Above: a striking blue Psilocybe caerulea (1995). (Formerly called Stopharia caerulea, 1979) was found in a mulch bed in the city. Below: are Little Brown Mushrooms (LBM’s) which include the largest group of poisonous mushrooms, usually with tell-tale rusty brown spores, and unfortunately can be growing with many similar looking psilocybes. the LBM’s below are deadly poisonous Galerina autumnalis.
BLOG 40: Do you know what the most common question I get asked on mushroom forays? I can hear it now...“Have you ever found magic mushrooms here? I’m not looking for them but I was just curious". I quickly, but kindly, answer NO and use the groups suddenly full attention to teach them about LBM’s (little brown mushrooms). LBM’s have many deadly mushrooms that look similar to magic mushrooms. Now that's a real problem and you may now understand why hunting for magic mushrooms is a dangerous sport for beginners that I never condone. Besides, it's illegal to use magic mushrooms in Canada. In Canada you can buy seeds or spore kits and plant them in your garden legally but the minute you cultivate, process, distribute or sell a banned substance from your plant or mushroom then you are breaking the law. For example, we know we can purchase poppy seed packets and grow poppies. We also know that as soon as we process the poppy to make cocaine we have crossed the line and have broken the law. Magic mushrooms themselves are not dangerous to ingest so it's not surprising to know they are decriminalized in several cities in the United States, like Somerville, Massachusetts and Washington, DC.to name a few close by cities. Countries like Jamaica, Bahamas and Brazil and Nepal allow the growing, processing, distribution, sale and use of magic mushrooms. I believe Psilocybes will be legalized soon in Canada too mainly due to all the promising studies on mental health issues.
So why are magic mushrooms suddenly experiencing a medical revival after being banned for decades? According to the popular Dr. Andrew Weil, scientists today have discovered that Psilocybin resembles melatonin, serotonin and other neuroregulators in its chemical structure and therefore its effects on human consciousness are profound. Besides, many psychiatric drugs of today are not performing well for many patients. Jon Hopkins university professor and neuroscientist, Roland Griffiths, conducted controlled scientific studies with psilocybin and live humans. His studies have shown extremely positive results in fighting depression, tobacco addiction and anxiety. Something he has never seen work so well in the decades of studying mood enhancing chemicals. His patients also gained expanded consciousness, creativity, spirituality and long lasting altruistic behaviours from the psilocybin treatments. Shockingly, one dose can last up to 6 months! Today, other scientists are currently testing magic mushroom therapy on post traumatic stress and alcoholism and expect equally valuable results. Who would've thought mushrooms were our answer to a host of mental illnesses that present pharmaceuticals cannot help without side effects. Psychiatry has been waiting for a miracle for a long time. Even though promising studies were successfully performed in the 50’s the war on drugs made it very hard and expensive to continue the research.
Heroically, Silicon Valley computer technicians and engineers have been microdosing magic mushrooms and LSD for over 20 years behind closed doors. Microdosing involves consuming ½ gram of powdered magic mushrooms every third day for an inventive creative and expanded mind to effortlessly solve tough questions. Microdosing LSD involves taking one tenth of a dose every three days. Microdosing ensures one doesn’t hallucinate and that they can sit and focus creatively on the task at hand. Did you know Steve Jobs dreamt up the stunning iphone’s creation on magic mushrooms? Did you know the complex double helix was finally figured out and constructed properly by two men, Watson and Crick while they were on magic mushrooms. There are many other shockingly complex inventions from those on magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs that you need to look up on Google and get entertained. Oh, did you know LSD is a fungus too?
According to mycologist Paul Stamets, there are approximately 200 known magic mushrooms on our planet and to be clear I am talking specifically about mushrooms containing the hallucinogens called psilocybin and psilocin. It's important to distinguish that there are many other hallucinogenic mushrooms but they can also be deadly. Sure too much psilocybe mushrooms may cause you to strip naked and run into traffic, possibly hurting yourself accidently but the mushroom doesn’t kill via poisoning. The infamous and very beautiful red and white Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) from the Pacific coast of Canada, for example, is the classic toadstool we know from Super Mario games’ and is hallucinogenic too but can be deadly when processed improperly as the Amanita family contains lethal amatoxins. Shamans know how to properly remove the lethal toxin before ingesting it for spiritual and health purposes. Amanita muscaria is listed as toxic by Health Canada and is never recommended to ingest. The Gallerina and Lepiota genus of fungi also carry similar lethal amatoxins like the Amanita family and unfortunately look alot like psilocybes. The chemicals Psilocybin and psilocin extracted from Psilocybe mushrooms are nontoxic and safe traditional medicinals. Unfortunately they fall into the dangerous LBM category of mushrooms we foragers avoid at all costs. The Funeral Bell Mushroom (Galerina marginata) can be found growing alongside Psilocybe species and have been ingested by magic mushroom hunters. Yes, they died from the accidental ingestion and not doing their much needed homework. Other deadly Galerina species have also been mistaken for Magic mushrooms. The only safe way to determine what specimen you have found is to do a spore print and view the spore shape under a microscope to ensure you have the correct mushroom. Most Galerinas and other toxic LBM’s have a rusty-brown spore print. Psilocybe mushrooms have purplish spore prints and the stem usually bruises blue when you handle them. The toxic Lepiota and Amanitas have whitish spore prints. Amanitas and their beautiful bright coloured caps fortunately are never mistaken for an LBM.
