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Psychedelic plants and fungi


The following information is provided to the public for harm-reduction and educational purposes. Most of these substances are illegal to possess in the United States. As a Psychedelic Society, we can not advise anyone to seek or use these substances, and can not be held legally responsible if they do so.

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Psilocybin Mushrooms

Mushroom species that produce psilocybin, such as these Psilocybe cubensis growing in a tub, have been used by indigenous peoples, like the Mazatec of southern Mexico, for millennia.  Recent medical research has shown that psilocybin combined with therapy can be used to successfully address many wellness issues, including depression and death anxiety (1).  As a medication, psilocybin shows an unusually low risk profile, and the US Food and Drug Administration has twice designated psilocybin as a "Breakthrough Therapy."

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Mescaline Cacti

Several species of cactus produce the psychedelic mescaline, including the Peyote cactus of southern North America (Lophophora williamsii) and the San Pedro cactus of South America (Echinopsis pachanoi), pictured here.  Mescaline has been used to treat alcohol dependence, and several studies are currently examining its effects in healthy people (1)

Most mescaline-containing cacti are legal to grow, but not to use medicinally, in the United States, and often are used as ornamentals or houseplants. Peyote is illegal to possess except for members of the Native American Church, who hold it sacred and incorporate it into their religious ceremonies. Peyote should NOT be included in decriminalization or legalization efforts. 

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"Ayahuasca" is a psychedelic tea derived by boiling the bark of the  vine Banisteriopsis caapi together with the leaves of other South American plants, usually from the genus Psychotria. Many people in South America, such as members of the Shipibo ethnic group of Peru, use the tea as a religious sacrament. The tea contains at least two psychoactive components: DMT, a potent but short-lived psychedelic medicine, and harmaline, a mono-amine oxidase inhibitor that lengthens the duration of the DMT's effects.

Research:  Studies have shown significant reductions in depressive symptoms among ayahuasca users (2)

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Ibogaine is the main active molecule in medicine made from the Iboga plant, Tabernanthe iboga.  The Bwiti ethnic group of Gabon use this psychedelic medicine in religious ceremonies.  Ibogaine has also been used to effectively treat opioid addiction, and several addiction studies are currently underway (1). The intense psychedelic effects may last up to 72 hours.  Unfortunately, some sources of iboga are not obtained sustainably.  NOTE:  Severe cardiovascular side-effects are possible from using this compound. 

Amanita Mushrooms

Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, is a  mushroom species found across North America and Eurasia.  Considered by some to be a dissociative instead of a psychedelic, amanita is legal to possess in the US. Its main psychoactive compounds are ibotenic acid and muscimol, with effects ranging from sedation and feelings of detachment to stimulation and perceptual disturbances. Historically, these mushrooms have been used by Indigenous shamans in Siberia.  NOTE: While Amanita species are widespread in the wild, most are somewhat poisonous.

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Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, is a potent psychedelic compound normally found in small amounts in mammals, including humans, although its exact function is unknown.  Many plant species also produce DMT, often in bark tissue, where it may serve as a defense molecule against herbivores.  When smoked, yields intensely visual but short (15 minute) trips.  DMT is also an active compound in Ayahuasca brews. Pictured here is Acacia confusa.   Current research projects are investigating its effects in healthy people and looking into using DMT to treat major depressive disorder, alcohol-use disorder, and other conditions (1). 

Synthetic psychedelics



While ketamine has been used as a sedative and anesthetic for decades, recently it has been shown to be an effective intervention for severe depression. The dissociative effects have been called psychedelic by some, and the anti-depressant action seems to involve the growth of new neuronal structures (6).  A form of ketamine has now been approved by the FDA for treating depression, ketamine clinics are operating legally across the US, and one can even undergo a form of "ketamine therapy" via telemedicine and home-delivered ketamine lozenges.  Repeated users of ketamine should be cognizant of its potential for abuse (7).

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Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD (aka acid, blotter, paper, Lucy, or window pane) is a synthetic psychedelic that resembles a psychoactive component found in Ergot fungus.  LSD is relatively safe but extremely potent, with an effective dose measured in micrograms and a trip duration of around 10 hours.  Scores of research studies have involved LSD since the 1960s, and current research is investigating LSD's usefulness for addressing depression, cluster headaches, substance use disorders, and cancer & end-of-life anxiety (1,4).



Ecstasy, molly or 3,4 methylenedioxy-methamphetamine is a medicine showing similarities and differences with the other psychedelics listed here. MDMA can support an opening-up of emotions and attitudes that are usually repressed, but without the "ego-dissolution" that often accompanies a psychedelic trip. It has been called empathogenic or an "entactogen" for the prosocial feelings of connection that if fosters (8).  While synthetic, MDMA is often produced using materials from the sassafras plant.

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This potent psychedelic is naturally produced by the Colorado river toad, but should not be obtained from this wild source since the compound can be easily synthesized (3).  The psychedelic experience is said to be 10x as strong as DMT but just as short in duration.

Reference links


GRIFFITHS et al. 2016. Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. J. Psychopharm. 30:1181-1197.


PALHANO-FONTES et al. 2019. Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Psychol Med​  49(4):655-663.


SHERWOOD et al. 2020. Synthesis and Characterization of 5-MeO-DMT Succinate for Clinical Use. ACS Omega  5(49):32067-32075


KELMENDI et al. 2022.  Psychedelics. Curr Biol  32:R55-R71


DAVIS et al. 2019. 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) used in a naturalistic group setting is associated with unintended improvements in depression and anxiety.  Am J Drug Alc Abuse 45:161-169


MODA-SAVA et al. 2019. Sustained rescue of prefrontal circuit dysfunction by antidepressant-induced spine formation. Science 364:6436


KOKANE et al. 2019. Overlap in the neural circuitry and molecular mechanisms underlying ketamine abuse and its use as an antidepressant. Behav. Brain Res. 384:112548.


SESSA et al. 2019. A Review of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-Assisted Psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychiatry 2019 10:138 

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