More than 200 mushroom species cause mind-altering, hallucinogenic effects. The most potent are members of the genus Psilocybe, which get their “magical” or psychedelic properties from the active compound, psilocybin. However, Psilocybe mushrooms aren’t the only psychoactive variety. Amanita muscaria also exhibits psychoactive effects.
Amanita muscaria mushrooms do not contain psilocybin. Rather, muscimol is their primary active ingredient. Muscimol shares similarities with psilocybin found in Psilocybe mushrooms. But most users report very distinct experiences.
This guide provides a detailed comparison of muscimol vs. Psilocybe mushrooms, explaining how they work in the body, their effects, where they grow, and their legality.
Muscimol vs Psilocybe: Overview
Psilocybe (Magic Mushrooms)
Psilocybe, a term we’ll use interchangeably for magic mushrooms, contain psilocybin and psilocybin’s active metabolite psilocin, known for their hallucinogenic effects. Psilocybe mexicana and Psilocybe cubensis are the most potent Psilocybe species, both extremely popular in the U.S. and Europe.
Psilocybe mushrooms get their nickname “magic mushrooms” from how they change the brain’s normal mode of functioning. Structurally similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin, psilocybin, and psilocin bind to neural receptors to create mind-altering effects.
- How Psilocybe mushrooms work: Psilocybin activates serotonin receptors throughout the brain’s major networks, causing neural regions to process information differently. On magic mashrooms, parts of the brain communicate that never had before, which alters normal functions such as the fear response, mood, cognition, and perception.
- Effects: Species like Psilocybe cubensis can cause sensory enhancement, visual hallucinations, and spiritual insights at high doses.
- Safety: Studies show that Psilocybe mushrooms are safer than nearly all drugs, with only 0.2% of magic mushroom users seeking emergency medical care.
- Legality: Psilocybin is a DEA-scheduled drug in the United States, making Psilocybe mushrooms federally illegal. However, a new wave of studies shows the compound’s medical value, especially for mental health issues like depression. In phase II clinical trials, psilocybin mushrooms could be FDA-approved in two years. Oregon and Colorado have already passed state laws allowing regulated psilocybin use and sales.
Muscimol, the main psychoactive compound in Amanita muscaria mushrooms, also exhibits hallucinogenic qualities. Many people confuse Amanita for Psilocybe because of these similarities. However, Amanita muscaria’s muscimol content exhibits very different effects (check out our guide about Amanita Muscaria effects for more information). Muscimol does not target serotonin receptors as psilocybin does. Instead, muscimol activates a neurotransmitter called GABAa.
- How it works: When muscimol activates GABAa receptors in multiple brain regions, it reduces central nervous system activity. This activation can lead to feelings of calmness, sedation, euphoria, and dream-like effects.
- Effects: Depending on the dose, muscimol can cause mild changes in perception, sleepiness, uplifting effects, vivid dreams, and hallucinations.
- Safety: Muscimol is generally well-tolerated and safe in moderate doses. Medical research has even explored the compound’s therapeutic potential, such as to treat pain or as a sleep aid. However, muscimol isn’t Amanita muscaria’s only active compound. Amanita mushrooms also contain ibotenic acid and muscarine, which can have toxic effects. This harmful potential means consumers should never eat Amanita muscaria raw. Instead, they should seek high-quality muscimol extracts.
- Legality: Muscimol is not a scheduled drug in the United States and is largely unregulated, making it more accessible for consumers nationwide.
The Differences in Effect Profiles: Psychedelic vs. Psychoactive effects
Psilocybe mushrooms and muscimol both have hallucinogenic properties. But they exist on different ends of the mind-altering spectrum. Psilocybe mushrooms have classic “psychedelic” effects, while Amanita’s muscimol delivers a “psychoactive” experience.
Psilocybe psychedelic effects
Psychedelic drugs affect all the senses, altering a person's thinking, sense of time, and emotions. Psilocybin mushrooms like Psilocybe cubensis are no different, distorting sounds, visuals, sensations, and memories.
