Magic mushrooms are popular, but they do not always have the best reputation. Because of the fact that few people talk about magic mushrooms, you likely have some unanswered questions about them. Some you may have been afraid to ask, while others you may just not have had the opportunity to ask.
What Are Magic Mushrooms? What Else Are They Called?
Starting off simple, it helps to thoroughly understand what magic mushrooms are. They are also commonly called psilocybin mushrooms, psilocybin, or shrooms.
Any of those terms are commonly used to refer to the type of fungi that contains the psilocybin. This is a psychedelic compound that occurs naturally. There are at least 180 species of mushrooms with psilocybin or psilocin, its derivative.
How Long Have Humans Used Shrooms?
Humans have been using magic mushrooms for years. We know that Mesoamericans used them in religious and spiritual rituals. Humans have also used them in therapeutic ways throughout history. They have been used to help treat anxiety, depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and cluster headaches, frequently without more support than anecdotal evidence.
There is plenty of evidence of humans using shrooms for thousands of years. Evidence in the Sahara suggests people have been using them for at least 7,000 years. There are also numerous cases of prehistoric artwork featuring mushrooms, including in multiple geographic regions.
There are extensive accounts of using psilocybin in pre-Columbian history, including in the Mesoamerican Mayan and Aztec cultures in Guatemala and Mexico. The Spanish conquerors banned its use during the 15th and 16th centuries. Even so, shamans secretly ignored this law.
The first account of using psychedelic mushrooms in the West that is considered reliable was in 1799. This account describes four children who accidentally ate psychedelic mushrooms.
More Recent History
Albert Hofmann, the famous Swiss chemist responsible for synthesizing LSD, was the first to isolate psilocybin in 1957 in his laboratory. One year later, the first synthetic psilocybin was produced.
There are also reports of Gordon Wasson’s obsession with psilocybin mushrooms following a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. Wasson was the former VP of J.P. Morgan & Company. He went on to kick start the movement for magic mushrooms. This began in 1957 when his photo essay called “Seeking the Magic Mushrooms” was published in Time Magazine.
Wasson’s experiences inspired Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary from Harvard University to found the Harvard Psilocybin Project and be promptly fired. They took that firing as an opportunity to start the psychedelic movement. This led to shrooms being an important part of the counterculture in the 1960s.
Some Theorize Humans Used Them Even Earlier
There are also theories that pre-human hominids and early humans used magic mushrooms. However, there is no evidence to back this up, and the scientific community is skeptical about these theories due to the lack of evidence.
Are They Legal?
The legality of magic mushrooms depends entirely on where you live. Like cannabis, it can vary greatly even between states or provinces within a country. In the United States, shrooms are illegal at the federal level, although the FDA has recently allowed some highly controlled studies for potential psychiatric and medical uses. Despite magic mushrooms being illegal at the federal level, some states have legalized them. As with marijuana legalization on a state-by-state basis, the federal government tends to let areas with legal shrooms be.
Do Shrooms Taste Good?
Unfortunately, most people agree that magic mushrooms do not taste that pleasant. In most cases, you will eat them dried, but you can also eat them whole. Some people prefer to mask the flavour by brewing psilocybin mushroom tea instead of just eating the shrooms. Others like to combine them into food. If you do work magic mushrooms into food, just remember that you should not cook them, as high temperatures can ruin the psychedelic components.
What Should I Expect From a Trip?
One of the most common questions about magic mushrooms and one that you may be too afraid to ask is what you should expect from a trip. Of course, this will vary depending on the dose and your reactions.
The following is what you could expect from a typical trip with a moderate dose. You will likely notice that your emotional experiences are more intense, you are more introspective, and you have a hypnagogic experience. This refers to a transitory state of psychological functioning that is between sleep and wakefulness. Neurologically speaking, a trip on psilocybin is similar to dreaming.
You should also expect changes in your perception. Specifically, most people experience emotional shifts, distorted senses of time, synaesthesia, and illusions. You will likely notice the effects around an hour after you take the magic mushrooms. There will also be visual changes. When you close your eyes, you will likely see geometric patterns and may notice halos around objects and lights.
Emotions and Thoughts
There will also be changes in your emotions and thoughts. During the trip, you may feel more open to feelings and thoughts that you typically try to avoid. It is also common to feel a general sense of delight and wonder with the world, people, and even your thoughts. You will likely feel connected to the world and be peaceful.
There may also be strong emotions, including good and bad ones. For the best trip on mushrooms, embrace the emotions as they come. Reminding yourself that they are temporary can help you have calm detachment and acceptance regarding negative emotions.
The physical effects of consuming psilocybin mushrooms will vary between people. You may notice your heart rate increasing or decreasing, your blood pressure rising or falling, and your tendon reflexes intensifying. You may also experience nausea, arousal, restlessness, dilated pupils, tremors, or problems with coordinate movement.
It is also possible to experience headaches, and these may last up to a day. The study that found these headaches, however, indicated that none of them were severe.
What Types of Side Effects Can You Experience From Shrooms?
