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The Complete Guide to Psilocybe Cyanescens
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The Complete Guide to Psilocybe Cyanescens

Julian Selemin
Julian Selemin
July 05, 2023
8 min

Magic mushrooms are known to cause powerful and possibly life-changing experiences—but there are a few species that go even further. Psilocybe cyanescens is one of them, providing potent trips that stand above most other psychedelic species.

P. cyanescens is also very easy to cultivate, making it one of the most popular choices among psychedelic enthusiasts. And, like most other magic fungi, it’s being studied for its possible therapeutic properties. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Psilocybe cyanescens?

Psilocybe cyanescens is a psychedelic mushroom known for being one of the most powerful species among magic fungi. Also known as wavy caps, potent psilocybe, blueleg brownies, and blue halos, these potent shrooms can be found almost anywhere in the world during the fall season. 

P. cyanescens is known to be more powerful than many of its related species from the genus Psilocybe, including popular shrooms such as Psilocybe cubensis, Psilocybe semilanceata, and Psilocybe azurescens. 

The psychedelic properties of P. cyanescens come from two different compounds—psilocybin and psilocin. While the two are closely related, the main difference is that psilocybin isn’t actually psychedelic. Instead, our bodies metabolize it into psilocin (which is psychoactive) after we consume it.

The name “cyanescens” comes from the fact that these fungi generally bruise blue (almost cyan) when damaged. This particular color comes from the oxidation of psilocin and is often most noticeable on the stem, gills, cap, and mycelium.

Although P. cyanescens grows almost anywhere in the world, experts point out that this shroom is rare in the wild. Instead, it’s more often found in patches in backyards where decorative mulch may be abundant.

While it’s possible to consume wavy caps strictly for nutritional value, most people look for them for psychedelic purposes. In fact, the smell and taste are often described as sour and almost nauseating, somewhat reminiscent of spoiling corn (1) (2) (3).

How does Psilocybe cyanescens look?

Psilocybe cyanescens growing from a branch

P. cyanescens has a 2–10 cm (0.8–4 in) cap that initially grows convex, resembling a half sphere. With age, it usually planes and turns chestnut brown in color. Some fruiting bodies develop undulating margins—which is where the nickname “wavy caps” comes from.

The stem or stipe usually grows 2–8cm (0.8–3 in) long and is slightly bigger near the base. It’s almost entirely white until the mushroom is damaged or picked—at that point, it will turn its distinctive blue. The spore print is dark, and the gills grow broad and brown.

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What are the varieties of Psilocybe cyanescens?

There aren’t any known varieties, strains, or subspecies of Psilocybe cyanescens (4).

However, there’s one key thing to mention. It appears as though, for some reason, European wavy caps have lower psilocybin and psilocin concentrations than those from the U.S. Research indicates that European P. cyanescens contains 0.39%–0.75% psychoactive compounds, while American versions have 0.66%–1.96% (5) (6).

This is further confirmed by anecdotal evidence from experienced mushroom harvesters. One of these veteran psychonauts also claims that mycelium from European wavy caps is less white—although no evidence supports this (7).

History of Psilocybe cyanescens

Close up shot of Psilocybe cyanescens

There’s not much is known about the history of Psilocybe cyanescens. The taxonomical history is rather blurry, and anything previous to that boils down to speculation and deductions. Still, here’s what we know.

The oldest known usage of psilocybin mushrooms dates back to the ancient Aztecs and (possibly) other South American Indian cultures. These populations called magic mushrooms “teonanacatl,” meaning “god’s flesh.” As most veteran mycologists know, South American natives used these fungi for medicinal purposes as well as for spiritual reasons.

They were first described by Spanish friar Bernardino de Sahagún in 1529 in his book “General History of the Things of New Spain.” While he repeatedly names the sacred mushrooms in the text, their existence remained controversial until 1936, when Roberto Weitlander finally sent some to Harvard University for examination (8).

While we don’t know if ancient Aztecs consumed P. cyansecens, it’s not crazy to think so. Wavy caps are common in South and Central America—and although it’s hard to find them in the wild nowadays, we don’t know if this was always the case.

The first official description of P. cyanescens dates back to 1946 when renowned mycologist Elsie Maud Wakefield gave the species its current name. Not much is known besides these facts (9). 

