The Seeker's Guide to Magic Mushrooms
Psilocybin Mushrooms, Shrooms, Teōnanācatl, Golden Teachers, Liberty Caps
Magic mushrooms are among the most popular psychedelics used worldwide since ancient times. They offer visions, insight, intense emotions, and everything else one could want from a psychedelic trip.
Recently, scientific research has also been reporting numerous psychological benefits connected to consuming psilocybin, the main psychoactive molecule in magic mushrooms.
This guide is intended for those who would like to experience magic mushrooms in a safe, legal framework.
It should be used for harm reduction and education purposes only, and contains no advice about obtaining prohibited substances.
In this guide you'll learn:
- A basic overview of magic mushrooms - what they are, where they come from, how they work, what the effects and the associated risks are
- What we know about the therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms
- How to do magic mushrooms - whether in a retreat context or on your own, full doses or microdoses
- How to to prepare for taking them and how to integrate the experience
Sounds good? Let's get started!
Table of Contents
Magic Mushrooms 101
This first chapter covers basic information about magic mushrooms and their use, so that you, the seeker, can have fundamental, trusted information about this powerful psychedelic which has been consumed likely since prehistoric times.
You’ll discover what magic mushrooms are, where they grow, how to find them, and why they have been used reverently by so many cultures. We’ll also cover the effects of taking magic mushrooms and some of the pharmacology behind it.
Lastly, we’ll go into the scientifically analyzed therapeutic benefits of magic mushroom consumption, and some of the potential risks.
This essential information will help you navigate a thriving culture of psychedelic use that is diverse, complex, and ever changing.
What are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms, also known as shrooms or psilocybin mushrooms, is an umbrella term for over 200 species of fungi that contain the psychoactive molecule psilocybin.
They grow on nearly every continent and have been used by indigenous groups as a religious sacrament since ancient times. Nowadays, they are consumed far and wide as both a recreational psychedelic and for their therapeutic properties.
Magic mushrooms can be eaten raw or dried. They can be brewed into a tea or ground into a powder and taken in a capsule.
Depending on the dose and individual characteristics, taking magic mushrooms can result in anything from a joyful trip with plenty of giggles to a profound mystical experience which can be leveraged for spiritual growth and healing.
History of Use
Magic mushrooms are likely one of the oldest psychedelics known to mankind.
Cave paintings made by indigenous Australian peoples around 10,000 BCE suggest that mushroom-induced trances were a part of their culture. In Europe, earliest evidence we have of the use of magic mushrooms are rock paintings found in Spain dating back to 4,000 BCE. In Africa, similar artistic depictions were found in Sahara and are estimated to have been created around the year 5,000 BCE.
The most interesting part of the magic mushroom history is probably their use by pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Aztecs and the Maya. There is abundant evidence available which shows that Teōnanācatl (a kind of psychedelic mushroom) was used for ritualistic purposes by these cultures - to establish contact with deities.
Many indigenous cultures in Mexico still use magic mushrooms in religious ceremonies. In fact, this is how they became known to Westerners - when Gordon Wasson met Maria Sabina, a Mazatecan mushroom shaman, in the 1950s. He published his experience in Time Magazine and helped launch magic mushrooms into the mind’s eye of a global audience.
Along with LSD, magic mushrooms became a staple of the hippie counterculture movement in the 1960s and 1970s. After the criminalization of all psychedelics in 1971, mushroom use went underground, but it hardly declined. To this day, magic mushrooms are among the most commonly used psychedelics worldwide.
The Magic Mushroom Experience
Magic mushroom trips can last for a relatively long time – between two and eight hours, and they can range from mild and amusing to life-changingly spiritual.
The strength of the trip will depend on: the nature and potency of the strain of mushroom and the dose consumed, individual weight and body chemistry, how empty the stomach is upon consumption, mindset at the time of tripping, trip setting, and a few other factors.
The effects take some time to be felt, as the mushrooms need to go through the digestive tract and start getting metabolized. The come-up is easily noticeable, with distinct changes in perception and a feeling of expansion in the headspace.
The trip itself can come in waves of increasing intensity. Open-eyed and closed-eyed visions are common, but don’t always happen and aren’t always intense. This depends mostly on the dosage and strain of mushrooms.
True insight and spiritual growth requires dedication - doing the mushrooms in a quiet environment and without much interaction with others leaves space for deep introspection.
Otherwise, magic mushrooms can also be used to simply have more fun at an event or gathering; as they allow music to be perceived with more depth (and as visualizations, behind closed eyes), they are a popular choice at music festivals.
