What are magic mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms are also known as Boomers, Caps, Simple Simon, The Flesh of the Gods and, for people who can’t tell mushrooms from chemicals, as Psilocybin.
We are talking about mushrooms with hallucinogenic effects.
They are the simplest and most common psychedelic in the world and have been used by people for literally thousands of years.
But what can mushrooms have to offer that is so great that mankind first builds temples to them, then declares them a danger to society, and finally admits that they are probably the key to exploring the human mind?
When I started researching 6 years ago, the hype hadn’t quite taken off yet and I found mainly 3 types of sources:
Neuroscientific findings that were barely readable by lay people because they consisted only of technical terms and statistics.
Self-made spiritual websites from the late 90s and drug reports where people share their most intimate feelings and experiences with the internet.
Good old days.
But let’s just start with the basics:
What do magic mushrooms look like?
Psilocybe or Panaeolus?
There are 180 different species of magic mushrooms, some of which look super different. They don’t even all belong to the same species.
But what they all have in common is that they contain psychotropic substances.
Psychotropic = “influences the psyche”.
Picture (from left to right): Psilocybe Cubensis, Psilocybe Cyanescens, Panaeolus Tropicalis, Psilocybe Semilanceata
Currently Psilocybe Cubensis is the only mushroom variety for which you can easily find cultivation boxes. All boxes in our store contain this variety.
What is Psilocybin?
The best known active ingredient of magic mushrooms is called psilocybin.
Actually, there are several active ingredients and when they all act together, an effect is created for which I have not found the German translation. It is called Entourage Effect and means that the total effect is more than the sum of its parts.
But psilocybin is the main active ingredient.
Psilocybin & DMT
Psilocybin is metabolized in the body to psilocin.
Both psilocin and DMT have similarities to the “happy hormone” serotonin and dock onto its receptors.
Psilocybin belongs to the tryptamines and has structural similarity to dimethyl-tryptamine, the main active ingredient of ayahuasca.
The mushrooms containing this substance can induce very deep states of expanded consciousness. They are harmless to the body and, according to studies by the Beckley Foundation, even good for the health of our brain.
By the way, they are not addictive either, rather the opposite.
Psilocybin is even used to control addictive behavior. This worked so well in a study on nicotine addiction that it earned the mushrooms the nickname wonder drug.
That’s better than “just another dangerous drug,” but doesn’t quite reflect their cultural significance….
Mushrooms are sacred in many Mesoamerican cultures.
They are considered a sacrament and the flesh of God, the consumption of which allows the consciousness to enter higher spheres.
There are numerous archaeological findings from which it is clear that they were used for healing and inner purification thousands of years ago.
Mushrooms also play a central role in Indian mysticism, and to all appearances, Nordic and Germanic tribes have also had a special relationship with them.
The spiritual side of the psychedelic experience is as much an issue today as it was then.
In Europe, development has not yet progressed to the point where its use falls under the protection of religious freedom, as it does in Mexico, for example.
David had to experience this first hand. As leader of the Sacred Mushroom Church of Switzerland, he was active for 2 years before he was taken into custody by the Swiss authorities in 2006. This cost him over a year of his freedom, without any charges ever being brought in the next 14 years.
In Jamaica, however, the Sacred Mushroom Church has been a reality since 2021 and celebrated its first marriage ceremony this year in February.
Magic mushrooms for personal development… and healing?
With the right prior knowledge, you can learn to use magic mushrooms systematically.
They are a great tool for personality development and for understanding and overcoming inner conflicts.
To the healthy user they offer a way to get to know his own mind better. Expansion of consciousness brings new perspectives and often also a good portion of joy of life.
But this mushroom is not only interesting for completely healthy people.
Studies by the Johns Hopkins Institute have shown that psilocybin has enormous potential for the treatment of mental suffering. It’s used to combat depression, addictive behaviors and anxiety, among other things.
And new potential uses are added every year, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and dementia.
