Psilocybin is a naturally occurring substance which can be found in more than 200 species of fungi. The most well-known in this category is the Psilocybe Cubensis, albeit mostly under the alias of the magic mushroom.
What’s good to know is that a mushroom is merely the fruiting body of a network of underground structures known as mycelium. These are fine, hairlike networks spread across vast areas and which can act as one single organism. They are so crucial to our ecosystem that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that without mycelium, none of us would exist.
Organic psilocybin truffles
It is an essential part of what basically forms the foundation of every ecosystem on our planet. It facilitates life. At Spinoza, we deeply appreciate the fact that psilocybin truffles are entirely organic. They come from our own Dutch soil, from the earth, where it is part of an intelligent mycelium network that benefits nature’s wellbeing by distributing nutrients between soil, plants and trees.
In general, Psilocybin offers a gentle introduction into the psychedelic realm. It fosters deep introspection, enhanced emotional insight, and a profound sense of interconnectedness. The experience comes up in waves, gently flowing back and forth during the entry phase, which allows the mind to slowly adjust, surrender and let go. Another benefit is that a psilocybin journey can be divided into four phases. This makes monitoring our ceremony participants easier, as it is clear to our guides where people are in their journey and in which state of mind.
Psilocybin: our psychedelic substance of preference
There are many reasons why psilocybin is our psychedelic substance of preference. The first and most important reason however, which has been essentially decisive even before establishing our organization, concerns psilocybin’s legal status in the Netherlands, as this is one of the very few countries in the world where psilocybin can be consumed and sold legally in the form of truffles. A slight disadvantage of its natural origin, however, is that the amount of psilocybin in some truffles can vary.
How does Psilocybin work?
After ingestion, Psilocybin is metabolised by our bodies into Psilocin, which is responsible for inducing the psychedelic state. Its molecular structure fits remarkably well in one specific serotonin receptor (5HT2A) – actually quite similar to a key in a lock.
A number of studies have conclusively shown that 5HT2 stimulation improves our general wellbeing, both physically and mentally. It’s also commonly acknowledged that a psilocybin induced psychedelic experience can contribute to temporarily enhanced neuroplasticity. This creates a window of opportunity for change, growth and transformation, but we’ll dive into that a bit further along in this article.
What are the effects of psilocybin?
The effects of psilocybin vary depending on the dosage, set (mental state), and setting (environment). According to recent Dutch research, psilocybin is non-toxic and not addictive. So far, not a single case of overdose has been reported. Psilocybin has anti-inflammatory effects and supposedly stimulates neurogenesis. In terms of safety and health impact it ranks number one compared to other substances.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin, like dopamine, is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that facilitate communication between our mind and body, and in the brain itself. While they are similar in some ways, they have distinct functions and effects on various physiological processes and behaviour.
Dopamine dominates the brain’s reward and pleasure system. It’s responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and enjoyment. Serotonin can be seen as somewhat of a deeper, more long-term oriented neurotransmitter, necessary for maintaining a stable mood, regulating emotions, and a healthy sleep cycle. It contributes to a sense of well-being, happiness, and calm. Healthy levels of serotonin are essential in preventing depression and anxiety.
Serotonin practically controls all human behavioural processes and plays an important role in our Central Nervous System, such as regulating our appetite, digestion, and various cognitive functions.
What is neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity may sound like something complex or rather medical, but it can simply be described as the flexibility of the brain. The ability to adjust to new thoughts and experiences. When we are young, our brains have tremendous neuroplasticity. This is why it’s easier for children to learn to play an instrument or to learn to speak a new language.
When we get older, our neuroplasticity decreases. Our minds are shaped in a certain way. So, let’s think of the brain like a forest, with countless pathways. These pathways are created by all of the thoughts and habits we have and repeat. Now, every time we repeat a particular habit or thought, its pathway gets ingrained deeper into the mind. When this continues for a long time, we can come to a point where we think there’s no other option or no different route to take. And so we stick to the same path, like a vinyl record stuck in a repetitive loop.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to make new connections. New connections can mean new insights, ideas and perspectives. Psychedelics can create a window of time where there is an opportunity to rearrange or reroute some of your old pathways. This enables you to replace habits and thought patterns that are no longer beneficial to you.
We believe that the beneficial effects of psychedelics find their roots in the weeks following a psychedelic experience. It’s the integration of new habits and thought patterns that ultimately lead to a sustained state of wellbeing.
What happens in the mind when using psychedelics?
Neuroscientists and philosophers have proposed various theories, but none of them are able to fully explain how psychedelic substances actually work. Research has demonstrated that psychedelics generally have one common effect in the human mind; they reduce activity in our Default Mode Network.
Our Default Mode Network (DMN) is best known for being active when we are not focused on a particular task in the outside world. For example, while we are daydreaming, thinking about ourselves, remembering the past and thinking of the future. It’s also where the “I” resides, the ego’s seat. The DMN consists of the posterior cingulate cortex, the medial prefrontal cortex and the thalamus. The thalamus can be seen as a braking system or reducing valve of the brain.
Writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley proposed a theory that in order to make our biological survival possible, that during normal waking consciousness the input into the human brain had to be reduced to useful information for practical purposes.
Huxley described the Psychedelic state as “mind at large” because it can grant access to a broader spectrum of brain functions, and allows us to tune into a more limitless state of consciousness which goes beyond the individual and extends to the collective. When the thalamus’ function is diminished in the psychedelic state, information can flow more freely across the cortex. In other words, according to this theory, it literally opens the mind.
Please do keep in mind that this is just one of many theories that are currently subject to studies and scientific research.