Key takeaways.

  • Do non-hallucinogenic psychedelics exist?

    They don’t exactly exist in nature, but they can be carefully engineered based on currently existing, natural, hallucinogenic psychedelics.

  • What are they called and what do they do?

    AAZ-A-154 and tabernanthalog are the two non-hallucinogenic substances that have been created. They interact with serotonin receptors in such a way that they create similar cortical neuroplasticity as conventional psychedelics.

  • Are non-hallucinogenic psychedelics therapeutic?

    We’re not exactly sure yet. There haven’t been any human trials but animal studies have been promising. Some scientists still believe that the subjective experience is what drives the therapeutic effect of mushrooms, but other scientists believe the psychedelic experience isn’t necessary at all.

Believe it or not, researchers have identified a psychedelic substance that doesn’t produce hallucinations. At first glance, this doesn’t seem possible. Isn’t the “trip” precisely what makes a psychedelic, a psychedelic? According to scientists, apparently not. The hunt for non-hallucinogenic psychedelics is about hunting for compounds that affect the serotonin receptor in the same way as other hallucinogens.

Some scientists don’t believe it’s possible for non-hallucinogenic psychedelics to produce the same outcomes. That’s to say, they believe the trippy effects are actually part of the therapy. But other scientists are seduced by the concept because it reduces the chance of recreational use and means people can take it unsupervised.

At the University of California, Lin Tian engineered a device that would alert a sensor in the presence of a hallucinogenic substance precisely when it starts a relationship with a serotonin receptor. This is what the researchers were using to hone in on these non-hallucinogenic psychedelics. But even the device is noteworthy, having uses in the future of psychedelic medicine even without the arrival of these new psychedelic compounds.

In this article, we’re having a look at this new, bizarre research, why it’s both exciting and weird, and what the chances are of it taking hold in the future.

AAZ-A-154 — The non-hallucinogenic psychedelic.

With Lin Tian’s device, David Olson has been getting up close and personal with hallucinogenic and non-hallucinogenic compounds. At the University of California, he’s looking for substances that interact with the serotonin receptor the same way as psychedelic substances like psilocybin. One substance in particular has caught Olson’s attention — AAZ-A-154. It’s non-hallucinogenic, but still interacts with the serotonin receptor.

So far, Olson says it’s shown great potential in animal studies, having an impact similar to conventional hallucinogenic psychedelics. AAZ-A-154 is still undergoing safety and testing before it can be used in any early stage human trials.

AAZ-A-154 isn’t the only non-hallucinogenic psychedelic substance making its way through laboratories. Olson has been busy at work making a substance called tabernanthalog, a compound that is supposed to mimic the therapeutic effects of ibogaine. It doesn’t have the psychedelic effects and has lower toxicity. Again, trials are still in the making.

Why would a non-hallucinogenic psychedelic be useful?

An illustration of different species of hallucinogenic and non-hallucinogenic psychedelics and mushrooms.
@maiirvineart

Some of us might find the concept of a non-hallucinogenic psychedelic a little bit… unnerving. Maybe it is, but there’s some medical appeal to the notion. Olson’s curiosity is piqued by the concept of a non-hallucinogenic because of the way it might mitigate issues that patients face with the hallucinogenic kind.

For example, to use magic mushrooms in the medical setting, a patient first has to prepare for the session, go to his doctor and spend at least eight hours there before coming home. It must be professionally supervised. A non-hallucinogenic substance would remove the need for supervision, according to Olson.

Theoretically, this could also reduce costs. An 8 or 9 hour session with your doctor is probably not going to look like a normal check-up bill. Removing the hallucinogenic aspect would make it less necessary to have professional supervision during the experience.

Critics of the movement towards psychedelic-assisted therapy worry that the psychedelic effects create a greater potential for recreational use of the substance. Given that psychedelics generally have a low addiction potential, we’re not sure why this is of major concern. But this could be another benefit of AAZ-A-154 and other non-hallucinogenic psychedelics.

Will non-hallucinogenic psychedelics be therapeutic?

A digital artwork of a buddha sitting on a giant magic mushroom in the sky with a hole cut out of his middle. A concept of meditation and psychedelics.
@_.lunatico._

There are varying schools of thought when it comes to the hallucinogenic effect of psychedelics. Some scientists are very focused on the neurobiology of psychedelics and how they affect brain receptors. There are other scientists who believe that the subjective experience is actually a driver of the therapeutic effects, although it’s really difficult to prove and explain this with science. 

Fortunately, there’s been a little research on the topic. In 2018, a large group of researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine took to researching the psilocybin-induced mystical experience and its effects on therapy. They used a low-dose and high-dose to separate psilocybin experiences, where the higher dose was much more likely to bring about the mystical experience. They found the high dose group produced more persistent, long term effects of life purpose, gratitude, forgiveness, death transcendence, faith and coping. The researchers concluded that the psilocybin-induced mystical experience could increase healthy psychological function at a trait level.

There’s also the fact that based on anecdotal evidence, so many people attribute the reduction of their symptoms to the psychological breakthrough that the experience was able to give them. Most of the people who use psychedelics rate these experiences as among the most profound in their lives and this seems to be an important factor into their therapeutic value.

On the other hand, Olson shows that carefully engineered substances are able to produce the same level of cortical neuroplasticity through activation of the 5-H2TA receptor. Olson believes that these are able to produce the same outcomes for clinical depression, alcohol use disorder, and heroin use disorder — although these things haven’t been shown in clinical trials yet.

Essentially, Olson believes that even though psychedelics might have all the therapeutic potential in the world in theory, they won’t in practice. Their cost as a treatment option, both in terms of time and money, mean that they might not ever really be widespread treatments for depression. While he has a valid point, it’s not clear whether his idea will ever kick off the ground either.

Would you try a non-hallucinogenic psychedelic as a form of therapy? Why or why not? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

  • What are the main differences between magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, LSD, and mescaline?

    The main difference between these psychedelic substances is the active compound. Though the active compounds affect similar neurotransmitters, they all vary slightly in effects on the brain and subjective experience.

  • Are any of them dangerous?

    No – one of the common threads between psychedelic substances is that they show no toxic effects to any organ of the body.

  • How are these psychedelics used in clinical settings?

    It’s still unclear how to use the different psychedelic substances in different clinical disorders, but psychedelics are being researched for their potential to treat PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injuries, and addiction.

It’s all too easy to think of all the different psychedelic substances as the same thing, but they are all fundamentally different. The word “psychedelic” is just an umbrella term for a subset of effects that a drug has on a person. It’s the same as how there are many different kinds of “stimulant” drugs, and the same way there are many different kinds of “sedative” drugs. Basically, psychedelics make you trip balls.

Magic mushrooms, Ayahuasca, LSD and mescaline are all psychedelic substances. Yes, they all make you trip balls. But they all compromise completely different compounds, all with different pharmacological actions, and all with their own unique, varying effects. And so while all psychedelics make you trip, there is a difference between magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, LSD and mescaline.

Those who have tried more than one of these psychedelic substances will intuitively know the subtleties between their effects. Some people describe LSD as an energetic psychedelic experience while Ayahuasca is more dreamy and more physically debilitating. But we won’t talk too much about those differences — we’re more focused on the different compounds and their different pharmacological effects.

It’s really hard to quantify the psychedelic experience — to say that magic mushrooms are more physical than LSD or to say that mescaline has more visuals than magic mushrooms. This is because no two psychedelic experiences are ever the same, even if you’re using the same substance. One day, your mushroom dose is completely physical, emotional, and visual, while on another day the same dose is purely mental. The subjective experience has a lot more to do with the set and setting than the substance chosen, but the biological effects remain the same. The biological differences between magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, LSD, and mescaline are the ones we’re more interested in today.

Let’s check them out, one by one.

The magic mushroom.

A digital artwork comprising clouds, rainbow magic mushrooms, moons, and stars.
@oceanmoon.crystals

The magic mushroom is, quite literally, a mushroom. There are hundreds of different species of psychedelic, active mushrooms. The most common is Psilocybe cubensis, but there are many other species within the Psilocybe genus such as Psilocybe cyanescens and Psilocybe semilanceata. Other genera of magic mushroom exist such as the Amanita muscaria mushroom, which has a completely different chemical make-up all together. For the purpose of keeping this article on topic, we’re just going to look at the Psilocybe genus of magic mushrooms.

