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What is Psilocybe cubensis?
The Psilocybe cubensis mushroom is currently one of the most popular and commonly available natural psychedelics. This species is known under several other names such as Stropharia cubensis, Stropharia cyanescens or Stropharia caerulescens, often referred to as the 'Mexican mushroom', and popularly known as magic mushrooms or shrooms. This mushroom is relatively easy to grow, and therefore it is one of the most widely used hallucinogenic mushrooms all over the world. In smartshops, they are often called 'magic mushrooms'.
More than 180 species of fungi are recognized as containing the tryptamine alkaloids psilocin and/or psilocybin. They are Agaricales and include the genera Psilocybe (117 species), Gymnopilus (13 species), Panaeolus (7 species), Copelandia (12 species), Hypholoma (6 species), Pluteus (6 species), Inocybe (6 species), Conocybe (4 species), and Agrocybe, Galerina and Mycena (one each). Concerning the distribution of Psilocybe, the majority of the species are found in the subtropical humid forests of Mexico and New Guinea. Mexico has the highest number of neurotropic fungi (76 species), of which 44 belong to Psilocybe (39% of the world).
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 supposedly comes from their appearance.
At an archaeological site in the Non Nak Tha region of northern Thailand, the bones of zebu cattle were recently unearthed in conjunction with human remains. We know that Psilocybe cubensis flourishes in the manure of cattle and buffaloes in this region of northeastern Thailand. Terence McKenna has suggested that the temporal and physical relationship between the human bones and the bones of cattle is conclusive evidence that psychoactive mushrooms were known to the people who frequented this region about 15,000 years ago (McKenna, 1992).
On the Tassili Plains in northern Algeria, cave paintings dating as far back as 9.000 B.C. (Samorini. 1992; Gartz, 1996) portray anthropomorphic figures with mushroom images on their bodies, evidence that mushrooms were known and used in a mystical manner.
Emboden (1979) describes, among traditional folk remedies from the 2nd century Chin dynasty in China, a cure for ‘the laughing sickness', mushroom intoxication attributed to the accidental ingestion of psilocybin mushrooms.
In Central and Southern America use of psilocybin mushrooms (and other hallucinogens) was common until the arrival of Spaniards who spread the Catholic faith with sword and fire, and forbade their usage. The Mixtec even had a god for hallucinatory plants, especially the divine mushroom, who is called Piltzintecuhtli ("Seven Flower") and is depicted with a pair of mushrooms in his hand (Wasson 1898). But also the Aztecs had their god for the entheogens, Xochipilli ("Prince of Flowers"). Mushrooms ingested by the indigenous people were supposedly Psilocybe mexicana or caerulescens, and Panaolus sphinctrinus.
The appeal of mushrooms in the "modern world" originated when Gordon Wasson came to the Mazatec village of Huatla de Jimenez and experienced a session of "velada" held by curandera Maria Sabina. Velada included a religious ritual under a heavy influence of Psilocybe mushrooms (Wasson 1898).
Information about the mushrooms spread and modern experimentation began. In 1958 the active ingredients of the mushroom, psilocybin and psilocin, were discovered, and their analogues synthesized by Dr Albert Hoffman, who also discovered lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) (Schwartz 1988).
Experimentation with the mushrooms increased immensely, leading to the significant role they played in the "60's psychedelic movement" (The Vaults of Erowid: Sacred mushrooms.). And even these days, Psilocybe mushrooms are one of the most common hallucinogenic substances for recreational use (Adlaf 1998).
P. cubensis (Earle) Singer, a coprophilous (dung-inhabiting) species, common in subtropical regions, but unknown in the tropics, was first identified from a specimen collected in Cuba in 1904 as Stropharia cubensis (Earle 1906). About the same time, Patouillard (1907) collected Naematoloma caerulescens (which is now synonymous with P. cubensis) in Tonkin (Hanoi), North Vietnam.
• Kingdom Protista
ο Division Fungi
ο Class Basidiomycetes
ο Order Stropharia
ο Families Bolbitiaceae, Coprinaceae, Cortinariaceae, Pluteaceae, and Strophariaceae
- Basidiomycotina or -mycetes -- Fungi that produce spores on stalks outside the terminal cells.
- Agaricales -- mushrooms with cap & gills;
Commonly used species
- Panaeolus sphinctrinus, subbalteatus (benanosis)
- Psilocybe baeocystis, caerulescens, cyanescens, mexicana, pelliculosa, semilanceata, stuntzii
- Stropharia (Psilocybe) cubensis
This mushroom has a yellow head, which can be 1,5 to 8 centimetres in diameter and a stem of 4 to 15 centimetres long. It's to be found throughout the southern United States, as well as most of Central and South America, and parts of southeast Asia. It grows on cow manure or manure-fertilized soil.
The primary active ingredients of Psilocybe cubensis are 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 between the two is that psilocin is unstable and it breaks down when the mushroom is dried or heated, while psilocybin lasts much longer (a 115-year old mushroom sample was found to contain some). Only psilocin is directly psychoactive. In the liver, psilocybin is converted into psilocin.
Effects of the P. cubensis 'magic mushroom'
The historical mind-altering effects of psilocybin are described as a voyage to the spirit world. These hallucinogenic effects are similar to those of LSD; however, psilocybin is two hundred times less potent and also has a shorter duration time (Schwartz 1988). Common physiological reactions include muscular relaxation, coldness of the limbs and abdomen, and dilation of the pupils. A somewhat stronger dose includes vision and mental hallucinations, powerful distortion of space, increased ability to visualize creatively, spontaneous detailed images, feelings of time distortion. These effects of psilocybin are often more pronounced in users who have used mushrooms before. So, the use of the mushroom causes a feeling of disconnection from reality and an altered state of consciousness (Cumno 1994).
