Magic mushrooms are any species of fungus that contain the naturally occurring psychoactive compounds psilocybin and psilocin, and are also commonly known as psychedelic mushrooms, psilocybin mushrooms, or shrooms.
Magic mushrooms have a long history of traditional use as a powerful entheogen. In the Aztec language Nahuatl, the name for psilocybin mushrooms is Teonanácatl, meaning “flesh of the gods.”
A mushroom trip can last several hours, and can induce a profound sense of connection to nature, plant spirits, and the illusory self. This guide contains all the basic information you’ll need to get started on your healing journey with magic mushrooms.
What are Magic Mushrooms?
There are around 200 species of psilocybin mushrooms growing in the wild, all containing the major psychoactive substances psilocybin and psilocin, alongside other psychoactive compounds including baeocystin and norbaeocystin.
Almost every continent in the world (except Antarctica) has at least one species of magic mushrooms growing on it. They have been around for thousands, if not millions of years, and are fairly easy to grow or to find in the wild.
Psilocybin mushroom identification requires some knowledge, as species vary in their appearance. However, almost all species grow well in damp, forested areas near bodies of water. Some even grow best in cow dung, and can be found in pretty much any field where grazing animals are present.
Some of the most common species of magic mushrooms include Psilocybe cubensis (light brown/white caps, with a thick white stem), Psilocybe semilanceata (slim wavy stems with dark, bell-shaped caps), Psilocybe cyanescens (uniquely wavy caps), and Psilocybe azurescens (conical, caramel cap with a slim stem), and they can almost all be found growing in Europe or America.
Read our full magic mushroom identification guide for more info on where to find psilocybin mushrooms.
The “Fly Agaric” mushroom, Amanita muscaria, is perhaps the most famous mushroom in the world – with its red cap and white spots, it appears in fairytales and folklore as a magical and sometimes poisonous toadstool. However this mushroom is not a psilocybin mushroom, as it contains a different psychoactive substance (muscimol), with a very different psychoactive effect, and can be poisonous. It has a long history of shamanic use in native Siberian peoples, but is generally not considered a traditional “magic mushroom.”
Magic Mushrooms in Shamanic Culture
It’s not certain when magic mushrooms were first consumed by humans, but cave paintings in northern Australia suggest that magic mushrooms were a part of indigenous Australian cultures, around 10,000 BCE. Similar depictions of psychedelic mushrooms have been found in other ancient human civilizations, albeit at later times, including Mesoamerican and South American cultures.
Psychedelic mushrooms clearly had an influence on the development of the cultures that used them. There is considerable evidence that these fungi were used in religious ceremonies dating back to 1500 BCE in pre-Mayan cultures. They were consumed for their healing properties, and for the visionary states they could induce. The use of psychedelic mushrooms is depicted in many forms of Mesoamerican art and sculpture.
Indigenous groups in Mexico still use psychedelic mushrooms as an integral part of their culture. Magic mushroom use is practiced by the Nahuatls, Matlazincs, Totonacs, Mazatecs, Mixes, Zapotecs, and Chatins groups, and the ceremonies typically combine Catholic with native elements.
Read more about the history of psilocybin mushrooms here.
What to Expect From a Magic Mushroom Trip
The effects of a magic mushroom trip will depend on several factors, including the species of mushrooms you are ingesting, the way you are ingesting it, your surroundings and mindset, and your sensitivity to entheogenic substances.
Typically, a mushroom trip will begin around 30 minutes to an hour after ingesting the mushrooms, and can last around three to six hours.
The trip may involve:
- Changes in vision: such as an increase in the intensity of colors, the morphing and motion of stationary objects, or the appearance of detailed geometry.
- Changes in your thoughts: such as intense emotions, alterations in the perception of time, and encounters with spiritual beings.
- Changes in your body: such as a glowing, spreading warmth, nausea, or tingling.
An experience with shrooms can bring some people in contact with a mystical power or force. These kind of experiences can be known as spiritual, mystical, transcendental, or numinous. They may involve an encounter plant spirits, or divine entities. People who are lucky enough to have these experiences may witness the interconnectedness of the universe, and discover revelations about themselves or the world around them.
The intensity of the experience may depend on the dosage of psilocybin that you ingest. Fresh and dried mushrooms will contain significantly different quantities of psilocybin, and different species can vary dramatically in the amount of psilocybin within them. Even the caps and stalks of individual mushrooms can have different contents of psilocybin.
As a rough guide, a low dose of the popular Psilocybe cubensis would be around 1-2.5 grams of dried mushroom; a moderate dose between 2-3.5 grams; and a high dose above 5 grams.
Learn more about what to expect from a magic mushroom trip here.
Amplifying the Healing Potential of Magic Mushrooms
The powerful shroom experience can be used for healing, personal transformation, or spiritual exploration. But the quality of the experience will depend on setting up the right environment and mindset.
