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Psilocybin Strains and Their Effects with Microbiologist Dr. Felix Blei 

Exploring the complexities of psilocybin strains and their effects, recent research reveals significant variations in the psychedelic experience. Dr. Blei’s groundbreaking research sheds light on the intricate chemistry behind psilocybin mushrooms, paving the way for a deeper understanding of these compounds.

In this article, we welcome Dr. Felix Blei, a distinguished microbiologist and expert in fungal alkaloids, to discuss the nuances and complexities of psychedelic mushrooms, particularly focusing on the different strains of psilocybin. 

We explore intriguing topics like the genetic biosynthesis of psilocybin, its various effects, and the potential entourage effects within different mushroom strains. 

Dr. Blei shares insights from his groundbreaking research, including discoveries about beta-carbolines and their synergistic effects with psilocybin, enhancing the psychedelic experience. 

Whether you’re a seasoned psychonaut or simply curious about the science behind psychedelic mushrooms, this article promises to deepen your understanding and appreciation of these mystical fungi.

This article is inspired by our insightful podcast episode hosted by Psychedelic Passage co-founder, Jimmy Nguyen, which you can listen to on all streaming platforms. 

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For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

Key Takeaways

      • Psilocybin strains significantly impact the quality and intensity of the psychedelic experience, similar to the variation seen in cannabis strains due to the complex and diverse chemical profiles of each.

      • Terpenes in psilocybin mushrooms, akin to those in cannabis, may modulate the psychedelic effects and contribute to a more intricate chemical ecosystem.

      • Psilocybin demonstrates remarkable stability and longevity, with proper storage methods crucial for preserving its potency over time, highlighting its resilience to environmental factors.

      • Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.

    An Introduction into The Complex Chemistry of Organic Psychoactive Substances

    The psychedelic community has long pondered the question: do strains matter? According to Dr. Blei, the answer is a resounding yes. The variation between psilocybin strains can significantly influence the quality and intensity of the psychedelic experience. 

    To understand the how and why of psilocybin containing mushroom magic we can see how it compares something a little more understood in the scientific community: cannabis.

    In the realm of psilocybin mushrooms, most discussions traditionally focus on two primary compounds: psilocybin and psilocin. 

    These compounds are akin to the role Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) plays in cannabis in the sense that THC is widely recognized as the principal psychoactive component that produces the “high” associated with cannabis use. 

    Similar to THC’s role in the cannabis discussion, psilocybin and psilocin have similarly been at the forefront of discussions about the psychoactive effects of psilocybin-containing mushrooms.

    Just as cannabis research has unveiled a rich tapestry of cannabinoids beyond THC, such as cannabidiol (CBD), which offers therapeutic effects without the psychoactive high, cannabinol (CBN) which is beneficial for sleep, and cannabigerol (CBG), the scientific exploration into psilocybin mushrooms is likely to reveal a similar complexity.

    Moreover, in cannabis, the discovery of terpenes—aromatic compounds found in many plants, including cannabis—has shed light on how these substances can influence the effects of cannabinoids, potentially modifying the intensity or nature of the high one experiences. 

    This suggests a parallel in psilocybin mushrooms, where a deeper understanding of the mushroom’s chemistry beyond psilocybin and psilocin could reveal synergies that modulate or enhance their psychedelic effects, akin to how terpenes interact with cannabinoids in cannabis.

    Dr. Blei’s PhD Work on the Biosynthesis of Psilocybin

    In his groundbreaking PhD research, Dr. Felix Blei delved into the intricate biosynthesis of psilocybin, marking a significant step forward in the scientific understanding of this psychedelic compound. 

    Collaborating with his team, Dr. Blei achieved a world-first discovery by identifying the gene cluster responsible for the biosynthesis of psilocybin, challenging and correcting long standing misconceptions dating back to the theories propounded by Albert Hoffman in the 1960s. 

    Hoffman, often called “The Father of LSD”, and even given his own holiday, “Bicycle Day”, was the first scientist to synthesize LSD from the fungus ergot in 1943. 

    Research was nearly halted on the substances in the late 1960’s and have just recently begun to recover, which is why so little is known about these mysterious substances aside from anecdotal reports

    Prior to Dr. Blei’s research, it was mistakenly believed that psilocybin’s biosynthesis involved dimethyltryptamine (DMT) as a precursor. 

    Through meticulous experimentation, Dr. Blei and his team not only mapped the biosynthetic pathway of psilocybin in mushrooms but also ingeniously transferred these biosynthetic enzymes into other organisms to elucidate the step-by-step formation of psilocybin. 

