Image by Zamnesia
Psilocybin mushrooms, known far and wide as “magic mushrooms,” are psychoactive fungi famous for their potent visionary and spiritual effects. They are commonly found in humid, tropical areas, but they grow and are grown throughout the world.
Psilocybin truffles, on the other hand, are the lesser known form of psychedelic fungi, whose full growth in the wild requires very specific environmental conditions. Their scientific name is sclerotia, and they are clumps of mycelial strands that harden underground, if the surrounding temperature and humidity are not suitable for them to make it to the surface.
Both psilocybin mushrooms and psilocybin truffles contain the same “magical” alkaloids that induce psychedelic effects: psilocybin, psilocin, baeocystin, and norbaeocystin. The principal difference between the two, aside from the way they are formed, is in the levels of concentration of these molecules. Due to this, the dosages needed for a psychedelic experience will differ, as will the qualitative aspects of the trips. More on this later.
Historical Differences Between Psilocybin Truffles vs Mushrooms
Psilocybin mushrooms have a long history of psychotropic use. There are findings indicating that these fungi were part of sacred Mayan rituals in Pre-Classic times, as well as signs pointing to their use in prehistoric societies. Terence McKenna even famously hypothesized that psilocybin mushrooms might have played an important role in the evolution of consciousness itself.
During the hippie counterculture movement of the 1960s, psilocybin mushrooms and LSD became important tools for self-discovery and understanding for many who were seeking peace and love in the increasingly tense Cold War. The insight induced by these psychedelic trips ultimately gave momentum to millions of people, first in the US, then worldwide, to start questioning their place in the world and scrutinizing their respective governments’ choices. The fuel for this motion for freedom of thought came to an abrupt halt in 1971, when the UN held a convention on psychotropic substances, in which all thus far known psychedelics effectively became illegal in all member countries.
Psilocybin mushrooms remained largely a taboo throughout the following decades, with consumption, sale, production, and even scientific research prohibited in most of the “free” world. Only a few countries such as Mexico and Ecuador would preserve a lenient stance toward “drugs” that come from nature and have an ancient history of traditional use. However, there were also two countries that once considered fresh psilocybin mushrooms harmless for their low gram-for-gram psilocybin content and allowed their commercial sale and personal use – the Netherlands and the UK.
With the development of tourism and, especially, the internet and online trade of goods in the last few decades, the awareness about and presence of psilocybin mushrooms has seen global expansion, and their effects have in turn been contributing to the global expansion of consciousness. Nowadays, although still largely illegal (with some exceptions, as well as quite encouraging steps in the right direction taken by the US), they are available to order online, and, quite often, available to acquire from a friend of a friend, depending on how social (or resourceful) you are.
Psilocybin truffles are a relatively recent addition to the psychonaut’s proverbial toolbox. Seeing as their underground formation obscures them from being spotted in the wild, they only ever entered the psychedelic scene when we discovered and started cultivating them. Still, for decades they had been overshadowed by their fully mycelially developed counterparts, only to be subject to an exponential rise in demand after the fresh psilocybin mushroom prohibition hit the UK in 2005 and the Netherlands in 2008.
The UK had never been as much of a psychedelic tourism hotspot as the Netherlands was (and still is), so the magic truffle revolution really started after Amsterdam received the mushroom ban. People from all over the world would flock to this city to enjoy its lenient stance toward cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms. Unfortunately, as a result of questionable circumstances surrounding the use of the latter (a highly potent psychedelic substance, after all), there were a few incidents to which the Dutch government decided to respond sternly – by outlawing all sale and consumption of psilocybin mushrooms.
The ban, however, for some reason didn’t include psilocybin truffles, which then became the next go-to psychedelic to be stocked in smart shops throughout the city. Presently, psilocybin truffles are still legal to purchase and consume in the Netherlands (see Microdose Bros for one such vendor), and there is a solid online presence of Dutch shops that produce and ship psilocybin mushroom growkits and spore syringes throughout Europe, and sometimes beyond (excluding the US and Australia).
Natural Differences Between Psilocybin Truffles vs Mushrooms
There are many differences between psilocybin truffles vs mushrooms in terms of their physical and biochemical features, the conditions they need for their growth. Depending on these properties, the dosages needed for a trip will vary as well.
Starting with the obvious, psilocybin mushrooms and psilocybin truffles differ in their form and formation. The mushrooms grow above ground and their mycelium develops into a stem and a cap, whereas the sclerotia (truffles) harden into clumps underground.
Image from Zamnesia
Mushrooms grow in a variety of conditions. Some need lower temperatures, some higher. They all require moisture and the absence of wind. Darkness isn’t necessary, but the absence of light helps the air retain humidity. They need a growing base rich in nutrients such as sugar, starch, fats, nitrogen, protein, and lignin; this is why they are often found growing out of compost or manure.
Truffles don’t require as much – growing underground keeps them shielded from wind and usually provides plenty of moisture. Temperatures from 21-25°C (70-77F) are suitable for most strains, and, if inoculation is done properly, keeping them in darkness is all that’s needed for a good yield.
As we already mentioned, psychedelic mushrooms and truffles contain the same active compounds: psilocybin, psilocin, baeocystin, and norbaeocystin.
