What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin is produced naturally by hundreds of types of mushrooms across the world. These are the “magic” mushrooms.
- It is molecularly very similar to DMT (D-methyltryptamine) insofar as psilocybin metabolizes to become psilocin, a serotonergic psychedelic substance and neurotransmitter.
- Psilocin goes where serotonin – our brain’s workhorse neurotransmitter – can go. Serotonin is used throughout the brain, particularly tied into limbic and emotional systems.
- Psilocybin (as psilocin) increases concentration of dopamine without being an agonist: density goes up, frequency does not.
What is DMT?
- DMT is a tryptamine hallucinogenic that’s functionally and structurally analagous to key biomolecules (neurotransmitters) produced naturally in the human brain.
- Psychedelic tryptamines are only created to a small extent in the brain, e.g. during dream-sleep and, most notably, as a flood response to near-death panic.
DMT is an entheogen i.e. creates or opens a channel to alternate nonordinary states of consciousness, typically religious, spiritual or otherwise exalted. Etheogens work by activating (intensifying) the pineal gland.
The pineal gland has long been associated in many human cultures as the “third eye” or transcendent gateway to extra-sensory perception.
Ayahuaska is a blend of DMT and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI for short). MAOI inhibitors are atypical anti-depressants. Including them reduces pre-frontal cortex chatter, works as anti-panic, anti-social disorders, reducing OCD, etc. Combined with the DMT the blend makes for a particularly liberated state (less superego anxiety, less neurophysical obsession) so the user benefits most from the period of DMT-supercharged pineal.
DMT and Psilocybin become neural transports using the serotonin receptors. These are closely connected with the brain’s “emotion” and “intensity of feeling” as well as memory and limbic response to the perceived moment.
Our brains use serotonin all the time but our regular DMT production is extremely low, almost undetectable.
DMT is manufactured along with melatonin in the pineal gland. It’s a legacy biomolecule. Serotonin originates all over the brain. It’s better integrated, more resilient and seems to be the evolutionary choice of our primate brains. Serotonin is ringfenced against over-excitement and its mechanisms survive damage to one area of the brain. Serotonin is the more evolved mechanism in mammal brains.
Hypothesis is that at some point in our distant past, serotonin was chosen over DMT. DMT usage devolves as the eons pass, what’s left of any active photoreceptors on the pineal gland become buried under new layers and substrates of the growing brain.
R.E.M. (sleep) and DMT bring the pineal to life. DMT activation of the pineal happens when the prefrontal cortex is awake and alert. This is the source of the psychedelic experience.
That there remains any affinity for DMT (or indeed natural low-dose R.E.M. production of analogues in the pineal) is a corollary of having evolved from lizard brains. We retain the fundamental integrated brain-structure and susceptibility of the lizard brain buried under millennia of cortical intelligence, ego, personality, complex feelings, memory, etc etc. Truly, human beings have a beast within.
Can you go into more detail about the pineal gland, since it’s the well-spring of DMT in the brain (of almost all vertebrate animals) and has given birth to so much third eye, transcendent mythology – across all human cultures?
The pineal gland is an “atrophied photoreceptor” and producer of melatonin and small amounts of DMT in the human brain.
- It is probably the root-cause of the concept “third eye” in human folk lore. The pineal is still a light-sensitive parietal eye in some reptiles and amphibians. It’s an ancient, legacy part of the modern human brain.
- Modern human brains have reduced the pineal gland to a melotonin role (sleep regulation) though it’s speculated some of the recovery/refreshing clean out provided by sleep relies on using neurological circuitry shared with the pineal (giving other parts of the brain a shutdown for the cleanup). This may explain dream states as the pineal is activated, running imagination stories we experience as fragments of dreams. The pineal is, after all, still integrated into those parts of your brain normally under pre-frontal cortex executive regulation.
The pineal gland calcifies as we get older. This calcification seems to correlate to the elderly needing less sleep, but also over-calcified pineal gland has high incidence in Alzheimer’s patients. Make of that what you will.
- The pineal gland predates the point in evolutionary history when brains were shielded by a blood-brain barrier. The pineal is directly integrated into both the brain (as it has evolved over millions of years) and the cardiovascular system. This is significant. It means we are singularly susceptible to drugs involving the pineal. This may be important in the bigger picture of biomolecular metabolism – the pineal gland may serve as a canary in the cage as well as its role in sleep and dream states.
- The pineal gland remains the brain’s factory for producing natural DMT (N-Dimethyltryptamine) though the production has atrophied, most likely in proportion to the decrease of its frontline role as an active photoreceptor.