    Their findings revealed that psilocybin synthesis involves precursors such as norbaeocystin and baeocystin, differing only by the presence of one or two methyl groups from psilocybin. 

    This was the first time researchers got to peer into the inner workings of how the mushrooms produce psilocybin on a molecular level.

    Perhaps one of Dr. Blei’s most fascinating discoveries was the presence of beta-carbolines in certain Psilocybe strains. 

    These compounds, known for their psychoactive effects in other contexts, such as in the brew Ayahuasca, suggest a possible “entourage effect” within psychedelic mushrooms. 

    This concept, familiar to those in the cannabis community, refers to the synergistic interaction between various compounds in a plant, which can modulate or enhance the effects of the primary active ingredient.

    In the case of psilocybin mushrooms, this means the psychedelic experience could be influenced not just by psilocybin and psilocin, but also by a spectrum of other compounds, including beta-carbolines. 

    This discovery hints at a far more intricate chemical ecosystem within mushrooms than previously thought, and one that could explain the subjective differences reported by users of different strains.

    Nature’s Synergy: The Beta-Carbolines and Psilocybin Interaction in Mushrooms

    Through innovative biotechnological methods like making “magic yeast”, or by quite literally throwing all the necessary enzymes into a test tube, Dr. Blei explored how psilocybin is produced from tryptophan.

    This method not only holds promise for pharmaceutical-grade production but also led to the discovery of naturally occurring beta-carbolines within the mushrooms. 

    Similar to the role of beta-carbolines in ayahuasca, which inhibit the breakdown of DMT, allowing for a longer and more potent effect, Dr. Blei speculates that beta-carbolines in psilocybin mushrooms could similarly extend or intensify the effects of psilocybin. 

    This natural synergy within the mushrooms, akin to the intentional combination of ingredients in ayahuasca, suggests a remarkable evolutionary parallel. It would be like if an antibiotic was created that also was able to inhibit the resistance to the antibiotic.

    “There are not a lot of stories in nature where the synergistic stuff is found naturally. So keep in mind the ayahuasca, this is something you did yourself, you put the two plants together. 

    So it’s really interesting that these mushrooms make both at the same time. This would make a lot of sense if your main active metabolite is psilocybin and then throw in another class, which even makes the first metabolite much stronger.” — Dr. Blei

    Nature, it seems, has its own way of combining these metabolites to create a potentiated effect, steering clear from human intervention yet achieving a similar outcome—a synergistic enhancement that highlights the complex biochemical landscape of psilocybin mushrooms. 

    Pondering the “Goal” of Psilocybin-Containing Mushrooms

    Recent research suggests psilocybin-producing gene clusters originated millions of years before humans, showcasing the ancient and complex biological heritage of these organisms. 

    This timeline places psilocybin’s existence well before primates, pointing towards a purpose unrelated to human interaction. 

    Dr. Blei highlights that the evolutionary introduction of psilocybin precedes humans, dismissing the notion that these mushrooms developed compounds like psilocybin for humans. 

    The rapid enzymatic process that turns mushrooms blue upon bruising is therefore speculated to be a defensive strategy rather than a response designed for human consumption. 

    “If you press a magic mushroom, most of them will really fastly stain blue. And this is an enzymatic process and the blue color is made out of psilocybin so your psilocybin is going to be degraded for that, so it’s gone. The blue color is a polymer. 

    I think most of the scientists think that’s not active anymore because it cannot pass the blood-brain barrier as this polymer and so there’s the question in the room that the mushrooms just make this compound for making the blue color as for example, a strategy against a snail which eats you or a defense mechanism” — Dr. Blei

    This natural reaction, possibly intended to deter predators like snails, opens a larger conversation about the intrinsically adaptive behaviors of mushrooms in their ecosystem. 

    It also leads to questions surrounding how this ancient evolutionary defense mechanism became intertwined with human cultural and spiritual practices.

    Terpenes: A New Frontier in Psilocybin Research

    The discovery of terpenes in psilocybin mushrooms marks a significant and exciting frontier in psychedelic research, as highlighted by Felix and his working group’s most recent findings. 

    Terpenes, known for their aromatic properties in plants, particularly cannabis, where they significantly influence the effects of THC, are now understood to play potentially similar roles in psilocybin mushrooms. 

    This revelation opens up a multitude of questions regarding how these terpenes might modulate the psychedelic experience, paralleling the “entourage effect” observed in cannabis, where the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes can result in varied and nuanced effects.

    Felix’s team has identified a variety of terpenes within psilocybin-containing mushrooms, sparking curiosity about their purposes—whether they serve to attract or repel insects, affect the mushroom’s aroma, or influence the psychedelic experience itself. 

