When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. The Compleat Psilocybin Mushroom Cultivator’s Bible is one of my sources.
The parts I generally took notes from were either about the drugs themselves or the prohibition of drugs. You’ll find the information garnered from these books throughout the Prohibition Politics section of this site. It will also have informed some of my own postings stored in the older Prohibition Politics archive.
If you find this information useful, you will want to search out the books themselves to read the text in context. All of the books here are at least moderately interesting.
Psilocin and psilocybin are among the most potent naturally-occuring psychoactive substances and the least toxic.
The two alkaloids psilocybin and psilocin were first isolated by Albert Hofmann, the same scientist who synthesized LSD. In a 1958 paper, he and his colleagues reported:
“Psilocybin is the first phosphorylic indole body to be found in nature. Further, it is the first natural derivative of tryptamine in which the indole system is substituted in position 4 by a hydroxyl grouping.
‘The formation of Psilocybin represents a new example of the importance of the indole structure in compounds with a psychotropic effect. Structurally, Psilocybin is closely related to the natural derivatives of hydroxytryptamine, which play an important biochemical role, such as Serotonin (5-hydroxy-tryptamine), Bufetonin (5-hydroxy-dimethyltryptamine), and Bufotenidin (quaternary base of Bufotenin).
‘As a derivative of tryptamine, Psilocybin is also related to the indole alkaloids having psychotropic action, such as Tabernanthine, Harmine, and Reserpine.
‘There is a particular relation between Psilocybin and diethylamide of lysergic acid (LSD 25), by far the most active psychotomimetic known at present. The indole system of these two derivatives is substituted in position 4. Psilocybin and the alkaloids of ergot of rye, to which LSD belongs, have, until present, been the only natural indole derivatives exhibiting this particular structure."
“Psilocybin is among the least toxic of psychoactive substances. Schultes and Hofmann, testing psilocybin in mice, found it to be 2.5 times less toxic than mescaline, while having about 50 times the potency. Psilocin is stronger than psilocybin by about 1.4 times, the same ratio as their molecular weights.”
“Psilocybin is a stable compound, while psilocin is easily oxidized but does not dissolve well in water. Psilocybin, on the other hand, is extremely soluble.
‘The effect of these alkaloids in the body is to inhibit serotonin production by the hypothalamus. This compound, which is chemically close to LSD, is produced by the small gland at the back of the brain, and acts as a “screen”, distributing "pertinant" data as it is received in the form of electro-chemical stimulae.”
R. Gordon Wasson, 1955, after using them in Mexico:
“The visions were not blurred or uncertain. They were sharply focused, the lines and colors being so sharp that they seemed more real to me than anything I had ever seen with my own eyes. I felt that I was now seeing plain, whereas ordinary vision gives us an imperfect view; I was seeing the archetypes, the Platonic ideas that underlie the imperfect images of everyday life…. the effect of the mushrooms is to bring about a fission of the spirit, a split in the person, a kind of schizophrenia, with the rational side continuing to reason and to observe the sensations that the other side is enjoying. The mind is attached as by an elastic cord to the vagrant senses.” —Life, May 7, 1957
Includes a color identification section.