Psilocybin mushrooms, sometimes known as magic mushrooms or shrooms, are among the most popular psychedelic substances worldwide. In this in-depth guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know, including how to identify and use mushrooms, what to expect, and more.
What Are Magic Mushrooms?
The term ‘magic mushrooms’ applies to any species of fungus that contains the active ingredient psilocybin or its derivative psilocin. These compounds bind with serotonin receptors in the brain to induce a psychedelic experience, commonly known as a ‘trip.’
There are numerous types of magic mushrooms – over 180 species have been identified to date.
However, their effects are all somewhat similar. Depending on the dosage, they can induce anything from feelings of mild euphoria to powerful hallucinations and spiritual experiences.
For this reason, humankind has used them for millennia as an important element of religious ceremonies and rituals. More recently, they have become popular as a recreational substance, and scientists are exploring their therapeutic potential.
Magic Mushrooms Effects and Dosage
The effects of magic mushrooms can vary depending on the individual taking them, the setting, and the dosage.
People who use them commonly describe a heightened emotional state and an increased sense of introspection. Some users also experience time distortion and synesthesia, a phenomenon that involves the blending of the senses, for example, tasting colors.
Psilocybin can also cause visual effects. Shifting shapes and colors, halos or rainbows around objects, or geometric patterns when closing the eyes are common examples. There may be a sense that the world is pulsing or breathing, along with feelings of inner-peace, contentment, or connection.
Taking an appropriate dose of magic mushrooms is one of the keys to ensuring a positive experience. While the effects of a particular dose often vary from person to person, many recommend first-time users to start out with a microdose. More experienced mushroom users will often consume up to 5 grams or more at once, but this large of a dose will typically produce intense psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects, and may lead to paranoia for inexperienced users.
It is also critical to take mushrooms in a comfortable and safe setting, while in a positive frame of mind. Having a close friend or professional act as a ‘trip sitter’ can further enhance the event. They should preferably have experience with psychedelics and remain sober so they can act as a guide, alleviating any concerns that arise.
What is the Best Kind of Psychedelic Mushroom?
There are many different kinds of magic mushrooms, and all contain the same active compound: psilocybin. Therefore, it is difficult to say one is better than the others. However, one of the most potent varieties is Psilocybe cyanescens, also known as wavy caps. Another species with a generous amount of psilocybin is Psilocybe azurescens.
Some other common types of magic mushrooms include:
- Psilocybe semilanceata
- Psilocybe cubensis
- Psilocybe subcubensis
What Kind of Mushrooms Get You High?
Aside from psilocybin mushrooms, another common fungus with psychoactive effects is Amanita muscaria, also known as fly agaric.
However, this type of mushroom does not work in the same way as the species we have listed above. Its intoxicating chemicals are ibotenic acid and muscimol rather than psilocybin.
Rather than producing classic psychedelic effects, the fly agaric high is similar to being intoxicated on alcohol, causing euphoria and impaired coordination. In the latter stages, this mushroom induces sleepiness, and some users report having lucid dreams.
Fresh fly agaric is toxic, and it is necessary to prepare it in a specific way to avoid extreme sickness.
What Do Magic Mushrooms Look Like?
Since there are so many varieties of magic mushrooms, it is unsurprising that they can vary significantly in appearance. Therefore, when considering how to identify psilocybin mushrooms, it is best to familiarize oneself with the varieties growing locally.
Psilocybe semilanceata grows in many different regions, including North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. They are small mushrooms with a bell-shaped cap, hence their nickname: Liberty Caps. They have thin, wavy stems that may bruise blue when handled.
Psilocybe cubensis is among the most common varieties found in tropical regions around the world. They are parasol-shaped mushrooms with stubby stems and light to golden-brown caps. The caps are bulbous when young and flatten out as the mushrooms mature.
Although these species are the most widespread, there are many other types of magic mushrooms, all with unique features.
How to Find Magic Mushrooms
The best growing environments for all kinds of fungi are those with rich nutrient sources and plenty of moisture. Therefore, magic mushrooms love to grow in forests where they can feed on the nutrients that dead trees provide. They are most likely to appear close to large bodies of water.
Some species, such as Psilocybe semilanceata, will also grow in open grassland. However, it is essential to avoid foraging for mushrooms on farmland that may harbor chemical pesticides. It is also critical to only harvest when extremely confident about how to identify magic mushrooms.
Picking the wrong species could cause sickness and death, luckily the latter is rare.
Magic Mushrooms Side Effects
According to scientific literature, psilocybin has a low risk of toxicity, addiction, or overdose. However, it can cause some adverse reactions.
The most common side effects of mushrooms include the following:
- Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
- Increased tendon reflexes
- Dilated pupils
Some other, more unusual side effects of taking mushrooms include anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, and mood swings. One can minimize the likelihood of these negative effects occurring by preparing correctly and fostering a positive mindset before tripping.
Although it is rare, some people experience a condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). This can cause altered perception for several weeks or months after using a psychedelic.
Finally, magic mushrooms can interact with several medications, especially those with psychoactive properties. It is unwise to take psychedelics alongside medications such as Adderall, Xanax, or SSRI antidepressants. Drinking alcohol and taking mushrooms at the same time can also produce adverse effects.
How to Use Magic Mushrooms
Most people take magic mushrooms by eating them, although their taste and texture are rather unpleasant. To make them more palatable, people often brew them as a tea, mix them with peanut butter or Nutella, or blend them into smoothies.
It is also possible to grind dry mushrooms into a powder and make them into capsules. This method may be especially appropriate for those wishing to microdose mushrooms for medicinal use.
Magic Mushrooms Medical Use
In recent years, studies have started emerging regarding magic mushrooms’ medical use. Some of the conditions that scientists are investigating include:
Unfortunately, the Controlled Substance Act still classifies magic mushrooms as a Schedule 1 Substance. Therefore, anyone wishing to try psilocybin for medical use may have difficulty accessing it. Individuals’ best course of action may be to investigate whether any clinical trials are ongoing in their area, or they can travel to retreat centers in places in the world where they are legal.
Are Magic Mushrooms Addictive?
Final Thoughts on Magic Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms are a popular form of psychedelic that humans have used for thousands of years. As well as being integral to many spiritual and religious ceremonies, they also have a loyal following of recreational users. Furthermore, a growing number of people are using magic mushrooms medicinally.
Although their legal status has hindered research in the last century, scientists are now beginning to recognize psilocybin’s therapeutic potential.
Magic mushrooms show promise for various conditions, and we expect to see more evidence emerging soon. Until then, remember that magic mushrooms are still illegal in the majority of places. Therefore, those opting to use them do so at their own discretion.