The magic mushroom chemical profile.

Psilocybe magic mushrooms contain three main active compounds: psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. These are the compounds thought to be responsible for the psychedelic effect of magic mushrooms.

The molecular formula for psilocybin is C12H17N204P.

Pharmacokinetics of psilocybin.

When psilocybin first enters the body, it is metabolised by the liver into psilocin. This occurs via a process of dephosphorylation. Psilocin easily crosses the blood brain barrier. By the way, this is why mushrooms with higher amounts of psilocin are considered to be “stronger”. Less work is required to dephosphorylate psilocybin into psilocin, and it therefore crosses the blood brain barrier faster.

Psilocin is structurally very similar to tryptamine, a metabolite of a common nutrient called tryptophan. This gives psilocin a strong affinity for the human brain’s serotonin receptors, causing a cascade of effects that are associated with inhibition of serotonin-dependent neurons. 

Interestingly, psilocin doesn’t have too much of an effect on dopamine receptors, but as you’ll later find out, there are other psychedelic compounds which love dopamine receptors. 

The effects of magic mushrooms.

The subjective effects of magic mushrooms range from visual effects, disorientation, dizziness, hallucinations, divergent thinking, and physical sensations. However, these are the same terms used to describe pretty much every psychedelic experience, irrespective of the substance. Those who have tried multiple different kinds will know the subtle differences in sensation, visual effects, etc.

The effects of magic mushrooms last anywhere from 3 – 10 hours depending on the dose and the person taking them. Compared to lots of other psychedelics, this is actually a short “high” and something that mushroom users love.

From a biological perspective, psilocybin is interesting because it is not known to affect any organs (heart, kidneys, intestines). Essentially, psilocybin enters the brain via the blood brain barrier, does all of its work on serotonin receptors, and is then excreted in urine. It doesn’t touch or affect any of the physical organs.

LSD; lysergic acid diethylamide.

An illustration of Albert Hofman on his bicycle, representing the discovery of LSD and bicycle day.
@chistudios

LSD is a synthetic psychedelic compound. It originated as LSA (lysergic acid amide), which was extracted from ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. Albert Hofman used LSA to create LSD in 1938. For a brief period of time, it was used as an experimental mind control drug and researchers dabbled in LSD’s effects on different mental health afflictions. 

LSD’s “original” form, LSA, is still used today, but is typically consumed via a plant called Hawaiian Baby Woodrose. The seeds of Hawaiian Baby Woodrose contain large amounts of LSA and so people still consume this plant, but its effects are considered mild in comparison with LSD.

We don’t really need to talk about the chemical profile of LSD because LSD is the chemical in question. But let’s check out its pharmacokinetics and how it works.

LSD pharmacokinetics.

LSD has pharmacological activity at a number of different serotonin receptors, all dopamine and norepinephrine receptors. This makes LSD unique, as most of the psychedelics that work through the serotonergic system steer clear of the dopaminergic system. 

LSD has a whopping 5.1 hr half life, making it one of the longest lasting psychoactive substances. A journey can last up to 20 hours and LSD’s bioavailability is somewhere around 70%. Most LSD consumed is metabolised, with its metabolite being excreted through urine. It binds strongly to serotonin receptors and for a long time, another reason why its resident time feels so long for the user. 

The effects of LSD.

Like we mentioned, LSD has long lasting effects — anywhere from 6 to 20 hours. The effects start somewhere between 30-90 minutes after consumption, and the effects can start as anything from slight changes in perception to full blown cognitive change. 

Virtually everything about sensory experience can change under the effects of LSD, from the way things look and feel to the way foods taste. Many people report synesthesia on LSD, a phenomenon of overlapping senses whereby a person can taste colours, for example. It’s thought that serotonergic activity is behind this phenomenon, which means it occurs with other psychedelics too. 

Like psilocybin, LSD is not known to have harmful effects on any organ, even at high doses. It’s interesting that when it comes to the negative effects of psychedelics, most arise from dangerous activity undertaken while under the effects than any direct negative effect from the drug. This is the case with LSD, too.

Ayahuasca brew.

A visionary piece of art representing the entities and visions of ayahuasca, portraying the vine, patterns, a face, and underwater elements
@visionary_art_by_mauro

Ayahuasca is the name of a decoction made with two plants: Banisteriopsis caapi (Ayahuasca) and Psychotria viridis (Chacruna). It’s sometimes made with different plant species in different parts of the world because of bioavailability, but those other plant species are used because they contain the same compounds. Nonetheless, the Ayahuasca brew is traditionally made with these two species.

The reason this brew is so very interesting is because without Ayahausca, chacruna doesn’t work. They need each other like a lock and a key. In this way, the brew is actually a very clever way of bypassing the body’s defense mechanisms by introducing a second plant. This recipe was created thousands of years ago by traditional peoples of the Amazon, long before we had any scientific knowledge of enzymes and neurotransmitters.  

Ayahuasca’s chemical profile.

There are two main active chemicals that form the Ayahuasca brew. From the Banisteriopsis caapi vine come harmala alkaloids, a form of monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). From the Psychotria viridis (chacruna) leaf comes N-N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). 

Though the MAOI is psychoactive in its own right, it’s not actually the most psychoactive part of the brew. It’s the DMT that makes the brew so potently psychedelic. Under normal gastric circumstances, DMT would degrade on impact in the gastrointestinal tract because of enzymes called monoamine oxidases. But thanks to the MAOI in the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, those enzymes are inhibited and DMT can get to work. 

Ayahuasca pharmacokinetics.

Ayahuasca, as a psychedelic, again strongly affects serotonergic systems. Because of its MAOI effect, it causes a large amount of serotonin to be moving through the body. This is why it’s dangerous to use Ayahuasca while taking antidepressants — serotonin syndrome is deadly.

Ayahuasca takes anywhere between 1 and 2 hours to take effects, and lasts for around 4-6 hours. WIthin 30 minutes of consumption, however, it starts to cause physical sensations such as nausea and vomiting as well as diarrhoea. Interestingly, this isn’t because of a “poison” effect, it’s simply a result of vagus nerve stimulation by increased levels of serotonin in the brain. Diarrhoea might be caused by increased serotonin stimulation in the gut. 

The effects of ayahuasca.

Because of the magic concoction that is Ayahuasca, it’s literally like a shot of serotonin to the brain. Its physical effects are so strong, most people feel nausea and vomit and some people experience diarrhoea. Some people are completely physically incapacitated during an Ayahuasca experience.

Despite its potent physical effects, Ayahuasca isn’t known to have any toxic effect on hepatic function or renal function. Interestingly, and very much unlike other psychedelics, that doesn’t mean Ayahuasca consumption isn’t dangerous. There can be fatal reactions if consumed with other substances that work through the serotonergic system because too much serotonin is deadly.

Like other psychedelics, Ayahuasca causes strong visions, but many people associate these visions and hallucinations with an “entity”. It has also been given this persona through its traditional and spiritual use.

Mescaline; the cactus compound.

@studio._lauren

Mescaline is a compound typically extracted from the Peyote or San Pedro cactus, but can also be found in the Peruvian Torch cactus, Cactaceae species and even some Fabaceae bean species. In traditional contexts, it’s drunk as a cactus brew, but synthetic versions of mescaline exist. We’re not talking about those as their effects are different and they have different chemical structures.

Mescaline pharmacokinetics.

Like all of the other psychedelic substances we’ve spoken about in this article, mescaline works primarily through serotonergic systems. It has a strong affinity for the 5HT2 receptor, and it’s thought that through this activity, mescaline exerts its psychedelic effects.

Again, mescaline can cause nausea and vomiting, just like Ayahuasca, and for the very same reasons. Excess serotonin stimulation in the brain and gut can cause symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

The effects of mescaline.

Mescaline is no different when it comes to toxicology — though it’s metabolised by the liver, it’s not known to have any toxic effects on any of the physical organs

Mescaline is most well known for its physical, sensory effects. They are likened to MDMA in terms of how the body feels. Accompanying these sensations are open and closed eye visuals, interesting cerebral activity in terms of thought and revelation, and increased openness.

Traditionally, mescaline was consumed during the day while Ayahuasca was consumed during the night. This seems to tie in with Ayahuasca’s physically debilitating effects compared to mescaline’s, which are more active and energetic.

