Agaricaceae: Strophariaceae; Stropharioideae Tribe,
Forms and Varieties
The recently described species Psilocybe subcubensis
may possibly be merely a subspecies or variety
of P. cubensis (cf. Psilocybe spp.). Three varieties
have been described:
Psilocybe cubensis var. caerulescens (Murr.) Singer
Psilocybe cubensis var. cubensis
Psilocybe cubensis var. cyanescens (Murr.) Singer et
Hypholoma caerulescens (Pat.) Sacco et Trott.
Naematoloma caerulescens Pat.
Psilocybe cubensis var. caerulescens (Murr.) Singer
Stropharia cubensis Earle
Stropharia caerulescens (Pat.) Sing.
Stropharia cyanescens Murr.
Stropharia subcyanescens Rick.
Champinon, derrumbe de estiercol de vaca
(Spanish, "abyss of the cow patties"), di-ki-sholerraja dishitjolerraja (Mazatec, "divine dung
mushroom"), divine dung mushroom, golden top,
gold top, gottlicher dungerpilz, hed keequai
(Thai), hongo de San Isidro, hongo maravilloso,
honguillos de San Isidro Labrador ("mushroom of
Saint Isidro the Farmer" [= the saint of agriculture]),
hysteria toadstool, kubanischer kahlkopf,
kubanischer trauschling, lollli'um (Yucatec
Mayan, "flowers of the earth"), magic mushroom,
nocuana-be-neeche (Zapotec), nti-xi-tjolencha-ja
(Mazatec, "mushroom like that which grows on
cow patties"), San Isidro, San Isidro Labrador, tenkech
(Chol), tenkech (Chol: Panlencano),
teotlaquilnanacatl (modern Nahuatl, "the sacred
mushroom that paints in colors"), zauberpilz
Psilocybe cubensis (Earle) Sing. (= Stropharia cubensis
Earle), known internationally by the names
magic mushroom and golden cap, is originally
from Africa. It thrives on cattle dung and in
meadows with deposits of dung. In symbiosis with
African cattle, it has spread around the world,
although it grows only in tropical or subtropical
areas. Terence McKenna believed that this psychoactive
mushroom exerted an important influence
upon human evolution. According to his theory,
consuming these mushrooms resulted in a "mental
quantum leap" that transformed our apelike
ancestors into "intelligent beasts" with a greater
ability to survive. This psychedelic "primordial
experience" led to the development of the first
mystical mushroom rituals, which formed the
basis for shamanism, mythologies, and religions
(McKenna 1996*). It has even been suggested that
this mushroom was the original soma.
This mushroom was first found in Cuba (hence
its species name cubensis, "Cuban"). The Englishman
S. Baker provided the first description of its
traditional use in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (Eight Years
in Ceylon, London, 1855 ). The shamanic
use of Psilocybe cubensis in Mexico was discovered
during research into the magic mushrooms of
Mexico (cf. Psilocybe mexicana). There, it is known
as hongo de San Isidro, "mushroom of Saint Isidro."
Among the Mazatec Indians, Saint Isidro is the
patron saint of fields and meadows, the same
locales in which this mushroom-which is exclusively
coprophilous-is found (Heim and Hofmann
Because this mushroom is frequently found in
Palenque (Mexico), it has been suggested that the
ancient Maya may have used it as an entheogen.
Before the Spanish, however, there were no cattle
in the Americas, and the mushroom requires their
dung to grow. All of the evidence suggests that
Psilocybe cubensis was introduced into Mexico
during the late colonial period (Coe 1990).
In Thailand, Psilocybe cubensis is now the most
commonly offered mushroom on the vacation
islands of Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan (Allen
1991; Allen and Merlin 1992a, 1992b). The
omelets made with this mushroom are renowned.
It is also common in Bali (Walty 1981).
The mushroom forms relatively large fruiting
bodies with slightly convex caps that can grow as
large as 8 cm in diameter. The caps usually have a
yellow or golden color at their center.
Psilocybe cubensis can be distinguished from
Psilocybe subcubensis, a Central American species
known as suntiama, only on the basis of the size of
its spores (Guzman 1994, 1472**).
