COMMON NAMES: Hawaiian blue meanies, blauender dungerling, falterdungerling (German), faleaitu (Samoan, “spirit house”/“comedy”), pulouaitu (Samoan, “spirit hat”), taepovi (Samoan, “cow patty”), jambur/jamur (Indonesian), tenkech (Chol).
P. cyanescens fruiting bodies are light brown when young, fading to whitish gray at maturity. The stipe grows to between 7-12 cm in height, while the cap is convex and measures 1-4 cm when dry. The gills are adnate, with broad bases that attach to the stipe of the fruiting body. Panaeolus cyanescens produces a black spore print. The species is coprophilic, and can often be found growing symbiotically on horse or cow dung (Cox 1981). When bruised or damaged, both the cap and stipe of Panaeolus cyanescens specimens stain blue or greenish blue, one indicator of psilocybin content (Stametz 1996).
Panaeolus cyanescens is found in tropical and subtropical regions of almost every continent: specimens have been collected in Southeast Asia, central Africa, central and southern Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Micronesia, Mexico, the southern United States, and — as the name “Hawaiian blue meanies” suggests — on the Hawaiian Islands (Stijve 1992). Research on this species’ distribution and chemical profile suggests that the concentration of psychoactive alkaloids psilocybin and psilocin varies greatly in samples of P. cyanescens collected in the field: Hawaiian samples have showed higher levels of psilocybin than Australian and Southeast Asian samples, which may in turn have a higher psilocin content (Stijve 1992).
TRADITIONAL USE: Despite their widespread distribution, there’s little archaeological or anthropological evidence in most areas of the world that Panaeolus cyanscens was ever used ritually. Josep Fericgla (1996) posits, in his encompassing lecture on the historical use of entheogens, that in regions where Panaeolus cyanescens grows it has often been alongside other more well-known entheogens — Amanita muscaria in Eurasia for example, or Psilocybe cubensis in Aztec-era Mexico. As a result, the possibilities of Panaeolus cyanescens as an entheogen may have been overshadowed by more well-known entheogens that had already been incorporated into the culture (Fericgla 1996).
A notable exception is in Indonesia and Samoa, where Panaeolus cyanescens is still used recreationally for its psychoactive and intoxicating effects (Cox 1981). As recently as the 1980’s, Panaeolus cyanescens were deliberately cultivated in Bali both for sale in the tourist trade and for ritual use; on the island of Java, Indonesian batik artists would often ingest Panaeolus cyanescens to gain inspiration for the colorful and fluid designs seen in this indigenous style of graphic embroidery (Cox 1981).
Panaeolus cyanescens is also well-known to the indigenous people of Samoa, an island in the South Pacific where the mushroom goes by many names, including taepovi (“cow patty”, referring to one method of cultivation), pulouaitu or “spirit house”, and the illuminating faleaitu or “comedy”, a reference to the sense of euphoria and hilarity users of P. cyanescens often experience (Cox 1981).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: As with other species of psychedelic mushrooms in the Panaeolus and Psilocybe genii, Panaeolus cyanescens are traditionally dried and eaten by themselves; they are sometimes eaten fresh (Stametz 1996). A more elaborate preparation employed in Samoa involves boiling Panaeolus cyanescens caps in water until they are reduced to a thick black juice, which is then mixed with brewed coffee. Alternately, P. cyanescens caps are eaten raw in Samoa, often washed down with a chaser. In modern times, this is usually cola or similar soft drink. In a third rarely seen preparation, Panaeolus cyanescens is dried whole and smoked (Cox 1981).
MEDICINAL USES: While there is little mention in the literature about Panaeolus cyanescens specifically being used in a medicinal context, the compound psilocybin itself has demonstrated promising therapeutic effects in clinical studies. In sub-hallucinogenic doses, psilocybin has been demonstrated to reduce the symptoms of migraine and cluster headaches, and in some cases to prevent these symptoms from developing at all (Grotto 2007). The few clinical studies that have been done on psilocybin since the 1970’s Vienna Convention banned nearly all study of psychotropic drugs have also suggested that psilocybin has great potential to benefit patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, and possibly even schizophrenia (Hobbs 2002). If any of our readers have information about the medicinal use, past or present, of Panaeolus cyanescens specifically, we welcome your input.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Panaeolus cyanescens is one of several Panaeolus mushroom species that is psychoactive. Panaeolus cyanescens contains, on average, psilocin (0.48%) and psilocybin (0.11%), as well as serotonin (0.072%), urea (1.8%), and baeocystin (0.02%); unlike its relatives Panaeolus subbalteatus and Panaeolus sphinctrinus, this species contains only negligible amounts of 5HTP (<0.005%) (Stijve 1992). P. cyanescens was formerly classified as Copelandia cyanescens, as part of a genus created for psilocybin-containing psychoactive varieties of Panaeolus, and it may still be found under this name in older texts.
When ingested, Panaeolus cyanescens produces strong, colorful visual hallucinations and auditory distortions usually lasting from 4-6 hours (Stijve 1992), sometimes up to 7 hours (Cox 1981). In high doses, Panaeolus cyanescens may temporarily interfere with voluntary muscle control (Cox 1981); Samoan informants have also reported that habitual use can cause a rash to form around the neck (Cox 1981), possibly due to the species’ notable urea content (Stijve 1992).
Anecdotal reports from a study conducted in the Netherlands suggested that the hallucinations induced by the oral consumption of P. cyanescens lingered compared to the more fleeting images induced by mushrooms in the Psilocybe genus, allowing users a more leisurely contemplation of this imagery (Stijve 1992).
Cox, Paul Allen. 1981. “Use of hallucinogenic mushroom, Copelandia cyanescens, in Samoa.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 4 (1): 115-16.
Fericgla, Josep Maria. 1996. Speech to National Conference on Entheogenic Substances, San Francisco, USA.
Grotto, David W. 2007. 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Bantam Press.
Hobbs, Christopher. 2002. Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Healing, Tradition, and Culture: Herbs and Health Series. Botanica Press.
Stametz, Paul. 1996. Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Stijve, T. 1992. “Psilocin, psilocybin, serotonin and urea in Panaeolus cyanescens from various origins.” Persoonia 15 (1): 117-121.