Flashback Friday: Magic Stones

More psychedelic than mushrooms, these little rocks will make your head roll.
Flashback Friday: Magic Stones
Psilocybe mexicana cheilocystidia and spores/ Wikimedia Commons

Writer Stephen Peele takes a look at a naturally occurring psychedelic in the December, 1989 issue of High Times magazine.

Most of us are now aware that certain mushrooms, when eaten, produce psychoactive effects. The most notorious mushrooms in this group are those which produce psilocybin and psilocin. But have you ever heard of sclerotia? Sometimes called magic stones, other names for it are “comote,” “comotillos,” “rock of ages,” and “philosopher’s stone.” Dr. Steven H. Pollock wrote, “It’s hard to imagine a psychedelic treat more desirable than psilocybin mushrooms, but comotillos are tastier, smoother in producing their effects, and yet more powerful at higher doses….When fresh, comotillos have a walnut-like consistency, but they are easily dried to an even more durable form—the rock of ages. These magic stones nevertheless remain chewable and potent indefinitely. Comotillos clearly transport the fortunate consumer to states of spiritual transcendence and jubilation far beyond the realm of ordinary psychedelics.”

Not all mushrooms have the power to produce sclerotia. In fact, only a few species do. However, two very powerful psychoactive mushrooms fall into this elite group, Psilocybe mexicana and Psilocybe tampanesis.

Chromatograph scans of Psilocybe cubensis from Alabama and Florida indicate psiiocybin readings of .17 to .23%. Scans pulled on sclerotia reveal higher percentages. Sclerotia from Psilocybe mexicana produce a whopping .20 to .40% psilocybin content. However, sclerotia from Psilocybe tampanensis produces the highest psilocybin level, an unbelievable .24 to .52%.

The Zapotec and Mazatec tribes in Mexico have used Psilocybe mexicana as a sacred mushroom for thousands of years. They also have used the magic stones produced by this species. If anything, the sacred secret of the stones was more heavily guarded than the mushrooms ever were. When magic stones were found, the finders surely thought they were being looked upon favorably by the Gods. They were very careful about who they passed this secret on to.

To find these stones, you first have to find the sacred mushroom, Psilocybe mexicana. Cow pastures and meadows make good hunting places. Although cow manure can be part of the mushroom’s growing substrate, the mushroom is very rarely ever found growing directly from the pies themselves. It grows from the earth or from mulch. Unlike most other mushrooms, it grows solitary. The Mazatecs call it “di-shi-tho-di-nize,” or the little bird sacred mushroom.

The cap is yellow-brown, smooth and viscid. The mushroom is small, ranging from 5 to 35mm across. The stem is brown and hollow. It will darken when bruised, but will not always blue. Gills are adnate (attached directly to the stalk) to adnexed (notched just at the stalk), close, brownish with white edges. The spores are dark purple-brown in color.

The mushroom marks the spot. After picking the mushroom, take a knife, or small trowel, and dig up all around the area. A two-foot circle, 6” to 8″ deep should do it. If you see any off-white colored thread-like strands growing (mycelium), concentrate the search in this area. The average stone size will be about one inch long. Smaller stones also occur, so search carefully. Stones are chocolate brown in color, and covered with a soft white fuzz. They look somewhat like nuts, but have no hard shell. When broken into, their inside flesh is a lighter brown and will shortly change color to blue. Stones are slightly bitter tasting, similar to the taste and texture of chestnuts.

Because of the special role stones perform in nature, they are actually much easier to grow than mushrooms. Most people have first-time success. The reason they are so easy to grow becomes clear once the mechanics and purpose of sclerotia are understood.

Just as mushrooms are produced from mycelium (the normal physical growing state of mushrooms), so are sclerotia. Sclerotia are actually an alternative expression of the mycelium, to insure the continuation of the species. This special modification is helpful to the survival of the mushroom during environmental extremes. When growing conditions are bad (conditions that might kill any other mushroom), the mycelium builds the sclerotia and dives into a type of “life suspension,” waiting for the day when proper growing conditions again resume.

High temperatures, desiccation or nutrient deprivation cause the mushroom to form this resistant structure. When you replicate the above conditions, and place the mushroom in the dark, the mycelium will create sclerotia. It builds a thick outer layer to protect the inside against the extremes of the current environment. The sclerotia contains stored nutrients and can survive under unfavorable conditions—probably for more than twenty years.

Because these magic stones have this strange power of survival, they can be used years later to grow more sclerotia and mushrooms. Dried stones can be placed in water and they will come back to life. Then they can be placed into a growing medium for an entire new crop. So once you have the magic stones, you will always be able to grow mushrooms and sclerotia.

The first sterile cultivation of psychoactive sclerotia was probably achieved in late 1957. Albert Hofmann needed more samples of Psilocybe mexicana to isolate the unknown compounds responsible for this magic. Two of his colleagues, Dr. A. Brack and Dr. H. Kobel, were able to produce a large quantity of sclerotia from this species. The yield was very impressive. It was this procedure which actually produced the extracted material which not only gave away the chemical structures of psilocybin and psilocin, but also broke the ground for synthesizing them. It was the sclerotia, not the actual Psilocybe mexicana mushroom, which revealed the riddle of the sacred mushrooms.

Although these magic stones pose no real lethal threat, they can produce psychological disturbances in individuals who are not mentally stable or mentally prepared for large doses (5 grams or more). First time users would do best to take only a half gram of fresh sclerotia.

Although many phases of this research are now under very tight restrictions, much has been learned about magic stones. Psilocybin has similar effects on the central nervous system as LSD and mescaline. Psilocybin, however, is the least toxic of all known hallucinogens, and this includes THC. Here’s how their lethal dosage levels compare (LD50—the dose that kills 50% of rats tested):

  • LSD 0.3mg/kg
  • Muscimol 4.5mg/kg
  • THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) 42.0mg/kg
  • Mescaline 370.0mg/kg
  • Psilocybin 420.0mg/kg

Psilocybin can cause hallucinations in 15 to 20 minutes, though sometimes it can take up to two hours. It has similar effects to LSD. Both work by triggering serotonin receptor sites and pathways in the human body, most likely by inhibiting or stimulating the serotonin neurochemical system which control the functions of the mind and brain. What one experiences when using these compounds is unlike anything arising from normal consciousness.

Now that the nature and purpose of sclerotia are understood, they have proved to be one of the easiest plant structures to grow. If your mushroom-growing attempts in the past have failed, if your house plants always die from high temperatures, no sunlight, or lack of moisture and proper nutrients, try growing sclerotia.

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