Magic Mushroom Effects
A typical moderate-to-strong magic mushroom trip can give the user:
- Profound introspection and insight into the nature of life, with different perspectives to help solve broken patterns of thinking
- A boost to creativity and imagination, and the ability to easily connect ideas and concepts
- Fantastic visions such as fractals, dreamlike or cartoon-like sceneries and scenarios, and spiritual entities
- A feeling of timelessness and flow, reflected also in open-eyed hallucinations which seem to reveal the pulsing and breathing of the environment
- Emotional release, and intense feelings including pleasure, love, sorrow, gratefulness, humility, sacredness, and awe
- A deeper appreciation for music and other stimulation of the senses
- A feeling of oneness with all that exists, and connection to a collective universal intelligence and spirits
- Ego death or dissolution - the abandonment of the concept of self and transcension into a more authentic, grounded, kind, and loving state of being.
These are just some of the main effects commonly reported by magic mushroom users. Many other things could happen and each trip is wholly unique and distinct from trips with other psychedelics.
The main psychoactive molecule in magic mushrooms is psilocybin. Within the body, psilocybin is rapidly converted into psilocin, which is the molecule that actually creates the psychedelic effects.
Psilocin mainly activates serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood, sleep, and appetite, among many other things. Psilocin activates the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor most strongly, and it is this receptor that is most highly linked to the hallucinogenic effects of magic mushrooms.
What’s interesting is that magic mushrooms, as well as a few other psychedelics such as DMT/ayahuasca, LSD, mescaline, ibogaine, and MDMA, all work on the serotonergic system, and most of them on the same kind of receptor. This may very well explain their efficiency in helping with psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety, which are understood to develop due to a malfunction of that system.
Another interesting factoid about psilocin is that it’s basically DMT—its chemical formula is 4-HO-DMT. Unlike freebase DMT, which gets quickly broken down in the stomach, the four hydroxy radicals attached to it in psilocin possibly provide some protection and allow it to pass through the gut and enter the bloodstream. And, just like in ayahuasca, magic mushrooms also contain beta-carboline alkaloids, which additionally allow psilocybin and psilocin to last longer in the body .
Aside from psilocybin, psilocin, and the beta-carboline alkaloids, magic mushrooms also contain two other psychoactive molecules called baeocystin and norbaeocystin. They are all derived from psilocybin.
The distinct concentrations of all of these compounds are responsible for different strains of mushrooms having different psychoactive effects.
After ingestion, it takes around 20 minutes for psilocybin to be converted to psilocin, and start to spread around the body and brain . Psilocin is then rapidly broken down by the body, with almost all of it gone after 6 hours. It is practically undetectable in the body after 24 hours , which means that drug tests can’t pick it up unless they look specifically for psilocin in the narrow time window while it’s still present.
Do you know what the Entourage Effect In Magic Mushrooms is? Find out here.
Dosages and Psilocybin Concentration
As noted, different species of magic mushrooms contain different amounts of psychoactive compounds. Also, it’s important to note that mushrooms within the same species may vary in their psilocybin content, and even different parts of the mushroom (stems and caps) will contain slightly different levels of active compounds .
Unless you know exactly what species you are eating and exactly how potent the batch is, a safe rule of thumb is that your dried mushrooms will contain anything between 0.5% and 2% of psilocybin. A moderate magic mushroom trip happens when you take around 15-25mg of psilocybin. Usually, this means ingesting around 1.5-3g of dried mushrooms (depending on the species).
Fresh mushrooms contain a lot of water, so if you want to take fresh magic mushrooms, you’ll have to ingest a higher dose than with dried mushrooms. Different species have different water contents – however, you can roughly estimate that dried mushrooms will be around ten times more potent than the same weight of fresh mushrooms. So a moderate dose of fresh mushrooms will usually be in the 15-30g range.
Psilocybin is also present in a type of magic mushroom known as “magic truffles.” This is an earlier stage of fungal development, and several different species of psilocybin mushrooms can grow into a truffle stage that also contains psilocybin. Magic truffles are legal in the Netherlands, and can be purchased online in many countries.
Truffles tend to contain more psilocybin than magic mushrooms, so a suggested moderate dose of fresh magic truffles is 10-15g. Truffles also contain more water than mushrooms, so when dried they will be more potent per weight than magic mushrooms.
Read our full article on the Difference Between Psilocybin Truffles vs Magic Mushrooms.
Many scientific studies and numerous trip reports available online tell us that magic mushrooms may be effective in the treatment of various psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and PTSD. Aside from these conditions, they have also been found to help with headaches and cluster migraines.
Presumably, the beneficial effects of magic mushrooms on these impairments boil down to two major points:
- their biochemical effects on the serotonergic system, which are similar to how pharmaceuticals often used for treating them work, but without the harmful side effects and and dependency;
- their spiritual effects, which help users gain insights into their conditions and catharsis normally unattainable while actually ‘stuck’ inside the symptoms.
Healthy users can also benefit immensely from magic mushrooms; the psychedelic trips can catalyze spiritual growth and emotional release, shed dysfunctional patterns of thought and action, and bring more balance and groundedness into daily functioning.
