Taking Pure Psilocybin is Different from Eating Magic Mushrooms

Consuming pure psilocybin is not the same as eating magic mushrooms.  Psilocybin is one active ingredient found in magic mushrooms.  In addition to psilocybin, magic mushrooms contain multiple other active ingredients–literally different drugs. Much like recent findings in the cannabis industry, the cocktail of drugs in full spectrum mushroom preparations synergistically creates the user’s experience through an “Entourage Effect.”  Unfortunately, many reporters continue to use the terms “psilocybin” and “magic mushrooms” interchangeably, which perpetuates confusion and ambiguity in the psychedelic space.  Below are a few examples.

This is a photo of magic mushrooms. Note the differences between these naturally occurring mushroom fruiting bodies and the pure white powder pictured above.

In October 2017, the Independent published an article titled “Eating magic mushrooms can treat depression, study finds.”  According to the article, “[t]he drug ‘resets’ the brain circuits to immediately improve moods.”

According to Andrew Griffin at the Independent, “[s]cientists got special permission to give the mushrooms to 19 people.”  This statement is not accurate. The original study in the journal Scientific Reports states patients with treatment-resistant depression were given a 10mg and 25mg doses of psilocybin seven days apart. The author of the article in the Independent assumes psilocybin was given to the patients by way of feeding them “magic mushrooms.” However, the study clearly states the patients were given “oral psilocybin.” This is a good lesson about not believing everything you read and always going back to the original research to learn the facts.

This information about dosing raises another important point. Psilocybin mushrooms vary greatly in terms of the composition and concentration of active ingredients.  Here, the study dosed participants with 100% psilocybin — NOT mushrooms.  Mushrooms contain a variety of different psychoactive molecules including several psilocybin derivatives (like psilocin) and also phenylethylamines and other molecules.

Psilocybe cyanescens is a species of mushroom known to contain psilocybin and psilocin.

Progress in the psilocybin space will require distinguishing “the mushrooms” from each of the active ingredients found in them.  (A shift in focus from mushrooms to molecules). First, much like cannabis pharmacology, those active ingredients interact with each other, providing effects different from administering them individually in their isolated and purified form.  See Entourage Effect, above. Second, the concentration of active ingredients (e.g. psilocybin and/or psilocin) varies from mushroom to mushroom, whereas the study involves dosing people with precise quantities of one compound. For these reasons, formulated magic mushroom products are better than magic mushrooms or pure psilocybin

Future progress towards increasing access to the benefits for magic mushrooms will unquestionably require methods of accurately dosing the active ingredients. Given the importance of preserving the full spectrum of active ingredients present in magic mushrooms, one reasonable approach would be formulating compositions that include known amounts of purposefully chosen ingredients — not just psilocybin.  Here’s a brief overview of how to make formulated magic mushroom products.  By all reasoning, formulated products are the future of the psychedelic industry. They will replace the two presently available options, namely (1) pure psilocybin and (2) natural mushroom fruiting bodies.

2 thoughts on “Taking Pure Psilocybin is Different from Eating Magic Mushrooms

  1. Greg Reply

    In general, this is an example of the issue of “herbal medicine” vs. “pharmaceuticals.”

    Given a plant that has some effectiveness in preventing or treating a disease. The effects are produced by one or more compounds that are present in the plant. There may also be undesired compounds in the plant that produce various side-effects. And, the concentration of the various compounds may vary from one sample of the plant to another, often in ways that can’t be controlled reliably.

    The obvious goal for medicine is to obtain reliable beneficial effects with minimal side-effects: thus, to ascertain which compounds are beneficial, and provide those in a form that has known purity and potency. Typically this means looking for one particular molecule, or now, per the Entourage Effect, looking for the “entourage” of molecules that, taken together, produce the desired effect.

    This is why we need pharmaceutical research into plant-based medicines: purity and potency, or as you say elsewhere in these blogs, precision and accuracy. Some people may wish to continue taking a plant, essentially for philosophical reasons. But the vast majority of us would prefer to take a prescription medicine that contains exact doses of specific molecules, based on research published in peer-reviewed literature.

  2. Gordo Reply

    “ Given the importance of preserving the full spectrum of active ingredients present in magic mushrooms” Why is this a given? What is the evidence? We know from modern research that pure psilocybin is excellent for inducing profound complete mystical experiences, for treating certain disorders like depression, addiction, PTSD, etc. I haven’t seen any evidence that whole mushrooms or even purified formulations are superior, so if such evidence exists I’d love to look at it. Of the 3 main active alkaloids in Magic mushrooms: psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin, psilocybin just becomes psilocin after ingestion, so not really any different, and baeocystin only exists in very small quantities in most mushrooms and seems to also be somewhat similar in effect to psilocybin based on limited reports. People who have used pure synthetic psilocybin mostly seem to report that the effects are the same compared to an equivalent mushroom dose, and when they report some perceived difference it could just be the result of set, setting, and especially dosage (you often have no idea what dose you will even be getting when consuming actual mushrooms).

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