Public Description of Psilocybe mexicana R. Heim

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Name: Psilocybe mexicana R. Heim
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 Draft For 2009/2010 Eol University Species Pages Initiative By Anna Ruman (Private)

Description status: Unreviewed

Taxonomic Classification:

Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Hymenogastraceae


General Description:

Psilocybe mexicana, first described by R. Heim in 1957, can be differentiated from closely related species by the presence of hyaline pleurocystidia and cheilocystida and of rhomboid or subrhomboid spores more than eight microns in length, by a lack of annulus, and by its propensity to stain blue or to fade to blackish when dried or damaged (Guzman 1983 78). At a very basic level of identification, hallucinogenic Psilocybe species can be distinguished from nonhallucinogenic Psilocybe species by their tendency in almost all cases to oxidize blue, by their farinaceous odor and taste (Guzman 2008 408), and by the fact that they grow only in acid media (Guzman 1983 26). P. mexicana is found in the states of subtropical Mexico and Guatemala (Stamets 129-130) at elevations between 1000 and 2000 meters (Guzman 1983 30) and exhibits seasonality, typically fruiting between June and September. The species occurs in meadows, often in horse pastures, in soils rich in manure, or along field-deciduous forest interfaces and can exhibit both solitary and gregarious habits (Stamets 129). Although the species is not thought to engage in mycorrhizal relationships with trees, studies have reported a higher probability of the species’ occurrence in meadows with the following tree species present: sweetgum (Liquidamambar styraciflua), oak (Quercus sp.), and alders (Alnus sp.) and in river valleys and pastures bordered by sycamore (Platanus lindeniana) (Stamets 130).

Psilocybe mexicana is a moderately potent hallucinogen due to the presence of both psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) and its biologically active form, psilocin (4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine), in the species’ fruiting bodies. Due to their hallucinogenic effects, many Psilocybe species, including P. mexicana, are ingested recreationally. Although the recreational use of Psilocybin species often calls to mind the “psychedelic underground- of hippies, freaks, and travelers,” so-called “magic mushrooms” have been used for at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years by indigenous civilizations around the world, particularly those of Mexico (Letcher 3). Anthropological research has indicated that “at the time of the Spanish invasion, psychoactive mushrooms were being consumed in a variety of religious, secular, recreational, and even diplomatic contexts within the dominant Mesoamerican Aztec civilization” (Letcher 76). Despite frequent association with both recreational and Mesoamerican ritualistic use, psilocybin-containing mushroom species also offer potential medicinal value. For example, administration of psilocybin is being assessed in pilot studies for its potential to alleviate anxiety, depression, and/ or pain associated with advanced or potentially life-threatening cancer, perhaps through inducing spiritual experiences associated with increased well-being (“Psilocybin Advanced…” and “Psychopharmacology…”).


Diagnostic Description:

CAP: The cap of Psilocybe mexicana is .5-3 cm broad and conic to companulate to subumbonate, to convex at maturity, often with a small umbo. The surface is viscid to smooth when moist and striate from the margin halfway to the disk. The margin is sometimes decorated with fine fibrils. The cap is brownish to deep orangish brown, fading upon drying to yellowish, and becomes opaque, often with bluish tones, from age or when injured.

GILLS: The gill attachment is adnate to adnexed, sometimes sinuate. The gills are pale gray but become dark purplish brown, typically with white edges, upon spore maturation.

STEM: The stem ranges from 40 to 125 mm long by 1 to 3 mm thick and is either of equal thickness for the entire stem length or narrower towards the base. It is smooth and hollow, and the straw is yellowish to brownish, often darkening with age or where injured. In addition, Psilocybe mexicana has a whitish and thinly fibrillose partial veil that leaves remnants on the upper regions of the stem. The veil has reddish brown flesh that bruises bluish when injured.

MICROSCOPIC FEATURES: The spores of Psilocybe mexicana are dark purplish brown to blackish purple brown in deposit, ellipsoid to subellipsoid in side view, and subrhomboid in face view. With respect to their size, the spores are 8 to 9.9 microns by 5.5 to 7.7 microns. The basidia are four-spored, and pleurocystidia are either absent or similar to cheilocystidia when near the gill edge. The cheilocystidia are 13 to 28 microns by 4.4 to 6.6 microns, fusoid-ampullaceous, sublageniform with abbreviated apices, and occasionally forking.

