The term wood lover paralysis (WLP) refers to a temporary state of muscle weakness and/or paralysis that begins several hours after consuming certain types of magic mushrooms (aka psychedelic mushrooms or psilocybin mushrooms). The phenomenon appears to occur only after ingesting magic mushroom species that grow on wood, hence the name wood lover paralysis.
Despite many anecdotal reports of WLP, no controlled scientific studies have been conducted to find its cause. As a result, there is no consensus as to either the cause or solution to this longstanding problem.
In October of 2017, we summarized the available anecdotal reports about the symptoms and attempted treatments for WLP. Based on the information available, we concluded that there are four leading theories:
- Microbial (e.g., bacterial, fungal) contamination
- Chemical Side Effect
Below, we discuss one type of microbial contamination that could account for the observed WLP symptoms.
The Black Rot Hypothesis
Many varieties of wood loving mushrooms develop a black rot on their caps and stems. This rot is often described as blue-black in color. The bluish color is presumably caused by the rot damaging the mushroom resulting in the well-known blue bruising phenomenon.
The photo below shows one example of advanced (or severe) black rot on a sample of Psilocybe cyanesens mushroom fruiting bodies. One particularly interesting observation captured in the photo is the presence of an opaque white liquid that seems to accompany the development of the black material. What is this black material? What is the white liquid that seems to accompany the developing black rot as it spreads?
Black rot is a reasonable potential cause of WLP. The black rot is much more prevalent on wood-loving mushrooms like Psilocybe cyanesens and Psilocybe azurescens. These mushrooms are often harvested outdoors where they are likely to encounter microbes. This would explain why there are relatively few (if any) reports of WLP arising from indoor cultivated mushrooms such as Psilocybe cubensis. Arguably, controlled indoor conditions prevent contamination. Ultimately, preventing the contamination prevents the occurrence of WLP.
Lingering Questions and Proposed Experiments:
- For the same species of mushroom, could one control the presence of black rot? In other words, would it be possible to collect data from a group of subjects consuming one batch of mushrooms, varying only the presence or absence of the black rot?
- Is there any information available about consuming black rot enriched samples? Does that correlate with a high incidence of WLP?
- Has anyone cultured and identified the black material that affects Psilocybe cyanesens or Psilocybe azurescens? If so, is that species known to produce any compounds (proteins or small molecules) that cause the symptoms observed for WLP?