Mushrooms containing hallucinogenic indole derivatives (for a recent review see Wurst et al., 2002) were known in the 16th Century in the Mayan culture of ancient Mexico (teonanacatel). They comprise mainly four genera, Psilocybe, Conocybe, Panaeolus, and Gymnopilus. Most common are Psilocybe semilanceata (liberty cap), and Psilocybe cubensis (golden tops), small brown and cone-shaped mushrooms with slender stalks. They contain psilocybin, the main hallucinogenic component, in amounts of 2 to 16 mg/g dry weight, and a second hallucinogenic component, psilocin, in amounts of 0 to 10 mg/g dry weight. In dry form, but also as a supplement in honey (Bogusz et al., 1998), the mushrooms are available on the black market, particularly in England, the U.S., and the Netherlands. According to recent reports, use of Psilocybe is increasing in France (Pierrot et al., 2000), Denmark (Lassen et al., 1990), Japan (Musha et al., 1986), and in Thailand (where the mushrooms are consumed in omelettes by natives and tourists) (Gartz et al., 1994).
The quantity of toxins in the mushrooms can vary widely. In an analytical study on material confiscated by local authorities in Germany, P. cyanescens had the highest toxin content (Musshoff et al., 2000). As a species that always contains psilocin, P. cyanescens shows bluing. Species that do not always contain psilocin sometimes do not. The reason for this is that the blue color is caused by an oxidation product of psilocin. Both psilocibin and psilocin are temperature-sensitive; mushrooms in the freeze-dried state have been reported to retain activity for over two years when kept at -5°C.
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