Psilocybe cubensis is found throughout the tropics
wherever there is cattle or water buffalo breeding
or ranching, including Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas),
Cuba, Guatemala, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil,
Argentina, Florida, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia,
Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia. In
tropical areas, the mushroom can fruit throughout
the year. The mushrooms usually sprout from cow
dung after it has rained.
Of all species of Psilocybe, this is the easiest to
grow. The mushroom produces more psilocybin
when grown on malt agar (Gartz 1987). Fruiting
occurs most readily when air humidity is high and
the temperatures are tropically warm (24 to 34°C).
Harvest, Storage, and Consumption
In the tropics, the fruiting bodies of Psilocybe
cubensis are easy to collect. During the harvest,
however, certain things should be taken into
Although many people eat the fresh mushrooms
right from the field, this unhygienic
practice is to be discouraged. Some mushrooms
grow directly on the dung and may
possibly have particles of dung adhering to
their flesh. For reasons of safety, the wise user
should select only fresh, healthy specimens
that are free of insects and avoid those that are
rotting. Before consumption, [the mushrooms]
should be washed thoroughly with water; the
conscientious consumer will also cut off the
lower end of the stem.
To store, the mushrooms are dried in the
air at more or less room temperature (devices
for drying food are also suitable; they can also
be dried on a grate near a source of warmth).
Overly long drying processes and high
temperatures should absolutely be avoided.
When the mushrooms are crispy, they should
be filled into airtight containers. They can then
be placed in a freezer. In this way, they can be
stored for months with only a very slight loss
of effectiveness. The mushrooms should not
be frozen until they are completely dry (otherwise,
they will quickly lose their effectiveness).
They also should not be preserved in honey
while fresh (this will result in a disgusting
fermented mass). If the mushrooms are going
to be stored for only a few days, it will suffice to
place them in the refrigerator....
The dried mushrooms are clearly not very
easy to digest, especially when they have not
been sufficiently mixed with saliva. Mixing the
mushrooms with juice or chocolate breaks up
-the tissue and allows the psilocybin to more
easily enter into solution. It goes without
saying that the mushrooms should be mixed with these carrier substances only immediately
prior to consumption. Some users prefer
mushrooms that have been sauteed in butter
and are eaten with toast or potato chips.
Lightly sauteing them over a low flame will
not seriously lower the psilocybin content (it
may be better to fry fresh mushrooms, so that
any toxic components that may be present,
e.g., gyromitrine and other methylhydrazines,
will be destroyed). (Ott 1996, 191 f.)
An effective dosage of Psilocybe cubensis is regarded
as 3 to 5 g of dried mushrooms. The user may
want to use different dosages for different purposes,
ranging from mild psychostimulation produced
by a small mushroom to a "full blast" or a psychedelic
breakthrough (Terence McKenna's famous
"heroic" recipe calls for 5 g "on an empty stomach
in total silent darkness"). Psilocybe cubensis is the
psilocybin mushroom that is most commonly
available on the black market (Turner 1994,27*).
Magic mushrooms are usually consumed in
fresh or dried form. With time, certain specific forms
of ingesting the mushrooms have been developed:
Dipped in honey or powdered, the mushrooms may
be drunk with cacao (cf. Theobroma cacao). From
time to time, the mushrooms are also eaten with
chocolate (cf. Remann 1989,248*).
In Thailand, the mushroom is dried and then
smoked or baked into cookies together with hemp
(Cannabis indica) (Allen and Merlin 1992b, 213).
The fresh mushrooms are incorporated into dishes
in the same way that normal culinary mushroomsare used.
In central Europe, cultivated mushrooms are used
in ritual circles in the same manner as Psilocybe
semilanceata. In Mexico, wild mushrooms growing
on cow dung are used in shamanic rituals in
the same manner as Psilocybe mexicana.
In central Europe, this mushroom has also
been used with success in private healing rituals
On the Thai "mushroom island" of Koh Samui, an
entire T-shirt industry has arisen that offers
tourists hand-painted T-shirts with mushroom
designs (Allen 1991; Allen and Merlin 1992a). The
mushroom is also frequently depicted on
Indonesian batiks (cf. Panaeolus cyanescens).
