The Forgotten Hallucinogenic Lichens

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The Forgotten Hallucinogenic Lichens

When it comes to natural hallucinogens, it is often magic mushrooms, truffles, or ayahuasca that come to mind. But they are not the only natural hallucinogens about. No, lichen also has a hand to play

Lichen, that weird thin layer of mossy looking stuff growing on rocks, trees, and sidewalks can be hallucinogenic. Yet for some reason, it often goes overlooked. This may be because it hides in plain sight. Lichen is extremely common and is present on every continent on earth, yet is rarely noticed. However, not all lichen is hallucinogenic. Despite being pretty much everywhere, only a select few species can actually blast you off – so you need informed knowledge to hunt them down.

WHAT IS A LICHEN?

Lichen isn’t actually just one type of organism. It is a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and algae. They would be unlikely to survive in many environments alone, but together can resist pretty much any type of condition. The fungus acts as a structure that protects, anchors and hydrates the algae, whilst the algae photosynthesises light to create food for the both of them. This makes it super adaptive, and able to spread with ease.

WHICH LICHENS ARE HALLUCINOGENIC?

The real question on everyone’s mind is which ones are hallucinogenic, where are they found, and how are they used. Firstly, it is important to know that reports surrounding the lichens are mostly anecdotal, making it hard to put a name to most of them.

One that we can say exists for sure is Dictyonema huaorani. This lichen was very recently discovered in the Ecuadorian area of the Amazon rainforest, and is thought to be extremely potent. It is extremely rare, so rare in fact that locals have not used it for generations. The scientists exploring the area even regarded it as their ‘white whale’ - an elusive trophy they were hunting for years, but never really expect to find. Upon spectral analysis, the lichen was found to contain tryptamine, psilocybin, 5-MeO-DMT, 5-methoxytryptamine (5-MeOT), 5-MeO-NMT, and 5-methoxytryptamine (5-MT) – quite a mix!

However, for those of us here in Europe, the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest is a faraway prospect. All is not lost though. For those who do not have the time, funds or patience to hunt through the rainforests, Iceland hosts its very own psychedelic lichen – much closer to home.

Reports of psychedelic lichen in Iceland are mostly anecdotal but firmly established. What is not so established is the actual species that causes the trip. There are multiple reports across the internet, all stating different lichen names, but talking about them as if they are one and the same. The three most common names are Collema Fuscovirens, Parmotrema menyamyaense, and Lichen P. Micheli. Which one is actually correct is anyone’s guess.

One of the most famous accounts of tripping on this lichen comes from Icelandic writer Smari Einarsson, who had the following to say about it:

“It was the most intense hallucinogenic experience that I’ve ever had, and I’ve done every trip there is. […] DMT, peyote… you name it. We have these magic mushrooms here that grow wild. I’ve eaten those more times than I can count. They cannot even come close to the effect of these rocks.”

Of course, it is not the rocks strewn across this mountainous and volcanic landscape that are the cause of such trips, but the lichen that grows on them! Known as “taking stones” the lichen covered rocks are boiled in water to create a tea – which is said to have a pleasant earthy taste. As the above report suggests, the high can be very intense, with locals often speaking of seeing trolls (not the internet kind!).

These are just some of the lichen we know about. There is a whole world of psychedelic life out there; we just need to find it! Happy hunting!