Many reap benefits from magic mushrooms without going through a full-on trip as well—microdosing mushrooms has proven helpful in attaining focus and boosting creativity, allowing for more productivity while retaining full responsiveness and lucidity.
Magic mushrooms are physiologically safe. There have been no confirmed cases of deaths from psilocybin toxicity; a lethal dose would require you to eat somewhere around half your bodyweight of fresh psilocybin mushrooms .
Although they are safe, magic mushrooms do have some physiological side effects. They raise heart rate and blood pressure slightly, but not to anywhere near dangerous levels . Psilocybin does not affect body temperature, the electrical activity of the heart, or levels of blood metabolites; however, it can cause nausea, dizziness, and tremors, although these effects are rarely overwhelming and typically don’t last long if they happen .
Due to the effects of psilocin on the serotonergic system, there are a few potentially dangerous drug interactions with magic mushrooms. Here are some substances that you should take care with:
- Lithium. This is sometimes given as a mediator in combination with some forms of medication. Numerous reports suggest that lithium can cause fatal seizures and heart attacks when mixed with psychedelics like magic mushrooms . Do not take magic mushrooms if you are taking lithium.
- Tramadol. This is a synthetic opioid that affects the serotonin system and lowers the threshold for seizures. There appears to be a real risk of serotonin syndrome if you combine Tramadol with magic mushrooms , which can be fatal. Tramadol is also sold as Ultram.
- SSRI medications. There is no evidence that this combination is risky, although many people report that taking SSRIs with magic mushrooms lessens the effects of the shrooms. Don’t risk taking a higher dose of magic mushrooms in order to make up for this. Common SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, and Zoloft.
- MAOI medications. There is no evidence that this combination is risky, although theoretically it could cause serotonin syndrome. Start with a lower than normal dose of magic mushrooms. Common MAOIs include Emsam, Marplan, Nardil, and Parnate.
Finally, the psychoactive effects of magic mushrooms are where there is the most potential for harm. On higher doses, it’s possible to have a “bad trip” on mushrooms. This means feeling fear or paranoia and sometimes seeing dark and haunting visions.
These episodes are really an integral part of psychedelic exploration and often contain some repressed parts of the subconscious that need to be manifested in order to catalyze growth in the individual. However, the possibility of having a bad trip and reacting negatively to it leaves space for harm to happen, either by getting hurt in an unsafe environment, or by experiencing trauma from the malevolent thoughts. So, mindset and setting are crucial for having a beneficial experience.
This is why it is strongly recommended to have a sober sitter present at all times during tripping, especially for first-timers. The peace of mind and security a trusted, sober person can offer can make a huge difference.
Aside from their spiritual properties, magic mushrooms have been used traditionally for their therapeutic benefits for thousands of years. Medicinal use of mushrooms continues and evolves around the world, although legal restrictions keep it in the underground.
Still, Western science is starting to understand and prove that magic mushrooms can treat physical conditions (such as cluster headaches) as well as mental and spiritual conditions (such as depression and addiction).
With research into the healing power of psilocybin well underway, there is hope that the future will see these psychedelic fungi become widespread and standardized medicine for many psychophysical ailments.
Magic Mushrooms for Depression
The potential for magic mushrooms to treat depression has led to them being designated a “Breakthrough Therapy” by the FDA, meaning that future research will be fast-tracked in order to make magic mushroom-assisted psychotherapy available to people suffering from severe depression.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the landmark studies conducted with psilocybin and magic mushrooms:
- The first research suggesting that magic mushrooms could have an antidepressant effect involved patients suffering from anxiety related to terminal cancer. 12 patients with terminal cancer were given two treatment doses on different days; one was psilocybin, one was a placebo. The dose of psilocybin significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores, and their scores stayed low over the course of six months .
- Next, a study at the NYU School of Medicine took 29 patients with terminal cancer and gave them two treatment doses (one of psilocybin, one of placebo). They also found that psilocybin greatly improved anxiety and depression scores. After six months, 24 out of 29 patients still had significantly reduced depression scores .
- Around the same time, a team at Johns Hopkins University recruited 51 terminal cancer patients, and gave them two doses (one low, one high) of psilocybin on two separate occasions. This study also showed significant decreases in anxiety and depression scores, and 40 out of 51 participants still had clinical improvements six months following the dose .
- Finally, in the world’s first study of psilocybin and treatment-resistant depression (one of the most severe forms of depression we know of), researchers found that depression scores were significantly reduced after a high dose of psilocybin, with 8 out of 12 patients in remission one week after the treatment . After six months, the reduction in depressive symptoms had been mostly sustained .
Typical treatments of depression require many months of medication or therapy, and only have a positive effect in around half of patients. Yet in these studies with psilocybin, a single dose had lasting benefits for over six months, and over 70% of patients were in full remission at the end of the studies.