In mushrooms, the concentration of these alkaloids varies wildly not only between different species, but also between different samples of the same strain and between different parts of the body of a single mushroom! Researchers have found spectacular differences in alkaloid content in the same samples of Psilocybe cubensis, but also, respectively, in fresh and dried samples of Psilocybe semilanceata mushrooms.
Erowid’s table of alkaloid concentrations for a few different species of dried psilocybin mushrooms. The table comes with a warning that the numbers quoted should in no way be taken absolutely, as they are neither average nor representative of the entire species.
It’s not completely clear why the variability in psychoactive content is so great, but researchers assume that it depends on environmental factors and the mushroom’s age and size. The caps normally contain slightly more alkaloids than the stems.
Truffles theoretically shouldn’t be subject to such significant variability, as they consist only of a single homogenous body and because they are normally grown in controlled conditions, which yield chunks of sclerotia of relatively similar size.
Although there hasn’t been much research into the chemical composition of psilocybin truffles, one study that looked into the matter found almost identical concentrations of alkaloids in three different samples analyzed. Their results showed an average of 0.0016% of psilocybin, 0.000085% of psilocin, 0.000031% of baeocystin, and 0.000008% of norbaeocystin.
According to these numbers, psilocybin truffles should be much less potent than psilocybin mushrooms. In practice, this holds true. Recommended doses of mushrooms are between 1g and 3g for a regular to strong trip, and up to 5g for an extremely powerful (“heroic”) experience. Truffles, however, usually come in portions of 15g meant for a single trip of moderate to strong intensity, based on the potency indicated. Further biochemical research is definitely needed in order to ascertain the concentrations of these compounds across different strains of psilocybin truffles.
If it’s your first experience, it’s always recommended to start with the lowest dose possible in order to ascertain what works best for you. We recommend starting off with about 1g of dried mushrooms (equal to about 10g of fresh ones), or about 7 to 10g of fresh truffles, depending on their potency rating.
There are also many other factors that modulate the effect aside from the dose itself. These include: your body weight, your metabolism, how long it’s been since your last meal, and, of course, the specific set and setting you’re taking them in. For your safety, take a low dose (which you can increase later on if you feel no effect) and always have a sober sitter present in case something goes wrong. And always remember – it’s better to have no trip from taking too little, than a bad trip from taking too much!
Experiential Differences Between Psilocybin Truffles vs Mushrooms
As with the alkaloid content, the experiential differences between psilocybin truffles vs mushrooms are quite noticeable.
Psilocybin mushrooms at regular trip dosages can have a multitude of psychospiritual effects. They can last for a relatively long time – between 4 and 8h – and these trips are often characterized as life-changing experiences. Depending on the specific strain, set, and setting, they can:
- be profoundly introspective, providing unparalleled insight into the way we live our lives and encouragement to persevere through difficulties;
- offer different perspectives to look at things, often grounded in humility, appreciation, and love;
- boost creativity and the ability to connect ideas and concepts;
- induce perceptual distortions, provide a feeling of timelessness, and captivating visualizations in everything around us;
- promote visionary thinking;
- enhance hearing, smell, and touch;
- give a sense of flow and a feeling of rightness of everything;
- introduce or enhance the feeling of oneness with all that exists, and being part of a collective universal intelligence;
- induce feelings of pleasure and tranquility of otherworldly intensity;
- put on a fantastic display of closed-eyed visuals, featuring colorful multi-dimensional lights, fractals, structures, shapes, spaces, creatures, and myriad phenomena from the conscious or subconscious mind, or from another plain of existence;
- create a feeling of communion with spiritual or god-like entities;
- induce a mystical, or sacred, sentiment;
- lead to ego death or dissolution;
and many others.
Psilocybin truffles normally have a more limited scope of effects. These trips are usually referred to as fun, with a lot of laughing and brighter, more intense colors. The experiences can be more intensely visual or more profoundly spiritual, but they rarely reach the heights that can be achieved with mushrooms (unless a high-dose, high-potency strain is consumed). Truffle trips also typically last between 2-4h, significantly shorter than when taking mushrooms. All in all, they generally offer a more safe and light-hearted experience than their fully developed counterparts. The most common effects of psilocybin truffles are:
- laughing and giggling;
- a sense of euphoria, awe, love, and joy;
- pleasant and tranquil bodily sensations;
- mild to strong visualizations, characteristically enhanced colors and lights, and moving textures and patterns;
- interesting closed-eyed visuals including fractal displays and dream-like images and animations;
- moderate mystical and spiritual sentiments;
The advantage of the milder effects of psilocybin truffles is that they can be safely consumed in a variety of settings, whereas a full-dose mushroom trip usually requires a calm, undisturbed environment due to the possibility of sensory overload. Due to their lower potency, truffles are also less likely to cause a bad trip, whereas mushrooms can sometimes bring on a feeling of being in limbo, uncertain of whether the trip feels good or bad, and it’s possible to slip into dark thoughts from there. Their sheer intensity can also be overwhelming, and taking too much is less unforgiving than with truffles.
In any case, whichever mycelial variant you choose, always make sure your set and setting are suitable, and your dosage is adequate. Most importantly: surrender to the experience and allow the fungi to do what they do best – teach and enlighten.