In his book Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World, Paul Stamets begins with a quick historical perspective of Psilocybes. He states they have been a traditional medicinal and ceremonial mushroom for at least 7000 years and most likely date back to the Paleolithic Era. With the discovery of many mushroom artifacts in temples it demonstrates the value the Ancients had for magic mushrooms. The Aztecs even called the Psilocybe mexicana mushroom...Godflesh and that name is highly indicative of how closely the mushroom makes you feel spiritually. Unfortunately, the conquering Catholics systematically destroyed as much as they could while driving the mushroom ceremonies underground where they have continued to survive today. In the 30’s and 40’s in Southern Algeria hundreds of Palaeolithic drawings were found and one of the drawings shows a man assumed to be on a magic mushroom trip. The figure is human and both fists are full of mushrooms and tons of mushrooms are bursting out of his pores all over his body. His head looks like a flying bee with stingers coming out the top like lightning. The figure is definitely buzzed. This is an awesome and unique ancient drawing. Just Google ‘Algerian cave paintings suggest Humans did Magic mushrooms 9000 years ago’ and have a look for yourself.
Much much later In 1957, an ethnomycologist R.G.Wassan visited Mexico and met the infamous magic mushroom Shaman Maria Sabina. Upon his return to the states Wassan wrote an article about Psilocybes and their mind expanding ability in Life Magazine which reached millions of people in North America and worldwide in the pre-60’s social period. What timing, eh?
Did you know the costly and tragic War on Drugs was in part created in the Nixon era to control those taking mind-expanding drugs like LSD, Peyote and magic mushrooms. Why, you ask? The mind expanding drugs propelled and compelled teenagers to question authority and broken policies. The psychedelic drugs seemed to have woken everyone up and fuelled major protests against fighting the Vietnam war and the unequal and appalling treatment of women, people of colour and the planet. Magic mushrooms and other psychedelics somehow melted people's hearts, opened their minds and ushered in an era of inclusion on this tiny blue little planet. Of all the psychedelics, psilocybe magic mushrooms created the most drastic personality changes needed for the betterment of mankind. Unfortunately the ban on magic mushrooms and other drugs hampered clinical studies for a long time and the mental health of North Americans is in the worse shape than ever before.
Fortunately the push to decriminalize the miracle myco-chemicals of psilocybin and psilocin is moving along in Canada, albeit slowly. In July 2020, Capital Market Bulletin announced that the capital landscape in Canada was experiencing an increase in investments related to psychedelic drugs. September 2020, Health Canada allowed 4 cancer patients to use psilocybin for treatment during their difficult end of life period. Somehow the mushroom has you understanding and embracing your role in life and decay and eases the suffering of the patient and consequently all those dear around him, including the also suffering dedicated hospital team. In December 2020, Health Canada issued 16 exemptions for possession and use of magic mushrooms to nurses, doctors, therapists and social workers for ‘personal training purposes’ and it is believed this group will go on to create a regulatory framework concerning medical psychedelic use in Canada that includes Psilocybes. More and more studies are showing psychedelics are the least harmful drugs that rank well below alcohol, tobacco and even cannabis. Legalizing magic mushrooms is a good thing.
So to really answer the question truthfully...have I ever found magic mushrooms here in the highland forests? The answer is still no but not because they live among LBM’s and are too confusing to sort out. I don’t look for them in the forest because it's like finding a needle in a haystack! The best place to find magic mushrooms is in the city in a clean well tended mulched garden! Check out newly landscaped office buildings and highrises that import mulch and use quality cow manure in their gardens. Psilocybe spores are transported all around the world this way and most of the magic mushrooms found in mulch around Canada actually come from quality BC psilocybe mushrooms. Paul Stamets mentions in his book how a lot of magic mushrooms are found in mulch under azaleas, roses and rhododendron bushes. His favorite picking spot happens to be in the landscaped gardens around a police station!
I hope I was able to alleviate any fears concerning the use of magic mushrooms. They truly are miracle workers for mental illness, depression, anxiety, PTS and various addictions. I’ll close out this article with a description of the short term effects of magic mushrooms from Health Canada:
‘Magic mushrooms may cause heightened emotions, senses and people may feel happy and creative. They may laugh and giggle a lot and experience a sense of mental clarity. Magic mushrooms can also cause hallucinations that distort their sense of reality, mix up their senses (see sound, hear colours) and alter their sense of time. Some of the negative effects are changes in mood, lightheadedness, anxiety or panic attack, confusion and disorientation, fear or paranoia, Your face may feel numb, have increased heart rate and blood pressure and you may experience dry mouth. It's important to note all the symptoms above are temporary and last no longer than 4-6 hours.’
Ingesting magic mushrooms is truly a safe and natural method to help combat mental illness and addiction in Canada. I hope you, the reader, can become an advocate for legalizing Psilocybe mushrooms and other psychedelics in our pursuit of a healthier, happier and more inventive Canadian population.
Fly agaric’s are magic mushrooms too, but they contain dangerous amatoxins that will make you very ill. these Fly agarics are indigenous to the area and named after the Ottawa Experimental pharmacologist who discovered them Amanita muscari varguessowii and our classic reddish orangish yellow mushroom.
Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World by Paul Stamets. 10 Speed Press, Berkeley, California 1996
The Psilocybin Mushroom Bible by Virginia Haze and Dr. K. Mandrake, PhD. Green Candy Press, Toronto, Ontario 2016
Medicinal Mushrooms: How to Grow and Microdose Psilocybin Mushrooms. D. J. Hill. Amazon, Bolton, Ontario 2021