Psychoactive mushrooms have recently received considerable attention in the popular news media. For the most part, reports focus on either (a) “magic mushrooms” or (b) the molecule psilocybin. A few articles point out that psilocin is actually the active molecule.
Magic mushrooms have multiple other active components. One of them is called phenethylamine (PEA). These molecules are almost never acknowledged. And, they are probably involved the pharmacology of magic mushrooms.
Phenethylamine is Present in Magic Mushrooms
Consider these facts about phenethylamine:
- It acts as a central nervous system stimulant in humans. It is similar to amphetamine in its action in that it causes the release of norepinephrine and dopamine.
- It is produced by a wide range of species throughout the plant and animal kingdoms, including humans and fungi including magic mushrooms.
- It has been quantifiably measured in multiple collections of psychoactive mushrooms.1
Phenethylamine Shows Need for Improving Psilocybin Chemistry
The presence of phenylethylamine in “magic mushrooms” shows why it is important to distinguish mushrooms from the collection of molecules inside those mushrooms.
The path to better psilocybin products will begin by treating magic mushrooms as collections of magic molecules. Even psilocybin, the most potent of the “magic” mushrooms, is only present in at about 1-2% by mass. This means that 98-99% of that mushroom is composed of other molecules — like phenylethylamine. Molecules like phenylethylamine are psychoactive and likely modulate the effects of psilocybin and/or psilocin.
As evidenced by the prevalence of “magic mushroom” language, psilocybin technology is presently viewed from a mycologist’s perspective. That perspective is essential to cultivating and/or identifying magic mushrooms. However, future advances in treating conditions (like anxiety and depression) will require viewing these mushrooms from a chemical perspective.
1. Beck O, Helander A, Karlson-Stiber C, Stephansson N. Presence of phenylethylamine in hallucinogenic Psilocybe mushroom: possible role in adverse reactions. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 1998;22(1):45-49.