Common threads between magic mushrooms, LSD, Ayahuasca, and mescaline.

A collage art of jesus handing mary magdalene a piece of cannabis surrounded by other psychedelics such as cacti, mushrooms, and peyote.
@medera.apothecary

Though each psychedelic substance is made of different compounds, there are definitely some pretty obvious common threads between them. The first and most obvious is that none of them seem to have any toxic effect on physical organs. In fact, other than a raised heartbeat, dilated pupils, and some neurologically originated nausea and vomiting, there are no real physical effects.

Pretty much all fatal effects caused by psychedelics occur as a result of dangerous behaviour undertaken during the experience. Most of the time this can be avoided by abstaining from using psychedelics in inappropriate settings — like in an overcrowded shopping mall for example (or even at a party for some people).

That doesn’t mean there can’t be negative effects. But these negative effects are thought to be psychological in nature. Fear and paranoia can occur during a psychedelic experience, but in most cases these feelings disappear with the end of the experience. Sometimes, a person can even turn that negative experience into a deeply healing one.

There’s still no clear answer on which psychedelics should be used for which kind of therapeutic uses. All of this understanding is still very much in its infancy. However, psychedelics are currently under scrutiny for their use in clinical depression, addiction, anxiety, PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries. Psychedelics like the brain — an organ that we have a very hard time medicating. And psychedelics are a light in all that grey and white matter.

Despite the fact that we use such similar words to describe the effects of different psychedelics, they are different. And if you’ve ever dabbled, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Even magic mushroom strains can differ from each other in the subjective experience. We’re excited about the day that we know even more about the difference between magic mushrooms, LSD, Ayahuasca, and mescaline and how they can be applied in different clinical settings.

Have you ever tried magic mushrooms or any of the other substances in this article? How did it differ from other psychedelic experiences? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Key takeaways.

  • Can a penicillin allergy also cause a mushroom allergy?

    There’s not much evidence that penicillin allergies cause cross-reactivities with other moulds or fungi, so it’s still considered unlikely that a penicillin allergy would be related to a mushroom allergy.

  • Is it safe to have magic mushrooms if you have a penicillin allergy?

    If your allergy to penicillin is mild (it doesn’t cause hospitalization), then it is still safe to try magic mushrooms. But if you have strong allergies to penicillin or to other mushroom varieties, it may not be safe.

  • Tips for trying magic mushroom safely if you have a penicillin allergy?

    Have a tripsitter (who isn’t taking mushrooms), start with only a small dose, keep antihistamines around, and don’t freak out at small reactions such as skin hives. Call emergency services if the allergy becomes an emergency.

We’ve received a number of questions regarding the use of magic mushrooms and penicillin allergies. It’s a valid question given that penicillin is a form of mould and magic mushrooms are a form of fungus — the two kinds of organisms are very similar. And there are many wondering whether or not it’s safe to use magic mushrooms if you also happen to have an allergy to penicillin.

We’ve got a very interesting topic on our hands because there are a few different kinds of sensitivities that can manifest between humans and fungi. There’s mushroom allergies which are vague and nonspecific, penicillin allergies which are specific to penicillin but not all kinds of fungi, and then there’s other specific mushroom allergies. But where do these allergies overlap?

It’s important to remember that magic mushrooms do not contain penicillin. Which means that a person with a penicillin allergy will not necessarily have an allergy to magic mushrooms. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else in the mushroom that the person could have an allergic reaction to. This is an especially important factor to consider in those with overall mushroom allergies.

In this article, we’re investigating the difference between different mold allergies and sensitivities, and how someone with a penicillin allergy might safely go about using magic mushrooms.

Penicillin allergies, mushroom allergies, and mold sensitivities.

A painting of psychedelic magic mushrooms in outerspace surrounded by asteroids with faces on them.
@the.iron.swan

Penicillin is a kind of fungus or mould that happens to be beneficial to the human body — just like magic mushrooms! When you think about it, there are a number of different fungi that humans have come to love. Even the good ol’ button mushroom is a healthy fungus for humans.

However, just like with many other foods, there are a small group of people for whom fungi trigger different kinds of allergies. Penicillin allergy is considered the most common worldwide allergy, with around 8-12% of the population having a sensitivity reaction of varying degrees to penicillin. 

That being said, it’s uncommon for there to be penicillin cross-reactivity with other molds, even if they are respiratory ones. That’s to say — just because a person is allergic to penicillin doesn’t mean they’ll have an allergic reaction to mushrooms, moulds in cheeses such as blue cheese, or Psilocybin magic mushrooms.

In the modern context “mushroom allergy” is widely accepted as an allergy to mushroom spores, with certain species being primary culprits. However, it’s primarily a respiratory reaction and isn’t thought to occur by eating magic mushrooms. Once upon a time, though, there was some scientific mention of non-specific mushroom allergies.

There have been reported reactions of gastrointestinal symptoms after oral ingestion of shiitake mushrooms and even reports of contact dermatitis after eating raw shiitake mushrooms. It seems from the research and anecdotal reports on forums such as Reddit that allergies to wild mushrooms or edible mushrooms manifest as itching, redness, hives, rash, and in the worst cases, anaphylaxis. 

Mushrooms are all composed of different things, all of which could theoretically cause an allergic reaction if the person has an allergy to any of those compounds. It’s worth noting that what makes psilocybin mushrooms “poisonous” is psilocybin itself! And if you’ve ever used magic mushrooms, you know what “magic mushroom poisoning” feels like!

So is it possible to be allergic to magic mushrooms if you have a penicillin allergy?

The short answer is yes. It is possible. But not much more likely than anybody else having an allergy to magic mushrooms. As we just mentioned, it’s possible that some cross reactivity takes place, but this has never been established for magic mushrooms.

There is still no science to back this up, but if a person has allergies to multiple kinds of fungi such as penicillin, shiitake, and porcini, then it’s more likely that they will have an allergy to something in magic mushrooms. But if the allergy is confined to penicillin, then the chances of being allergic to magic mushrooms exist, but they’re slim.

How can you safely use magic mushrooms if you have a penicillin allergy?

An illustration of a hand with different kinds of mushrooms growing out of the fingers and through the finger tips.
@charleysatelier

Now for the million dollar question: how can you safely use magic mushrooms if you’re allergic to penicillin? If you’ve never tried magic mushrooms, then quite bluntly, you don’t know if you’re allergic to them. So before deciding if it’s safe to move along and try, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I ever get anaphylaxis to other foods such as nuts?
  • Do I ever have allergies to normal culinary mushrooms?
  • Is my penicillin allergy severe enough to send me to hospital?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, it might not be safe for you to eat magic mushrooms. The risk might simply be too high. 

Otherwise, if you have a penicillin allergy that’s less severe but still want to create a safer environment for trying magic mushrooms, we have the following advice:

  1. Don’t trip alone. Have a trip-sitter or someone around who isn’t taking magic mushrooms that can act in the event that you start having an allergic reaction. Make sure you give them all the information they need to be able to act if you require assistance.
  2. Start with a small dose. Think about it — don’t take a whopping dose of a potential allergen. Start with 1/2g to see your initial reactions.
  3. If you’re the kind of person that uses antihistamines when you get allergies, keep antihistamines around.
  4. If you keep an epipen around, make sure you know where it is. But remember, we don’t recommend trying magic mushrooms if you get anaphylaxis to any kind of mould or penicillin.
  5. Accept the small possibility of dermatitis, rash, or itching and don’t panic. However, notify someone immediately if there are any signs of tongue, lip or throat swelling.

The difference between a sensitivity and an allergy: when is it an emergency?

A painting of a sloth hanging off vines attached to unusual looking magic mushrooms.
@kitmizeresart

There are varying degrees of penicillin allergy. For example, some people experience swelling on the face or hands and feet while others might experience shortness of breath or swelling of the tongue. When a person is experiencing “sensitivity” symptoms, antihistamines are usually enough to reduce them. However, if a person is having “allergic” symptoms, they might begin to experience anaphylaxis.

Any sign of swelling of the tongue, lips, or throat is the sign of an emergency and requires emergency medical care. However, in the event that hives or skin rashes appear as a reaction to magic mushrooms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the reaction will escalate into anaphylaxis or require emergency medical care. This is why it’s important to have a tripsitter who will be able to identify these things. 