It’s important to note that some of these studies used sessions of psychotherapy in addition to the psilocybin treatment, and they all had at least trained assistants carefully watching over the participants and offering support and reassurance. Again, this outlines why it’s important to have a sitter, and you can read more about setting up the right environment for a magic mushroom trip in this section.
Read our full article on how Magic Mushrooms Can Treat Depression.
Magic Mushrooms for OCD
Brain imaging has suggested that psychedelics like magic mushrooms could treat OCD because of their effects on the serotonin system. Scans of the brains of 15 sufferers of OCD showed that they were likely to have a serotonin deficiency in some brain areas .
In the first human trial of magic mushrooms for the treatment of OCD, nine sufferers were given varying doses of psilocybin and sat in a quiet room for eight hours . All nine participants showed improvements in OCD scores over the next 24 hours; however all had returned to their previous OCD symptoms during the following six months.
We definitely need larger scale, long-term studies to understand for certain the potential benefits of using magic mushrooms to treat OCD. But the internet is full of accounts from people who have used magic mushrooms to treat their OCD symptoms; including comedian Adam Strauss, who has written a successful play (The Mushroom Cure) describing his experience of using shrooms to successfully improve his life conditions.
Magic Mushrooms for Addiction
There have been several studies on the potential of magic mushrooms to treat alcohol and tobacco addiction.
A pilot study showed that psilocybin could help people quit smoking. 15 heavy lifetime smokers, who on average had tried to quit six times before, were given three doses of psilocybin across a 15-week treatment course. Six months later, 12 of them were no longer smoking . A long-term follow-up showed that 10 out of 15 people were still abstaining after more than 12 months .
These findings show that magic mushrooms could be a more effective treatment for tobacco addiction than other therapies, that usually only show a 35% success rate after six months .
Finally, one small preliminary study showed that giving psilocybin to ten people with alcohol dependence significantly reduced their drinking days over the following six months . Although the psilocybin therapy was in conjunction with psychotherapy, this finding suggests that magic mushrooms could be used as a safe and effective treatment for alcohol dependence.
Magic Mushrooms for Cluster Headache
Cluster headache is one of the most painful medical conditions in the world. Sufferers experience excruciating headaches that last for hours and can repeat daily for months. Typical treatments have very little success, as we don’t really know why cluster headaches happen.
Magic mushrooms (and other psychedelics) have been shown to be highly effective at stopping cluster headaches once they’ve started.  They can also help prevent future attacks more effectively than any of the other common treatments. This approach is known as “Cluster Busting” and has been adopted by an increasing number of people. In some cases, a single mushroom is enough to abort an attack. 
Microdosing Magic Mushrooms for Focus, Creativity, and Flow
Magic mushrooms or just pure psilocybin have become very popular with the microdosing community as well. Taking miniscule amounts of the drug allows users to experience many psychological benefits without the psychoactive effects, which normally overtake the full-dose magic mushroom trip.
Maintaining a magic mushroom microdosing regimen is reported by many to enhance creativity, raise the overall mood and energy level, help with focus and productivity, and improve relational skills, as well as to reduce anxiety, stress, and contain depression. Using magic mushrooms this way can also help people live more mindfully and boost sensory perception and spiritual awareness.
There is not much research available on microdosing, but a recent study, which surveyed 98 microdosers, found increases in reported psychological functioning across all measures on dosing days but did not find that the effects persisted on following days . The researchers also reported “reductions in reported levels of depression and stress; lower levels of distractibility; increased absorption; and increased neuroticism.”
Microdosing magic mushrooms or psilocybin is done by taking approximately 1/10 of a regular dose every three days. Maintaining space between microdosing days is important in order not to develop tolerance. After a few weeks to a month, a longer break should be made.
The Healing Power of the Mystical Experience
The effectiveness of magic mushrooms in treating psychological conditions is due to the profound spiritual experience that they induce. Research has shown that the intensity of the spiritual experience that accompanies a psychedelic trip is directly related to its healing benefits .
It’s hard to pin down exactly what a mystical experience is, as one of its characteristics is the difficulty in describing it. Mystical experiences usually involve a sense of realization or awakening, an encounter with some kind of universal truth or entity, and a sense of interconnectedness or timelessness. People often report mystical experiences giving them a fresh perspective on life, helping to give them new purpose or motivation to make positive changes.
You can start to understand why the mystical experience might be linked to healing after reading some magic mushroom experiences:
“Every single thing in my life made sense to me. I got this infinite wisdom for that time. I am the wisdom, I am everything and everything is one. Any question I would ask myself, I would always have a perfect answer for it, like I was the answer for it. It was a feeling of eternal peace, the most blissful but at the same time the most natural state. [...] I got this huge burst of loving feelings for my wife, my dog and all of the people in my life, an unconditional love that I couldn't explain and that some people might call "God." [It is] the feeling that keeps me going every day. The feeling that changed the way I see life, the moment that made me question everything, including my entire set of beliefs. For about 2 months after that trip I felt urges to meditate, eat more greens, and spend more "real quality" time with people. [...] I've become more mindful and aware of how everything in my life has a direct pact on others and the world, even if I don't see it yet. I definitely felt that something was changed inside me for good but I can’t explain what.”
