The term “wood lover paralysis” refers to a temporary state of muscle weakness and/or paralysis that begins several hours after consuming certain types of “magic” 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 wood lover paralysis, no controlled scientific studies have been conducted. 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 reports about the symptoms and attempted treatments for wood lover paralysis. Based on the information available, we concluded that these are the four leading theories:
- Microbial (e.g., bacteria, fungus) contamination
- Chemical Side Effect
Below, we discuss one type of “microbial” contamination that could account for the observed “wood lover paralysis” 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 probably 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 phone 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 wood lover paralysis. 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 wood lover paralysis arising from indoor cultivated mushrooms such as Psilocybe cubensis. Arguably, controlled indoor conditions prevent contamination. Ultimately, preventing the contamination prevents the occurrence of wood lover paralysis.
Lingering Questions and Proposed Experiments:
- For the same species of mushroom, could we 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 wood lover paralysis?
- 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 Wood Lover Paralysis?