Preparing your mind and surroundings for the trip will make a positive experience more likely. It’s impossible to be too prepared for a shroom trip, and it may just make the difference between a life-affirming and a terrifying experience. Follow these basic guidelines to make the most of your shrooms:
- Set a clear intention. This can help you immeasurably in the chaos and uncertainty of a mushroom trip. What are you looking to achieve from this experience, and why are you doing it?
- Prepare a comfortable and safe environment. Be somewhere familiar, with access to amenities and comfortable clothing. Prepare fresh fruit and healthy foods for when you get hungry. Prepare the environment to be quiet, undisturbed, and tranquil.
- Have a sober sitter with you. Preferably someone with experience with psychedelics. Their role will be to keep you safe, and reassure you if you require any guidance during the experience.
- Dose mindfully. Follow our dosing guidelines above. Know what you’re taking, and start with a low dose if it’s your first time.
- Expect the unexpected. Although your intention will help you have a focus, the psychedelic experience is notoriously unpredictable, and you may very well find yourself losing control of the trip’s direction. If that happens, be prepared to let go and remember that you are safe and comfortable.
Learn more about setting up the best environment for a healing magic mushroom trip here.
Treating Depression with Magic Mushrooms
Some clinical studies have suggested that magic mushrooms could be used to treat severe depression in people who have not found relief from typical treatments.
Recent large studies have shown that a single moderate dose of magic mushrooms can significantly reduce depression scores in patients with treatment-resistant depression. The antidepressant effect of shrooms also lasts much longer than typical treatments, with reduced depression scores maintained for several months after treatment.
A big part of the reason that magic mushrooms appear to be so effective at treating depression is due to their ability to induce a unique mystical experience. Participants who describe a highly spiritual or personally meaningful experience with psilocybin mushrooms were more likely to have reductions in depression scores, according to one study.
This research should not be taken to mean that magic mushrooms could cure everyone’s depression. The people who have been involved in these clinical trials are people who have been suffering from depression for many years, tried many different treatments, and seen many different healthcare professionals. The mushroom treatment also didn’t work on every single participant in the studies, and didn’t work at all for some participants.
It’s important to remember that if you suffer from depression, it is risky to see magic mushrooms as a no-risk cure. Always talk to your primary healthcare provider about other treatments before considering psychedelics. Remember that the people in clinical studies are given intensive therapy, lots of support, and take magic mushrooms in very controlled, clinical environments.
Taking mushrooms on your own in the dark is unlikely to treat anything, let alone a mental health condition.
Read more about the research on magic mushrooms and depression here.
Microdosing with Magic Mushrooms
Microdosing is an increasingly popular way of ingesting magic mushrooms. Unlike a full dose that will induce a psychedelic experience, a microdose will barely be noticeable. You will be able to go about your daily tasks without profound changes in perception.
The idea of microdosing mushrooms is that you will enjoy the subtle effects of psilocybin mushrooms, including enhanced creativity, focus, and mood, without having to put everything on hold and enduring several hours of psychedelic journeying.
A standard microdose to start with is less than a tenth of what you would usually take to have a full experience. This is often about a quarter of a gram of mushrooms (or less). Take a dose once every three days, and keep a journal to track the effects. If you don’t notice any positive effects, try upping your dose slightly. If you notice negative effects like increased anxiety, insomnia, or nausea, try lowering your dose.
Only microdose for a few weeks at a time, then give yourself long breaks. Microdosing should be seen as a catalyst for positive changes in your life, rather than a substance that you develop a dependence to. Additionally, the long-term health effects of microdosing are unknown, so it’s better to be cautious.
Learn more about microdosing with magic mushrooms here.
The Legality of Magic Mushrooms
Currently, magic mushrooms are illegal in many countries. They are categorized as a Class A substance in the UK and listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance in most of the United States. Canada and most European countries prohibit shrooms to different degrees.
There are often different rules regarding dried, fresh, and self-grown mushrooms in individual countries, so check your local laws. Some countries allow the cultivation of magic mushrooms, and will even allow for the sale and purchase of grow kits and spores. In the Netherlands, magic mushrooms are legal in the form of magic truffles; an earlier developmental fungal stage that still contains psilocybin.
Recently, Denver made history by being the first US city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, quickly followed by Oakland and several others. Now a wave of decriminalization in the US looks inevitable, with the entire state of Oregon being the first to introduce blanket decriminalization of drugs in 2020.
Read more about the legality of magic mushrooms here.
Begin your EntheoNation journey!
If you would like to learn more about the spiritual side of plant medicines, and how to embark on your own spiritual journey with magic mushrooms, sign up to EntheoNation’s Spiritual Evolution with Sacred Plant Medicines course.
Our course will help you learn about many different visionary medicines, the best ways to find plant medicine retreats, and the secret to becoming your best self through plant medicine work.