Ayahuasca vs Magic Mushrooms
3 min

Ayahuasca vs Magic Mushrooms: What’s the Difference?

3 min

Both magic mushrooms and ayahuasca have been used by people for centuries. Let's find out more about each of these mighty psychedelics and also see how they compare.

The psychoactive ingredients in ayahuasca (DMT) and magic mushrooms (psilocybin) are very similar. In fact, DMT is a functional analogue and structural analogue of psilocybin. However, both substances can produce really unique effects. In this article, we take a closer look at the differences and similarities of ayahuasca and magic mushrooms.


What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew made by combining a number of plants, though exact recipes vary from region to region. The main intoxicating chemical in ayahuasca is DMT, or dimethyltryptamine. In order for DMT to produce its intense psychoactive effects, it needs to be taken in combination with an MAO inhibitor.

The term ayahuasca comes from the Quechua “ayawaska” and it’s a traditional spiritual brew originating from indigenous Amazonian communities. Its use dates back to 1,000 AD and was first encountered by Western Christian mercenaries in the 16th century in modern-day Peru/Ecuador.

Today, ayahuasca has received a lot of attention and is still a central part of modern religions in Brazil like Santo Daime and the União do Vegetal. Ayahuasca is usually prepared by a shaman who macerates and boils the different plant ingredients together. This process can take several hours and results in a bitter brew, which can vary in taste and potency based on the skill of the shaman.

Ayahuasca is largely considered a spiritual medicine and is normally taken in ceremonies rather than as a recreational drug. It produces very strong psychedelic effects that may kick in within 15–60 minutes after consumption and can last for several hours.


What Are The Effects Of Ayahuasca?

The effects of ayahuasca vary depending on the potency of the brew and how much of it one consumes. Sometimes, the brew can produce strong physical effects like vomiting and diarrhoea, which is sometimes referred to as “the purge” (or “la purga” in Spanish). Some other physical effects of ayahuasca include a faint buzzing or humming in the ears, cold flashes, tremors, dizziness, and sweating. Some people also experience feelings of vibrations or complete silence.

Besides these physical effects, ayahuasca produces a very strong psychedelic trip characterized by intense visual hallucinations. These hallucinations can include geometric patterns and shapes, or changes to the textures of the people and things around you.

More intense hallucinations can also include really intense colours and visions of plants, people, creatures, deities, animals, and much more. American artist Alex Grey has openly talked about his DMT experiences and how it has influenced some of his work. Some examples of Grey’s work, which were influenced by DMT hallucinations include Transfiguration and Net Of Being, the latter which was directly influenced by an ayahuasca trip Grey had on a visit to Brazil.


What Are Magic Mushrooms?

The main psychoactive chemical in magic mushrooms is psilocybin. There are over 200 different species of mushrooms that naturally produce psilocybin in different concentrations. The most potent, however, belong to the genus Psilocybe, including Psilocybe cyanescens and Psilocybe azurescens.

Like ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms have been used for centuries. Archaeological evidence like cave paintings, suggest that the use of magic mushrooms possibly dates as far back as 9,000 BCE. In 1992, for example, archaeologists found cave paintings from this era in Tassili n'Ajjer, a national park in Algeria, depicting shamans carrying mushrooms which are believed to be Psilocybe mairei.

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Other historical research also shows that The Aztecs also used psilocybin mushrooms. The Florentine Codex, a 16th-century history of New Spain describes how The Aztecs used psychedelic mushrooms (which they called “teonanácatl”, or “god’s mushroom”) in their ceremonies.

The ancient use of psychoactive mushrooms has also been traced back to Europe. In 2011, archaeologists discovered the Selva Pascuala, an ancient cave mural near Villar Del Humo in Spain. The mural dates back 6,000 years and depicts a bull and 13 small, mushroom-like objects that archaeologists from the USA and Mexico believe to be depictions of Psilocybe hispanica.

Magic Mushroom vpview MAGIC Mushrooms


What Are The Effects Of Psilocybin?

Psilocybin produces different psychedelic effects depending on the dose. Small doses of dried mushrooms, for example, tend to produce light sensory hallucinations like vivid colours and lights. Doses of about 1–1.5g of dried mushrooms will produce more intense visual and auditory sensations, while doses of 2.5g or more will produce strong hallucinations that, like DMT, can include vivid landscapes, plants, animals, or other creatures. The effects of a mushroom trip can last for up to 6 hours, depending on the size of the dose.


Psilocybin Vs Dmt: Similarities And Differences

Psilocybin and DMT, on a chemical level, are very similar. Mushrooms can be thought of almost as a form of DMT. Dennis McKenna, for example, considers mushrooms an “orally active form of DMT.” In terms of their effects, however, DMT and psilocybin have their differences.

In general, users tend to agree that DMT and ayahuasca provide more spiritual guidance than mushrooms. While the hallucinations produced by both substances may be similar, some people find that ayahuasca trips are more counselling.

In an interview for London Real, Dennis McKenna and Brian Rose explain that ayahuasca trips usually provide “a finite set of lessons” while mushrooms just “download information.” This is a common consensus among people who have tried both. The effects of DMT or ayahuasca are also often said to be much more intense.

The actual interpretation of a trip, of course, is always subjective. Some people may find mushrooms to be just as spiritual guiding (or even more so) than ayahuasca. Others might have the opposite experience. This really depends on the person, the set and setting in which they consume either substance and obviously the size of the dose they take.

Steven Voser
Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an independent cannabis journalist with over 6 years of experience writing about all things weed; how to grow it, how best to enjoy it, and the booming industry and murky legal landscape surrounding it.
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