Psilocybe Semilanceata: The Liberty Cap Identification and Information

Psilocybe semilanceata belongs to the Psilocybe genus. It is a hallucinogenic fungus and is often found in regions with high rainfall, in the grass and moss. There are estimated to be eight hallucinogenic Psilocybe species; Psilocybe semilanceata is the most notorious. Psychoactive alkaloids, such as psilocybin, can cause hallucinations, including visual, auditory in addition to extreme changes in the perception of time and space. The earliest observation of intoxication by Psilocybe semilanceata was in London, England in 1799.

In the USA Psilocybe semilanceata is known as Liberty Cap, in the UK it is commonly known as a Magic Mushroom. The genus Psilocybe means smooth head, and this refers to the smooth and scale-less cap. Semi- refers to half and -lanceata means spear-shaped; this is in reference to the appearance of the spear-like shape of the mushroom.

Psilocybe semilanceata was first described by Elias Magnus Fries in 1838, a Swedish mycologist. At this time, he named it Agaricus semilanceatus however, in 1871 it was re-named Psilocybe semilanceata by Paul Kummer, a German mycologist.

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Psilocybe Semilanceata Identification and Description

Cap: From 0.2 to 2cm in diameter; cream in color but when wet it is a yellow-brown with olive tinge; a central dimple or bump is on top and furrows that appear more pronounced with age. The cap changes color depending on moisture retention. Bell-shaped, conical cap.
Gills: Greenish-grey turning purple-black or dark grey with spore maturity; Cystidia appear on the surface of the gill. The gills are narrow and quite crowded.
Stem: 2 to 3mm in diameter; 4 to 10 cm in height. Slender, wavy and white or cream; long in comparison to the capsize. Fibrous, wavy and may appear blue or purple tinge at the base. A partial veil that deteriorates quickly.
Smell: Musty; strong and earthy.
Taste: Strong and earthy.
Spores: Smooth and ellipsoidal.
Spore color: Dark purple-brown.
Edibility: Not edible due to hallucinogenic properties and side-effects. Those that eat it describe it as gritty or chalky.
Habitat: Pasture; parkland and grasslands, including lawns, paths and roadsides. Likes cool, damp areas, found in lower sections of fields and meadows. Found growing in temperate areas in the Northern hemisphere including Europe, commonly the UK and Ireland. Sometimes seen in temperate regions of the Southern hemisphere. It does not grow on dung, but likes to grow on dung fertilized areas.
Season: In the USA it is found in Autumn.
Phylum: Basidiomycota; Class: Agaricomycetes; Order: Agaricales; Family: Hymenogastraceae; Genus: Psilocybe and Species: Semilanceata.

Psilocybe Semilanceata Look-alikes

Panaeolus semiovatus (Dung Rounhead) is larger than Psilocybe semilanceata, and the cap is not pointed. Panaeolina foenisecii (Mower’s Mushroom or Brown Mottlegill) is larger than Psilocybe semilanceata, the cap is not pointed, but the color is similar. Conocybe apala resembles Psilocybe semilanceata in looks only, but it does have brown-red spores compared to the brown-purple spores of Psilocybe semilanceata and is very frail. Protostropharia semiglobata grows directly on dung; Psilocybe semilanceata will not be found growing on dung. Pholiotina rugosa is a lookalike; however, this is deadly. If when placed on white paper to dry, a purple-brown stain appears, it is probably Panaeolus semiovatus.

Psilocybe Semilanceata as a Hallucinogenic

Psilocybe semilanceata contains a cocktail of psychoactive ingredients, in particular psilocybin which is the main active ingredient found in the fruit. The psychedelic experiences are seen whether the mushroom is eaten dry, fresh, in powdered form or added to food; they are comparable to LSD.

