It’s a known fact that fungi have flourished on Earth for quite a while and possibly for more than 2 billion years. They have made some impressive tricks during those times and it includes instances that are either fascinating or frightening to humans and it can sometimes be a combination of both. Magic mushrooms also have mind-bending facts that not all users are aware of.
The magic mushrooms also called the “shrooms” are fungi that have become famous because of their psychedelic effects on people who ingest them. There are certain ancient practices that revolve around the magic mushrooms that date back to prehistoric and the shamans may have inspired Santa Claus.
Mind-Bending Facts About Magic Mushrooms
Let’s take a closer look at the mystical members of Mother Nature and here are some of the mind-bending facts you will enjoy about magic mushrooms.
2 Basic Types but about 200 different species
Psychedelic fungi fall into 2 general categories and each is characterized by a distinct mix of mind-altering ingredients that make these mushrooms magical. The largest and most common group is called psilocybin and psilocin. They are known to produce hallucinogens and they feature more than 180 species all from different continents except Antarctica.
The psilocybin fungi can be so diverse since they didn’t inherit the genes from a common ancestor rather, they have just passed them directly between distant species in a phenomenon called “horizontal gene transfer.” It could have originally evolved as a defense mechanism suggesting that it was used to deter fungi-eating pests by altering the minds of the insects.
The smaller group may be less in number but they have a rich history of religious use. They include one iconic species the Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric). Instead of having psilocybin or psilocin, its main hallucinogen is chemicals known as muscimol and ibotenic acid.
The muscimol mushrooms are related to some known toxic fungi such as Death Cap and Destroying Angel. They are believed to be generally less poisonous than their killer cousins but when given the high stakes of a mushroom mix-up, the novice users are advised to stay away from Amanita altogether.
Magic Mushrooms may have given us Santa Claus
The famous Santa Claus story may be odd for some as it contains magic elves and flying reindeers to Santa’s chimney use and his very iconic red and white suit. According to a theory, these Santa quirks are a result of muscimol mushrooms or specifically from Siberian Shamans who have distributed them centuries ago.
Amanita muscaria has long been part of Siberian values and the human consumption dates back to at least the 1600s. These have been mostly used for recreational practices but for the Siberian shamans, they ingested the fungi to commune with the spirit world. These shamans also gave shrooms as gifts in late December and they often enter homes via the roof because of the deep snow.
In practice, these shamans or priests would collect and dry the Amanita muscaria and then give them as gifts in the winter solstice. Since the snow was usually blocking the doors, the opening on the roof was used by people to enter and exit their houses thus producing the chimney story.
The shamans also had their own tradition of dressing up like the Amanita muscaria, they wear red suits with white spots. And their vision quests could be shared with spirit animals like reindeer. Reindeers in Siberia are known to eat hallucinogenic fungi.
Human Consumption of Magic Mushroom Goes a Long Way Back
Although there are no specific data on when magic mushroom was first started to be consumed by humans, there are pieces of evidence suggest that these mushrooms have been used in religious rituals thousands of years ago. The psilocybin mushrooms were known to give importance to some Mesoamerican cultures and during the time of Spanish conquest, the traditions were already considered ancient.
These hallucinogenic fungi Psilocybe Mexicana, a native to Central America was previously known by the Aztec word Teonanacatl that is often translated as “divine mushroom.” While in the Sahara Desert, there is rock art that portrays the psychedelic fungi and it dates back to 7000-9000 years ago.
These rock arts will include human dancers holding mushroom-like objects while in some cases, it has two parallel lines connecting the objects to the dancer’s heads. Although these may not be definitive evidence, researchers see this as the earliest hints of people using mind-altering mushrooms.
Psilocybin seems to briefly reorganize the brain
If you’re wondering how psilocybin reorganizes the brain, the simple explanation is that it binds to a receptor in the brain for serotonin and this is thought to cause many sensory distortions. Along with hallucinations and mood changes, those who take psilocybin will often describe an abstract, dreamlike sense of expanded consciousness.
In a study conducted in 2014, researchers scanned the brains of 15 volunteers after giving them psilocybin. The activities spiked in the brain network that is linked to emotional thinking with simultaneous activities in different brain areas such as the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex.
While the brain network linked to high-level thinking and the sense of self had activities that became less organized. Another functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study found a dramatic change in brain organization that links psilocybin with a temporary flurry of neural connections that don’t normally exist.
Also, researchers discovered that psilocybin has the capacity to bind itself to receptors that can stimulate healing. Thus, it’s believed that psilocybin repairs and grows brain cells which can be beneficial to those suffering from mental health concerns.
It may cause lasting personality changes
In general, brain activity generally returns to normal after psilocybin wears off the chemical has been shown to have long term effects too. In a study conducted in 2011 measured the effects that the magic mushroom has on the five domains of personality – neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. They have found out that there is a significant increase in openness after a high-dose of psilocybin session.
Openness is a psychological term used for describing someone’s attitude toward new experiences and is normally associated with traits such as imagination, creativity, and aesthetic appreciation. The study suggests that the psilocybin session resulted in a significantly higher openness compared to the baseline even after 1 year after the session.
It can temporarily delete your ego
Some of the users of magic mushrooms have reported losing their sense of self. This will normally feel like your ego is dissolving and is typically short-lived. However, it can be associated with the long-lasting effects of psychedelics like the openness mentioned above.
This ego dissolution will result in a moment of expanded awareness, a feeling wherein the mind is put directly and intensely in touch with the world. With this experience, it’s easier to re-engineer the mechanisms of the self that can also change the outlook or worldview of the person.
Those suffering from anxiety, depression, and forms of addiction can benefit from this profound sense of connection brought about by this experience.
It can improve mental health
Let us first warn you that magic mushrooms are widely outlawed as a dangerous drug with no medical value. But there are a large number of researchers who are studying the medicinal effects magic mushrooms might give.
These magic mushrooms are becoming popular as the potential psychiatric wonder drug. It has shown promising effects on depression as it may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play in depression.
Psilocybin seems to boost emotional responsiveness in the brain while another study suggests that it could relieve depression without having to go through emotional blunting. This is often associated with traditional antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
It also has brought transformative relief from anxiety too even including people who have been diagnosed life-threatening cancer. In a study conducted in 2016 has found that moderate doses of psilocybin with a combination of psychotherapy has helped cancer patients overcome anxiety and depression. Thus, has to lead to the long-term rise in the quality of life and optimism.
It has also been shown that 6 months after a single dose, about 80% of the participants still have significantly reduced anxiety and depression and about 83% still reported to having higher life satisfaction.
Some of the medical patients have described the psilocybin session as one of the top five most meaningful experiences in their lives. The results like these emphasize the need for more research on psilocybin, a field that has long been restricted.
Participants in these medial studies have been carefully dosed and monitored by experts and their sessions are often complemented by counseling to help them process the overall experience.
Psychedelics can be scary for some especially those who are new in its consumptions and not yet familiar with the effects. However, it can be used widely based on different factors such as mood, temperament, psychological condition, and setting.
Guidance while using magic mushrooms is more important for people who are already struggling with a chronic mental health issue.