In January of this year, Psychedelic Science Review reported on a study by Claudius Lenz of the Hans Knöll Institute and his research team which revealed the mechanism by which the psilocybin in magic mushrooms turns blue in response to injury or stress.1 Now, Dr. Lenz’s team including Alexander Sherwood of the Usona Institute and Dirk Hoffmeister, also of the Hans Knöll Institute, have published a paper saying, “[additional] Experimental evidence did not support the original hypothesis” about the origin of the blue color.2
Specifically, the team said of the current study, “We sought more profound insight into the oxidation chemistry of 1 [psilocin] by precise characterization and analysis of the individual chromophores produced by its initial dimeric products.”
The Original Hypothesis
Lenz et al.’s 2019 paper identified two enzymes that degrade psilocybin in a cascade reaction.1 They explained that the degradation prepares the molecule for oxidative oligomerization that leads to the formation of the blue compound. They concluded, “the blue color is due to a heterogenous mixture of quinoid psilocyl oligomers, primarily coupled via C-5.”
In the current study, “ring-methylated [psilocin] derivatives were synthesized to provide stable analogs of [psilocin] dimers that could be completely characterized. The chemically oxidized derivatives were spectroscopically analyzed and compared to computationally derived absorbance spectra.” From the data they generated, Lenz et al. concluded that,
Experimental and computational evidence derived from [psilocin] as well as from methylated derivatives as surrogates proved the quinoid chromophore of the 7,7’-coupled dimer of [psilocin] to confer the blue color on injured mushrooms.2
So, Magic Mushrooms Turn Blue. Who Cares?
Aside from human curiosity, understanding why these mushrooms turn blue may not seem a high priority in psychedelic science research. However, these bits of information contribute to scientists’ understanding of the magic mushrooms’ natural world. Nature can keep her secrets well and being in the dark about how some of these processes work leaves blank knowledge areas. These blanks become roadblocks that can thwart further research and stall progress.
Also, consider the impact of Lenz et al.’s latest bluing mechanism study on potential large-scale magic mushroom cultivation practices. A couple of interesting questions are 1) If bluing causes a loss of potency, can it be reduced or prevented? 2) What other physiological mechanisms in magic mushrooms may be impacted (positively or negatively) as a result of the bluing reaction?