The nature of this trip depends on the person taking it and the mood/state of mind that person is in. So your experience can be quite different from what you can read here or hear from other people.
At first, there might occur some side effects; unlike a hangover from alcohol afterwards, mushrooms give sort of a hangover before the actual trip starts. This includes a feeling of reduced temperature, gas and/or stomach discomfort and nausea. This is where a bad trip could start, remember this only happens when you come to think negatively about it, these feelings then become stronger and exaggerated and this negative spiral influences the effects in the same way. This is more likely to happen to people who have a history of being depressed, schizophrenic or traumatized. So if you suffer from one of these, but also if you feel stressed, tensed or just not happy, do not take mushrooms.
When taking a medium dose the trip takes about 4 - 6 hours and wears down gradually. The interval between hallucinations gets longer until they disappear completely.
The prevalence of psilocybin throughout history and its current use has led to intensive studies and research. The studies on human and animal models both demonstrated that psilocybin produces temporary psychosis-like symptoms primarily through serotonin-2 receptor stimulation.
Very positive effects are reported by people suffering from cluster headaches; their pains are reduced extremely thanks to the use of some varieties of Psilocybe cubensis. Erowid has gathered information and experiences on this. There is now also a website dedicated to this field of research: http://www.clusterbusters.com/.
Research has also demonstrated that psychoactive mushrooms when taken under professional supervision, can be helpful in the treatment of mental disorders. Research on this matter is still going on and safety parameters still have to be established.
The list of Psilocybe species is extremely long; of which only the most frequently used mushrooms are included in this encyclopaedia. Psilocybe cubensis has several varieties, of which the most common are:
- Psilocybe cubensis "Amazonian"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Brazil"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Cambodian"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Cuba"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Ecuador"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Golden Teacher"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Gulf coast"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Huautla"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Matias Romero"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Mazatapec"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Orissa India"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Palenque"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Tasmanian"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Thai"
- Psilocybe cubensis "Transkei"
Most of them look quite similar - they vary the most in largeness - but originate in different countries and grow under slightly different circumstances.
Magic Mushroom usage
The medium adult oral dose, according to Hofmann, 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.
For the fresh mushrooms, this schedule is used very often:
- 5-10 grams for a light trip for starters.
- 15-25 grams for a medium trip.
- 30-35 grams for a trip of the highest level for true psychonauts.
There is no reliable way of converting weight in grams from fresh to dry, mushrooms contain approximately 90% water (i.e. 10 grams fresh = 1 gram dry) but the figure varies from species to species.
Most psychonauts agree that making mushroom tea is the easiest way of consuming them. Pour some hot water over the dried and shredded mushrooms, wait five to ten minutes, separate the liquid and repeat with some more hot water.
The mushrooms, fresh or dried, can also be mixed with orange juice, hot chocolate, water-honey and spices.
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 alike, DO NOT take mushrooms.
A feeling of reduced temperature, gas and/or stomach discomfort and nausea are quite common, although not everyone experiences these effects. Keep in mind that they're absolutely normal and do not let it put you down (which is not good for the rest of the trip).
Combining this mushroom with MAOIs is not recommended. However, some claim that after consuming MAOIs only half the dose of mushrooms is needed and the trip lasts about two hours longer. But because of the consequences, MAOIs have, it's absolutely necessary to be very careful.
Smoking marihuana on the come up will ruin the clearheadedness that mushrooms have caused. When smoked at the peak, the THC synergizes with the psilocybin/ psilocin and jumps things up a notch and then recedes to a more mellow trip. Lastly, when smoked on the comedown, the pot brings back the trip to some effect; nowhere near the peak effects but definitely a marked increase in activity.
Psilocybe cubensis can be grown through different methods from spores. It would not be very clever to put them down here briefly, while there are many good and detailed descriptions available on the net. Complete growing information is on Erowids Mushroom cultivation Vault.
Also, The Shroomery has many excellent cultivation guides and FAQs.
Don't feel like buying all the supplies and invest a great part of your time in cultivating? There are grow boxes for sale, which make it easy to produce between 200 and 400 grams of fresh Mexican mushrooms in about two weeks. When sold they do not contain any psilocybin or psilocin yet, so in fact, they are still legal in many countries.
Fresh mushrooms can be stored in the fridge for about two weeks. It is least unpleasant if you eat them as fresh as possible, or if you dry them. Dried mushrooms are slightly less potent than the fresh ones, but can be stored for years.
Links / References
The magic mushrooms growers guide
Shroomery FAQ on tripping
Psilocybe from The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances by Richard Rudgley. Including Gordon Wassons psilocybin experience with curandera Maria Sabina.
The Ascent and Spread of Psilocybian Mushroom Consciousness by John W. Allen with James Arthur
Mushroom John's Shroom World online articles and books by John W. Allen
This article is based on the following pages:
Erowids Mushrooms FAQ
Shroomery mushroom FAQ
The Ascent and Spread of Psilocybian Mushroom Consciousness by John W. Allen with James Arthur
Psychoactive Mushroom Use in Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan, Thailand by John W. Allen and Mark D. Merlin