FAMILY: Agaricaceae: Strophariaceae
COMMON NAMES: Magic Mushroom, Divine Dung Mushroom, Golden Cap, Champinon, Derrumbe de Estiercol de Vaca (Spanish, ‘abyss of the cow patties’), Dishitjolerraja (Mazatec, ‘divine dung mushroom’), Hed Keequai (Thai), Honguillos de San Isidro Labrador (‘mushroom of Saint Isidro the Farmer [saint of agriculture]’), Hysteria Toadstool, Lol lu’um (Yucatec Mayan, ‘flowers of the earth’), Nocuana-be-neeche (Zapotec), Nti-xi-tjolencha-ja (Mazatec, ‘mushroom like that which grows on cow patties’), Tenkech (Chol), Teotlaquilnanacatl (modern Nahuatl, ‘the sacred mushroom that paints in colors’)
The fruiting body of Psilocybe cubensis is distinguished by its slightly curved cap, which features a yellow or golden center and can grow up to 8 cm in diameter. The stipe is hollow, usually thicker at the base. The mushroom is white to ashy red in color. The gills vary from whitish to a deep violet or purple brown. The only way to differentiate this mushroom from the very similar Psilocybe subcubensis is by the size of the cap (subcubensis caps do not grow quite as large) (Guzmán 1994 cited in Ratsch 1998, 666).
Though this fungus originated in Africa, it was first documented in Cuba (cubensis = Cuban). As the mushroom only grows on cattle dung, it took the worldwide proliferation of African cattle for the mushroom to spread to other continents; it now grows in tropical and subtropical areas far outside of Africa. It thrives in the heat and humidity characteristic of the tropics, and can be found wherever there are cattle or water buffalo. P. cubensis can be found in Europe, many parts of Mexico, Central and South America, Australia, Africa, and Southeast Asia (Ratsch 1998, 666).
TRADITIONAL USE: P. cubensis are used ritualistically in Mexico as well as central Europe. Westerners first learned of the shamanic use of Psilocybe cubensis during research into Psilocybe mexicana, the Mexican magic mushroom. In Mexico, Psilocybe cubensis is known as “hongo de San Isidro”, (mushroom of San Isidro). It’s no coincidence that Saint Isidro is the Mazatec patron saint of fields and meadows, as Psilocybe cubensis only grows in these areas. As cattle did not arrive in Mexico until the late colonial period, use of these mushrooms in Mexico did not begin until this time (Heim & Hofmann 1958 cited in Ratsch 1998, 666).
The magic mushroom is commonly eaten in Bali and Thailand; in the latter, omelets featuring this mushroom are popular. Additionally, an entire cottage industry of magic mushroom t-shirts has arisen in these countries (Allen 1991).
Psilocybe cubensis are found in India and Nepal, but are usually sold to tourists rather than being consumed by the locals, although there are, of course, some exceptions. It has been hypothesized that Psilocybe cubensis and other entheogenic mushrooms (including Amanita spp.) were used by the ancient Hindu Vedists as the sacred elixir Soma. In Nepal, various species of Psilocybe, including cubensis are used by Nepalese shamans for astral travel and as a form of ‘amrita’. In this case the mushrooms are usually roasted with salt or mixed with lime and other herbs. They are sometimes combined with Cannabis, Nicotiana, Datura, and Amanita pantherina (Voogelbreinder 2009, 287).
Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms are used in rituals and healing magic in a similar manner to Psilocybe semilanceata in central Europe. They are also used ritualistically in Mexico in the same way as Psilocybe mexicana (Strassman 1996 cited in Ratsch 1998, 667).
Terence McKenna posited the theory that Psilocybe cubensis is directly responsible for the origination of mankind; according to him, these mushrooms jump-started the evolution of our apelike ancestors into human beings. Self-awareness and an enhanced ability to survive and adapt (due to increased intelligence) were the fruits of this transformation. McKenna went on to posit that not just various mushroom cults but also shamanism, mythology, and even more traditional religions all arose from Psilocybe cubensis experiences (McKenna 1992).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The basic preparation for Psilocybe cubensis is very simple: pick and eat, or pick, dry, and then eat. Fresh mushrooms are most potent, but it is always better to wash them first, as they grow on dung. Fecal remnants are sometimes present on the mushroom after it is picked, as well as trace amounts of select toxins. It is also wise to avoid mushrooms that are rotting or that have been partially eaten by insects (Ott 1996 cited in Ratsch 1998, 667).
While the stems do contain active components, these components are only barely present in the very bottom of the stem, which is also tough to consume. Therefore, it is best to cut this off. To speed along the drying process, some heat may be applied, but too much will destroy the active components of the mushrooms. For long-term storage, freezing in an airtight container is recommended. For short-term, the refrigerator works fine (Ott 1996).
The mushrooms may be ingested on their own, or mixed with other foods just before consuming, like chocolate, juice, or honey. In Thailand, fresh mushrooms are used like other mushrooms for culinary purposes, and dried mushrooms are smoked or baked in cookies with hemp. In fact, it may be better to cook fresh mushrooms over low heat, as this may kill any toxic components of the cow dung that may be present (Ott 1996). Dosage varies based on the intended effect, but 3 – 5 grams is said to be an effective dose.
MEDICINAL USES: It has been reported that P. cubensis mushrooms have been used successfully in private healing rituals in Europe (Ratsch 1998, 667). Other than this, no information regarding the medicinal use of this mushroom. However, numerous recent research studies have explored the possible benefits of psilocybin containing mushrooms like this one in treating disorders ranging from anxiety and OCD to severe cluster headaches. If you have any information on traditional or modern medicinal uses of Panaeolus sphinctrinus, please do contact us.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: P. cubensis mushrooms contain on average about 0.6% psilocybin, although samples containing concentrations of up to 1% have been observed. The psychoactive components psilocin and baeocystin are also present in the mushrooms, in average quantities of 0.15% and 0.02% respectively. The caps contain greater concentrations of psychoactive components than the stems. P. cubensis is the most commercially available of the Psilocybe mushrooms (Ratsch 1998, 667).
Like all mushrooms containing psilocybin, Psilocybe cubensis provides a potent visionary experience, often with shamanic components. Individuals often report a strong sense of connection with the planet and nature, a dissolution of the ego, and a feeling of waves of universal energy running through the body along with strong open and closed eye visuals.
Allen, J.W. “Commercial Activities Related to Psychoactive Fungi in Thailand.” Boston Mycological Club Bulletin 46, no. 1 (1991): 11–14.
Hofmann, A., Ratsch, C., Schultes, R., Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1992.
Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.