The fruiting body contains a maximum of 1% psilocybin
by dry weight. An analysis by Gartz (1994,
19**) found an average of approximately 0.6%
psilocybin, 0.150/0 psilocin, and 0.020/0 baeocystin
by dry weight. The quantity of active constituents
is greater in the caps than in the stems (Gartz 1987).
As with all psilocybin mushrooms, Psilocybe
cubensis produces strong visions that often feature
The effects of the mushrooms [Psilocybe
cubensis] began by manifesting themselves as
waves of energy that ran through my body. I
found the beauty that was proffered to my
eyes to be even more valuable.
Suddenly a large snake glided toward me
from the desert that surrounded us and
slipped into my body. The next thing I noticed
was that I myself had become the snake. No
sooner had I gotten used to this condition
than a large eagle descended and snatched me
with its talons. My body shook from the blow,
but I did not feel any pain. The eagle held me
firmly in its clutches, ascended again, and flew
directly into the sky until it had become one
with the sunlight. My personal identity as a
separate consciousness dissolved. The only
thing that remained was the unity with the
light. (Pinkson 1992, 144)
See also the entries for the other Psilocybe species
and for psilocybin.
Allen, John W. 1991. Commercial activities related to
psychoactive fungi in Thailand. Boston
Mycological Club Bulletin 46 (1): 11-14.
Allen, John W., and Mark D. Merlin. 1992a. Psychoactive
mushrooms in Thailand: Some aspects of
their relationship to human use, law and art.
---. 1992b. Psychoactive mushroom use in Koh
Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan, Thailand. Journal of
Ethnopharmacology 35 (3): 205-28.
Bigwood, Jeremy, and Michael W. Beug. 1982.
Variation of psilocybin and psilocin levels with
repeated flushes (harvests) of mature sporocarps
of Psilocybe cubensis (Earle) Singer. Journal of
Ethnopharmacology 5 (3): 287-91.
Coe, Michael D. 1990. A vote for Gordon Wasson. In
The sacred mushroom seeker, ed. T. Riedlinger,
43-45. Portland, Ore.: Dioscorides Press.
Gartz, Jochen. 1987. Variation der Indolalkaloide von
Psilocybe cubensis durch unterschiedliche
Kultivierungsbedingungen. Beitriige zur Kenntnis
der Pilze Mitteleuropas 3:275-81.
---.1989. Bildung und Verteilung der
Indolalkaloide in Fruchtkorpern, Mycelien und
Sklerotien von Psilocybe cubensis. Beitriige zur
Kenntnis der Pilze Mitteleuropas 5:167-74.
Heim, Roger, and Albert Hofmann. 1958a. Isolement
de la Psilocybine apartir de Stropharia cubensis
Earle et d'autres especes de champignons
hallucinogenes mexicains appartenant au genre
Psilocybe. Comptes rendus de ['Academie des
sciences, Paris 247:557-61.
---. 1958b. La psilocybine et la psilocine chez les
psilocybes et strophaires hallucinogenes. In Les
champignons hallucinogenes du Mexique, by
Roger Heim and R. Gordon Wasson, 258-62**.
Paris: Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle.
Katerfeld, Raoul. 1995. A glimpse into heaven-a
meeting with Thailand mushroom spirits.
Ott, Jonathan. 1996. Zum modernen Gebrauch des
Teonanacatl. In Maria Sabina-Botin der heiligen
Pilze, ed. Roger Liggenstorfer and Christian
R~itsch, 161-63. Solothurn: Nachtschatten Verlag.
Pinkson, Tom. 1992. Reinigung, Tod und
Wiedergeburt: Der klinische Gebrauch von
Entheogenen in einem schamanischen Kontext.
In Das Tor zu inneren Riiumen, ed. C. Ratsch,
141-66. Sudergellersen: Verlag Bruno Martin.
Strassmann, Rene. 1996. Sarahs Stimmen-ein
traditionelles europaischen Pilzritual. In Maria
Sabina-Botin der heiligen Pilze, ed. Roger
Liggenstorfer and Christian Ratsch, 183-88.
Solothurn: Nachtschatten Verlag.
Walty, Samuel. 1981. EinfluB des Tourismus auf den
Drogenbrauch in Kuta, Bali. In Rausch und
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