Phenylethylamine: An Overlooked Active Compound in Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms have multiple active components including phenethylamine. These molecules are almost never acknowledged and are probably involved the pharmacology of these fungi.

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Psychoactive mushrooms (aka psilocybin mushrooms or magic mushrooms) have recently received considerable attention in the popular news media. For the most part, reports focus on either the magic mushrooms themselves or the molecule psilocybin. A few articles point out that psilocin is actually the active molecule.1

Magic mushrooms contain many other active compounds. One of them is phenethylamine (PEA). Scientists almost never acknowledge this molecule. This is an important issue because several magic mushroom compounds are probably involved their pharmacology and eliciting the overall psychedelic effect (aka the entourage effect).

Phenethylamine is Present in Magic Mushrooms

Consider these facts about phenethylamine:

  • It acts as a central nervous system stimulant in humans. It is similar to amphetamine in its action in that it causes the release of norepinephrine and dopamine.
  • It is found in a wide range of species throughout the plant and animal kingdoms.2
  • Phenethylamine has been quantifiably measured in multiple collections of psychoactive mushrooms.3

Phenethylamine Shows a Need for Improving Psilocybin Chemistry

The presence of phenylethylamine in magic mushrooms shows why it is important to distinguish mushrooms from the collection of molecules inside those mushrooms.

The path to better psilocybin products will begin by treating magic mushrooms as collections of magic molecules. Even psilocybin is only present in at about 1-2% of the dry mass of mushroom flesh.4 This means that 98-99% of that mushroom is composed of other psychoactive molecules like phenylethylamine. How do these compounds work together to create the psychedelic effect? Right now, no one knows.

As evidenced by the prevalence of magic mushroom language, psilocybin technology is presently viewed from a mycologist’s perspective.  That perspective is essential to cultivating and/or identifying magic mushrooms. However, future advances in treating conditions like anxiety and depression will require viewing these mushrooms from a chemical perspective.

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    References
  1. Nichols DE. Psychedelics. Pharmacological Reviews. 2016;68(2):264-355. doi:10.1124/pr.115.011478
  2. Shulgin A, Shulgin A. PiHKAL- A Chemical Love Story. Transform Press; 1995.
  3. Beck O, Helander A, Karlson-Stiber C, Stephansson N. Presence of phenylethylamine in hallucinogenic psilocybe mushroom: possible role in adverse reactions. J Anal Toxicol. 1998;22(1):45-49. doi:10.1093/jat/22.1.45
  4. Stamets P, Weil A. Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World: An Identification Guide. First Edition. Berkeley, Calif: Ten Speed Press; 1996.