Health benefits of Psilocybe cyanescens

Small wavy caps

Hallucinogenic mushrooms have been at the center stage of psychology and psychiatry research for quite a while now. Experts suggest that Psilocybe mushrooms (including P. cyanescens) could be useful in treating disorders and conditions such as alcoholism, depression, and anxiety.

In scientific circles, the therapeutic approach to magic mushrooms, LSD, and other psychedelics is known as “psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy” (PAP). And, perhaps much to our surprise, the concept goes way back—even further than most people imagine.

The first theories and experiments involving PAP appeared after the discovery of LSD in 1943, by Albert Hoffman. At the time, some groundbreaking scientists started believing that psychedelics could help tear down unconscious barriers in our minds. Studies started being performed on people with alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder—although with varying degrees of success.

Research came to a halt after the prohibition of most psychedelics as part of the 1960s war on drugs. This created a stigma and taboo around these substances, and it wasn’t until the 2010s that scientists could once again start researching these compounds.

Modern trials and papers concerning psilocybin show promising results in treating anxiety, depression, addiction, and PTSD. In fact, experts claim that PAP can be more effective and faster-acting than other current treatments (10) (11).

While research on the mental health benefits of Psilocybe species is still in its early stages, the promised breakthrough is closer than ever.

But remember: this doesn’t mean that magic mushrooms are a magic cure-all. You should only take psychedelics for self-therapy under the close supervision of a professional.

Side effects of P. cyanescens

Wavy caps often grow on wood, meaning they have a slight chance of causing “wood lovers’ paralysis.” This causes a sudden loss of muscle strength and motor control after consuming P. cyanescens, lasting up to 24 hours. However, wood lovers’ paralysis is very rare (12).

The other possible side effects of P. cyanescens are the same as other psychedelics. These may include paranoia, anxiety, nausea, and increased heart rate. Still, these vary from person to person, are usually not dangerous, and will go away after a few hours (13).

Where does Psilocybe cyanescens grow?

Wavy caps on the ground

Oddly enough, it’s rare to find Psilocybe cyanescens in the wild. These fungi prefer to grow on artificial substrates, often appearing in backyards and gardens near decorative mulch and wood chips.

This makes them a curious but common sight in urban and suburban areas, where they may grow near buildings with landscaped surroundings. Usually, they appear during fall and grow in enormous patches that may contain hundreds of mushrooms.

The rare wild P. cyanescens prefers to grow in forests where deciduous trees, such as maples, oaks, and lilacs, abound.

P. cyanescens is widely distributed worldwide, although experts suggest it may have originated in North America. As such, it’s easy to grow them at home—just separate some wood chips in your backyard, sprinkle sawdust spawn, and inoculate with the spores (1) (2). 

What is ethical wildcrafting?

Ethical wildcrafting is a practice that allows you to harvest resources (such as P. cyanescens) from the wild without hurting the environment. Unfortunately, most novice mushroom lovers don’t know that picking fungi without care can severely damage the surrounding specimens and the local ecosystem.

Wildcrafting is often confused with foraging—the key difference is that the former describes harvesting for medicinal purposes and the latter for culinary purposes. But regardless of what you intend to do with the mushrooms, the basic guidelines remain the same:

  • Do some research before heading out, and take note of any endangered species that you may come across.
  • Carry a field guide to avoid picking poisonous lookalikes.
  • Be mindful of how much you’re about to take from the land, and don’t disclose patch locations to others.
  • Pick the mushrooms gently to avoid damaging the rest of the patch.
  • Double-check if the area you’re scouting is available for wildcrafting if the land is public domain.
  • Get permission from the owner before entering property that’s privately owned.

And maybe most importantly, check your local laws regarding psychedelic mushrooms! Psilocybin and psilocin are banned in most countries, so wildcrafting for P. cyanescens may lead to trouble with the law.

Is it safe to wildcraft for Psilocybe cyanescens?

It’s never 100% safe to wildcraft wild mushrooms. Being such a small and common-looking mushroom, confusing P. cyanescens with other (potentially poisonous) lookalikes is easy. The most infamous example is the “deadly galerina” (Galerina marginata)—a highly toxic fungus that looks almost the same as wavy caps.