Overall, a simple penicillin allergy does not necessarily mean that a magic mushroom allergy exists — and in fact, it’s not all that likely. But given the small possibility of the two allergies overlapping, it’s just important to be prepared. And after reading this article, you should be equipped with all the preparation arsenal you need to make it a safe first experience.

Do you have a penicillin allergy and have you tried magic mushrooms? If yes, let us know in the comments what happened when you tried magic mushrooms. Your story will help lots of people in the local mushroom-using community to understand how to use mushrooms safely!

  • What’s the main factor in choosing a strain of magic mushrooms?

    When choosing a strain of magic mushrooms, the most important factor is strength. Some strains are considered stronger than others, but overall the effects are more or less the same in the Psilocybe cubensis species.

  • How can you use magic mushrooms for depression?

    There’s some anecdotal evidence and a small amount of research that suggests microdosing may be the best way to use magic mushrooms for depression.

  • How can you use magic mushrooms for anxiety?

    According to anecdotal evidence and some research, taking a single macrodose might be the best for anxiety. It’s the same for addiction and for traumatic brain injuries.

  • Tips on using magic mushrooms therapeutically?

    Be sure to include your doctor or therapist in your decisions to use magic mushrooms, and if you’re inclined have a trip-sitter or spiritual guide attend your journey and assist.

We’ve received a lot of questions regarding how to choose a mushroom strain and how to use different strains of magic mushrooms for different therapeutic purposes. Some of you might be using magic mushrooms for depression, others for anxiety, and others might be battling through some existential crisis.

So we took the pleasure of compiling as much anecdotal information as we could from Shroomery and Erowid. This aspect of magic mushrooms is pretty much neglected from clinical research, so we have to preface this by saying that none of the information in this article is backed up by science. It all comes from the anecdotes of the many mushroom users who have come before us.

When it comes to science, we’ve come to understand a little about how different species of magic mushrooms are composed. That’s to say — different strains of magic mushrooms might have different ratios of psilocybin, psilocin and other alkaloids, but we don’t know to what degree this affects the experience. Or how it affects the therapeutic potential.

As we have mentioned a number of times across our blog posts on magic mushrooms, the biological effects of magic mushrooms aren’t necessarily what’s thought to be therapeutic. Rather, the subjective experience is thought to be a driver of the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms. 

In this article, we’ll outline the common effects of some of the more common and most popular strains of magic mushrooms. Then, we’ll talk about how to use magic mushrooms for some of the most common reasons people seek out their therapy. Let’s dive in.

How to choose a strain of magic mushrooms.

A collage art of a woman with the galaxy surrounding her head and stars in the background. A concept image of magic mushroom strains.
@paugalk

When it comes to choosing which strain you’re going to use — and given how little we know about different therapeutic effects — you should mainly be choosing based on strength. Do you want to have a really strong magic mushroom experience; will you be macrodosing or microdosing; would you prefer something a little more gentle?

If there’s one thing that really separates different strains of magic mushrooms, it’s strength. Some psilocybin mushrooms are known for for being more potent than others. You might consider using a stronger strain of magic mushrooms if you’ll be macrodosing. You might also choose a stronger strain so that you have to eat less and therefore avoid any subsequent nausea.

There is some anecdotal evidence that the trips produced by certain strains are different. For example, one user on Shroomery reported having a “unique spiritual experience” using African Transekei magic mushrooms. In another thread, users report that B+ magic mushrooms have a stronger body load and a lesser visual effect. 

What you’ll often hear from magic mushroom users is that “a cube is a cube”. This basically means that if it’s a magic mushroom of the species Psilocybe cubensis (most magic mushrooms available in dispensaries are cubensis species), then its effects are more or less the same.

With that in mind, and what we mentioned about the subjective experience being a driver of the long-term effects, then choosing a strain shouldn’t be that hard. Macrodosing and microdosing can both be done with strong and weaker strains, but you might want to consider weaker mushrooms for microdosing to avoid accidental overdoses.

We recommend the following magic mushrooms for stronger journeys:

  1. Blue Meanies
  2. Golden Teachers
  3. African Transkei
  4. Penis Envy 6
  5. Amazonian Cubensis
  6. Psilocybe Mexicana

We recommend the following magic mushroom strains for more gentle journeys:

  1. Brazilian Cubensis
  2. B+
  3. Cambodian Cubensis

How to use magic mushrooms for different therapeutic needs.

A collage art of a magic mushroom with people hanging off it, a concept of a ferris wheel. It describes microdosing and choosing a mushroom strain.
@dan_cretu

GIven that the subjective experience means so much, it’s safe to assume that creating a subjective experience conducive to your needs is the best way to use mushrooms therapeutically. It’s also currently the best way to tailor an experience to your needs rather than relying on strain choice.

For example, in one study, it was found that microdosing assisted in alleviating symptoms of depression. In the same study, researchers noted that it sometimes caused acute increase in anxiety or a fluctuation in moods. So if you’re taking magic mushrooms for anxiety, it might not be in your best interest to microdose — but to macrodose instead. The opposite may be true for depression.

In research for the use of psychedelic therapy for addiction, participants typically showed an improvement after a single session, suggesting that a macrodose may be appropriate in this circumstance.

These remain the three most common self-reported reasons to use psychedelics in the therapeutic setting, with the final one being performance enhancement (although this is not strictly therapeutic). And so the advice we’re about to give is not backed by evidence, but culminates from the research mentioned above as well as anecdotal reports on magic mushroom use in therapy.

For anxiety…

If you’re using magic mushrooms for anxiety, the best way to consume may be in the form of a macrodose. This involves taking a single, larger dose (1g or above) as a therapeutic session. This is not something you have to do regularly, although it might be (such as once every couple of months).

It’s important to remember that a macrodose for therapeutic reasons should be void of any distractions. It’s not a time to socialise or busy yourself with events. The experience should be in a quiet setting where you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in your mind and your therapy.

To assist with any anxiety that may arise during the experience, it’s good to have a tripsitter or spiritual guidance (such as a shaman) observing you. This might also provide some comfort. 

For depression…

If you’re using magic mushrooms for depression, then there is some evidence to suggest that microdosing may be effective. You can follow either the James Fadiman method or the Paul Stamets method, both of which are outlined in this guide to microdosing magic mushrooms.

It doesn’t mean you can’t use a macrodose every now and then to see whether or not that assists in long-term symptom relief. Again, as this is not backed up by science, it’s all a matter of subjective experience and effects.

For addiction…

The most effective way of using magic mushrooms for addiction may be in the form of a macrodose. As with anxiety, this involves taking a single, larger dose in the context of a therapeutic session. 

Following the advice from earlier in this article, it’s pertinent to make an environment that is conducive to therapy during a macrodose. That means no social events, no social media — just time to meditate and focus on your therapy.

For traumatic brain injuries…

We’ve also published an article on how certain athletes have been using magic mushrooms to treat traumatic brain injuries such as CTE. These anecdotes report using sometimes just a single dose of magic mushrooms to bring on long-term effects. That might be all that’s required to see long term symptom relief, or it may need to be a therapy that’s topped up from time to time.

Involving your doctor or therapist.

A collage art depicting the concept of a shaman with a tiger, flowers, and an eye.
@novraka

If you have a serious medical condition such as major depression, a brain injury, life-threatening addiction, or acute anxiety attacks, it’s important not to embark on therapy alone. If you choose to use magic mushrooms as an alternative therapy, it’s extremely important to involve your doctor or therapist — especially if you are taking other medications.

Not only does involving your therapist show your own independence in your healing process, but it also gives you someone to talk to about your revelations and process. Plus, you shouldn’t be diagnosing any conditions yourself or self-prescribing. It’s always important to get a professional’s opinion.

While there may not be a scientific rule book on how to choose a mushroom strain or which strains might be best for certain conditions, we can make certain hypotheses from where we’re standing. On top of this, the way you take magic mushrooms might be more pertinent than the kind of magic mushrooms you’re taking. 

Have you used magic mushrooms as therapy? What have you used them for and how did you use them? What kind did you use? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

  • Which system is most implicated when mixing magic mushrooms and MDMA?

    Because both magic mushrooms and MDMA work on the serotonergic system, there’s potential for interplay that might be dangerous.

  • What do we know about mixing the two?

    There’s currently no clinical trial that investigates the safety of mixing psilocybin and MDMA, so the scientific community currently doesn’t have much to say about it.

