Search the experience reports on forums like Erowid, Reddit, or Bluelight, and it becomes clear that nausea is a common side effect reported by people who ingest psilocybin-containing mushrooms (aka magic mushrooms). Psychedelic Science Review covered this topic in an August 2019 article.
Amid the suggestions users give for reducing nausea is a preparation called Lemon Tek. The term comes from the practice of mixing dried and powdered psilocybin mushroom flesh with fresh lemon juice before ingestion. Readers can find articles with recipes for Lemon Tek on Zamnesia,1 DoubleBlind,2 and Reality Sandwich,3 among many other websites.
Clinical trial data indicate that nausea is one of the common side effects reported by people ingesting pure psilocybin.4–7 Therefore, it stands to reason that this prodrug may contribute to the nausea that some people experience.
According to some posts on the online forums, Lemon Tek not only reduces nausea, but it speeds up the onset of psychedelic effects and may provide a more complete psychedelic experience. But is there any hard science backing up this practice?
The Chemistry of Lemons and Lemon Tek for Nausea
Citrus fruits contain acidic compounds such as citric acid and malic acid.8 Lemon juice has an abundance of citric acid, for example, compared to other citrus (although limes are a close second). All that acidity adds up to the pH of lemon juice being around 2.0 to 2.6.2 This is in the ballpark of pH 1.5 to 3.5 in the average human stomach.
In the Lemon Tek hypothesis, compounds like citric acid remove the phosphate group from a psilocybin molecule (a process called dephosphorylation), transforming it into psilocin, the bioactive form. This is basically the same chemical reaction that takes place in the stomach utilizing acidic gastric juices.9 Although there is little in the way of scientific evidence to support this mechanism in the human stomach, is possible that Lemon Tek originates from a 1985 study by J.F. Casale.10 In this study, Casale used acetic acid and high temperatures (70C, 158F) to convert the psilocybin extracted from magic mushrooms into psilocin. Some psilocybin is also dephosphorylated by alkaline phosphatase and other enzymes in the intestines, kidneys, and blood.9
Therefore, if the conversion from psilocybin to psilocin occurs before ingestion, there may be less nausea after someone slurps down their magic mushrooms in a Lemon Tek cocktail.
More Juicy Details
Interestingly, the acids (and maybe other compounds, too) in lemon juice may be eliciting additional benefits for the magic mushroom user. The increased dephosphorylation may also help the psychedelic effects of magic mushrooms set in faster by allowing for quicker absorption.2 Also, lemon juice contains various antioxidant compounds, including Vitamin C, which may protect psilocin (and maybe other compounds) from oxidative damage. Another possible benefit is that the acids in lemon juice may ‘cook’ the mushroom flesh by breaking down the cell walls, making them easier to digest.
PSR readers and others will recall that magic mushrooms contain many more compounds than psilocybin and psilocin, such as baeocystin, norbaeocystin, norpsilocin, and beta-carbolines. The lemon acids could help extract more of these compounds (and others) out of the mushrooms and into the lemon juice solution.2 Theoretically, this action could promote a more ‘complete’ psychedelic experience facilitated by the proposed entourage effect.
Although there is no empirical evidence that Lemon Tek does what users claim, the basic ideas of how it may work make sense chemically. Lemon Tek may seem like an outlier when it comes to prioritizing psychedelic research topics. However, understanding if and how it works could provide valuable information for clinical trials using psilocybin, as well as for psychonauts and casual users looking to improve their everyday lives. With the current surge in psychedelic research, now is an ideal time for experiments to further investigate the science of Lemon Tek.
Have you tried Lemon Tek for nausea? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.