The History and Evolution of Magic Mushroom Research

Dried psilocybe cubensis on black backfround with Psilocybin formula, flat lay. Magic shrooms Golden Teacher, spiritual experience. Emerging from the shadows in society.

Psilocybin research has had its ups and downs. Breakthroughs, wild claims, and criminalization: shroom scientists walk a rocky path to knowledge. It’s also fascinating.

Humanity honored, studied, and eventually suppressed magic mushrooms. We’ve recently broken the cycle and started seeing them not as threats but as hubs of endless potential.

And it’s all thanks to research.

Microscopic and medical discoveries show we’re far from finished with shroom science. There’s a lot we don’t know, but we have learned plenty in the past century.

Join us to travel back through time and learn about psilocybin studies. We discuss early beliefs about mushrooms, initial 20th-century research, and the latest developments.

 Ancient Roots: Shrooms in Indigenous Cultures

To trace the earliest evidence of magic mushroom use, we head back to 9,000 BC.

European and North African cave paintings from this period allude to magic mushrooms. This art often depicts initiation rites. We assume ancient humans thought of psilocybin as a religious experience.

Another source comes from Aztec rituals. Their priests used a hallucinogenic substance called “flesh of the gods.” Since many of their ruins contain images of mushrooms, we can put two and two together.

There’s also overwhelming historical evidence of magic mushroom use in Central America and Siberia. Spanish chronicles from the 16th century describe psychedelic ceremonies in honor of gods.

Cubensis in a vile

The scientific method didn’t exist in the ancient or middle ages. As a result, psilocybin research relied on trial and error.

Some cultures didn’t keep records, and many got colonized and suppressed. We can still guess humans of old knew about mushrooms’ spiritual and medicinal properties.

Scientific Discovery: 20th-Century Psilocybin Research

Early Americans discovered psilocybin centuries ago, but it became popular in the 20th century. The first research paper on magic mushrooms was published in 1939.

Flash forward to 1955.

Mycologist Gordon Wasson traveled to Mexico for psilocybin research that year. He witnessed and participated in a sacred ceremony led by a Mazatec shaman, releasing a paper in 1957.

It turns out that wasn’t all. In 1953, Wasson sent a shroom sample to the Swiss chemist known as the father of LSD, Albert Hofmann.

Hofmann and his colleagues successfully identified and isolated psilocybin in 1958. His lab, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, used the new compound to create a medicine for psychological disorders.

This psilocybin research sparked interest in psychedelics in the US. People wanted to experience it first-hand; magic mushrooms became a hippie culture staple.

Piqued interest also led to the Harvard Psilocybin Project, which ran from 1960 to 1962. Prof. Timothy Leary led this series of loose psychology experiments. The subjects included himself, colleagues, and student volunteers.

The Concord Prison Experiment is another psilocybin study in the same period. Leary gave shrooms to inmates to reduce reactivity and increase community within jails. The test was successful, and follow-up research later confirmed its validity.

Other researchers wanted to get involved in these studies. Then the US government stepped in and changed the game.

The 1971 Controlled Substance Act categorized psilocybin as a Schedule 1 substance. It said the chemical has a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use. Similar restrictions took place in other countries, halting most research.

Mushrooms on table

Psychedelic Renaissance: 21st-Century Research Revival

The 21st century has witnessed a resurgence in public interest in psychedelics. This revival’s characterized by increased research, shifting cultural attitudes, and evolving laws.

Psilocybin research picked back up in recent years, especially after October 2018. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) let Compass Pathways research it as a depression treatment.

For the first time, the law has acknowledged shrooms’ therapeutic properties.

Denver decriminalized shrooms in 2019, and the entire state followed suit in 2022. That’s all the country needed to stand up.

Advocates for drug rights and experiments have become loud in the past half-decade. Media coverage, documentaries, books, and personal testimonies appeared during this shift.

Mushrooms under bright light

Why do modern people want psilocybin studies? Because this compound could be a mental health game-changer.

Clinical studies showed promising results of psilocybin-assisted therapy for many conditions. Notable ones include treatment-resistant depression, end-of-life anxiety, and addiction.

Besides offering practical psilocybin applications, these studies illuminated ways the chemical works. It may rewire the brain, offering massive, long-lasting therapeutic potential.

To explore it, the US and several other countries approved clinical trials. This psilocybin research examines its effectiveness in controlled environments. People with and without diagnoses may volunteer.

What Does the Future Hold?

We can’t tell the future of psilocybin research, but we can make educated guesses. And our expectations are positive.

We’re learning more about ways magic mushrooms may help the brain. Clinical trials exist for various mental health conditions. We may add more to the list, like eating disorders and OCD.

Psychedelic therapy may also become more accessible. There are already treatment centers in Oregon. Why wouldn’t more states jump on the bandwagon?

If they do, psilocybin therapists will need standardized treatment protocols. Several organizations are already working on possible models.

Another change we expect is in funding. Johns Hopkins Medicine got the first federal grant for magic mushroom research in 2021. As the government recognizes the need for studies, so do organizations and philanthropists.

Finally, there may be more education about psychedelics. With increasing psilocybin popularity, knowing what it does will enter the mainstream.

Mushroom under microscope

Psilocybin Research: Not Done Yet

From mystical beliefs to microscopic studies, psilocybin research has come a long way. The findings are downright fascinating, too.

More states than ever allow psychedelic treatments, and clinical trials are ongoing. Technology is also making strides, letting us examine psychedelics at the microscopic level. If these trends continue, we might crack the code behind shrooms’ endless potential.

Our blog tracks all things related to the fifth kingdom. Visit it to stay up-to-date with the upcoming fungal revolution.

All of the content and images on our site are for informational reference only. The cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is federally illegal in the United States. We do not promote the cultivation of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms under any circumstances. Do not contact us asking for advice related to this subject. Any products found on this site are for microscopy and taxonomy purposes only. None of the psilocybin mushroom spores we offer are for consumption or cultivation. We do not sell any products containing psilocybin.


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