  • Is it safe to mix magic mushrooms and MDMA?

    Because there’s no information other than anecdotal evidence, we can’t assume it’s safe. Plus, MDMA is illegal in Canada which means that it’s never safe to possess it. Finally, the fact that MDMA isn’t legal means it comes from the black market, and there’s always the risk of contamination.

Mixing magic mushrooms and MDMA, otherwise known as hippie-flipping or candy-flipping, is a poly-drug cocktail that club-goers have been using for decades. Combining both the effects of psychedelia and euphoria, party-goers and existential psychonauts alike have experimented with this concoction.

There is a growing body of emerging evidence that supports the use of psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA in the treatment of a number of diseases. We’ve explored the topics of magic mushrooms and depression and even magic mushrooms and traumatic brain injuries. MDMA is currently in the spotlight for its potential in the treatment of PTSD and was granted Breakthrough Therapy status by the FDA in 2017.

With this emerging evidence is obviously growing interest; but just because new evidence is coming to the surface, it doesn’t necessarily mean that mixing magic mushrooms and MDMA is safe. Until now there’s been no clinical trial that combines the two drugs and measures the effects, and on top of that MDMA is illegal in Canada. For that reason, we don’t condone this poly-drug cocktail.

But in the interests of safety, let’s have a look at what these two drugs do in your body, how they might interact, and the consequences that this combination of chemicals might have.

MDMA’s effects on serotonergic systems.

A digital collage art of a person sitting on the edge of space, leaning on a lighthouse, a concept of psychedelia.
@luckasgama.art

MDMA’s main point of action is in the brain’s serotonergic system. MDMA is considered a monoamine releaser, therefore promoting the release of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. Interestingly, MDMA also increases circulating serum oxytocin

MDMA’s effects on serotonin are also what give the user a sensation of relaxation, elation, and euphoria. It also increases cortisol levels, therefore reducing fatigue and making a person feel awake and connected to their environment. At the same time, chronic exposure to MDMA is associated with dysfunction of serotonin transporters, and therefore disruption in the way serotonin is metabolised and used. Interestingly, repeated exposure (but not chronic), potentially strengthens neural pathways

The human body’s serotonergic system is extremely sensitive. It’s why a person isn’t allowed to take two kinds of antidepressants at the same time. It’s also what makes it dangerous to mix ayahuasca and antidepressants.

So while MDMA’s behaviour in serotonergic systems might account for what makes it therapeutic, it’s also what makes it dangerous if it’s used incorrectly.

Psilocybin’s effect on the brain.

A collage art of a woman's body sitting on a mushroom toadstool.
@naturemorph

For a long time, it’s been generally accepted that psilocybin’s way of generating a psychedelic response is through the 5HT1-A receptor — a serotonin receptor that’s part of the serotonergic system. Newer research also suggests that psilocybin acts on the GABA-ergic neurotransmitter system.

Overall, our understanding of the biological mechanisms of psilocybin are low. It is, however, commonly reported by scientists as safe and with a low toxicity profile. Which makes us think that whatever it does to serotonin isn’t as dangerous as what MDMA does. Nonetheless, knowing that it acts on the serotonergic system is enough of an alarm bell about the safety of mixing with MDMA.

What happens when you mix psilocybin with MDMA?

We don’t know exactly what’s happening biologically when a person mixes MDMA with psilocybin because there’s virtually no research. Given the low toxicity of psilocybin, it could be hypothesized that mixing MDMA with psilocybin isn’t as dangerous as mixing MDMA with alcohol or other drugs of high toxicity (even antidepressants). 

At the same time, MDMA can cause overdose if too much is taken, causing serotonin syndrome. It’s also important to realise that because MDMA remains illegal, contamination is a real threat. Which would essentially mean a person isn’t just mixing MDMA and psilocybin, but other potentially toxic and dangerous substances.

Until we know more about mixing magic mushrooms and MDMA, we can’t say it’s safe. This is especially true because of potential contamination to MDMA. Without a regulated market, there could really be anything in a bag of MDMA or an ecstasy pill. Because of this, it gets harder and harder to judge the safety of mixing these two substances.

Until more research is done, it’s hard to say whether or not it’s safe to mix psilocybin mushrooms with MDMA. And more research isn’t likely until MDMA is legalised in Canada — something we hope to see in drug reform someday soon.

  • What does smoking cannabis during a shroom trip do?

    It can either intensify the experience, reduce nausea, or it can help you relax into the experience and have less resistance to ego death.

  • What’s the low-down on how to use cannabis while tripping on shrooms?

    Right before a trip, cannabis might help to reduce nausea. As soon as you take the mushrooms, smoking a joint might help you relax a little into the experience. And during the peak, it can intensify the experience.

  • How do you handle a bad reaction?

    Breathe; try to relax; remember you’re not dying. The more composed you can stay, the better you’ll be able to turn the whole thing around.

Cannabis and shrooms — arguably the most common poly-drug cocktail that exists. And there are a lot of anecdotal reports that smoking cannabis while tripping on shrooms potentiates the journey. But is a more-intense journey what everybody wants? Just because a joint is being passed around during a magic mushroom trip, does that mean you should accept it?

When you smoke cannabis during a mushroom trip is also a factor. You can use cannabis before, during or after a journey, and depending on where in the journey you decide to introduce cannabis, the effect can be totally different. 

It goes without saying — if you’re a newbie to either mushrooms or cannabis, do yourself a favour and don’t cocktail. Firstly, it will be hard to understand which effects come from mushrooms and which ones come from cannabis. And secondly, you might be signing yourself up for a too-intense experience that will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth (which neither you, nor any mushroom/cannabis advocate wants).

So before you smoke cannabis while tripping on shrooms, read this informational article about the effects, and when is the best time to use cannabis in a mushroom journey.

Cannabis can help reduce nausea associated with shrooms.

@raphaellacosteart

A number of anecdotal reports on Reddit and Shroomery that suggest that using cannabis can help to reduce the nausea associated with shrooms. For a lot of mushroom users, the upset belly can really impede on the experience, making it less pleasurable.

Cannabis is a common therapy for nausea, so it’s no real surprise that it helps to reduce a mushroom-induced upset belly. Most of the anecdotal reports suggest using cannabis as soon as you take the shrooms so that during the come-up, you’re protected from nausea.

There are other ways to reduce nausea on shrooms such as making mushroom tea or using the lemon-tek method. If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended to use the lemon-tek or tea as a means of reducing nausea instead of introducing another psychedelic substance.

Cannabis during the peak intensifies a magic mushroom trip. 

Other users claim that using cannabis at the peak of a magic mushroom trip (around 2 hours in) intensifies the trip. Users have reported intensified auditory and visual hallucinations and increased physical sensations. 

For seasoned users, this could be an interesting experiment. Obviously we don’t recommend this for inexperienced users. Be really mindful about the importance of set and setting and the kind of preparation you should do before a mushroom journey, especially if you plan on intensifying it with cannabis.

A more intense experience isn’t always a better one; keep that in tow when deciding to use cannabis at the height of a mushroom journey.

Cannabis might relax you into the mushroom experience.

@stephen_fraser_art

Using cannabis to relax yourself into a mushroom experience is another way to look at things. Those who use cannabis at the beginning of a mushroom journey report that it helps them relax, be more open, and be less resistant to the ego death phenomenon.

That’s another way of saying that cannabis might help you feel your way into the kind of God experience that mushroom users talk about.

Is that always the case? Well, probably not. Depending on who you are and how you handle cannabis, it might not have this effect at all. For some people, cannabis is a stimulant that gets the mind racing with ideas. This isn’t exactly conducive to relaxation.

Then again, the strain could be an important factor. High CBD strains are more associated with balance and relaxation than high THC strains, so that’s something you might want to consider if you’ll be using cannabis and shrooms for this purpose. 

Handling a bad reaction. 

@psychedelicnymph

So, what happens if you planned an astral travelling adventure with cannabis and shrooms but it all goes sour? The first step is to relax. 

There is, unfortunately, no “undoing” what you did. You can’t “un-take” all those shrooms and cannabis, so instead of trying to stop yourself from feeling what you’re feeling, you have to buckle up, breathe, and get through it.

Hopefully you’re reading this before you experiment with smoking cannabis while tripping on shrooms. You have to remember to remind yourself that you’re not dying and that this too, shall pass.