It is important to remember that research into psychedelics is still in its infancy because, although they have been known to Western society for almost 50 years, they were banned by the United Nations in the early 1970s.
In 1971, US President Richard Nixon declared war, the war on drugs, and thus war on his own people.
What seems normal to most today is actually a tremendous invasion of privacy and had to be enforced by heavy propaganda efforts. The state should have a right to tell you what you can and cannot consume.
Of course, the ban does not mean that there is suddenly no demand for it.
But if there are no more legal sources for a billion-dollar business like narcotics, there will always be someone willing to take over the market.
This is the ideal breeding ground for organized crime.
Prohibition of alcohol has never led to less alcohol consumption in the USA. But it has made the mafia big, and in the same way the prohibition of opiates, cannabis, cocaine and psychedelics has bred huge drug syndicates. In case anyone here has seen Breaking Bad… this is exactly what happens when there are no legal sources for narcotics.
If this was new to you and you want to look more into the subject, I would recommend the book Chasing the Scream.
It talks about how the drug war started, who it benefits and what damage it does, and also why people turn to narcotics in the first place. I’ll do an episode about that in the future. This has less to do with the use of psychedelics specifically, but is the background of the debate about legalization and decriminalization
The war on drgus has not only destroyed numerous lives and made the cartels big, but has also held up medicine and research.
We know much less about psychedelics than we would like and are much less far along than we could be. But the good news is that the medical world has never been more enthusiastic about psychedelics than it is now.
The effects of magic mushrooms
Left: Brain activity in normal state
Right: Brain activity on psilocybin
Mushrooms belong to the group of classic psychedelics, along with DMT, mescaline and LSD.
The word psyche-delic comes from the Greek and means “to reveal the spirit, or soul”. This clearly shows that mind is not only the conscious part of our thought processes, but that there is much more to it than we perceive in everyday life.
Imagine an iceberg, the upper 10% of which protrudes from the water and is therefore visible. But 90% of the action takes place under the surface.
In our psyche, the ratio of conscious to unconscious is even more blatant.
Our conscious mind can process about 40 bits of information per second. Our subconscious, on the other hand, manages 11 million bits per second.
Through the use of psychedelics, we get the opportunity to expand our receptivity and become aware of what is otherwise hidden.
Mushrooms are also considered one of the entheogens, again a word from the Greek, which means “creating the divine within”.
The line between psychedelics and entheogens is somewhat blurred, but roughly speaking, entheogens are basically natural, psychotropic plants or mushrooms; synthetic substances are not included.
The classification as “psychedelics” refers purely to the effect, but not to the origin. For example, cocoa is an entheogen, but not psychedelic. Conversely, LSD is not an entheogen.
This term comes from the pen of science fiction author Aldous Huxley, who was very concerned about the mashing together of millennia-old medicine with recently discovered synthetics into one term. And he was right that the stigma surrounding the word “psychedelic” would become a problem.
Entheogens are often called “plant teachers”, describing the feeling of being taken by the hand by a personal and benevolent force. This is a characteristic that does not exist with synthetics. Synthetics are described as very precise and rather digital and impersonal in their effect.
Speaking of effect.
The effect of mushrooms is essentially that they open the mind to impressions that our subconscious otherwise routinely blocks out.
The gates of our perception open. Impulses that we otherwise filter out reach us both from within and from outside, and we perceive the world again as we did when we were small children.
The sensory perception is enormously improved. One sees sharper, the colors become stronger, the light becomes brighter. Often this also includes visual distortions and hallucinations. One then sees movement and patterns of geometric shapes and organic structures everywhere.
The mushroomed state of consciousness has strong similarities to the kind of attention we know from dreams. When dreaming, our brain produces its own DMT and has something like a self-induced psychedelic mini-trip.
Dreams are known to show us what we repress during the day.
In principle, they are also a window into our subconscious.
