We all agree that life just wouldn’t be the same without magic mushrooms to colour our world. But apart from giving us mind-blowing trips, these curious fungi have another side you may not be aware of. Here are 10 facts we thought you should know about magic mushrooms.

1. There Are 2 Main Categories, But About 200 Different Species.

Psychedelic mushrooms generally fall into two groups – psilocybin mushrooms and muscimol mushrooms. Psilocybin mushrooms come from about a dozen genera and are made up of over 180 species. They are famed for their golden colored caps and hallucinogenic chemical psilocybin. Muscimol mushrooms, on the other hand, are smaller in number, have red and white caps, and produce the chemicals muscimol and ibotenic acid which give us a high. They, like psilocybin mushrooms also have a rich history of religious use.

2. Psilocybin Mushrooms Grow Naturally Across All The Continents Except Antarctica.

Most species of psilocybin mushrooms grow near or around the southern hemisphere, mainly in the subtropical forests of countries like Mexico and New Ginea. So ubiquitous are these mushrooms that the only place you’ll not find them is the Antarctica, an ice-covered landmass that doesn’t harbour any kind of life.

3. Magic mushrooms are extremely diverse in their genetic makeup

Shrooms are renowned for their extremely diverse hallucinogenic properties, but it wasn’t until recently that researchers discovered why. A study published in Evolution Letters shows the reason for this diversity is that they didn’t inherit their psilocybin traits from one ancestor but passed them onto distant species in an occurrence known as horizontal gene transfer.

4. Psilocybin Could Have Originally Evolved As A Defence Mechanism. 

Psilocybes are very protective of their food and territory. So much so that they’ve developed a mechanism of keeping at bay insects that compete with them for food. One study concluded that shrooms produce hallucinogenic chemicals as a way of scrambling the brains of these insects.

5. Muscimol Mushrooms Aren’t Toxic But They Can Cause A Stomach Upset.

Amanita muscaria mushrooms are closely related to some particularly toxic fungi like the Amanita phalloides or “death cap”, and A. ocreata, AKA “destroying angel”. However, studies have shown that while AM mushrooms do cause stomach upsets, they haven’t been reported as having caused poisoning or fatalities in North America.

6. Reindeer Too Get High On Magic Mushrooms.

Believe it or not Reindeer go out of their way to forage for Amanita muscaria mushrooms which are sometimes called fly agaric mushrooms. Apparently, eating the fungi makes them exhibit drunken behavior that includes head twitching, running around aimlessly and making strange noises. What’s even more amusing is that reindeer herders in Europe and Asia have been known to collect reindeer urine as a safer way of consuming the muscimol hallucinogen.

7. You Can Smoke Dried Amanita Muscaria Mushrooms.

Amanita muscaria is usually consumed once the mushrooms have been dried. Drying helps convert the ibotenic acid in the mushrooms into muscimol, which enhances the potency. Some psychonauts have reported smoking the caps of Amanita muscaria after drying them as a way of tripping. They also claim smoking typically results in quicker albeit short term effects.

8. Magic Mushrooms May Have Given Us Santa Claus.

Once upon a time, the story goes, Siberian shamans gave out the highly valued muscimol mushrooms as presents usually in late December. Apparently, they would dress up in red suits with white spots to resemble these mushrooms. They would also enter homes using the roof to avoid the deep snow that blocked the doorway.

9. Magic Mushrooms Have Inspired Rock Art In The Sahara Desert.

It’s a fairly well-known fact that Mesoamerican cultures like the ancient Maya used psychedelic mushrooms during religious rituals thousands of years ago. But even more interesting is the rock art which was discovered in the Sahara showing that humans may have used psychedelics way before this period. The art work which dates back 7000 to 9000 years ago depicts human dancers holding mushroom-like objects, prompting some researchers to say it’s the earliest sign of people using mind-altering mushrooms.

10. Vilification Of Psychedelic Mushrooms Is Nothing New.

When Western Christianity conquered Mesoamerica in the 16th century, they crushed many of the inhabitants methods of spiritual expression, including the use of magic mushrooms. Centuries later, Timothy Leary, who pioneered research in psychedelics would himself face oppression for his work. He and a colleague, Richard Alpert started the Harvard Psilocybin Project which led to their dismissal from the university in 1963. In 1968, magic mushrooms were declared illegal in the United States. Leary was also later labelled by President Richard Nixon as “the most dangerous man in America.”

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