What is Psilocybin? It’s one of the first questions you may be asking when exploring magic mushrooms for the first time. Psilocybin is the compound in magic mushrooms that creates the remarkable experience these fungi are known for.
Actually, that’s not strictly true. Psilocybin has little effect on the brain itself — it’s considered a ‘pro-drug’ — and is converted in the body to psilocin, the true star of the show. Psilocin is the molecule that directly interacts with the brain to create the psychedelic mushroom experience. Perhaps the real question should be why psilocybin gets all the attention.
Psilocybin and psilocin
In magic mushrooms, psilocin is usually only found in trace amounts, where psilocybin can comprise up to 2% of the overall weight of a dried mushroom. Both are named after the largest group of psychedelic mushrooms, the Psilocybe genus, with over 120 different species. The compounds were originally researched, synthesized and named by Albert Hofmann, better known as the ‘inventor’ of LSD or “acid.”
Both psychedelic compounds — psilocybin and LSD — are related in the effect they have on the brain. They inhabit the class of “serotonergic” or “classic” hallucinogens, chemicals that directly alter the creation, action, or elimination of the neurotransmitter serotonin. While often characterized as the mediator of well-being and happiness, serotonin has many nuanced roles within the body — including cognition, reward, learning, and memory.
What is Psilocybin?
Psilocybin and psilocin share a chemical structure that is very similar to serotonin. This tricks the brain into exciting the pathways related to happiness, well-being, cognition, and learning. The result is a “psychedelic trip”: distortions of perception, time and space. For many, this alteration of reality is so profound as to provoke wonder, amazement, awe and a shift in one’s approach to the world.
This state is purely temporary, with no known effects on the structure or health of the brain. Your mindset, on the other hand, is often given a refreshing shake — and a fresh perspective that comes along with it. At low doses, known as microdosing, effects are not readily noticeable but may contribute to improved creativity and mental flexibility. In both cases, it relaxes the rigid structure of thought that characterizes our lives and ourselves.
What is psilocybin? It’s a question with many answers. On one hand, it’s a simple compound that’s produced by humble ‘magic’ mushrooms for some unknown reason. On the other, it is a tool for exploration, recreation and betterment. For some, it’s a portal to a world that can’t be fully understood by earthly minds.
Psilocybin and You
Psilocybin has the power to change the way you think. The psychedelic trip lasts only a few hours, but the understanding and realizations that you encounter during the experience can have lasting outcomes. Psilocybin may have the power to heal both physically and emotionally, but the experience will almost always be memorable — regardless of the outcome.
So if you’re asking “What is psilocybin?”, the best answer may be to try it for yourself. But before you do, be sure to educate yourself on the possible outcomes, and seek guidance if it’s your first excursion.