- account from a Reddit user .
“I realised everything is connected, and I felt that I was just stardust, along with other people, animals, plants, rocks, clouds and the whole universe. I felt deep inner peace and oneness, mixed with joy and a sense of beauty. It was the most positive and wonderful experience I’d ever had, and there’s never been a need to revisit that depth of consciousness change. [...] I have not experienced depression since, after some very low points mid-teens, and believe it has helped me enormously.”
- account from Psymposia .
What happened next surely defies any human attempt to describe it meaningfully, but the most shocking part was the concreteness of the event. For only a fraction of a second, I saw a shining octopus-like creature moving through and out to the front of me. At the exact moment it disappeared, I felt its consciousness enter mine. [...] I was stunned by the awesome energy that suddenly became a part of me. [...] My eyes shot open and I gasped for breath. I did not know where I was, but I was everywhere and nowhere at once. I was everything and nothing at once. For the first time, I knew that everything in the universe was one, and that infinite meaning is found in all forms of life and the means they use to interpret the world. [...] It was as if a thousand new dimensions suddenly opened up in the world around me. Every object I saw was a symbol, and every symbol was overflowing with meaning.”
- account from an Erowid user .
“I entered a stateless state. [...] I was pure awareness, but there was no awareness. I was pure consciousness, but there was no consciousness. There was a sense of pure wisdom and knowledge, but there was no wisdom or knowledge. It was a state of perfection, but there was no perfection. There was no desire. There was no emotion. There was no bliss. No oneness. No unity consciousness. There was nothing. This state was a perfect state. This state, which was not a state, was above all. [...] I came out of it and was back on the couch in Room 1010. I looked around. I felt good, as if I were made of pure air. There was no density to me. I felt pure and clean. I have never felt better than that moment in my life. [...] The beautiful thing is in that moment of realization, you fully understand being awakened or enlightened means nothing. It’s the great cosmic giggle. We all want it, we all seek it, and then in a flash we realize we all already have it, and once you have it—it means nothing…HA! The perceptual shift of realization.”
- account from a participant in the Pharmacokinetics of Psilocybin in Normal Adult Volunteers study at the University of Wisconsin .
Having a spiritual experience with magic mushrooms can do so much more than treat a single physical or mental condition. It can transform your life by offering a connection to numinous realms, and provide you with a sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.
Read our full Guide to Healing with Magic Mushrooms.
Whatever reason you’ve chosen to explore magic mushrooms, it’s important to do so mindfully and with respect. Viewing magic mushrooms as a quick-fix for any issue or a one-and-done doorway to spiritual enlightenment is a recipe for disaster.
Here are our guidelines for preparing yourself for a meaningful and safe magic mushroom journey.
How to Grow Magic Mushrooms
Although magic mushrooms are illegal in many places, they’re also legal to grow in some countries, and even if your country prohibits the ingestion of magic mushrooms they could be legal to grow for ornamental purposes. Check your local laws before growing magic mushrooms – we do not recommend illegal activities.
Since mushrooms can grow in almost any humid environment, they’re relatively easy to grow at home, if you can find a place to obtain spores. Many countries allow you to purchase magic mushroom spores or grow kits online – check your local laws, and remember that magic mushroom laws are likely to change!
Growing mushrooms at home requires you to set up a sterile environment in which to inoculate your spores, then allowing the mycelium to colonise a growing substrate, and finally keeping your ‘cakes’ in a moist environment in which they can ‘fruit’ and start producing mature mushrooms.
The required materials and tools for this process are relatively easy to get, and won’t cost you much money. The most difficult part of the process is often finding good quality spores. Pre-colonized grow kits are also available online, and they are extremely easy to use; however, as they already contain some psilocybin, they are not as legal to ship.
Finally, if you don’t want to go through multiple attempts at growing your own mushrooms, you can go out and forage for them if you live in a damp climate! Just make sure that the physical features of the mushrooms you are picking match those of the psychedelic species.
You may be interested in learning about this New Way to Grow Magic Mushrooms (Without the Shrooms!).
Choosing the Ideal Magic Mushroom Retreat
The first thing you must do is decide how best to take magic mushrooms. Although some people choose to take magic mushrooms on their own, without a facilitator or sitter, we don’t recommend this path. Magic mushrooms are powerful and it’s always best to at least have a sober sitter—or, preferably, an experienced facilitator.
