Psilocybe mexicana

Psilocybe mexicana
  • Common, popular, potent, easy to cultivate
  • Long ceremonial and recreational history
  • Albert Hofmann isolated Psilocybin from P. mexicana
  • Available as spores, mycelium, sclerotia

After two thousand years of traditional use by the people of Mexico, the renowned French botanist Roger Heim sent samples of Psilocybe mexicana to Albert Hofmann. Hofmann was the famed Swiss chemist who had recently isolated and characterized lysergic acid diethylamide, known as LSD, from the ergot fungus. It was from these first samples, cultivated in Hofmann’s Sandoz laboratory, that psilocybin and psilocin were first isolated and analyzed.

The compound itself was named after the Psilocybe genus, meaning “bald head” in latin. The mushroom’s long history with the Nahuatl people, also known as the Aztecs, gained it the traditional name of teonanacatl. This title was given to a group of common mushrooms of the region, meaning “flesh of the Gods”. They were consumed fresh or dried, mixed into honey or occasionally served with chocolate at feasts.

Aside its historical names, P. mexicana has many modern nicknames: “Angelito”, “Chamaquillo”, Little Bird and “Pajarito”. These and others refer to the small and precocious nature of the mushrooms. This perception arises from its moderate to high potency, similar to P. atlantis and P. samuiensis, though it may have a delayed or subtle bluing reaction that normally accompanies potent Psilocybe species.

P. mexicana does not have many characteristic traits that allow it to be differentiated in the wild. They may frequently be found in moss and meadows, alongside roads and trails, most commonly at higher elevations, in an ecology that matches that of P. cubensis. Their caramel-coloured cap may have a slight umbo and can occasionally have rippled edges that curl inwards.

Their natural range spans Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and most recently Florida. Other species within this range share similar characteristics, namely Panaeolus papilionaceous (non-psychoactive, foul taste) and Panaeolus cinctulus (contains psilocybin). Unlike these species, while it can be found nearby, Psilocybe mexicana is never found directly growing on dung. Due to its “generic” appearance, many “new” species described from Mexico in the 1960s eventually were categorized as P. mexicana.

Due in part to the original fame it garnered from Albert Hofmann’s book “The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens”, P. mexicana is a commonly and easily cultivated species. Though it has quite variable size and dry weight of active compounds, it is generally considered a potent mushroom. This is mediated by psilocybin, varying levels of psilocin, and low but consistent baeocystin. When Hofmann was attempting to discern if artificially grown P. mexicana retained its natural psychoactive nature, he consumed 32 separate specimens over a span of months.

He described the effects of psilocybin on the human mind as:

“…all voluntary efforts to look at things in their customary forms and colours proved ineffective.” “…the rush of interior pictures, mostly changing in shape and colour, reached such an alarming degree that I feared I would be torn into this whirlpool of form and colour and would dissolve.” “I felt my return to everyday reality to be a happy return from a strange, fantastic but quite really experienced world into an old and familiar home.”

Psilocybe mexicana is popular in all its forms, some of which are legal depending on local jurisdiction. Along with fruiting bodies (mushrooms), P. mexicana readily forms sclerotia and psilocybin-containing mycelium. Both of the latter forms can be found online and for sale in some cities and countries. Both have lower potency per dry weight compared to the mushrooms themselves, with mycelium containing only small amounts of psilocybin. Overall, the species is considered an entry-level grower in difficulty of cultivation.

With mycelium forming first, within a week or two, P. mexicana is a quickly-growing species. Depending on the growth medium and conditions, sclerotia may form in as few as two to three weeks. Within two months of growth on soft rice grain, 20 grams of sclerotia dry weight may be harvested from only 100 grams of substrate. Further, on this particular growth medium, complete darkness is not required for sclerotia growth, with diffuse sunlight actually promoting the process.

Regardless of form, the experience provided from P. mexicana will be dependent on dose. It will generally reach its peak within an hour or two, and come to an end within six to eight hours. This relatively short but powerful nature makes the species a popular choice among those pursuing recreational, spiritual or ceremonial destinations.