Of course, a normal dream phase has completely different dimensions than a full psychedelic experience. A drop of filter coffee also has a different effect than half a liter of espresso.
But the basic mechanisms are still very similar.
Those who have experience with intense or even lucid dreaming have therefore also had experience with an altered state of consciousness.
Everything seems slightly strange, but at the same time incredibly real.
Thoughts and emotions are perceived much more intensely and directly.
In case of a really high dose, sometimes muscle weakness and the complete dissolution of the ego-feeling can be expected. Such an experience is called Hero’s journey.
Dangers of magic mushrooms
However, as is the case with everything in life, you can also have very unpleasant experiences if you use them incorrectly.
with mushrooms, risk factor number ONE is the wrong environment.
If you don’t have a safe enough place for the experience, I can only strongly advise against it – even if nothing bad happens in the end, you’ll constantly have in the back of your mind that you need to watch out. It’s super annoying and you’ll wish you were home.
Your own bed can be a good place for mushroom experiences.
It also makes sense to have something nearby to cover your eyes with, because bright light can be very uncomfortable in a super sensitive state.
There is also something very nice about tripping outside in nature, but there again is the question of how private your environment really is and whether you can get lost in it.
I once spent a few stressful hours in a coniferous forest in Gran Canaria. I had looked at the area in a sober state and thought that it would hardly be possible to get lost there. Sike!
Although I was sure that I hadn’t gone far, I couldn’t find my way back to my things after a very short time. I had managed to adjust the strength of the dose very precisely as I wanted it, but still the orientation was suddenly a huge challenge.
And then there was also a group of pensioners who swarmed between the trees with their Nordic walking sticks and were looking for God knows what. Actually, I have few problems with strangers, but on a trip I always prefer to be alone. I’m never completely at peace with the fear that someone might notice that I’m going all out.
Maybe this aversion is not that rational, because it’s nobody’s business.
In the end I jogged for 5 hours along the whole hilltop, avoiding the walkers, until I finally found the place with my bag again.
The thing had also something for itself, because I was probably so active that to the effect of the truffles still a Runner’s High joined and I had the feeling to fly like a forest spirit by the landscape, without effort and without worries or desires. And I’m really not a trained long distance runner. If I jog for 20 minutes at a time, that’s a win for me.
But the whole thing would certainly have gone very differently if the experience had been my first.
Losing all your valuables alone in a strange place while the sun is already setting is about the last thing I would wish on someone for whom mushrooms are brand new.
Actually, the best thing to do is to get someone who has some experience with psychedelics.
If that person is a tri-sitter or experienced shaman, it gives you the framework to get the most out of the experience.
The second component for a successful mushroom trip, besides the setting, is the right mindset.
If you pay attention to set and setting, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and even have a chance at a transformative experience.
But even if you do everything right, aren’t magic mushrooms somehow pretty risky in and of themselves?
In the world’s largest study to assess the harmfulness of drugs, researchers at Imperial College London concluded that magic mushrooms are the safest substance of all.
The same conclusion was reached by the Dutch Ministry of Health in 2007.
It then made it clear to the government that a ban would only lead to people then snorting more dangerous things. It would be important to have sensible quality control.
Less than a year later, they were banned. Tsk. Yes, nicely done. Great. Let someone believe that such bans are about the welfare of the citizens.
In purely chemical terms, mushrooms are so non-toxic that it is actually impossible to overdose them. You would have to eat about your own weight in fresh mushrooms to harm yourself. And if you eat your own weight in any food, you are guaranteed to harm yourself.
After thousands of years of experimentation, no one has ever managed to poison themselves with psilocybin.
The effect of a magic mushroom experience lasts for a maximum of 4-8 hours, after which the consciousness gradually returns inexorably to its everyday configuration. However, since the sense of time does not work as usual, this makes it difficult to estimate the duration by oneself.
This is a good reason, for example, to have an initiated partner, friend, roommate or, in the best case, an experienced trip sitter or shaman by your side.
