Human beings have been experimenting with the hallucinogenic properties of some mushrooms for millennia. In fact, the first food produced by people may have been a mind-altering substance – mead. Some scientists believe that early humans found that by placing a beehive in water they could wait a few days and come back to a delicious alcoholic substance. Many cultures even believe that alcohol is a gift from the heavens, allowing people to find deeper levels of connection.
Mushrooms in History
Archeologists have found evidence of cultures around the world using fungi for sacred rituals. In fact, a cave painting of psychedelic mushrooms that dates to 5,000 B.C. has been found in the Tassili plateau of northern Algeria.
In the thousands of years since, people worldwide have developed rituals using psychedelic mushrooms for hallucinogenic purposes. The Aztecs of Mexico have been using hallucinogenic mushrooms for thousands of years, while tribes in Siberia have been using another mushroom for a long time – the use of shrooms might even be linked to the beginning of the Santa Claus myth. A documentary on this history was created, titled “The Pharmacratic Inquisition.”
In the West, psychedelics may have also played a significant role. The philosophers of ancient Greece carried out an annual ritual that included the consumption of a fungal drink to honor Demeter and Persephone. These ceremonies lasted days and may have led to the development of some of the ideas that are a bedrock of our civilization.
In the early 1900s, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, studied the use of one mushroom, Ergot, to control bleeding while giving birth. While synthesizing the compound, he accidentally created LSD for the first time.
A few decades later, in the 1950s, a JP Morgan banker, and amateur ethnomycologist visited Mexico to study a rumored mushroom practice. There, Gordon Wassan met a shaman that used psychoactive fungi for healing. After trying the mushrooms several times, Wassan wrote an expose on the experience in Life Magazine. It became a sensation, and tourists began heading to the Sierra Madres to try it for themselves. Some of them came home and started growing mushrooms as a result.
As the use of the substance became more widespread, the US government made them a Schedule I drug. They remain so today.
Medical Uses for Mushrooms
For the last few years, scientists at Johns Hopkins University have been carrying out research on the potential uses of psilocybin, the active ingredient in mushrooms.
Studies involving people who had never used psychedelics before have found that even one use of psilocybin can have a profound impact on mental health. People with anxiety, depression, and OCD have all found psilocybin to be highly effective for improving their mental health, even half a year later. People’s relationships were also positively impacted, as participants found a new beauty in life.
Psilocybin has also been found to help people with terminal illness and those who are close to death to live a fuller life. Physically, micro doses have been shown to completely remove cluster headaches.
Before LSD and other psychedelics were outlawed in the 1960s, they were used to treat many disorders. Now, decades later, studies are restarting.
Hallucinations or More?
People who have never experienced magic mushrooms often describe the visions that users experience as “hallucinations.” However, the people having the experience usually describe them profoundly. The compound removes the sense of individuality, helping people to recognize the interconnectedness of the universe. This can be a deeply mystical experience, and often ends up being a turning point in the person’s life. The user often obtains a deep respect for life, extending from oneself to other people and to the planet itself.
Many people are afraid to try magic mushrooms due to fear of a “bad trip.” These experiences involve fear, dread, and other unpleasant sensations, which can be mitigated by having a sober friend alongside to offer support. These “bad trips” often happen because a user is confronted by their inner wounds, an unpleasant but ultimately helpful experience that is useful for resolving long-term pain.
In the West, many people first experience psychedelic mushrooms in a party environment, but that’s not the optimal place to consume them. Generally, it is recommended to respect the power of the mushrooms and take advantage of a range of suggestions.
- Consume the mushrooms on an empty stomach, so that you can digest it more easily.
- Keep your schedule open – you should not have any commitments or other concerns on your calendar for at least 24 hours, preferably longer.
- Consume the mushrooms in a place where you are safe and comfortable. People have different preferences for ideal locations. Indoor or outdoor, day or night – as long as you are comfortable it should be good.
- Stay away from strangers. Being around close friends and trusted family is ideal, without worrying about other people showing up out of the blue.
- Be open to the experience. Some users go in with specific questions that they want to work through, and others just choose to keep an open mind.
- Be prepared with whatever you might need to stay comfortable and safe. Make sure you have water, to stay hydrated, and the right clothing for the environment that you’ll be in, especially if you are going to be outside.
- Take the experience seriously, and be open to any lessons you may learn.
A first-time user would most likely want to go with a small dose of .75 to 1.5 grams (dried). A moderate dose is 1.5 to 3.5 grams, and a large dose is 3.5 to 5 grams. Those dosages are all for the most common mushroom variety, Psilocybe cubensis, other species should be consumed in different amounts. There are websites, like the Shroomery, that offer dosage calculations.
Growing Your Own
Growing psychedelic mushrooms is illegal in the United States and many other nations globally, but it is quite simple and follows the same practices as legal non-psychedelic mushrooms. Some fungi prefer to be grown in wood-based substrates, and others prefer compost-based substrates.
Clearly, there are many potential uses for psychedelic mushrooms, including both medicinal and psychological. As research continues, it is possible that even more surprising uses may be found.
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