Psychedelic hallucinations can be intense at high doses, causing people to interact with inanimate objects or see shapes come to life. Throughout the journey, the brain strengthens neural connections that can transform people’s lives for years to come.
Common psychedelic effects include:
- Visuals such as halos around lights and objects
- Geometric patterns when eyes are closed
- Vivid colors, tracers, and distorted vision
- A sense of the world breathing
- Enhanced creativity
- Spiritual insights
Muscimol psychoactive effects
Muscimol is not classicly psychedelic, meaning users won’t experience the same intense hallucinatory effects. Instead, muscimol is a “dissociative” psychoactive compound.
Once ingested, muscimol reduces (or blocks) signals to the conscious mind from other parts of the brain. This sensory deprivation leaves people with a deep sense of tranquility, a dream-like state of mind, and a mildly altered perceptive state. It can also facilitate things like self-exploration and hallucinations in higher doses, commonly occurring in vivid dreams after the person falls asleep.
Many describe muscimol’s effects as laid-back and calming. Common descriptions include:
- Hallucinatory at very high doses
Amanita Muscaria vs Psilocybe: Where do they grow?
Psilocybe mushrooms grow around the world and can survive in almost any climate. Still, they grow abundantly in tropical and subtropical regions, from the United States to Japan to Australia. People can find them in meadows and forests rich in soil and plant debris. They grow best around dead tree stumps, on decaying wood, or in grassy areas that receive a lot of sunlight.
Amanita muscaria mushrooms containing muscimol grow worldwide, from Brazil to South Africa. However, they are native to the temperate or boreal forest regions of the Northern Hemisphere and grow most frequently there, including Britain and Ireland, parts of Asia, the USA, and Canada. Amanita mushrooms survive in a symbiotic relationship with nearby plants. They mainly grow under the boughs of trees in large forests of compatible hosts, such as birches, pines, spruces, firs, and larches.
Legal Differences of Muscimol- vs Psilocybin-Containing Mushrooms
Psilocybe vs. muscimol are extraordinarily different from a legal perspective.
Psilocybin is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making Psilocybe mushroom species illegal to grow, possess, and consume in the United States. States like Colorado and Oregon have legalized or decriminalized magic mushrooms, but psilocybin remains banned at the federal level.
On the other hand, Amanita muscaria mushrooms and the muscimol they contain are generally unregulated. The DEA does not classify muscimol as a scheduled drug, making it legal at the federal level to sell and ship nationwide. Amanita muscaria and muscimol products are available online and in most states. The only exception is Louisiana, which bans all hallucinogenic plants and substances.
Check out the Amanita Muscaria legality guide for a detailed list of where Amanita and muscimol are legal.
There are many differences when comparing muscimol vs. Psilocybe in how they work in the body, their effects, and legality. Psilocybe mushrooms send people on mind-bending psychedelic trips filled with hallucinations and other-worldly insights. Muscimol offers a more calming, euphoric, psychoactive experience without the intense visuals. From a legal standpoint, Psilocybe mushrooms are scheduled drugs, while muscimol is mainly unregulated and lawful in most places. For a consciousness-expanding experience, both are worth a try.
FAQ About Muscimol vs Psilocybe
Does muscimol cause hallucinations?
Muscimol typically does not cause psychedelic effects such as hallucinations. Most people report relaxation, euphoria, warm body sensations, significant pain relief, and a sense of peace and sleepiness. However, muscimol can cause hallucinations in the form of lucid dreaming, and out-of-body experiences in high doses.
What is the mechanism of psilocin?
Psilocin is the active form of psilocybin, primarily responsible for magic mushroom’s psychedelic effects.
Consuming magic mushrooms transforms psilocybin into psilocin. Like psilocybin, psilocin is structurally similar to serotonin. However, psilocin is more lipid soluble, meaning it crosses the blood-brain barrier much easier than psilocybin. Once in the brain, psilocin stimulates serotonin receptors 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A, and 5-HT2C to affect memory, emotions, and consciousness.
What is another name for psilocin?
Psilocin is the active psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms. It is also known by its chemical name 4-Hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (4-HO-DMT), as well as 4-hydroxy DMT, psilocine, psilocyn, or psilotsin.