Psychedelic Medicine 101: Psilocybin and the magic of mushrooms

Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is undergoing a renaissance in medical research (Credit: kooikkari...
Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is undergoing a renaissance in medical research (Credit: kooikkari Flickr CC BY SA 2.0)
For decades certain drugs, initially used solely by doctors and researchers, have been ostracized from the world of legitimate science. Considered illicit, with no medical value, many of these substances have been nigh on impossible for scientists to legitimately investigate, yet a handful of pioneering minds have been tirelessly working to bring these drugs back into the light. Dubbed a “psychedelic renaissance,” these drugs are slowly returning to the hands of doctors and researchers and the scientific world is pressing play on an entire field of work that has been on pause for over three decades.
Psychedelic Medicine 101 is a series investigating the past, present and future medical uses of these formerly taboo substances.
Psilocybin and the magic of mushrooms
For thousands of years humans have experimented in one way or another with hallucinogenic mushrooms. One of the oldest documented human uses of hallucinogenic mushrooms has been suggested in 10,000 year-old rock art discovered in the Central Saharan desert. But some researchers believe our profound relationship with these psychedelic fungi could go back much further than that.


Famous ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna’s influential, and controversial, “stoned ape” hypothesis of human evolution posited it was the addition of hallucinogenic mushrooms to our early ancestors diet as recently as 100,000 years ago that kickstarted our transformation from Homo erectus to Homo sapien.

McKenna suggested the ingestion of magic mushrooms acted as an “evolutionary catalyst,” not only sparking the higher consciousness that led to language, art and religion, but also simply improving visual acuity, which delivered an evolutionary advantage to those mushroom-eating humans and helped them to become better hunters.

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