seen."
On use of alcohol:
"If a youth appeared intoxicated in public... he was punished by being beaten to death with stick or garrotte before all other youths assembled there...to serve as an example."
Only old people were allowed to drink the alcoholic beverage pulque. Sahagun has an error in his writings, the mushrooms were not ingested with food:
"It is an ancient custom for people to eat mushrooms and these they ate in a trice, as is said. They had had no food exept some cacao drunk the night before. They ate these mushrooms with honey."
The Aztecs (1400-1521) took other hallucinogenic drugs such as tlapatl, mixitl grain and peyotl or peyote, use of which originated from the north of Mexico, where it had been in use since 300 B.C. "Mushroom stones" in which figures under the cap of a mushroom are depicted have been found even from an earlier era (1000-500 B.C.) The purpose of these sculptures is not certain, but these stones may have been religious objects.
The Codex Vienna Mixtec manuscript (ca 13th-15th century) depicts the ritual use of the teonanácatl by the Mixtec gods. The god known as 7 Flower (his name presented in the pictoral language as seven circles and a flower) was the Mixtec god for hallucinatory plants, especially the divine mushroom, and is depicted with a pair of mushrooms in his hand.
The Aztecs also had their god for the entheogens, Xochipilli, Prince of Flowers. He was the divine patron of "the flowery dream" as the Aztecs called the ritual hallucinatory trance.
Mushrooms ingested by the Indians were supposedly Psilocybe mexicana or caerulescens and Panaolus sphinctrinus. Stropharia cubensis, which is currently quite popular as it is easy to locate and cultivate, was not introduced to America until the arrival of the Europeans and their cattle. Today Indians regard Stropharia cubensis inferior to Ps. mexicana for it grows in dung.
In the beginning of twentieth century interest in psychoactive mushrooms stirred. The teonanácatl was first identified as Lophophora williamsii or peyote, and it was thought that Sahagun had mistaken the cactus for mushrooms. Finally ethnobotanist Richard Evan Schultes and physician Plasius Paul Reko traveled for the mushrooms to Oaxaca, and collected specimens of Panaeolus sphinctrinus. They found out that mushroom ceremonies veladas were still being held in the area.
A decade after World War II, after long search the mycophile-family of R. Gordon Wasson came to the little village of Huatla de Jimenez, and Wasson and his friend Allan Richardson attended a velada held by curandera Maria Sabina.
Information about the mushrooms soon spread. Psilocybin and psilocin were found and their analogues were synthesized. Experimentation with the mushrooms and the synthesized substances began and magic mushrooms were soon part of the 60's 'psychedelic' movement, i.e. every second middle class kid was opening the doors of perception and [ab]using hallucinogenic drugs.
/ et'e-mol'e-je / 1. the origin and history of words
The name of the genus "Psilocybe" comes from the Greek words "psilos" (bare) and "kube" (head), warped into New Latin to form "psilocybe". Literally translated, this means "bald head", which I suppose comes from their appearance. A rather inaccurate comparison if you ask me, most bald people don't have big pointy nipples on top of cone-shaped heads, even if they're from Remulok, but I digress...
The best known hallucinogens in Psilocybe mushrooms are the chemicals psilocybin and psilocin, which are discussed at length in the next part. There remains a minor controversy about the spelling of their names. Psilocybin and psilocin are both alkaloids (nitrogen-containing substances found in nature), and an effort in the 1970s aimed to convert all alkaloid names so that they end in -ine, like cocaine, caffeine, morphine, etc. The names should thus be "psilocybine" and "psilocine"; yet "psilocybine" is used very rarely even in modern authoritative works, and I have seen "psilocine" in print exactly once. If anybody has some idea about the current situation and the Korrekt spelling, please inform me.