But if you don’t have someone to watch over you, it’s best to start small and get used to the effect with a low dose experience. If everything goes great, you can take a higher dosage next time.
Are magic mushrooms legal?
And that brings us to the last point, the issue of legality.
Psilocybin is a non-marketable substance and falls under the Narcotics Act.
As a pure substance, it is currently banned in all countries of the world except Jamaica.
Magic mushrooms are not psilocybin!
Since mushrooms are not a pure substance, other laws apply to them.
In fact, if you ban something that grows by itself, it is doomed to failure from the start. Foresters and dairy farmers produce tons of magic mushrooms on their meadows and forests every year without doing anything for it or even noticing it.
What is important is the intention. A farmer raises cows, not mushrooms, and he is not accused of getting high on the mushrooms that sprout from his meadow.
Customs officials, on the other hand, have learned that if they find mushrooms in your mail, they are dangerous drugs and must be confiscated.
The intention makes here the difference legally one speaks then of the “suspicion on abuse for intoxication purposes”.
However, the matter is not quite that simple…
Magic truffles are legal – certainly in Europe.
Magic Truffles from the Netherlands
There is a product on the European market that is directly related to magic mushrooms.
These are magic truffles. These truffles have the same ingredients and effects as magic mushrooms, but they are completely legal.
The reason why they resemble mushrooms so much is that they originate from one and the same organism.
Truffles grow underground and take a few months to develop, taste quite sour and have a slightly milder effect than mushrooms.
In the Netherlands, they have been produced and sold for decades and have caused so conspicuously few problems that in 2019 they were declared stimulants by the tax office:
That is, they have their own tax class and are an official product of the European Union, which in turn means that you can own them.
The reason I know so much about the taxes is because it was already a change for my smartshop when the taxes jumped from 9% to 21%.
Funnily enough, the Netherlands has also built in a loophole in the ban on magic mushrooms itself. If you want, you can easily grow your own mushrooms and order growkits that are officially sold. The joke is that the mycelium from which the mushrooms grow does not contain psilocybin. This is only produced when the box is opened and exposed to UV radiation.
This apparent contradiction is not an accident.
I was upset that mushrooms were banned, but now I want to explain the reason.
Why you can not buy magic mushrooms in Holland.
Mushrooms have one weak point. And that is their difficult to assess active ingredient content. From the outside, you never know how strong the mushroom is. This creates the danger for the user to inadvertently ingest a much stronger dose than planned.
If you don’t know anything about mushrooms and eat something completely unprepared, you can panic and do something stupid.
And that’s exactly what the weekend tourists in Amsterdam have always liked to do.
When mushrooms were still sold freely, not a weekend went by without some wise guy calling an ambulance because he had taken the wrong dosage and thought he would pay for it with his life. But as long as there was no mixed consumption involved, no one ever got hurt.
The inner city of Amsterdam, however, is also a conceivably bad place for a trip.
The ban was a politically motivated decision that had nothing to do with the actual danger posed by the mushrooms themselves. One wanted above all to end the constant incidents.
Through the growkits, these are still achievable, but a minimum of patience and preparation is required.
Tourists do not even have the time to grow their own mushrooms first.
As for truffles, it takes a lot of willpower to eat them in quantities that are truly psychedelic. You have to chew well and they taste so sour that you can’t accidentally overdose on them.
Both grow kits and magic truffles are produced with full government knowledge and in a professional style and there is no reason to believe that should change.
Just now that magic mushrooms have been decriminalized in Oregon and Chicago and psilocybin is even appearing more often in the mainstream media, the truffle industry is celebrating the biggest growth spurt it has ever seen.
Mushrooms are all the rage and this time their advocates in society are doctors, managers and entrepreneurs. Quite a 180 degree turn.
To understand what crazy times we live in, let’s finish with a brief look at history and what has changed in recent years.