    Much like in cannabis, where terpenes have been shown to drive the subjective effects of different strains, ranging from sedative to uplifting, the presence of terpenes in psilocybin mushrooms suggests an even more complex chemical makeup than previously thought.

    The Stability and Shelf Life of Psilocybin

    Contrary to some studies suggesting psilocybin has a short shelf life, Felix’s own research and experience offer a compelling counterpoint. 

    He shares an intriguing example of mushrooms that, after five to six years of proper storage in a lab, retained roughly half of their original potency—a testament to the compound’s durability. 

    This longevity is further attributed to proper drying and storage methods, as moisture is identified as psilocybin’s main adversary, promoting enzymatic degradation and oxidation.

    “I always compare psilocybin with a hand grenade. So psilocybin is the hand grenade. And if you put the pin away it then polymerizes really quickly. So the psilocybin is really the storage form. 

    I think on a chemical point, you can heat it up until 200 degrees. And the enemy is, like I said, water. If you store this incorrectly, there’s an oxidation or these enzymatic degradations and that’s more like your enemy.” — Dr. Blei

    Dr. Blei calculates that psilocybin, when kept dry and ideally freeze-dried, will maintain its stability and minimize potency loss over time, with psilocybin stored as a pure molecule having an even longer shelf life being highly stable.

    Samples from the era of Albert Hoffman showcase this by still showing substantial psilocybin content. Psilocybin’s ability to withstand temperatures up to 200 degrees Celsius is also a testament to it’s durability, challenging the common misconception of its fragility. 

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    Using A Microbiologists Wisdom to Tailor Your Psychedelic Treatment Plan

    In this exciting time of scientific discovery and psychedelic freedom, we’re lucky enough to be able to use scientific research to improve our use and understanding of plant medicine.

                  • Strains, Strains, Strains! How can you possibly decide amongst hundreds of mushroom strains? If you had the choice, which one would you pick? Explore the most popular strains and their effects to find what’s best for you.

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                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    1. Do different psilocybin strains really have varying effects on the psychedelic experience?

                    Yes, the variations between psilocybin strains can significantly impact the quality and intensity of the psychedelic experience. 

                    Dr. Blei’s research highlights the importance of considering strain differences in psilocybin mushrooms, emphasizing that like cannabis strains, the specific strain of psilocybin mushrooms can lead to distinct effects that vary in potency, duration, and overall experience. 

                    This variation suggests a complex interplay of compounds within different strains, influencing the subjective effects reported by users.

                    2. How do psilocybin and psilocin compare to THC in cannabis?

                    Psilocybin and psilocin serve as the primary psychoactive compounds in psilocybin mushrooms, much like THC is the main psychoactive component in cannabis. 

                    These compounds are integral to the psychedelic effects experienced with magic mushrooms, analogous to how THC triggers the euphoric high in cannabis users. Understanding the roles of psilocybin and psilocin in mushrooms is key to unraveling the intricacies of their psychedelic effects.

                    3. Are there additional compounds in psilocybin mushrooms beyond psilocybin and psilocin?

                    Beyond psilocybin and psilocin, the scientific exploration into psilocybin mushrooms has indicated the presence of a myriad of other compounds, similar to the diversity of cannabinoids in cannabis. 

                    Terpenes, aromatic compounds found in many plants including cannabis, are now being studied in psilocybin mushrooms for their potential to modulate the psychedelic experience. 

                    This suggests a multifaceted chemical composition within magic mushrooms that extends beyond the well-known psilocybin and psilocin.

                    4. How has Dr. Felix Blei’s PhD research impacted the understanding of psilocybin biosynthesis?

                    Dr. Felix Blei’s PhD research marks a significant step forward in unraveling the intricate biosynthesis of psilocybin within mushrooms. 

                    By identifying the gene cluster responsible for psilocybin biosynthesis, Dr. Blei challenged long standing misconceptions about psilocybin’s creation. 

                    His meticulous experimentation and innovative approaches shed light on the molecular pathways involved in psilocybin production, offering unprecedented insights into the biosynthetic process of this psychedelic compound

                    5. Why do psilocybin-containing mushrooms turn blue when bruised?

                    The blue color observed in psilocybin mushrooms upon bruising is a captivating phenomenon stemming from an enzymatic process involving psilocybin. 

                    This color change is not just a visual effect; it is an indicator of an enzymatic reaction that occurs as a defense mechanism against potential predators or environmental stressors. 

                    The insights from this color-change reaction hint at the adaptive behaviors of mushrooms and their complex chemical interactions that go beyond mere aesthetics.

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