Psilocybe Semilanceata Benefits

It is well established that the psychedelic in Psilocybe semilanceata is psilocybin. Psilocybin (and other serotonin 2A agonists) – classic psychedelics have been used for centuries within indigenous cultures; typically, within a sacramental context. For Indians Psilocybe semilanceata is known as a sacred mushroom; historically, it is considered that it can project them on a religious path to the spirit world. Despite being illegal in many countries, there have been a number of studies looking at the medicinal benefits of this fungus. The scientific evidence will be presented here with regard to the potential for psilocybin to treat a number of behavioral and psychiatric disorders including, alcohol addiction, depression, headaches and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This evidence by no means condones the use of Psilocybe semilanceata but deserves to be highlighted as has been reviewed in a recent scientific publication [1.]. Do not self-administer psilocybin or Psilocybe semilanceata for medicinal or recreational purposes. Always seek medical advice.

OCD

Nine patients were administered psilocybin in a controlled clinical environment. It was safely used; one patient had transient hypertension. Several patients reported that they had acute reductions in their core OCD symptoms [2.], this is promising although, not affirmative and may give credence to future studies observing the effects and mechanisms.

Cluster Headaches

Psilocybin was reportedly effective for both prophylactic and acute treatment of cluster headache and migraines. The results were subjective opinions from patients with treatment-resistant migraines or cluster headaches who are exploring alternative options [3.].

Depression

Patients with treatment-resistant depression were administered psilocybin to determine its efficacy in open-label trials. Limited conclusions can be drawn about treatment efficacy from this type of trial; however, tolerability was described as good, and there were rapid symptom improvements which remained significant for 6 months post-treatment. In this regard, psilocybin may be a promising treatment for unresponsive depression, and future studies should be performed in double-blind randomized trials [4.].

Anxiety

Patients with cancer often develop depression and anxiety. A study administering psilocybin to cancer patients with life-threatening diagnoses, observed high-doses were able to improve mood, attitudes and behaviors. These were both self-reported changes clinician-based and from community observers [5.].

Smoking Cessation

Psilocybin, in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was provided for patients to observe the effects on smoking cessation. The results showed that psilocybin is able to promote long term smoking cessation in 60% of individuals still abstaining from smoking [6.].

Alcohol Dependence

A study involving ten volunteers with alcohol dependency showed that abstinence from alcohol increased and cravings decreased following oral administration of psilocybin. The psilocybin was administered in line with therapy; however, therapy alone did not have an effect. There were no significant adverse effects that were treatment-related in this cohort of patients [7.].

Psilocybe Semilanceata Dosage

There are no reported safe doses for Psilocybe semilanceata. Some people have been hospitalized after taking this mushroom. Psilocybe semilanceata is illegal in many countries, including the US where it is classified a Schedule 1 drug and in the UK it is a class A drug.

Psilocybe Semilanceata Toxicity, Safety & Side Effects

The Psilocybe semilanceata contains a toxin called psilocybin, responsible for the hallucinative properties. This can also cause vomiting, stomach pains and anxiety attacks. In addition, tachycardia, increased blood pressure and heart attacks have also been reported. There is the potential for psychotic states and seizures from ingesting Psilocybe semilanceata.

References:

  1. Johnson, M.W. and R.R. Griffiths, Potential Therapeutic Effects of Psilocybin. Neurotherapeutics, 2017. 14(3): p. 734-740.
  2. Moreno, F.A., et al., Safety, tolerability, and efficacy of psilocybin in 9 patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry, 2006. 67(11): p. 1735-40.
  3. Andersson, M., M. Persson, and A. Kjellgren, Psychoactive substances as a last resort—a qualitative study of self-treatment of migraine and cluster headaches. Harm Reduction Journal, 2017. 14(1): p. 60.
  4. Carhart-Harris, R.L., et al., psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 2018. 235(2): p. 399-408.
  5. Griffiths, R.R., et al., psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. J Psychopharmacol, 2016. 30(12): p. 1181-1197.
  6. Johnson, M.W., A. Garcia-Romeu, and R.R. Griffiths, Long-term follow-up of psilocybin- facilitated smoking cessation. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse, 2017. 43(1): p. 55-60.
  7. Bogenschutz, M.P., et al., Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: a proof-of-concept study. J Psychopharmacol, 2015. 29(3): p. 289-99.

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