Some magic mushroom experiences are scary and uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad for you. If you can patiently experience what you’re going through, you can “reframe” a bad trip into a really powerful, enlightening experience about your own psyche. 

To mitigate having a bad reaction, be in the right place, and take shrooms and cannabis together at the right time. We have detailed articles on how to correctly prepare for a psychedelic journey and how to integrate a journey post-dose. We recommend reading these before embarking on a cannabis-shroom cocktail.

Have you ever smoked cannabis while tripping on shrooms? At what point in the journey did you do it? Let us know your experience in the comments!

There is a bizarre mystery that pervades the world of magic mushroom taking called Wood Lover’s Paralysis. This phenomenon seems isolated to wood loving species such as Psilocybe cyanescens and Psilocybe subaeruginosa, and is characterised by transient muscle paralysis.

For the time being, Wood Lover’s Paralysis remains a phenomenon recounted only from anecdotal reports and hasn’t made its way into scientific research yet. Psychedelic Science Review continues to reach out to those who have experienced the phenomenon to continue to gather data.

Wood Lover’s Paralysis doesn’t seem to affect everybody, and as we mentioned, not all mushrooms seem to bring about these effects. In this article, we’re going to have a look at different user experiences and then we’ll check out some of the theories as to why Wood Lover’s Paralysis occurs.

What is Wood Lover’s Paralysis?

A collage art depicting a person near mountains with a cat and magic mushrooms.
@anarkoiris7

If you’ve never experienced Wood Lover’s Paralysis, the entire concept might sound very farfetched. For those who do, it ranges anywhere from mild facial paralysis to complete paralysis of a limb or section of the body. 

There are an abundance of reports of Wood Lover’s Paralysis on shroom forums such as Shroomery and Erowid. There are overarching themes that appear from all reports, which we’ll list first, and then we’ll share some of the funnier personal accounts.

The most common symptoms consistent across reports of Wood Lover’s Paralysis are:

  1. Loss of motor control, ranging from lack of coordination to complete paralysis
  2. Loss of motor function in the eyes and face
  3. Takes about 4-6 hours into the trip to start happening
  4. Doesn’t last for more than 24 hours

An important aspect here is that all the symptoms are resolved within 24 hours. It’s one of the main characteristics of Wood Lover’s Paralysis. Many user reports describe going from bouts of complete paralysis of limbs to complete normality within 24 hours. 

What do people feel when Wood Lover’s Paralysis occurs?

“About 4 hours into a trip, “I got halfway to the kitchen and suddenly my legs felt like they were going to collapse. I sat down for 5 minutes, got up again, walked for a bit- and then my legs DID collapse. It was a little scary because I felt clear headed, there was no pain or numbness… just non-functional legs.”

“First noticeable symptoms are blurred vision, hand cramping/numbness, then loss of facial/mouth movement followed by having a hard time walking then full loss of the ability to walk properly or even stand period.”

My friend … would try to stand up and his legs would collapse like jelly….he was also getting weird facial contractions where his mouth would distort similar to a mentally disabled person.”

“I was fine that night. The next morning I woke up and was having a hard time focusing my eyes and felt very uncoordinated….All of a sudden I completely lost control of both legs, and my hands got seized up weird and stuff. I was in the middle of the road in the campground paralyzed. My mind was clear but I couldn’t get up no matter how many times I tried….My hands were seized up and my face was numb and the muscles unresponsive for up to a couple of hours and it went away.”

“I’ve experienced the [paralysis] situation after [consuming]  fresh, dried and boiled (steeped) [mushrooms]. “

Theories about the cause of Wood Lover’s Paralysis.

@astralmoonbeam

Without any kind of clinical research or definitive lab studies, it’s impossible to say what genuinely causes Wood Lover’s Paralysis, but there are some theories. 

The first theory relates to dystonic reactions or acute movement disorders. Dystonic reactions occur as a reaction to certain drugs, most commonly antiemetics and antipsychotic drugs. Dystonia is the involuntary movement of the face, neck extremities, abdomen, pelvis, or larynx in intermittent patterns. It sounds a lot like Wood Lover’s Paralysis, though it’s not characterised by paralysis but by involuntary movements. Benadryl, an over the counter antihistamine, is often used as a treatment for dystonic reactions.

Some users have reported using benadryl to reduce symptoms of Wood Lover’s Paralysis with success. And so the theory is that there may be a histamine reaction at the root of Wood Lover’s Paralysis. The histamine theory supports the bacteria theory, because certain bacteria produce histamine. If a mushroom is infected with a certain bacteria, there may be a histamine reaction that causes paralysis.

Others speculate that it’s got less to do with histamine and more to do with receptors. If Benadryl, which is an H1 blocker, reduces the symptoms of Wood Lover’s Paralysis then it may be caused by some kind of modulation or alteration of the histamine or dopamine receptors.

Dose, contamination, and unknown constituents.

@riverlotusmoon

Dose or contamination are also possible culprits in the Wood Lover’s Paralysis mystery, although it seems that it can occur even at smaller doses under 2 or 3 grams. It does seem to get worse or more severe as the doses increase. 

Given that Wood Lover’s Paralysis pertains to shrooms grown specifically on wood; that’s to say the kinds of shrooms that grow in forests, on logs, and in local parks on tanbark. They’re usually wild mushrooms and so there’s a possibility they’re sprayed and might be contaminated by pesticides or fungicides, for example.

Finally, we all have to step back a little and acknowledge how small our understanding is of what’s in magic mushrooms. So far, we have only identified and isolated a handful of compounds and there’s likely other unknown chemical constituents in magic mushrooms that might trigger Wood Lover’s Paralysis in certain vulnerable individuals.

Have you ever experienced Wood Lover’s Paralysis? We’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have. Let us know your story and help grow the understanding and awareness of Wood Lover’s Paralysis in the mushroom community.

Key takeaways.

  • What are the different kinds of antidepressants?

    SSRI’s and SNRI’s are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants although there are more of them (such as MAOIs).

  • Is it safe to take antidepressants with magic mushrooms?

    It may be unsafe to take SSRI’s and SNRI’s with magic mushrooms because of the way they both interact with the serotonergic system. However, it might also be safe when both are taken at the same dose.

  • Is it recommended to wean off antidepressants before using mushrooms?

    The overall advice is to wean off antidepressants before using magic mushrooms, even though it’s possible they might be safe together. You shouldn’t wean off antidepressants without the supervision of the doctor who prescribed them to you.

We get asked a lot of questions about whether or not it’s safe to mix magic mushrooms with antidepressants. Which is a really valid question because those with depression often seek out alternative therapy through psychedelics. The answer is long winded because there’s more than one kind of antidepressant and because a lot of antidepressants belong to classes of drugs that are known to have a lot of interactions.

The most common class of antidepressants, SSRI’s work on the human body’s serotonergic system. The problem is that a lot of psychedelics and even recreational drugs work on the very same system and excessive levels of serotonin are associated with severe and even fatal events. 

That’s not to say that all antidepressants react with magic mushrooms or psilocybin the same way, or that all interactions with SSRI’s can cause this. But this starts to shed light on some of the interesting interactions between antidepressants and psychedelic drugs that users and seekers of alternative medicine should be aware of. 

It goes without saying that if you’re in the group of people who are taking antidepressants but want to experiment with magic mushrooms, the most important thing to do is talk to the doctor who prescribes your antidepressants. If they aren’t friendly to the concept of alternatives, find one who is. You may be required to wean off antidepressants before using psychedelics, but this should only occur under the supervision of the professional who prescribes to you.

Mixing magic mushrooms with SSRI’s.

A collage image of women wearing different magic mushrooms as skirts.
@theweeklybloom

SSRI’s are one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants because they are actually the class considered to have the fewest drug interactions. SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and as we mentioned, it works on the nervous system’s usage and production of serotonin. 

The most common ones include:

  • Citalopram (Celexa, Cipramil)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Faverin)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral)

It’s really important to note that at this stage, there are currently no clinical trials that specifically address the interaction between magic mushrooms and antidepressants. There’s a massive gap in the understanding and it’s desperately called for. 