Even if you’re absolutely sure you’ve picked the right species, wild fungi often carry toxins from the environment. This can quickly lead to gastric discomfort, so make sure you only take wild wavy caps under the supervision of a professional.

How do you take Psilocybe cyanescens?

Dried wavy caps in a box

As with other psilocybe-containing species, there isn’t a specific way to take P. cyanescens. Experienced psychonauts often choose from three primary options: powdered, dried, and fresh.

Dried is probably the most common way to take psychedelic mushrooms, as it diminishes their taste and allows you to accurately measure your dose. Furthermore, dried doses are about 90% smaller than the equivalent in fresh shrooms, making them much easier to ingest.

Powdered mushrooms allow you to add your dose to food or beverages. While this method requires some effort, the result is worthwhile—powdered doses have little to no taste and are very easy to take.

Finally, fresh mushrooms are probably the least common option, as they provide low doses of psilocybin and psilocin. Still, they may be the perfect choice if you’re looking to microdose and don’t mind the earthy taste.

Psilocybe cyanescens: Blue magic

P. cyanescens is one of the most popular psychedelic mushrooms in the world. Known for its wavy cap, this species can produce intense trips that are sure to impress even the most experienced psychonauts.

If you want to find out about other types of mushrooms, keep up on shroomer. Here, you’ll find all the details you need about psychedelic and functional fungi from all over the world, along with the latest news on medicinal research on edible mushrooms.

References

  1. Paul Stamets, “Pleurotus eryngii” in Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World (1996), 111–112.
  2. Paul Stamets, “Psilocybe cyanescens” in Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms (1993), 328–334.
  3. David Arora, “Psilocybe” in Mushrooms Demystified (1979), 371–372.
  4. MycoBank. “Psilocybe cyanescens.” (No date). https://www.mycobank.org/page/Name%20details%20page/23158
  5. Jochen Gartz. “Observations on the Psilocybe Cyanescens Complex of Europe and North America.” Environmental Science (1998). https://www.fungifun.org/docs/mushrooms/Psilocybe/Observations%20on%20the%20psilocybe%20cyanescens%20complex%20of%20europe%20and%20north%20america.pdf
  6. Michael Beug, Jeremy Bigwood. “Psilocybin and psilocin levels in twenty species from seven genera of wild mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 5(3) (1982): 271–285. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-8741(82)90013-7
  7. Shroomery. “Psilocybe Cyanescens strains?” (2016). https://www.shroomery.org/forums/showflat.php/Number/23884335
  8. Nichols, David E. “Psilocybin: from ancient magic to modern medicine.” The Journal of Antibiotics (2020): 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41429-020-0311-8
  9. R.W.G. Dennis, E.M. Wakefield. “New or interesting British fungi.” Transactions of the British Mycological Society 29(3) (1946): 141–166. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0007-1536(46)80038-X
  10. Schenberg, Eduardo E. “Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy: A Paradigm Shift in Psychiatric Research and Development.” Frontiers in Pharmacology 9, (2018). Accessed February 21, 2023. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.00733
  11. Kenneth Tupper, Evan Wood, Richard Yensen, Matthew Johnson. “Psychedelic medicine: a re-emerging therapeutic paradigm.” CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal 187(14) (2015): 1054-1059. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.141124
  12. The Oregon Psilocybin Evidence Review Writing Group. “Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board Rapid Evidence Review and Recommendations.” (2021). https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PREVENTIONWELLNESS/Documents/Psilocybin%20evidence%20report%20to%20OHA%206-30-21_Submitted.pdf
  13. “Psilocybin and psilocin (Magic mushrooms).” 2023. Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/controlled-illegal-drugs/magic-mushrooms.html#a2

Fact Checked: Mar Yvette


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Julian Selemin

Julian Selemin

Content Writer

Table Of Contents

1
What is Psilocybe cyanescens?
2
How does Psilocybe cyanescens look?
3
What are the varieties of Psilocybe cyanescens?
4
History of Psilocybe cyanescens
5
Health benefits of Psilocybe cyanescens
6
Where does Psilocybe cyanescens grow?
7
How do you take Psilocybe cyanescens?
8
Psilocybe cyanescens: Blue magic

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