Family

Agaricaceae: Strophariaceae; Stropharioideae Tribe,

Cubensae Section

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

et Smith

Psilocybe cubensis var. cubensis

Psilocybe cubensis var. cyanescens (Murr.) Singer et

Smith

Synonyms

Hypholoma caerulescens (Pat.) Sacco et Trott.

Naematoloma caerulescens Pat.

Psilocybe cubensis var. caerulescens (Murr.) Singer

et Smith

Stropharia cubensis Earle

Stropharia caerulescens (Pat.) Sing.

Stropharia cyanescens Murr.

Stropharia subcyanescens Rick.

Folk Names

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

History

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 [1884]). 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

1958a).

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).

Appearance

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**).

Distribution

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.

Cultivation

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

consideration:

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 mushrooms

are used.
Ritual Use

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

(Strassmann 1996).

Artifacts

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).

Constituents

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).

Effects

As with all psilocybin mushrooms, Psilocybe

cubensis produces strong visions that often feature

shamanic characteristics:

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)

Literature

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.

Integration 2/3:98-108.

---. 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.

Integration 6:47-49.

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

Realitiit, ed. G. Volger, 2:572-75. Cologne:

Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum fur Volkerkunde.

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