- The pineal gland’s particular integration with visual brain-circuitry may explain why dreams can be so wildly vivid and how psychedelic drug experiences are intensely – transcendently – visual.
When DMT (or psilocybin) activates the pineal gland and rolls around the brain, how and why does this create psychedelic states of consciousness?
18th century philosopher-scientists toyed with the pineal gland as being the actual “soul” within the human brain, weighing them to answer the question “how heavy is a human soul?”.
At brain-death, in the moments prior, the last task of the brain may be to make the transition to non-existence comfortable – to disconnect from the burden of everyday physical reality. At this point, in human beings, the pineal gland explodes its DMT throughout the brain.
DMT release (at death) or, to a lesser extent, when taken as a supplement (e.g. psilocybin) creates an intense-to-overwhelming experience, crowded with brain–panic or brain-parser interpretations: hence a dying Christian nut job will see heaven and God and feel its bliss and beauty whereas an astronaut might feel ejected out into the centre of the universe, seeing the spin of the galaxies and the bliss and beauty of the cosmos.
That there is any coherence whatsoever in dreams is due to the brain-parser trying to make sense of biochemical catalysts using memory/imagination content played through as best it can – since part of the brain’s job is to make reality coherent and consistent, however weird.
Given death is the endgame of consciousness and the brain, the pineal gland’s last act of one of charity; to the brain of which it’s a part.
On occasion the brain and the pineal gets the ‘death is coming’ wrong, and the brain doesn’t die. Thus these intense near-death experiences, religious mania coming from the unaccustomed intensity versus prosaic real-life. Daft sods.
Why is DMT called the “spirit molecule” and why does DMT/psilocybin – particularly in brews like ayahuaska – make a “trip” that’s often transcendent, visually intense, quasi-religious?
The experience of tripping is all in the mind, the word trip having originated as an ironic wonderment i.e. one has been through a major psycho-experience with enough of a lasting impact on the brain – even if just a treasure trove of new images and sensations – it’s like having spent a month on a trip to a strange unfamiliar land. Yet one might not have even gotten out of bed!
Now, though the trip is all in the mind, so in fact is everyday life. Yet some people play out a kitchen sink melodrama, totally sober, praying, seeing the omnipotent hand of God everywhere, manifesting aspects of their own brain’s identity spectrum into grand personages (God, Jesus, archangels, Satan). This pantomime is played entirely unconsciously, by the individual, yet it’s a clever sanity check, a cognitive dissonance to prevent egomania running too rampant; while the ego is fueled with enough self-love to progress in a competitive complicated world.
Transcendent reports from people tripping, meeting aliens and spirits and elves on the edge and dialogues with divinity: this is a version of the same psychology, as played out in the altered chemical state of the trip: feelings more intense, visuals more brilliant and extraordinary, dopamine to spin everything positive and fill it with energy. Small wonder the trip feels expansive, powerful, illuminating, kinetic, profound. Hence hyperbole in description, e.g. the spirit molecule.
What’s the big deal about the “third eye” and the pineal gland?
The pineal gland is what’s left of the ‘third eye’ in humans, tied into parts of the brain that are primarily working to render visual stimulation (what we see) and memories stored (what we have seen) in our imagination.
The pineal gland can’t see any more but it can be stimulated to the point of overflowing stimulation into the imagination.
Hence trips tend to be a diversely imaginative experience and more pineal excitation may reach heights of stimulation akin to real visual experience i.e. so the brain takes them as if ’seen’ in reality, i.e. hallucinations.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for parsing the analogue sensory data of what’s seen into useful accurate info describing what’s happening, and the shorthand data of what’s remembered is framed into coherent imagined stories based on the memories.
But the third eye is blind, its connections retained mostly for dreaming, a little for death, and whatever’s leftover from long defunct sight function. Nonetheless when excited it flows down some of the same channels as sight and memory.
The poor brain does its best – no matter where the data is coming from – to frame the experience in a coherent way. Sometimes it has to use imagination and memory, sometimes it has to fill in the gaps best it can.
The more intense the chemistry, the more powerful and transcendent of everyday experience the “trip” experience is likely to be; and the more hyperbole the brain is going to need to parse the stimulation into coherence.
Why would DMT/psilocybin be useful as a long-term brain enema or refresh/reboot, what good is a transcendent experience when everyday life is going to return and the trip only lasts a few hours?