Some researchers theorize that because psilocybin and SSRI’s work on the serotonergic system in different ways, magic mushrooms and SSRI’s might actually be complementary. However, recently, researchers discovered that magic mushrooms contain much more than psilocybin, and that they also contain an alkaloid called b-carboline. This alkaloid falls into a category of compounds called MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhbiitor), which are known to adversely interact with SSRI’s. However, in this study, researchers concluded that MAOI’s (if they are an MAO-B inhibitor) can be safely co-administered with SSRI’s. But for this to be safe, the SSRI dose has to be at the lower end of the therapeutic index and has to be monitored closely. 

So what does this mean for SSRI takers?

It means — talk to your doctor. It seems as though there is a safe way to co-administer magic mushrooms and SSRI’s but it should be done under supervision to ensure that your SSRI dose is safe with your psilocybin dose. 

Mixing magic mushrooms with SNRI’s.

SNRI’s are similar to SSRI’s except that they also work on norepinephrine as well as serotonin. They are typically prescribed when SSRI’s aren’t tolerated and might also be beneficial for people with anxiety.

SNRI drugs include:

  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)

Given the SNRI’s work in a very similar way to SSRI’s, the same assumptions can be made about SNRI’s. There’s a possibility that magic mushrooms are safe to use with SNRI’s depending on the dose of both, but again this should be supervised by the professional who prescribes the SNRI.

Mixing magic mushrooms with Lithium and other antidepressants.

A digital collage art of a human body with different magic mushrooms growing from out of it.
@jannayotte

Though there are no clinical trials on the co-administration of lithium with magic mushrooms, this is not recommended. There are reports of people mixing lithium with LSD and psilocybin mushrooms and experiencing seizures and heart attacks.

Because MAOI-type antidepressants are, in fact, MAOI’s, it’s not recommended to use them with psilocybin. Psilocybin mushrooms also contain an MAOI and so it might sound counterintuitive to avoid mixing, but it’s not known to what degree MAOI antidepressants potentiate the effects of magic mushrooms or even dampen them.

For all other antidepressants, there is next to no information about interactions. For this reason, we recommend avoiding concomitant use unless you have been given the OK from your doctor, or until you are able to wean off them.

It’s possible antidepressants might dampen the effects of magic mushroom treatment.

An illustration of a love heart made out of magic mushrooms
@ispyfungi

Tryptamines, such as psilocybin, are lovers of serotonin receptors, and like we just talked about, so are pharmaceutical antidepressants. Antidepressants like SSRI’s don’t just affect serotonin levels but they also modulate and affect serotonin receptors.

Benjamin Malcolm, owner of Spirit Pharmacist hypothesizes that because of the way that SSRI’s and SNRI’s modulate serotonin receptors, that antidepressants actually dampen the potential of mushroom therapy. He offers this chart for interactions between different kinds of antidepressants and psychedelic drugs.   

When you look through the chart, you’ll notice that most of the time Benjamin Malcolm recommends weaning off antidepressants and discontinuing their use at least two weeks before using magic mushrooms. He also says that prolonged, chronic antidepressant use can lead to an overall dampened effect of magic mushrooms.

Don’t try this at home, folks.

The overwhelming advice, in light of how little we know, is to wean off antidepressants before you take magic mushrooms in any kind of therapeutic fashion. Although it’s unlikely to walk yourself into any kind of fatal event, not knowing at which correct doses to co-administer the two is unsafe. Plus, you don’t know how much of a disservice you’re doing to your antidepressant treatment or your magic mushroom experience.

If you’re one of the many people who is seeking an alternative treatment for depression and wants to try psilocybin, we recommend talking to your doctor to wean off before you try magic mushrooms. It’s the safest way to dip your foot in this ocean and your overall treatment might be much better off for not mixing the two.

Have you ever weaned off antidepressants to use magic mushrooms? We’d love to hear your story — drop it in the comments.

Key takeaways.

  • What is an MAOI?

    MAOI stands for monoamine oxidase inhibitor and is a class of compounds found in a number of psychedelic plants. These compounds inhibit an enzyme in the body responsible for the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters.

  • Are MAOI’s in magic mushrooms?

    Yes — early in 2020 researchers published a paper uncovering the presence and biochemical pathways of MAOI production in magic mushrooms. This is the first time an MAOI has ever been isolated from magic mushrooms.

  • Is it a game changer?

    This discovery might lead to new guidelines on how to consume magic mushrooms as MAOI’s are contraindicated in certain diets and certain medications.

Just as cannabis has an entourage effect, so do magic mushrooms. In fact, every consumable plant out there has an entourage effect because plants and fungi typically contain a variety of biologically active compounds. Because of a 50-year moratorium on the research of psychedelic substances, we’re still only just beginning to understand what’s in magic mushrooms. And early in 2020, researchers made a discovery that multiple species of Psilocybe magic mushrooms contain β‐carbolines — an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor).

For the avid psychonaut, MAOI will be a familiar term. It’s a class of compounds present in a number of psychoactive plants. For example, the Ayahuasca vine contains MAOI’s, and it’s these MAOI’s that allow the psychedelic effects of DMT to take place. Essentially, without the MAOI, the brew wouldn’t work.

The first antidepressant ever made was an MAOI — and its antidepressant effects were well documented. However, because of safety, they were replaced with other forms of antidepressants (SSRI’s). To understand these safety concerns, we first have to look at the pharmacokinetics of MAOI’s. 

Β‐carbolines, which have now been isolated from magic mushrooms, contribute to the entourage effect of magic mushrooms, potentiating and enhancing the effects of psilocybin. Like we just mentioned, they might also contribute their own pharmacological effects (antidepressant). 

What is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI)?

A digital artwork depicting two neon mushrooms and an abstract neon background.
@triphazzzard

MAOI’s are a class of compounds often found in plants but they can also be synthesized. As their name suggests, MAOI’s inhibit the monoamine oxidase enzyme in our body tissues. Monoamine oxidase enzymes are present in almost all body tissues and are responsible for the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and tyramine. 

When a person consumes an MAOI, the monoamine oxidase enzyme is inhibited — that is, it doesn’t carry out any of its activities. This leads to slower degradation of the aforementioned neurotransmitters, therefore increasing their serum levels. This is essentially the foundation of why MAOI’s are therapeutic.

At the same time, with an inhibited enzyme all throughout the body, there is the potential for accumulation of compounds — tyramine is the main culprit. Certain foods contain high levels of tyramine and if a strict diet isn’t observed during MAOI consumption, tyramine can reach toxic levels and might even be life-threatening.

On top of this, MAOI’s have interactions with a number of pharmaceutical drugs that range from mild to life-threatening. For example, MAOI’s, when consumed with SSRI’s (another form of antidepressant), can cause life-threatening side effects.

Β‐carbolines are a magic mushroom’s MAOI.

In a study published in Chemistry early in 2020,  researchers uncovered a biochemical pathway through which magic mushrooms make β‐carbolines. They isolated β‐carbolines from a number of different species of magic mushrooms including Psilocybe mexicana and Psilocybe cubensis. 

The MAOI is produced by the mushroom pretty much simultaneously with its production of psilocybin, psilocin and baeocystin. 

Thanks to previous studies, we know that psilocybin is active even if an MAOI is not present. However, we also know that pure psilocybin is less effective than a whole mushroom extract. This doesn’t strictly mean that the MAOI potentiates mushrooms or makes them more effective, but it’s thought that the interplay between all the compounds in magic mushrooms are responsible for this result.

What does this mean for magic mushroom users?

An illustration of a hand where magic mushrooms are growing out of each finger.
@art.by.rene

There’s a few things to consider here. Firstly, now that we know that magic mushrooms contain MAOI’s, it starts to raise questions about the concurrent use of magic mushrooms with other medications. At the same time, there’s virtually no research on drug interactions with magic mushrooms.

Some people think that because magic mushrooms are natural, they can be used however and whenever. But that’s not true. The ayahuasca brew is natural but it can actually kill people if it’s not taken in the correct context (diet, abstinence from drugs, etc.) With that in mind, those who take antidepressants (especially SSRI’s) should seriously consider whether or not they want to mix magic mushrooms with their antidepressant drugs. It also means that those on antidepressants should consult their mental health professional before taking magic mushrooms.

It’s an especially important topic to talk about because lots of people who take magic mushrooms do so to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety — which means it’s entirely possible that they are already on some kind of antidepressant or anxiolytic medication.