(Diagnostic Description from Stamets 129-130)


Distribution:

The distribution of Psilocybe mexicana includes the states of subtropical Mexico, including Michocan, Morelos, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Puebla, western Xalapa, and Veracruz, as well as Guatemala (Stamets 129-130). P. mexicana typically grows between 1000 and 2000 meters of elevation, although one rarely encounters P. mexicana in subtropical forests in transition to tropical forests at 600 to 1000 meters elevation (Guzman 1983 30).


Habitat:

P. mexicana typically grows in rich, clay-like soils with pH between 5.0 and 5.5 (Guzman 1983 24-25) and exhibits seasonality, with fruiting bodies present between June and September (Stamets 129). The species occurs in meadows, often in horse pastures, in soils rich in manure, or along field-deciduous forest interfaces and can exhibit both solitary and gregarious habits (Stamets 129). Although the species seems to grow on rich soils in connection with horse dung, it never grows on dung. Therefore, according to Guzman 1983, “it is a problem to understand the ecological relationship between P. mexicana and horses, because these animals arrived to Mexico through the Spanish Conquest in the XVI Century…it is possible that these fungi were also introduced to America with the [slave] trade…established in the XVI-XVII Centuries” (30).

Regarding the likelihood of identifying with certainty P. mexicana’s symbionts or hosts, Stamets has reported a higher probability of the species’s occurrence in meadows with the following tree species present: sweetgum (Liquidamambar styraciflua), oak (Quercus sp.), and alders (Alnus sp.) and in river valleys and pasture lands bordered by sycamore (Platanus lindeniana) (130). Therefore, Stamens claims these species as candidates for symbionts. However, other sources claim that “all species of Psilocybe are saprophytic and none are known to be parasitic or symbiotic” (Guzman 1983 22). Further investigation into the possibility for known symbionts or hosts of P. mexicana is necessary.


Look Alikes:

At the most basic level of identification, hallucinogenic Psilocybe species can be distinguished from nonhallucinogenic Psilocybe species by their tendency in almost all cases to oxidize blue, by their farinaceous odor and taste (Guzman 2008 408), and by the fact that they only grow in acid media (Guzman 1983 26). In addition, the hallucinogenic Psilocybe species can be divided into three groups by their habitat type (Guzman 2008 408):
-mountainous areas with a temperate climate, typically in meadows or open, grassy pine forests
-tropical lowlands
-intermediate zones where moist, subtropical climate and hilly terrain give rise to mesophytic cloud forest at elevations of 1000-1600 m

These habitat guidelines can help to differentiate Psilocybe mexicana from closely related species that grow in different habitats.

Furthermore, Psathyrella, Panaeolus, and Agrocybe are frequently confused with Psilocybe species because of the habit and color of their lamellae. However, these three genera are easily separated by the spore color in the first two genera and by the structure of the pileus in the latter genus. While the mycenoid form of P. mexicana is very similar to Panaeolus sphinctrinus Quel. or P. fimicola Quel., the black color of the gills and the grayish pileus separate one genus from the other (Guzman 207). P. mexicana is also macroscopically similar to P. hoogshagenii Heim, but microscopic features are entirely distinct (Guzman 208).

The use of a dichotomous key in the field can also help differentiate P. mexicana from closely related or look-alike species. The following is an excerpt from a dichotomous key by Guzman 1983. This excerpt indicates the defining features of P. mexicana that would serve to effectively differentiate the species from other Psilocybe species.

Simplified Dichotomous Key (based on Guzman 1983 78):

1. Pleurocystidia (if present) and cheilocystidia (if present) hyaline (at least the great majority).
2. Spores rhomboid or subrhomboid in face view.
3. Staining blue or fading to blackish when dried. Occurring in temperate or subtropical regions.
4. Without annulus.
5. Spores more than 8 micrometers long. Subtropical species.