By giving a supercharge to the pineal and reminding the brain of the benefits of high serotonin experience, it’s like an electric shock treatment to kick subsequent serotonin production up the arse; for a potentially long time after the actual DMT experience.
- Excitation of religious/transcendent perspective putting into context self-obsession (narcissism, panic, depression, superego, etc) and bringing the everyday mind (conscious, prefrontal experience) into direct contact with the imagination. Imagination is authentic because it’s personal, but its relevance to the brain recedes as one gets older e.g. kids play with anything, imagining as if real with very little stimulus to the ‘game’ but adults put away these ‘childish things’ because life experience shows them to be irrelevant to necessity / survival. Liberation from the everyday is by nature transcendent, religious/spiritual/naturalist flavour varies from person to person but the reconnection with potential – though only actively for the length of the trip – echoes for a long while after.
Sober living and the relentless drip of daily necessity is an anaesthetic to the imagining, creative, blue sky energy of the mind. The brain is nothing if not practical. The DMT trip serves as a restoration of wonderment, eroding the walls of ennui that come inevitably from a feeling life is all about the little things – that the brain only needs to use its higher function to tend to the business of getting through the day, planning a future in lowest common denominator human society. Every day is much the same normality in “reality” and this trains the brain to form deep habits accordingly. Imagination and transcendent thinking is habituated away. DMT works intensively to counteract that habit and, because it is simpatico with in-brain capabilities, it can have a profound and lasting effect; creating a better modus operandi of the mind by sudden contrast of low-emotion normal thinking and high-emotion imagination thinking.
The DMT trip is an intense and extraordinary experience since, especially with ayahuaska, the brain chemistry is realigned to be liberated from the ephemeral bullshit of everyday life concerns, anxieties, habituated problem-solving and repetitions of theme. The trip opens new, better or long-forgotten perspectives – in a visceral, can-feel-it way – in a context the executive functions of the brain can both understand and interact with; hence the benefits can be carried away long afterwards whereas a dream is soon forgotten.
Where do you get psilocybin from?
Almost entirely from certain mushrooms, dried or fresh.
Dried mushrooms are legal many places but not in the USA or UK. Many varieties, different levels of psilocybin and somewhat different digestion detail, so slightly different trip experiences.
Fresh mushrooms can be grown or picked wild. Seeds can be ordered legally online. Growing them is easy enough; just a matter of time and a bit of TLC.
The “wavy cap” mushroom is in the UK October to February.
The “liberty cap” mushroom is in the UK all year round but usually found on cowpats and such.
The large “laughing Jim” mushroom is in the UK but prefers to grow near maple trees. Spring through Autumn.
The “Gymnopilus purpuratus” mushroom grows across the UK all year, usually on dead wood, pig shit and wood chip mulch.
The “greenflush fibrecap” mushroom flourishes all over the UK but only extensively in autumn.
The “banded mottlegill” grows spring to autumn in gardens, lawns, compost piles and sometimes dung.
Gathering or buying mushrooms?
The best time is to go out after it has just rained – harder the rainstorm, more likely the mushroom bloom.
Identify the mushroom varieties using https://www.trufflemagic.com/blog/what-magic-mushrooms-grow-in-the-uk/
Mushrooms can be grown legally in the UK and it’s only the extraction of psilocybin/DMT that crosses the line between legal and illegal. Homegrown if the seed is good is much more reliable than foraging.
Homegrown will be consistent yield whereas foraged will need some expertise to both extract and judge the psilocybin output.
How do I know what dosage I need?
Psilocybin stays in the system for 2-6 hours with a half-life around 3 hours.
Dosage, from microdose to major trip is 50-300 micrograms per KG body weight.
The amount of psilocybin in a “magic mushroom” is consistent with a 1g = 1mg rate: 10 grams of fresh mushrooms equivalent to 10 milligrams of psilocybin.
Fresh to dried mushrooms psilocybin decreases by a factor of 10 i.e. 50 grams of fresh mushrooms has the same psilocybin as 5 grams of dried mushrooms.
USE THIS DOSAGE CALCULATOR TO WORK OUT WEIGHT OF MAGIC MUSHROOMS (cubensis) TO TAKE.
Here is a WEIGHT CALCULATOR to convert cubensis mushrooms to LSD and psilocybin dosage weights.
Mycologist Paul Stamets PSILOMETRIC SCALE for mushroom strains into psilocybin.
SIMPLE USEFUL IDEAL WEIGHTS PER MUSHROOM STRAIN CALCULATOR WITH DOSAGE INFO, METHOD AND SAFEGUARDS.