There are many magic mushroom retreats that offer the opportunity to take shrooms in a guided, ceremonial setting, where the safety and comfort of participants is a priority. These vary in the amount of luxury they provide, and the degree of mysticism involved in the ceremony. Although retreats can be ideal for beginners, you should consider whether the retreat offers what you’re looking for:
- Location. Is the retreat easy to get to? Is it a plane journey away, or just a train ride? These are all things to consider, and will mostly depend on personal preference.
- Legality. Are magic mushrooms legal in the host country? Countries like Costa Rica, Jamaica, and the Netherlands hold legal magic mushroom retreats. This might help you feel safer and allow you to have a more comfortable experience.
- Mysticism. Some retreats may use mystical or spiritual concepts more than others within the ceremony. If you’d like a more pragmatic or minimalist ceremony, make sure you know what to expect from the setup.
- The Ceremonial Space. You may prefer the idea of tripping outside; or maybe a comfy yoga studio would be more your kind of thing.
- The Practitioners. Would you rather have psychologists, therapists, and medical professionals running your retreat? Professionals aren’t required for an effective ceremony, but it’s good to consider the qualifications and experience of your facilitators.
- Group Activities. Some retreats require the group to move or chant together, or even undertake group tasks, during the experience. If you’d rather trip without group interactions, make sure to check what the retreat policy is.
- Amenities. Are there lodgings at the retreat? Do they provide food? Are there luxuries such as workshops or massages on offer? Consider what level of comfort you will require to make the most of the experience.
- Cost. This will very much be linked to the level of luxury of the retreat. Consider what is within your means, but remember that expert facilitators are not cheap!
- Restrictions. Some retreats will require you to follow a diet, or practice meditation, before the ceremony. If this isn’t for you, check to make sure what the retreat policy is beforehand. Some retreats require you to pass a medical screening to check for a family history of mental health problems, or heart conditions.
- Purpose. Why are you attending a retreat? If it’s for therapeutic purposes for a serious condition, consider the safety of the retreat. Are there trained therapists on hand? Is there a medic at the retreat? Will this retreat center offer you the best chance of finding what you’re looking for?
Once you have settled on the retreat that looks right for you, it’s important to ensure the trustworthiness of the retreat and its facilitators.
The effects of magic mushrooms are profound and can take you to a very vulnerable state. Because of this, you must have complete trust in the facilitators who will be overseeing the space and guiding you in your journey.
Some retreats will be driven by profits, while others will take their healing responsibility more seriously. You can easily do some online research to get an idea of how well-trained and respectable your facilitators are. The more time you invest in your own research, the higher the likelihood of avoiding insincere retreats.
- Google the name of the retreat, in combination with keywords like “fraud,” “scam,” or “scandal.” Make sure you look through a few pages, as savvy marketers know how to bury negative search results.
Join online forums or Facebook groups and search for mentions of the retreat, with the same negative keywords.
- Find past participants and ask them what their experience was like. Make sure to ask if they had any concerns, or if there was anything that made them uncomfortable.
Check out review sites that rate magic mushroom retreat centers – see our resources section.
Taking Magic Mushrooms Outside of a Retreat Context
Retreats aren’t for everyone, and if you’re experienced with psychedelics you might feel you are up to the task of preparing your own trip space.
Having a sober sitter present is highly recommended. It can make a huge difference to your experience, and only the most headstrong, responsible and seasoned psychonauts should attempt a lone trip.
Ideally, your sitter will be an experienced magic mushroom facilitator, who knows exactly how to guide trippers through intense and challenging experiences. However, at the very least, your sitter should be sober, and should follow these guidelines:
- Know the space. Be aware of where the amenities are, and where to go for food, water, and outside assistance. Keep everything comfortable, and make sure the tripper is safe.
- Know the shrooms. Make sure they are aware of the dose you are taking, how long it will last, and what sort of effects to expect.
- Know the tripper. Understand why you are taking the mushrooms, and what you might need from them during the trip. Lay out any specific boundaries either of you might have regarding physical contact.
- Be a gentle presence. Unless there is a specific need for it, or you have considerable experience, they shouldn’t try to guide you in any particular direction. They should just be a silent, supportive presence, and simply offer gentle reassurance whenever it is needed. Their main role is to just be there, and keep you safe—not to be a therapist.
Some basic tips for setting up your own magic mushroom experience are:
- Prepare the space. Make sure you’ll be comfortable, and keep any sharp or dangerous objects out of the space. Make sure no one will interrupt you. If you are tripping outside, make sure it is a familiar place that has no hazards (i.e. unsafe grounds, deep water, cliffs or other high-altitude places).
- Plan the trip. Have food and water prepared so you won’t have to think about it during the experience. Have writing or coloring materials around, and other activities that you might want to enjoy (music or a yoga mat).
- Follow the usual preparations as if you were attending a retreat. See the section below and prepare yourself to have a transformational experience.
Preparing for Magic Mushrooms
Whether you’re attending a retreat, or tripping at your own home, it’s important to do some preparation for the experience.