The primary active ingredients of Psilocybe mushrooms are (surprise!) psilocybin and psilocin, and to a lesser extent baeocystin and norbaeocystin. The ratio of psilocybin to psilocin varies from species to species. The primary difference is that psilocin is unstable and it breaks down when the mushroom is dried, while psilocybin lasts much longer (a 115-year old mushroom sample was found to contain some). The two are equally psychoactive, since one molecule of psilocybin breaks down into one molecule of psilocin. But in terms of weight, we find that:
molecular weight of psilocybin 284.3 ------------------------------ = ----- = 1.391 molecular weight of psilocin 204.3
So by weight psilocin is around 1.4 times more potent. The formula for calculating total potency, ignoring [nor]baeocystin, is thus:
(psilocybin) + (1.4 * psilocin) = total potency in 'psilocybin units'
Now, here's the structural diagram for psilocybin:
N / \ PSILOCYBIN / \ ______/ \ C H N O P / / \ \ || 12 17 2 4 / / \ \ || / / \ \ || 4-OPO -DMT \/ \/___|| C C 4 \________/ \ / \ / \______/ \ / \ / 4-Phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine \ \ / \ / \ C N 1H-Indol-4-ol, 3-[2-(dimethylamino)- \ (+) | ethyl] dihydrogen phosphate ester O | | C CAS #: 520-52-5 ____| (-) O____P____O DEA #: 7437 | | O
In the body, the phosphorus part is chopped off ("dephosphorylated") by the enzyme alkaline phosphatase, turning it into our other friend:
N PSILOCIN / \ / \ C H N O ______/ \ 12 16 2 / / \ \ || / / \ \ || 4-OH-DMT / / \ \ || \/ \/___|| C C 4-Hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine \________/ \ / \ / \______/ \ / \ / 1H-Indol-4-ol, 3-[2-(dimethylamino) \ \ / \ / ethyl] \ C N \ | CAS #: 520-53-6 O | C DEA #: 7438
Psilocybin and psilocin are part of the tryptamine family (indole C8H7N & ethylamine side chain). They bear close resemblance to the neurotransmitter serotonin. How these substances work is, I have come to believe, still quite obscure. Primary effect seems to be the inhibition of neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine aka 5-HT), i.e. a 5-HT2A post-synaptic agonist that mimics the effects to 5-HT to put it in jargon. This is the working hypothesis for LSD-25 at the moment and it's probably true for psilocybin as well. These substances also present some cross-tolerance.
As a good psychedelic should, psilocybin, psilocin and psilocybian mushrooms have low toxicity in tests with mice, doses up to 200 mg of psilocybin/kg of body (in average human terms (65 kg) 13 grams) have been injected intravenously without lethal effects. The ED50:LD50 ratio is 641 according to the NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects; compare this with 9637 for vitamin A, 4816 for LSD, 199 for aspirin and 21 for nicotine. Poisoning, at least physically, is thus not a problem.
Then we have the two other significant indole alkaloids:
N / \ BAEOCYSTIN / \ ______/ \ C H N O P / / \ \ || 11 15 2 4 / / \ \ || / / \ \ || 4-OPO -MT \/ \/___|| C 4 \________/ \ / \ \______/ \ / \ 4-Phosphoryloxy-N-methyltryptamine \ \ / \ \ C N 1H-Indol-4-ol, 3-[2-(methylamino)- \ (+) | ethyl] dihydrogen phosphate ester O | | C CAS #: 21420-58-6 ____| (-) O____P____O DEA #: None | | The monomethyl analogue of psilocybin O
Unlike psilocybin, baeocystin is somewhat unstable, and decays noticeably with age. And then we have baeocystin's close chemical cousin:
N / \ NORBAEOCYSTIN / \ ______/ \ C H N O P / / \ \ || 10 13 2 4 / / \ \ || / / \ \ || 4-OPO -T \/ \/___|| C 4 \________/ \ / \ \______/ \ / \ 4-Phosphoryloxytryptamine \ \ / \ \ C N 1H-Indol-4-ol, 3-[2-aminoethyl] \ (+) dihydrogen phosphate ester O | CAS #: 21420-59-7 ____| (-) O____P____O DEA #: None | | The demethyl analogue of psilocybin O
In other words, baeocystin and norbaeocystin are just psilocybin with one methyl and two methyls respectively lopped off. And unfortunately for all you synthesis experts, while baeocystin and norbaeocystin do not have DEA control numbers they do both come under the Controlled Substance Analogue Act.
When dephosphorylated, they turn into 4-hydroxy-N-methyltryptamine and 4-hydroxytryptamine. All 4 substances are presumed hallucinogenic, but less so than psilocin or psilocybin. Very little work seems to have been done on them (Chemical Abstracts averages a cite a year, with most of them of the variety "baeocystin found in Psilocybe totallyobscuralis"). There has been some speculation on the 'net about them, and a possible correlation between nausea and the amount of baeocystin has been found. We hope to be able to investigate the question further for the next version.
These are just the four "biggies". A whole truckload of other indoles are known to exist in Psilocybe mushrooms. Here's a sample of what was found in a batch of Psilocybe baeocystis, excluding the ones mentioned above:
|Indole derivative||Amount (ug)|
|5-Benzyloxy-3-indole acetic acid||2|
|N,N-Dimethyltryptamine hydrogen-oxalate [aka DMT]||4|
|5-Hydroxy-3-indole acetic acid||2|
|5-Hydroxytryptamine creatine sulfate [aka Serotonin]||4|
|3-Indole acetic acid||2|
|3-Indoleacetic acid ethyl ester||2|
|5-Methoxydimethyltryptamine monooxalate [aka Bufotenine]||4|
|From: A.Y. Leung, A.H. Smith & A.G. Paul, "Production of Psilocybin in Psilocybe baeocystis Saprophytic Culture" J Pharm Sci 54: 1576 (1965)|
Yes, Psilocybe mushrooms contain DMT, but in microscopic amounts. DMT is not orally active anyway, so it doesn't do anything.