Uses:

Psilocybe mexicana is a moderately potent hallucinogen due to the presence of both psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) and its biologically active form, psilocin (4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine), in the species’ fruiting bodies. Although the percentage of psilocybin and psilocin in a given P. mexicana sample varies with growing conditions, Heim and Hoffman detected 0.25% psilocybin and 0.15% psilocin in the sample used for the species’s diagnostic description (Stamets 130). Upon introduction to the body, psilocybin is rapidly converted to psilocin through a dephosphorylation reaction (Horita and Weber 32-33). Psilocin subsequently acts as a partial agonist at the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor and as an agonist at the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A/2C serotonin receptors (Passie et al. 362). “The effects of psilocybin, which appear within 20 minutes of ingestion, last approximately 6 hours. Although the effects experienced by Psilocybe species users vary depending on the individual, the active compounds in psilocybin-containing ‘magic’ mushrooms have LSD-like properties and produce alterations of autonomic function, motor reflexes, behavior, and perception. The psychological consequences of psilocybin use include hallucinations, an altered perception of time, and an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Panic reactions and psychosis also may occur, particularly if a user ingests a large dose. Long-term effects such as flashbacks, risk of psychiatric illness, impaired memory, and tolerance have been described in case reports.Other effects may include muscle relaxation or weakness, ataxia, excessive pupil dilation, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness” (“NIDA…”). Due to its hallucinogenic effects, many Psilocybe species, including P. mexicana, are ingested recreationally. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, mushrooms containing psilocybin are commercially available both fresh or dried and are typically taken orally. Since psilocybin and psilocin cannot be inactivated by cooking or freezing preparations, they may also be brewed as a tea or added to other foods to mask their bitter flavor. Furthermore, due to the relative difficulty of identifying mushroom species without significant identification experience, individuals who ingest psilocybin mushrooms recreationally also risk poisoning if one of many existing varieties of poisonous mushrooms is incorrectly identified as a psilocybin mushroom. Although it is difficult to gauge the extent of use of hallucinogens such as psilocybin and peyote because most data sources that quantify drug use exclude these drugs, “the Monitoring the Future survey reported in 2008 that 7.8 percent of high school seniors had used hallucinogens other than LSD—a group that includes peyote, psilocybin, and others—at least once in their lifetime. Past-year use was reported to be 5.0 percent” (“NIDA…”).

Although the recreational use of Psilocybin species often calls to mind the “psychedelic underground- of hippies, freaks, and travelers,” so-called “magic mushrooms” have been used for at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years by indigenous civilizations around the world, particularly those of Mexico (Letcher 3). Anthropological research has indicated that “at the time of the Spanish invasion, psychoactive mushrooms were being consumed in a variety of religious, secular, recreation, and even diplomatic contexts within the dominant Mesoamerican Aztec civilization” (Letcher 76). However, the portrayal of mushrooms in pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican art and codices suggests that the use of psychoactive mushrooms predates the Spanish conquest. For example, the Codex Vindobonensis (the Vienna Codex), a Mixtec work depicting the origins of the world, depicts several gods and goddesses clutching or eating mushrooms (Letcher 76-77). After the arrival of the Spanish, however, indigenous peoples often integrated practices derived from Catholicism with Mesoamerican sprititual practices, therefore creating syncretic religious traditions that continued to emphasize the role of psychoactive mushroom consumption in the religious experience. In 1929, an anthropological expedition to Mexico led by Richard Evans Schultes observed the syncretism evident in a specific Mazatec religious tradition, cited in this article as an example of post-Columbian ritualistic use of psychoactive mushrooms. According to records from this expedition, the Mazatec brujo (roughly translated as wizard, but with the connotation of shaman) eats three mushrooms at the beginning of the ritual and prays to the Holy Trinity as well as to native elemental powers including the earth, stars, moon, and sun. Regarding the role of the mushroom in this practice, the Mazatec teach that while under the influence of the mushroom, it is the mushroom that speaks rather than the brujo. Although many species of hallucinogenic mushrooms, particularly Psilocybe species, occur naturally in Mexico, Psilocybe mexicana, often called di-nize or tsamikindi in the Mazatec language, is one of three species of mushrooms used in Mazatec ritualistic practice (Akers 9). Psychoactive mushrooms including Psilocybe species, called teonanacatl in the Aztec language, Nahuatl, are used ritually in Central Mexico to this day.

For a more complete history of human interaction with Psilocybe species, whether accidental, recreational, or ritualistic, refer to Andy Letcher’s Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom (see “References” section for full citation details).