Knowing that magic mushrooms contain MAOI’s also means that users can optimize their experience by optimizing their diet in the days leading up to it. It’s also recommended that those who are microdosing observe a low tyramine diet to optimize effects. Examples of high tyramine foods that should be avoided:

  • Strong or aged cheese
  • Processed and cured meats
  • Soybeans and soy products
  • Alcohol
  • Onions
  • Overripe avocados and bananas
  • Chocolate

Avoiding these foods reduces the amount of tyramine in your body and therefore less of a reaction with the MAOI present in magic mushrooms. In turn, this should optimise your experience, making it more pleasant and smoother.

Our diets and choices are part of the entourage effect.

@e.a.harper

What this teaches us is that how we approach the magic mushroom experience is part and parcel of the entourage effect. After all, you are a fundamental part of what happens, aren’t you! Once you understand the fact that compounds you consume are constantly interacting with compounds in your body, you start to understand that your dietary choices are part of the entourage effect.

Knowing that magic mushrooms contain MAOI’s means that you can avoid certain foods and include others to create a smoother experience for yourself. Sounds a lot like the entourage effect, doesn’t it?

We are learning more and more every day about how magic mushrooms produce their therapeutic effects. And naturally, the more we learn, the better we’re all going to get at taking them.

Key takeaways.

  • Why is integration important?

    Integrating a psychedelic journey is important so that its therapeutic potential can last for longer, and also to reconcile any confusing thoughts or feelings that arose during the experience itself.

  • What are the most important integration practices to use?

    The best ones are spending time in nature, meditating, breath work, journalling, and talking to people you trust.

  • What are some integration practices to avoid?

    Avoid making rash decisions in the days after your journey and don’t go around telling everybody that they should use magic mushrooms or other psychedelics!

We recently shared with you an article on the importance of preparing for your magic mushroom experience. The lead up plays a big role in what happens during the journey. But what happens after is equally as important. Integrating a psychedelic journey is just as important as preparing for it.

Timothy Leary says that the moment you start to “come back” to the physical world, you’ve begun “re-entry”. Re-entry doesn’t end after a good night’s sleep. Rather, the next few days can be spent achieving a good re-entry — if you know how to create the correct environment. 

In all fairness, integration looks a lot like preparation, but there are a few extra tips we have for you for post dose care. In order for the therapeutic, positive effects of your magic mushroom experience to be felt long after the journey itself, integration is absolutely vital.

Your magic mushroom experience might have a great impact.

A digital artwork using perspective of trees and road to create the effect there is no sky.
@swissgo4design

The reason it’s important to integrate your psychedelic journey is because the journey itself can be one of the most impactful events of your life. Many LSD, ayahuasca, and magic mushroom users report that the experience is transformative, although scientists are still trying to understand this phenomenon.

Experiences that have this great of an impact on our lives don’t come around very often. It’s like our wedding day, the death of a loved one, or the birth of a child. There are certain moments in life that seem to mean a great deal. And those events typically tend to carry that importance throughout the rest of your life.

So if magic mushrooms is like that (or can be like that), then preparation and integration are due. The same way we don’t just get over the death of a loved one, we don’t just get over a mushroom journey. It can take time to integrate what you’ve seen, learned, and felt. You wouldn’t process the passing of a family member while you were at work; you’d probably take a few days off work for that. Even researchers have included post-drug integrative therapy sessions to support their study subjects. 

Well, the principle is exactly the same with magic mushrooms or any other psychedelic experience. It’s impactful; it’s transformative; and you ought to take some time for processing that experience. Here are some tips on how to do that.

1. Have at least 2 days post dose to chill.

Integration begins with time and space. That means time that you don’t have to work or attend commitments. Even family lunches or social events are considered too much work for post-psychedelic integration.

These couple of days should be spent at your leisure, doing any number of the activities we’re about to suggest to you.

Most importantly, you can’t do any proper integration while you’re busying yourself with meetings, work, emails or commitments. Take the time; at least 2 days. 

2. Spend some time in nature.

An illustration of two people sitting under the clouds and the moon, surrounded by flowers, on a floating plate.
@zoomy317

While your brain and mind are in a very malleable, hypnagogic state, it can be very meditative to spend some time in the elements. Spending time in nature improves mental health in a number of ways, but the environment itself is also very conducive to meditation. And that’s something you should do a lot of while you’re “re-entering” the physical world.

While you’re spending time in nature, you might reconnect with some of the thoughts, feelings, or visions you had during your experience. It’s a chance to see those experiences from a “sober” perspective and begin integrating them into your daily life and behaviour.

3. Journal. Draw. Express.

You might find that in the days after your journey, you have a lot of emotions, memories, and abstract thoughts. Part of the integration process is to express those feelings and emotions. Plus, there’s a lot that you might have experienced that will soon begin to fade away, so journaling about your experience both during and after can help to solidify those experiences into your memory.

You might write about some of the memories you had, some of the people who popped up in your head, or some of the scary parts of the journey. It’s entirely up to you; journaling should feel free and natural.

Emily Williams, a San-Francisco psychotherapist who specialises in post-psychedelic integration suggests a mandala art activity. It’s unguided and intuitive. You give yourself a set period of time and just start filling the page with mandala patterns. 

4. Breathwork and meditation.

For some psychedelic users, meditation is the only way to stretch out the clarity and quietude that can come with a psychedelic experience. Plenty of people feel relaxed or “cleansed” and want to maintain that feeling for as long as possible. Meditating on that feeling or doing breathwork activities can help.

Breathwork and meditation are also useful in the event that the experience didn’t leave you feeling so relaxed or peaceful. Meditation and breathwork exercises can help you settle into your body so that you’re better able to process difficult experiences and transform them into healing ones.

5. Pay attention to your dreams.

You might also find that after your magic mushroom experience, your dreams are more vivid for a few days. It’s a good chance to check in with your dreams. Keep your “eyes” open for symbols and people that connect you with the psychedelic experience you had. They can be clues as to what kind of emotional processing is happening for you.

You can also keep a journal of your dreams alongside your daytime journal.

6. Talk to people you trust. 

It can be an important time to share. With the many ideas and feelings that are coming to you, it pays to have people you trust around to offload onto. It’s important that those who you share your psychedelic journey with aren’t judgemental. They should be able to sit there and listen to all of your meanderings without calling you crazy!

It’s even better if they’re people that have also had a psychedelic experience before.

Things not to do during post dose integration.

An illustration of a mushroom with an eye; a concept illustration of the psychedelic landscape.
@chrissukut

Just as there are do’s, there are some very clear don’ts. With all of the feelings and the sense that what you’ve gone through was the most epic thing of your life, it can be easy too carried away. So here are some post-dose practices we definitely don’t recommend.

Don’t try to convert everybody into a mushroom tripper.

Ahh, everybody has that friend. Trust us, you don’t want to be them. The person who sounds a little too much like an evangelical and after their journey, wants to go around telling everybody that they must get on the psychedelics. 

Your feelings probably come from a good place. But people still don’t want to be told what to do. Plus, your experience with psychedelics might not be the same for them, and it’s not up to you whether or not others use psychedelic drugs.

Don’t tell everyone what your journey was like.

Keep a few things personal or between yourself and people you trust. You should treat your experience as if it’s a little dream and if you tell everybody about it, it’ll lose its power and won’t come true. And it is kind of like that. 

The visions you receive of your deepest desires or your deepest fears are so delicate. When you talk to people about it, it’s very easy for them to plant a seed of doubt in your mind. And every time you repeat what happened, your experience loses a little bit of its magic.

Don’t make rash decisions to try and change your life.

It’s very normal to get the feeling that you have to change some things in your life after a magic mushroom or psychedelic journey. After you get insights into your bad habits or bad relationships there comes a sense of urgency to rectify those shortcomings. Of course it’s important to follow through with the guidance you receive — but don’t make rash decisions.

Before you go quitting your job or dumping your husband, take a few days to meditate on it and again, talk with people you trust.

Integration is the most important part of entheogenic practice.

Sometimes, the most profound parts of a magic mushroom experience happen after it’s done. A conversation you have with your lover; a moment you share with your book or a meditation on the beauty of a flower. For reasons we don’t understand, the healing effects of psychedelics go on long after the experience itself is over. And so you have to still treat yourself as if you’re in that healing process. 

If the most you get out of your post-psychedelic integration is a couple of days of self-care, that’s also warranted. After a journey like that, a little self-care goes a long way.

What are some of your post dose integration practices? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!