The effects of psilocybin can be potentiated (made stronger) by taking them with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). The potency is roughly doubled, according to most reports. The best known MAOIs are harmine and harmaline from the plant Peganum harmala (Syrian rue). Combining MAOIs and tryptamines is an unsafe activity; not only are there are number of substances you must avoid during use to prevent a serious hypertensive crisis (see: Foods to Avoid When Using MAO-Inhibitors), but the long-term health effects are unknown. If you wish to know more, consult the Tryptamine FAQ. Personally, I doubt it's worth the risk, if you pick or grow shrooms it's easy to get enough shrooms for a double dose.
Psilocybin is juuust fine. I've tried several psychoactive drugs, including hash, LSD-25 and psilocybin. Hash usually doesn't do much sends me into a half sleep with silly thoughts and spacey soundscape added to music... LSD doesn't do it to me either. It's probably OK if you are after low dose recreation partying and such... High doses too blunt, like a mental power tool. It cracks open your head; Starring You and Your Brain for 12 hours. Every perception magnified thousandfold it's.. it's a bit too intense. is the keyword. It doesn't accept any apologies or mistakes.. too harsh. I often felt like I had been immersed in some chemical, into a substance so pure and efficient it has no place in nature. Too pure. 12 hours of LSD-25 acid-bath makes you really tired... physically and mentally. But psilocybin, mm-mm, it's juuuuust fiiiine.
Voyage to the spiritworld... visions and travels, awesome mental hallucinations. It's a direct ISDN-link to the mother earth, forgiving, gentle substance. You hear the chanting of the planet and the spirit of the mushroom. It's a product of the nature, untied to the actions of men and women roaming this planet. Your body disconnected from the circuit, you may often forget it exists. Six hours not too short, not too long. Perfect.
It should be noted that like all 'major' hallucinogens, psilocybin can precipitate psychotic episodes and uncover or aggravate previous mental illness. If you're stressed out or depressed, don't take mushrooms; if you have schizophrenia or something, DO NOT take mushrooms.
ACID IS NOT FOR EVERY BRAIN .... ONLY THE HEALTHY, HAPPY, WHOLESOME, HANDSOME, HOPEFUL, HUMOROUS, HIGH-VELOCITY SHOULD SEEK THESE EXPERIENCES. THIS ELITISM IS TOTALLY SELF-DETERMINED. UNLESS YOU ARE SELF-CONFIDENT, SELF-DIRECTED, SELF-SELECTED, PLEASE ABSTAIN.
Timothy Leary, Ph.D.
I think this applies to mushrooms as well. Mushrooms and acid will open your doors of perception, and once open you can never truly close them again. They are more than a purely recreational drug.
Here's a list of the places we know about. Much of this is 'off the net' and may thus be more or less flawed. "Y" means it is legal, "N" means it is illegal, "?" means their status is unclear.
| A: Possession of fresh mushrooms
B: Possession of dried mushrooms
C: Possession of mushroom spores
D: Cultures at mycelium stage
E: Cultures at mushroom stage
|Location||A B C D E||Noted|
|Austria||Y ? Y Y Y||Mushrooms are considered decorative plants and unless attempts to extract psilocybin are made, they should remain legal.|
|Canada||Y N Y Y Y||If Bill C-7 passes, possession of fresh mushrooms and cultures will become illegal.|
|Great Britain||Y Y Y Y N||A legislative quirk allows the possession of "naturally dried" (sun-dried) shrooms.|
|The Netherlands||Y N Y Y Y||Even the sale of fresh mushrooms is legal. See "Growing Mushrooms" for addresses.|
|The Sultanate of Okusi-Ambeno||Y Y Y Y Y||There are no mushroom prohibition laws in Okusi-Ambeno.|
|N N N N N||Spores and cultures are explicitly forbidden by CA Health & Safety Code Section 11391.|
|Y N Y Y N||Possession of fresh mushroom if picked "accidentally" (low quantities) is allowed.|
|Y N Y Y N||Even allowing mushrooms to grow on your property is (theoretically) illegal.|
|N N Y Y N||State laws take precedence over Federal law in the U.S., so this may not apply.|
|International||Y N Y Y N||This is the United Nations standard and most nations follow it.|
These laws are based on a balance between the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which makes psilocybin and psilocin illegal, and recognition of the fact that the substances occur in nature. For each category:
Mushroom hunting is another issue. On public property, hunting itself is not illegal, but you're not likely to run into cows in national parks either. =) Some countries like Finland have the legal concept of "everyman's right" which allows, among other things, picking mushrooms on private property, except on fields which once again makes things tricky. But unless you live in a notorious shroom zone some areas of Florida and South Wales come to mind the odds of getting hassled by farmers, much less getting caught by the police, are practically zero.
