At first glance, Psilocybe cubensis doesn’t look particularly magical. In fact, the scientific name of this little brown-and-white mushroom roughly translates to “bald head,” befitting the fungus’s rather mild-mannered appearance. But those who have ingested a dose of P. cubensis say it changes the user’s world.
The mushroom is one of more than 100 species that contain compounds called psilocybin and psilocin, which are psychoactive and cause hallucinations, euphoria, and other trippy symptoms. These “magic mushrooms” have long been used in Central American religious ceremonies, and are now part of the black market in drugs in the United States and many other countries, where they are considered a controlled substance.
What does it do to your brain?
The compounds in psilocybin mushrooms may give users a “mind-melting” feeling, but in fact, the drug does just the opposite — psilocybin actually boosts the brain’s connectivity. Researchers at King’s College London asked 15 volunteers to undergo brain scanning by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. They did so once after ingesting a dose of magic mushrooms, and once after taking a placebo. The resulting brain connectivity maps showed that, while under the influence of the drug, the brain synchronizes activity among areas that would not normally be connected. This alteration could explain the dreamy state that ‘shroom users report experiencing after taking the drug, the researchers said.
A Brief History of Magic Mushrooms
However, the idea that magic mushrooms have a long, holy history is highly controversial. Some believe that none of this evidence is definitive and that people see what they want to see in the ancient paintings, sculptures, and manuscripts. There is confirmed use among several contemporary tribes of indigenous peoples in Central America, including the Mazatec, Mixtec, etc.
The legality of possessing, taking, growing, or selling magic mushrooms greatly depends upon where you live. In the United States, psilocybin is a Schedule I drug under an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act called the Psychotropic Substances Act. This means that it has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use, and isn’t safe for use even under a doctor’s supervision. Since psilocybin is a psychotropic substance in magic mushrooms, this is usually interpreted to mean that the mushrooms themselves are illegal. However, since mushroom spores don’t contain psilocybin, some have pointed to this as an ambiguity in the federal law.
Most mushrooms cultivators start with P. cubensisbecause it’s the most common and the easiest to grow. There are several different ways to go about growing mushrooms, but we’ll just look at one basic method. All methods begin with one important element: the spore. A spore grows into a single mushroom, and a mushroom can produce hundreds of thousands of spores.
Spore prints can also be used to cultivate mushrooms. The dry spores on the print must be hydrated for use. Sterility is important in all aspects of mushroom growing; bacteria or mold can keep them from growing altogether, but may also result in contaminated mushrooms. Many mushroom growers purchase spore syringes (filled with spores and sterile water) from suppliers rather than make their own. A spore syringe can cost from $10 to $20 depending on the particular strain.
Mushroom Dosages: Feed Your Head
In general, people new to taking mushrooms are advised to start with 1 gram of dried mushrooms (the equivalent of about one P. cubensis), wait an hour, and then, based on how they feel, decide whether to take more. Many people do simply chew on fresh or dried mushrooms, but they don’t always taste good. Some magic mushrooms are described as having a floury taste, while others are sour or bitter — eating them with fruit such as strawberries can combat the flavor. People who really dislike the taste and texture come up with recipes for everything from smoothies to chili, although cooking the mushrooms for long periods of time will likely break down the psilocybin and result in a weaker psychotropic effect.