Magic Mushroom History
The oldest evidence of the use of magic mushrooms dates back to about 10,000 BC. However, nothing more than cave paintings have survived.
The bee shaman
From the Aztecs and Maya we know that they liked to use honey to preserve dried mushrooms, and from these cultures we have stone statues and mushroom icons in temples.
In South and Central America, the religious and ritual use of hongos sagrados is still active today, which is why mushrooms have never been banned in Mexico. They are part of the culture and fall under the protection of religious freedom.
The modern Western world, on the other hand, only learned about mushrooms in the 1950s. Then they became part of the hippie movement and fell together with it to prohibition and general social ostracism. Then nothing was heard for a long time.
In Europe the same thing happened, albeit belatedly, and in 2008 magic mushrooms were also banned in the Netherlands, the last country where they were still sold freely.
And yet psilocybin is now a hype word.
There are a lot of people for whom psychedelics played a special role in the 60s, who did not get carried away by the against-the-system mood. They learned from the mistakes of Timothy Leary and co and instead went the uber-correct route against all odds.
It so happens that the Galleon figures of the new psychedelic movement are in many cases the best in their field.
But the user profile has also changed.
I myself do not know a single mushroom lover who does not have his life under control. Everyone I’ve talked to about it agrees that they’re there to get more out of the time we have – not for some escape from reality.
You don’t take mushrooms or truffles every weekend to switch off, but rather once every few months to see where you stand and where you might be getting in your own way.
It is no longer true that psychedelics are only for the adventurous.
MICRODOSING plays another big role.
What is Microdosing?
With microdosing, there is no trip and no breakthrough experiences.
You take mushrooms or truffles, but at first you hardly notice them. The trick is the right dose and regularity.
Microdosing works by taking just a tiny bit of a psychedelic in the morning. Truffles are ideal for this because their constant active ingredient content makes them predictable and they are very easy to dose. 1 gram of it is about the size of a grain of corn.
The effect of such a tiny dose does not affect perception. It allows you to work and drive normally. So in terms of the process it is more like taking vitamins, you do it in the morning, but you don’t have to actively engage in it throughout the day for it to work.
And yes, there is an effect, although you don’t feel anything directly.
Despite the lack of direct effects, microdosing has a positive influence on your mood.
One has better mood and also better access to mental capacity.
In healthy people, this is especially evident in the fact that you feel more at peace with yourself and are more able to cope with challenges. It is also noticeable on the creative level.
One is a little looser and ideas flow better.
For people who have to fight with mental suffering such as depression, migraine or anxiety, the effect is even more pronounced.
Here I must point out that there is no clinical evidence for the effectiveness of microdosing against these conditions. But there are hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic testimonials.
The apparently curative effect of microdosing has led to the huge increase in interest that mushrooms have experienced in the last few years.
By the way, the first proponent of this practice was Albert Hofmann. Many know the Swiss chemist primarily as the father of LSD, but did you know he also had a lot to do with mushrooms? Hofmann was the first to extract psilocybin from mushrooms in 1955, so he’s also the one who named the substance.
Sandoz, the company he worked for at the time, saw great potential in it and even launched a drug for psilocybin microdosing called Indocybin.
It makes a very significant difference whether psychedelics have an effect only at high doses, or whether they have a benefit even in very small amounts.
A psychedelic experience requires courage and a lot of preparation. Not everyone can or wants to open up to it, and it is foreseeable that psychonauts will remain in the minority even with better and better education.
Microdosing, on the other hand, can be done easily and without problems by everyone and can wonderfully advance the dissolution of the stigma against psychedelics.
Currently, research is being conducted at several German and numerous international universities into the possible uses of psilocybin. Numerous psychedelic companies have already gone public and the industry is rapidly becoming a multi-million dollar business.
For the individual, mushrooms and truffles will always remain the most accessible psychedelic of all. With the help of a mushroom identification book, you can literally pick them up for free in the field, and there are also more and more informative resources and professional advice on how to use them.