Most healthy individuals will tolerate psilocybin well. There do not seem to be any effects on hormone levels, blood sugar, or liver toxicity and function. There have been reports of complications in higher doses and in uncontrolled conditions.
To avoid side effects, you should follow the previous advice about avoiding bad trips. Set up a calm space, start with a low dose, and have interpersonal support on hand. It is almost always possible to manage bad trips with just interpersonal support and without any need for pharmaceutical intervention.
Keep in mind that the potential effects of a trip on shrooms can also include nausea, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, dilated pupils, and headaches.
Are There Phases in the Trip?
Your psychedelic mushroom trip will always go through four main phases: ingestion, onset, peak (the trip), and the comedown. As the name implies, the peak is when you will notice the most intense effects. Others divide the phases into six as follows: ingesting, initial onset, opening up and letting go, the plateau, a gentle glide, and the end (of your formal session).
Regardless of the phase you are in, it is important to relax and keep in mind that your feelings and perceptions are temporary.
How Can I Avoid a Bad Trip?
Most people are concerned about a bad trip, but as long as you follow the 6 S’s, you should be fine.
- Set: Make sure you have the proper mindset
- Setting: Choose a comfortable, familiar space for the trip
- Substance: Choose the appropriate dose of shrooms based on your desired effects
- Sitter: Have a sober sitter or guide who is experienced with psychedelics
- Session: Make sure you have enough time for all stages of the experience
- Situation: Take the time to think about your experience and how it affects you
Are There Any Potential Benefits to Magic Mushrooms?
Thanks to the rich history of humans using psychedelic mushrooms, it would make sense that they would have some benefits. However, there is still not enough scientific evidence to show any definite advantages. Research is still in its early stages, and so far, most support is anecdotal in nature, which is not enough.
Even so, early research is potentially promising, including for anxiety and mood. However, the research is always done in highly controlled environments, and there simply has not been enough evidence yet to reach any conclusions. More original studies need to be completed as well as confirmation studies.
Scientists are working on double-blind studies to see if magic mushrooms could potentially help with treating life-threatening cancer and psychological distress and to see if it affects neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to grow, learn, and change.
To provide an idea of the research into magic mushrooms so far, the following are some of the more important studies. Keep in mind that more research is still necessary, as we do not yet have enough information to make any conclusions. A study by Schindler et al published in 2015 relied on survey data. Almost 50 percent of participants reported that psilocybin was an effective treatment for their cluster headaches.
In 2011, there was a pilot study conducted by Grob, C.S. et al that looked at psilocybin’s effects on end-of-life anxiety and depression in patients with terminal cancer. The researchers saw significant improvements following treatment, and the FDA granted the study Phase II status. A 2016 study by Carhart-Harris et al showed psilocybin has potential in treating depression, and a 2006 study by Moreno, F.A. et al showed promise for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A 2015 study by Bogenshultz, M. et al indicated psilocybin might also have potential in treating alcohol addiction.
Even with all of these studies, experts are not willing to make any conclusions regarding magic mushrooms as more research is needed. As such, you should not assume that there are any potential benefits of using magic mushrooms.
Do Shrooms Interact With Other Drugs?
Before taking anything psychedelic or mind-altering, you should always confirm it does not interact with anything you are currently taking. If you are consuming shrooms legally, you can always ask your doctor or pharmacist about potential interactions. At the very least, keep the following in mind:
Because of the caffeine in it, coffee is technically a drug. Luckily, there are no negative side effects known so far when you mix coffee and shrooms. Some people even mix them intentionally.
There are not any known dangers when you mix magic mushrooms with cannabis, but you should know that the effects of the shrooms will likely be intensified. Because of this, it is best to wait at least 24 hours after smoking cannabis before you enjoy shrooms unless you are fully prepared for more intense effects.
There are some anecdotal reports that alcohol and magic mushrooms do not mix well, and these are mostly based on emergency room visits. Avoid this type of interaction by not drinking while taking magic mushrooms.
Psychoactive Prescription Drugs
Some people may notice negative reactions if they enjoy magic mushrooms while taking certain psychoactive prescription drugs. Potential interactions can occur if you take Zoloft, Xanax, or Adderall.
How Much Magic Mushrooms Should I Consume?
One of the most common questions about magic mushrooms is how much you should consume. This depends on your experience level, your body chemistry, and your desired effects.
Most people will notice the effects of magic mushrooms when they consume between 0.2 and 05 grams of dried mushrooms. Increasing this dose to 1 to 2.5 grams is considered moderate. That dose typically leads to effects lasting between three and six hours.
How Does Your Body Process Magic Mushrooms?
The active psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms is psilocybin. The body metabolizes it into psilocin, and both psilocin and psilocybin produce psychedelic effects. Compared to other psychedelics, psilocybin is less potent by about 100 times than LSD and around 10 times less than mescaline.
Psilocybin and psilocin mostly interact with your brain’s serotonin receptors, especially the F-HT 2A subtype of the receptors. Rodent research shows that psilocybin strongly interacts with receptors in the brain’s areas responsible for integrating sensory experiences. Experts feel that may explain the effects like synaesthesia or altered sensory experiences.