Despite its frequent association with both recreational and Mesoamerican ritualistic use, psilocybin-containing mushroom species also offer potential medicinal value. For example, administration of psilocybin is being assessed in both Phase I and Phase II double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot studies for its potential to alleviate anxiety associated with advanced or potentially life-threatening cancer. Furthermore, the study is also investigating “the effect of psilocybin on symptoms of pain perception, depression, existential/psychospiritual distress, attitudes towards disease progression and death, quality of life, and spiritual/mystical states of consciousness.” The study hypothesizes that “a one time experience with psilocybin will occasion dramatic shifts in consciousness and awareness that will lead to short-term (ie hours to days) and long-term (up to 6 months in this study, following the administration of the second dosing, either psilocybin or placebo) improvement in anxiety, depression, and pain associated with advanced cancer” (“Psilocybin Advanced…”). In addition, another study is investigating if “psilocybin can produce personally and spiritually meaningful experiences in cancer patients,” which would represent a valuable medical intervention since “spirituality has been associated with increased psychological coping and decreased depression in serious illness” (“Psychopharmacology…”).

References:

Akers, Brian. Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico: Assorted Texts. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 2007.

Guzman, Gaston. The genus Psilocybe: A systematic revision of the known species including the history, distribution, and chemistry of the hallucinogenic species. Vaduz: J. Cramer, 1983.

Guzman, Gaston. “Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in Mexico: An Overview.” Economic Botany 62(3), 404-412. Bronx, NY: The New York Botanical Garden Press, 2008.

Horita A, Weber LJ. “Dephosphorylation of psilocybin to psilocin by alkaline phosphatase.” Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology 106 (1): 32–33, 1961.

Letcher, Andy. Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.

NIDA InfoFacts: Hallucinogens – LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin, and PCP.” Published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/hallucinogens.html. Accessed 12 Dec. 2009.

Passie T, Seifert J, Schneider U, Emrich HM. “The pharmacology of psilocybin.” Addiction Biology 7 (4): 357–64, 2002.

“Psilocybin Advanced Cancer Anxiety Study.” NIH clinical trial sponsored by New York University. http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00957359. Accessed 12 Dec. 2009.

“Psilocybin Fast Facts.” National Drug Intelligence Center. http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs6/6038/index.htm#called. Accessed 13 Dec. 2009.

“Psychopharmacology of Psilocybin in Advanced Cancer Patients.” NIH clinical trial sponsored by Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in collaboration with the Heffter Research Institute. http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00465595. Accessed 12 Dec. 2009.

Stamets, Paul. Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World: An Identification Guide. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1996.

“Street Terms: Drugs and the Drug Trade: Drug Type: Psilocybin/Psilocin.” Office of National Drug Control Policy. http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/.... Accessed 13 Dec. 2009.

Other Relevant Resources:

Guzman, G. “Species Diversity of the Genus Psilocybe in the World Mycobiota, with Special Attention to Hallucinogenic Properties.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 7:305–331, 2005.

Schultes, Richard Evans. Plants of the Gods: their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2001.

Singer, Rolf. “Mycological Investigations on Teonanacatl, the Mexican Hallucinogenic Mushroom.” Mycologia, Vol. 50, No. 2, 239-261, Mar.- Apr., 1958.


Notes:

Common names of Psilocybe mexicana include “nize” or “di-nize” (“little birds” in the Mazatec language), “tsamikindi” (also a Mazatec word), “pajarito” or “pajaro” (Spanish for “little bird” and “bird,” respectively)and “Mexican liberty cap” (Stamets 129, Akers 9). P. mexicana is also often referred to in the Nahuatl language as “teonanacatl” (“flesh of the gods”), although the word “teonanacatl” is also used colloquially to refer to other hallucinogenic Psilocybe species of subtropical Mexico.

As recreational drugs, Psilocybin-containing species also have a variety of street names, including:

Boomers
Flower flipping (MDMA used with psilocybin)
God’s flesh
Hippieflip (MDMA used with psilocybin)
Hombrecitos
Las mujercitas
Little smoke
Mexican mushrooms
Musk
Sacred mushroom
Sherm
Silly putty
Simple simon

(“Psilocybin Fast…” and “Street…”).


Description author: Anna Ruman (Request Authorship Credit)
Description editor: Erlon


Created: 2009-09-23 13:15:30 CDT (-0400) by Erlon (Herbert Baker)
Last modified: 2009-12-13 17:23:56 CST (-0500) by Anna Ruman (iamannaruman@gmail.com)
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