Research: Truffles or magic mushrooms for microdosing - what’s the difference?

Research: Truffles or magic mushrooms for microdosing - what’s the difference?

What is the difference between truffles and mushrooms when it comes to microdosing? And what makes truffles more reliable to microdose with?

German chemist Dr Jochen Gartz has done research on the magic truffle and how it differs from the more famous psychoactive mushroom from Mexico, the Psilocybe cubensis.

This paper is named The special position of the sclerotia or 'Magic truffles' within the psychoactive mushrooms. It is a comparison of these two species:

Mushroom or mushroom = Psilocybe cubensis
Sclerotia or truffle = Psilocybe Mexicana

The special position of the sclerotia or 'Magic truffles' within the psychoactive mushrooms 

What are sclerotia or magic Truffles?

ln the course of the development of mycology (mushroom science) a small number of mushroom species have been discovered where the mycelium not only produced mushrooms, but also surviving forms in the culture media, such as naturally occurring compost (1). These surviving forms of mycelium or sclerotia develop after some time during vegetative growth of the mycelium threads of higher mushrooms by cell division.

This results in dense masses, which here and there form thick bumps, in which the separation of the usual yellow water droplets can be observed in the laboratory.

These yellowish to black coloured sclerotia contribute to the survival of the mushroom species under unfavourable conditions and can lead to repeated germination of the mycelium under favourable weather conditions, with subsequent mushroom formation.
Another well-known example of sclerotia, at least in lower mushrooms, is ergot, which occurs as a parasite in cereals and grasses and forms the basis for ergot alkaloid (lysergide).

Early attempts to cultivate sclerotia

Very interesting results were obtained from 1953 onwards in the ethnobotanical research of psychoactive mushrooms in Mexico. Banker R. Gordon Wasson (1898-1986) rediscovered together with his wife Valentina Pawlowna (1900-1958) old cults of the use of mushrooms. And the well-known mycologist Roger Heim (1900-1979) from Paris identified and defined new mushroom species from the already known strain Psilocybe (2,3).
The attempts to grow this species, especially the Psilocybe Mexicana, were soon very successful. Fruiting bodies of this species could easily be cultivated on compost in a few weeks, just like Psilocybe cubensis on manure. It was also observed that on liquid media (surface culture) a clear formation of sclerotia took place, especially when high concentrations of nutrients were used and the sterile solution was in the dark (4.5).

Psilocybin and psilocin

The world-famous chemist Albert Hofmann (1906-2008) and his colleagues succeeded in identifying the active substances of the mushrooms. He called them psilocybin and psilocin, which he was soon able to make purely synthetic (2,31). It was striking that psilocin was unstable and that this was converted to psilocybin (12,3) with the help of oxygen and enzymes, forming blue breakdown products. This behaviour also explains the blue discolouration of this mushroom species under pressure and also spontaneously as they age, usually on the hats (3, 5). Becoming blue is also a process of destroying active substances, especially psilocin.

The analyses of the natural and cultivated mushrooms yielded high concentrations of psilocybin and psilocin, but the amount of psilocin fluctuated considerably (12,3,41). But also the sclerotia (truffles) contain psilocybin, albeit less than the mushrooms, but surprisingly enough in very constant concentrations (2, 4). Therefore, this cultivation method for the reliable industrial production of psilocybin has also been patented (5).

Remarkable here is the very small to completely absent amount of psilocin and the high lack of blue discolouration. Later, the blue discolouration was investigated in more detail in Psilocybe cubensis; it is caused by an enzyme in the mycelium during the active decomposition of the active substances (7).

In comparison with mushrooms

In 1977, the physician and mycologist S.H. Pollock published a remarkable book, describing for the first time the growth of Psilocybe Mexicana and related species on a solid substrate (grain, grass seeds) with a small amount of water (8). He soon observed the formation of sclerotia in the dark. Only one edition of the book came out because the early death of the author (he was murdered!) prevented further printings and therefore the book has become very rare.

As part of my extensive research since 1983 (3, 5) I have investigated sclerotia as well as many hundreds of mushrooms (3, 9, 10, 11). Particularly the nowadays worldwide cultivated species Psilocybe cubensis shows a pronounced variability of the amounts of psilocybin and psilocin in the fruiting bodies. Even inside controlled cultivation, the quantities can vary fourfold and most small mushrooms contain more alkaloids than the larger fruiting bodies. Bigwood and Beug (11) even found a difference by a factor of 10. Because of this fluctuation in the quantities of alkaloids, the mushrooms of the Psilocybe cubensis are a bit less suitable for microdosing (12).

The fruiting bodies are formed here in the process of the sexual development period. In addition to the higher development rate of alkaloids (3, 10, 13, 14) due to spore development, by-products such as dyes and decomposing enzymes (blue discolouration) are also formed. These are not detectable in sclerotia.


In contrast to the variations in psilocybin in Psilocybe cubensis and other mushrooms, in 1993 I found a remarkable constancy in the amounts of psilocybin in sclerotia of the Psilocybe Mexicana, grown at about 25 degrees on moist rice grains (13). Constancy was even greater when slow cultivation at 20 degrees for several months on other cereals and grass seeds was carried out. The golden yellow to deep brown sclerotia contained about 70% water, as opposed to almost 90% in mushrooms.
Magic truffles contain about 1 to 2 mg psilocybin per 1 gram of fresh sclerotia and at most slight traces of the unstable substances psilocin and baeocystin. The stability of the fresh sclerotia undercooling for several months as well as the lack of blue discolouration shows the absence of decomposing enzymes (14, 15).
The amounts of psilocybin in one gram of fresh material from the sclerotia are in accordance with the conditions of the "microdose" (13).
This dosage was already medically applied around 1960 and the pharmaceutical company SANDOZ AG had tablets on the market (under the name Indocybin) containing 2 mg psilocybin as the smallest quantity (5).
Unlike the fresh material, dried mushroom material, apart from mycological herbaria, is illegal in most countries. Moreover, when drying many mushrooms, there is always the risk of chemical degradation (14.15), i.e. reduced alkaloid content.


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