Many retreats will have a set plan for your preparation, including a diet, meditation practices, or group sharing circles and workshops.
If your retreat doesn’t have a preparation routine, or if you’re tripping on your own, we recommend familiarizing yourself with these common practices that could help maximize the effects of the magic mushroom experience.
Spiritual Practices to Use with Magic Mushrooms
Dieting and abstinence are often used together with spiritual practices in order to amplify the benefits you may receive from the experience. Avoiding TV, social media, unhealthy foods and sexual activity could help you get the most out of your trip, but are by no means necessary for everyone.
Ideally, you should spend the days preceding your ceremony engaged in activities like yoga, meditation, mindfulness practice, prayer, journaling, and solitary walks in the woods. Begin spiritually communing with Nature before your date-night with her, when you will fling open the doors to direct communication with the mushroom spirit.
Being in a mindful place will help you immeasurably in your magic mushroom experience. Even if you’re not comfortable with a spiritual approach to preparation, reflect on whatever is important to you in preparing for a ceremony.
Setting Intention with Magic Mushrooms
Setting intention is a crucial part of any psychedelic journey, and spiritual practices can help you to do this. Developing a clear goal for what aspects of yourself or the world you are hoping to visit during your experience will increase the likelihood of taking something positive from it.
Be sure not to confuse “intentions” with “expectations.” You may spend days or weeks setting a very clear intention, only for magic mushrooms to decide they won’t be answering that question for you this time. Consider your intentions like a foundation – some firm ground to come back to if you get lost. But don’t expect for those intentions to act as guidance which magic mushrooms will follow. Be prepared to lose control and be taken in unexpected directions.
Letting Go with Magic Mushrooms
It’s possible to encounter shocking, unpleasant, or disturbing sensations and thoughts during a magic mushroom experience. That is natural: most of us are not accustomed to coming into such close contact with profound spirit medicines, and it is unusual for people to have a purely comfortable experience with absolutely no challenges.
The key to not letting the intense or negative parts of the experience overwhelm you is letting go. Being able to release control and trust that you will be looked after.
This isn’t to say that you should be able to conquer your fear of the situation. Fear is a natural response to intense experiences and, in the words of Terence McKenna:
“[The fear] marks the experience as existentially authentic. [...] A touch of terror gives the stamp of validity to the experience because it means, ‘This is real.’ We are in the balance. We read the literature, we know the maximum doses, and so on. But nevertheless, so great is one’s faith in the mind that when one is out in it one comes to feel that the rules of pharmacology do not really apply and that control of existence on that plane is really a matter of focus of will and good luck.” 
So, it is expected for you to feel fear when you are thrown out of your normal framework of understanding, because suddenly all that solid ground under your feet becomes a vast drop to somewhere completely unknown.
Being able to accept this new and scary situation is important. Rather than flailing around and scrambling for some essence of solidity in the void beneath you, remember that this is a natural part of the psychedelic experience, and what will help you is to let go. Accept the fear, accept this scary new reality, and let it happen to you.
Remember that you are being looked after, you are safe; and embrace the pains and joys of the experience. Many people recommend giving up your sense of self to magic mushrooms, and remembering that they know best. Take every lesson they give you with humility and openness.
Once you begin to come back to earth, take notice of your surroundings, and the ways in which you feel you have changed. Your facilitators may undertake some cleansing rituals with you, to close the ceremony in a gentle and careful manner.
Integration with Magic Mushrooms
The magic mushroom experience can be so novel, and so profound, that it is absolutely necessary to make an effort to integrate it effectively into your life. This process may take days, weeks, or years, and it begins immediately following your trip.
Some facilitators will make sure to speak to you after the ceremony, to talk you through your experience and help you interpret parts that you are struggling with. Most good retreats will allow space for a sharing circle after the main ceremony, allowing you to hear other people’s experiences and express your own.
In the days and weeks following the experience, it’s recommended to continue any spiritual practices you were cultivating beforehand, and observe how they may feel different. Revisit the experience through these practices, and think about which parts of your magic mushroom journey you want to bring into your life, and how.
Try your hand at expressing yourself through art or music, if words don’t seem to be enough. If the retreat provides it, make sure to continue a regular correspondence with your facilitator or guide. If you are particularly struggling with some aspects of the experience, consider seeing a specialized integration therapist: they exist all over the world, and you can find them by checking out our Resources section.
For many people, the time just after their first magic mushroom experience feels like a new beginning. The world may feel refreshed, or you may feel as if some of your demons or troubles have been exposed and cleansed. You may have been given a new purpose in life; or perhaps just reminded of the one you’ve always had.
In many ways, magic mushrooms put you at the start of a long road. There will always be so much more to learn, so many more ways to change, and so much more healing to do.
If you are seeking magic mushrooms, it's important to understand their legal status in the country you are in.
