Ayahuasca VS Mushrooms: What’s the difference?

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I get asked this question a lot, so I thought I would write about it. There are a lot of similarities between Ayahuasca and Mushrooms but they do have their differences. They both are considered to be psychedelics and therefore create similar experiences and have similar effects on a user. Psychedelics can be defined as substances that have the ability to grow one's consciousness. They are tools to allow us to have access to parts of our mind we do not regularly have access to. I have done both Ayahuasca and Mushrooms many times and from my experience, I would say Ayahuasca is like a rocket ship and Mushrooms are more like a fighter jet, but your experience does come down to the set, setting, and dose. For more on information on psychedelics check out my blog post “Psychedelics and their effect on the brain.”

To understand the similarities and differences in more detail, let’s break it down on the chemical level. The active hallucinogenic substance in Ayahuasca is dimethyltryptamine, commonly known as DMT. The active hallucinogen in Mushrooms is psilocin.

Here is a picture of the molecule DMT

DMT Molecule.png

 

Here is a picture of the molecule psilocin

psilocin molecule.png

 

If you look closely, both these molecules are almost identical. The only thing that separates them is the OH group on the top of the psilocin molecule.

Ayahuasca does not only contain DMT.  Within the brew, there are MAO inhibitors which allow the DMT to be digested by the body. DMT on its own is not orally active because the body creates enzymes to break it down as soon as it enters the system. This is where the MAO inhibitors come in to play and they stop the body from producing the enzymes that break down the DMT which therefore allows the DMT to be active in the brain creating the hallucinatory effects of Ayahuasca. It is interesting to note that almost every living thing contains DMT, including our food and it is only because of the MAO inhibitors produced by our bodies that we are not hallucinating all the time. It is also interesting to note that DMT is naturally produced in the human body and it is theorized that DMT is part of the reason we have dreams at night and is the chemical that is released in a near-death situations.

Mushrooms on the other hand can be consumed without the addition of anything else. You can have them in a tea, eat them raw or get creative and make pasta with it. The reason Mushrooms are orally active is because of the extra OH group on psilocin. Because of the polarity caused by this OH group the psilocin is able to survive digestion and this is what makes it orally active. Other than the OH group these molecules are identical. It is almost like mushrooms are nature’s way of making the molecule DMT available to us, while ayahuasca is a human-made brew that allows the molecule DMT to be available to us. 

Another important thing to note is that our bodies develop a tolerance to mushrooms very quickly. This means to get the full effects of mushroom you have to take them at least two weeks after your previous trip. You cannot take them every day. Ayahuasca, on the other hand, is very different. Your body does not build a tolerance to it so you can do it every day without the effects being diminished. Personally, I did 5 ayahuasca ceremonies within 9 days and what is interesting is that as every ceremony passed I was getting deeper into the experience and was able to grasp more of it compared to the previous ceremonies. In fact, the shaman in Peru I was working with, Richardo Amaringo, was drinking Ayahuasca 5 times per week for over 20 years which is absolutely insane when you take into consideration how intense an Ayahuasca experience can be. 

On an experiential level, I can say that these two substances can differ radically. It is hard to say whether it is the substance itself or if it is due to other factors such as why they are taken, when they are taken, where they are taken, who they are taken with, the amount that is taken and numerous other factors. When it comes to psychedelics the experience is usually radically different (at least for me) every time, whether it is Mushrooms or Ayahuasca. The two most influential factors are set and setting. Set refers to where you are in your life, what beliefs you have, how you think and essentially the internal make-up of yourself. Setting refers to the external factors such as who is with you, where you are and the environment the substances are consumed in.

I had my Ayahuasca experiences in the Amazon Rainforest which greatly impacted my experience, so it is really hard to compare with my Mushroom experiences, but I can definitely say there are similar aspects to my experiences. The after effects of both Ayahuasca and Mushrooms can be similar and these effects are seen with the use of a variety of psychedelics.  These effects include a change in perception, becoming more open-minded, helping with addiction and depression, expansion of consciousness, increased awareness, healing and a multitude more. Overall in terms of chemistry, these substances are almost identical but in terms of experience they can differ drastically depending on a multitude of factors. 

Check out my book  “Trip to the Infinite – The Ayahuasca Experience” available on amazon.com to learn more about what ayahuasca is; how it affects your mind, body, and soul; my detailed ceremony reports explaining what exactly happened to me during each of my ceremonies and the ways in which I transformed afterward. I also included some ways to prepare if you are looking to have an ayahuasca experience of your own. 

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