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Magic Mushrooms, What are They?

Now Introducing: Mushrooms

Mushrooms have existed alongside humans for as long as DNA analysis can calculate. During this time, they have played a vital role in our ecosystem. But that is not giving this organism enough credit. They have also had multiple culinary, cultural, and medicinal uses throughout time. Mushrooms such as Reishi, Shiitake, Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane have especially captured the attention of researchers and the public in recent years. Reishi has been seen as a potential immune-boosting agent, as compounds within it hold similar molecular structures to a variety of steroid hormones. Shiitake is highly valued for its extensive and rich nutritional profile of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Cordyceps has long been used in Chinese medicine, and recent research has isolated the active ingredient cordycepin with interesting outcomes in sports performance. Most interesting of all, Lion’s Mane has garnered special attention recently. This has been in part due to the recent research in the fields of depression, and general cognitive capacity and protection.

In the past 20 years, there has been an incredible increase in interest within this area. Technological advances have opened up new methods to extract complex compounds from these mushrooms in ways that was not previously possible. Everything from ultrasound-assisted, to enzyme-assisted extraction now gives us access to compounds that could not previously be isolated for study. In the same way that this initial curiosity in research began due to the historical application of these mushrooms, there is also the recreational and medicinal applications of a specific type of mushroom: magic mushrooms.

Magic mushrooms have been used in various cultures, with both spiritual and ceremonial significances. One of the most well-known examples of this would be pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, where these hallucinogens were linked to healing rituals and religious ceremonies. For example, the Maya drank a mixture of honey and psilocybin extract to achieve intoxication and induce states of altered consciousness. While at this time they were part of the religious and political complexes that made these societies, their place in modern indigenous cultures seems largely based on the continuity of this cultural shamanistic complex.

What is the ‘Magic’ in Magic Mushrooms?

So, let us focus in on the question that is probably burning in your mind: what are magic mushrooms? Well, magic mushrooms are a type of mushroom that holds psychoactive compounds which can have a range of psychoactive effects. When ingested, these compounds can lead to a variety of experiences much like other psychoactive compounds in plants, such as cannabis. However, these experiences are described as far more intense than their plant counterparts.

At the heart of these psychedelic effects lie a cluster of compounds, such as psilocybin and muscimol. Psilocybin acts directly on the serotonin receptors, while muscimol acts on the GABA receptors. These receptors are widely distributed within the brain, and these compounds can temporarily alter the activity in different brain regions. This is what produces the altered state of consciousness that comes with ingesting magic mushrooms. As these areas are also linked with centres of the brain that can produce euphoria, altered perception and memory effects, the use of these mushrooms has had both recreational and therapeutic interest.

Magic Mushroom and Its Effects

Since there is a variety in how people experience psychadelics, it is not always easy to answer what the effects of magic mushrooms will be for everyone. However, there are some key takeaways that can give us a good overview of what to expect. Magic mushrooms, when ingested, will usually produce effects of:

  • Altered State of Consciousness
  • Altered perception of time and space
  • Heightened sensory experiences such as intensified taste, touch, and sound
  • Vivid visual hallucinations

It is important to note that these responses can vary from user to user. There are user reports of heightened euphoria and sensory perceptions such as temperature and touch. For some, the intensity can also cause some confusion and discomfort, especially if they are not in a place they consider ‘safe’. Feeling a deep connection to nature, concepts, spirituality, community, and other higher ideals are also often reported. With this, introspective thoughts, and emotions, as well as imaginative visions and enhanced creativity, can often cause a deep sense of introspection and understanding. Due to these effects, it is not strange that there has been a lot of scientific investigations on the potential therapeutic psychologic effects of magic mushrooms.

The Future of Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms have always been here with us, and with a more open-minded scientific community, it seems it might be here to stay. The recreational use of magic mushrooms can definitively be a very entertaining prospect, though user reports seem to note that some ‘deeper’ effects beyond just recreation are inevitable. These potential psychological introspections can mark a complete turning point. Certain users report dynamic shifts in how they view and approach their surroundings or approaches to certain problems in their life. With this in mind, it will be extremely interesting to see how magic mushrooms impacts how our society views, and perhaps treats, mental health.


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