While we do not advocate breaking the law, we do believe that cognitive liberty is a fundamental human right, and that everyone deserves to have safe and legal access to healing plant medicines.
If you feel that drug prohibition is unjust, we suggest you support the movement to Decriminalize Nature.
Where Magic Mushrooms Are Legal / Decriminalized / Unregulated
Psilocybin is a scheduled substance in most of the world, with a handful of exceptions.
Most well-known exception is likely the Netherlands, where magic mushrooms were fully legal up until their possession and commercialization was declared criminal in 2008. Still, after the new regulation was passed, psilocybin remained legal—only in the form of truffles.
A few other European countries, such as Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Spain, have a more lenient stance toward psilocybin use, but have not officially decriminalized it. Portugal, on the other hand, has psychoactive substance possession and use decriminalized.
Notably, the US seems to slowly be opening up to the decriminalization and medicalization of psilocybin. Three cities so far have passed drug reform on this front: Oakland, CA, Santa Cruz, CA, and Denver, CO. Hope is that more cities and states will follow suit as the global North embraces the scientifically validated therapeutic potential of psilocybin.
Mexico, which has an ancient history of magic mushroom rituals, holds their use officially illegal, with the caveat that indigenous ceremonies are allowed. A few other countries in the region, such as Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and Samoa, have psilocybin unregulated and available to purchase from independent vendors.
Likewise, in Southeast Asia, despite psilocybin being officially illegal, a few countries, such as Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia, have created magic mushroom offers catering to their Western tourists' demand. Mushroom shakes are a known psychedelic treat in many tropical areas of these countries, and their sale is apparently permitted by the authorities, likely thanks to a mutual agreement of sorts between them and the vendors. Still, raids and arrests have happened in the past, so it is never fully risk-free.
Are magic mushrooms dangerous?
With the right mindset and setting, magic mushrooms are perfectly harmless, even in moderate to strong doses. Only by mixing psilocybin and other substances, doing mushrooms in an unsafe/overwhelming environment, or doing them at some really fragile point in time can they cause some harm. It’s always recommended to have a sober sitter present.
Can magic mushrooms cause psychological trauma?
Every psychedelic experience can be traumatic. That’s why approaching it with a proper mindset and in a proper setting, preferably with someone to administer psychedelic harm reduction if needed, is crucial to having a good experience.
However, the “bad trips” are integral to psychological growth: they can teach us about our fears and weak spots. It’s important to try to embrace them rather than resist them in order to avoid spiraling into a traumatic episode.
Can psilocybin be detected in a drug test?
Psilocybin and psilocin are not included in most standard drug screens. However, they are sometimes included in extended drug screens. Both psilocybin and psilocin are usually flushed out of the system within a day, but they can stay detectable in hair for up to 90 days.
Where can I find magic mushrooms?
Buying anything that contains psilocybin is illegal almost globally, with a few exceptions. However, magic mushroom species grow in all sorts of conditions, so in many parts of the world it’s possible to forage for them.
Just make sure you identify your mushrooms properly, because some species can be dangerous. Here’s a tip: the psychedelic ones often have long, narrow stalks and short, conical caps.
Will magic mushrooms work on a full stomach?
That’s a hit and miss. It’s best to have some after not having eaten for four or more hours. Tip: soaking the magic mushrooms in a citric liquid for 15min before eating will start the conversion of psilocybin into psilocin and this can make for a more potent and stable trip.
Which magic mushrooms are the best?
This really depends on your personal preferences and intentions, and whether strongest means best to you or a certain trip character is a priority. Some mushrooms are more visual, some make people more pensive and introspective, others are good for socializing or attending music events, while some require peace and quiet. Experimenting is the key to finding perfect strains and dosages. An ideal starter mushroom is the tried and true Psilocybe cubensis.
Which magic mushrooms are easiest to grow?
Mushrooms are generally not too demanding to grow, and it’s especially easy if you obtain a ready-for-use growth kit, but Psilocybe cubensis are among the most widespread magic mushrooms, which means they are happy in a range of conditions and are therefore quite easy to grow.
Is it possible to take magic mushrooms two days in a row?
It is, but psilocybin/psilocin tolerance is significant. A much higher dose is often needed on the following day, but after more than one day the compound is almost completely cleared out of the system and it’s possible to achieve similar effects with similar doses.
Are magic mushrooms addictive?
This is a resounding NO.
Will I see visions with magic mushrooms?
Perhaps, and perhaps not. Nobody can say this. Even with high-potency mushrooms, people can experience different levels of visions, and some none at all.
We do not advise anyone to go into a magic mushroom journey with expectations of spectacular visions, or any kind of expectations, really.
Should I try magic mushrooms?
We wrote this guide so you could arrive at an answer to this question. You should have a good idea of whether they are right for you after a read-through.
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- Title background image: Alexandra Schastlivaya
- Title image: Iryna Fedorenko
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