If you are caught by the cops, expect to be charged with trespassing and possession of controlled substances. Unless large quantities are involved, you will probably get by with probation and/or a fine. If caught in Florida, you can cite the state laws and have the possession charge reduced or dropped entirely.
.-'~~~-. .'o oOOOo`. "I am ... a mushroom :~~~-.oOo o`. On whom the dew of heaven drops now and then." `. \ ~-. oOOo. - John Ford `.; / ~. OO: .' ;-- `.o.' ,' ; ~~--'~ ; ; [ASCII stolen from Mescalito Ted] _\\;_\\//_
Psilocybe mushrooms are:
Commonly used species:
(*) Contains only psilocin.
(%) Contains only psilocybin.
(?) Contains unidentified tryptamines (probably psilocin/psilocybin).
(@) Contains unidentified hallucinogens (possibly psilocin/psilocybin). The Boletus genus is very large and very few of them are hallucinogenic; some are known to be poisonous.
Inclusion on this list does not mean the psilocin/psilocybin content is sufficient for psychotropic activity in practical amounts, for example one would need to eat around a thousand Pluteus atricapillus to get off.
The following hallucinogenic species contain not psilocin/psilocybin but atropine, bufotenine, muscimol and similar nasties:
(*) The famed "Fly Agaric" red toadstool with white warts.
Amanita species cause 95% of all deaths from mushroom poisoning. The ones above are (reasonably) safe, the danger lies in correct identification. Death by Amanita poisoning is reportedly an excruciating way to die, since they nuke your liver and the body's own wastes then kill you. Worse yet, the effects only start 3 days after ingestion, and by then it's too late. I would seriously recommend against toying with these; most reports say they're not even fun. If you insist, consult other sources for more information.
"Expert shroomers really know their shit." email@example.com
A printout of this part of the text should provide an adequate check-list for mushrooms in the field, but a good mushroom book with color pictures of the mushrooms, preferably at all 4 stages of growth, is INVALUABLE. The set of GIFs at hemp.uwec.edu may be used as a crude substitute, but a book is easier to carry around... =)
For exhaustingly exhaustive and thoroughly technical descriptions of most Psilocybes, the reader is referred to Singer & Smith: Mycologia 58, 263-303 and Hoiland: Norw J Botany 25(2), 111-122. These two, along with a dozen lesser references (all of them listed at the end), were primary sources in compiling this.
To check the spore color, take two caps, place one on a sheet of white and one on a black paper, or on a glass plate if you plan to use microscope. Place in a draftless place and wait for 6 to 24 hours. The dust-like stuff on the sheet is the spores. Compare the two papers. For size, you'll need a good microscope... =)
The standard identifying mark of most Psilocybes is that they stain blue when touched or cut; unless specifically noted otherwise, assume all mushrooms listed here do. Mind you, this blueing alone is not sufficient for identification as a non-poisonous and hallucinogenic mushroom!
It is STRONGLY recommended that for the first few hunts you go out with a friend who has hunted before and knows what they look like. While there are no poisonous mushrooms that look like the common Psilocybes, there are a whole bunch that certainly will not get you off, and while not lethal they might well be quite unpleasant. So be careful!
The medium adult oral dose, according to Hoffmann, is 4-8 mg of psilocybin. Thus, you can estimate doses from the mg/g psilocybin figures found in technical literature. Data for "% dry weight" is the same as centigrams per gram, so just multiply by 10 to get the mg/g figure.
Whenever possible, dosages in both shrooms and grams of fresh material have been given. As a rule of thumb, for dried shrooms multiply the dosage in shrooms by two. There is no reliable way of converting weight in grams from fresh to dry, mushrooms contain approximately 90% water (ie. 10 grams wet = 1 gram dry) but the figure varies from species to species.
The amount of psilocybin varies very considerably from mushroom to mushroom, depending on factors like age, growing conditions, etc. The variation is up to 4x for mushrooms grown in controlled laboratory conditions, and as much as 10x for ones that are not! With a new batch, always start out low.
When reading the data, remember that psilocybin is almost equal in strength to psilocin. On the other hand, baeocystin does not appear to very hallucinogenic, but it is rumored to account for some of the side effects.
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