There has been considerable interest in magic mushrooms for thousands of years. These psychedelic fungi have been used extensively by ancient people in religious and spiritual ceremonies. One rock art found in the Sahara that goes back to 9,000 years ago depicted the use of these hallucinogenic mushrooms. Nowadays, thousands of people journey to popular collecting grounds in hopes of coming across these magical species. Lucky for psychedelic-enthusiasts, these mushrooms can be found in nearly every continent in the world, except in Antarctica.
Magic mushrooms, more commonly known as “shrooms,” have an extremely strong effect on the human body. Many people use them for recreational purposes due to curiosity, while some search for them purely due to their mystical and spiritual experiences. At low doses, these hallucinogens distort perceptions and alter thoughts and mood with little to no effect on memory and orientation. At higher doses, the magic mushrooms can cause hallucinations, alter perceptions of time and space, and lead the user to a powerful spiritual realization.
Chemistry of Magic Mushrooms
Psilocybin is the main psychoactive principle in magic mushrooms. Once ingested, psilocybin is metabolized into the pharmacologically active form psilocin. The latter is the primary component that produces the fungi’s mind-altering effects. Aside from psilocybin and psilocin, two other substances – baeocystin and norbaeocystin – are present in magic mushrooms, but they are thought to be less active than the first two.
Like other hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, magic mushrooms are shown to produce their effects when their active compounds act on the neural highways in our brains that use the neurotransmitter serotonin. More specifically, the psychoactive substances affect the part of the brain that regulates thought analysis and abstract thinking.
Nature of Magic Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms are abundant in nature. The number one element any mushroom needs for growth is moisture. Dry air and wind can easily destroy them. That is why densely forested areas that are close to bodies of water usually provide suitable conditions for these mushrooms to flourish. Even your own backyard is one place to consider. Given the right conditions, you might get lucky.
Just like your typical mushrooms, these magical ones also grow in woods on rotting logs, on sawdust, or even on clumps of decomposing animal dung. One of the most famous magic mushroom specie, the Psilocybe cubensis, often colonizes the dung of cows and other grazing mammals found in humid grasslands.
Features to Identify Magic Mushrooms
Many magic mushroom species closely parallel the appearance of some of the most toxic and poisonous mushrooms in the world. In fact, many mushroom hunters are susceptible to poisoning because of simple misidentification. Here are the three distinctive features of psilocybin mushrooms:
Magic mushrooms have blue-staining flesh.
One important feature that is distinctive to psilocybin-containing fungi is the blue or blue-green reaction when bruised or injured. The blue color becomes more apparent in mushroom species that have higher psilocybin concentration. While this is a widely known feature of the magical mushrooms, no one has identified the reason behind this bluish color. What scientists only know is that the bluish pigmentation is the result of psilocin degrading into unknown compounds. What this means is that if a mushroom bruises blue, psilocin is or was present within the mushroom cells.
Magic mushrooms deposit dark purple-brown spore prints.
Hidden under the cap of these mushrooms reside thousands of spores that not only lead to the growth of new mushrooms but are also a crucial identification feature for the mushrooms. While a single spore is impossible to see with the naked eye, a pile of spores can. The color of magic mushroom spore prints is always purplish brown. When trying to identify a particular fungus from a psychedelic one, the color of the spore prints will help you.
Magic mushrooms have semi-gelatinous pellicle.
Magic mushrooms have a fair amount of variation even across members of the same genus. However, another distinctive feature that all these psychedelic mushrooms have is in their caps. Their caps are covered with a thin membrane or, what is commonly called, a pellicle. These thin films feel jelly-like and are separable when a cap flesh is being broken gently.
Important Things to Remember with Magic Mushrooms
While these magic mushrooms may not be directly life-threatening and toxicity is unlikely, they can produce unpleasant experiences when taken at high doses, just like any other classic hallucinogenics. The effects also vary and often depend on the person and the context in which the mushrooms were ingested or used.
The concept of “set and setting” is very important when taking these magical fungi. Diving into any psychedelic journey is best done when in good spirits, in good condition, in a calm and familiar atmosphere, and with some trusted people around. Otherwise, you may be asking for problems.
Magic mushrooms, in general, have a rather mild-mannered appearance. But almost everyone knows that these little fungi can change anybody’s world even at low doses. Nowadays, several studies continue to be conducted to further explore and understand the benefits and advantages of magic mushrooms bring to our physical and physiological health.