What Is The Difference Between Psilocybin and Mescaline?

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What Is The Difference Between Psilocybin and Mescaline?

Similar but different psylocybin and mescaline are complimentary in their psychedelic effects. Once revered for their entheogenic properties magic mushrooms and psychedelic cacti like peyote are undergoing a revival. What is it that makes psylocybin or psylocin different to mescaline?


Psilocybin and mescaline are the psychoactive compounds in magic mushrooms and various cacti species. They are hallucinogenic for similar chemical reasons when doing their thing in the brain. Either or both have been used as a sacrament and entheogen among many indigenous cultures of the world.

During the Pre-Colombian era mescaline was used primarily where the cacti grew. Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs used mescaline rich cacti like peyote or san pedro for vital rituals and tribal rights. They believed the vivid hallucinations and deep interpersonal contact were gifts from the gods. Later during the 19th century North American tribes such as the Kiowas, the Comanche and the Mescalero Indians came to appreciate the powerful medicine of mescaline. The word mescaline comes from the Mescaleros.

Similarly psilocybin containing mushrooms were also revered in ancient Mexico. The Aztecs who worshipped both plants called magic mushrooms "teonanacatl", "Gods flesh" or "Gods meat". Unlike cacti that were restricted geographically, magic mushrooms had international representation.

All across Europe, South, Central and North America, the Antipodes, well, pretty much every continent in the world has an indigenous magic mushroom or ten. Magic mushroom iconography appears in medieval European tapestries and their shape forms the crowns of Middle Eastern minarets.


Both compounds affect the serotonin system in the brain. Serotonin is one of a number of neurotransmitters that are used by the body to transmit signals from one brain cell to another. Serotonin has a "key" that fits into the "lock" of the neuron. This key is an indole amine, a benzine chemical structure that contains nitrogen. Once the key is in the lock a bio-electrical signal jumps between neurons and a thought travels. This of course happens millions of time per second throughout the brain.

Psilocybin and mescaline share a similarly structured chemical ring which mimics the serotonin key. This allows these marvelous compounds to access the serotonin lock in the neuron. Both psychedelics have different accessory chemicals attached to the indole amine key that obviously play a part in their action on the brain. What happens from here can and has been observed, but the actual "how" of it isn't directly understood.

Another well known psychedelic also shares the indole amine ring used to key into neurons. LSD then has it's own complex accessory chemistry that imparts it's unique idiosyncratic experience.


It might be just the chemicals playing out their surreal concert in the mind or it may be that a doorway to another reality is opened. Terrence McKenna might be correct and these compounds are alien representatives from another dimension sent to communicate with humans. The exact knowledge will come with our greater future understanding of physiology and chemistry.

The psychological benefits of psychedelics are being rigorously investigated by mental health professionals. The effects of psilocybin have been observed clinically and brain imaging techniques have plotted the real time effects in brain activity. With little to no ill effects psilocybin is proving to be an effective treatment for psychological and spiritual distress.

Whatever the "trip" maybe it has profound affects on the individual and the community as a whole. Especially if that community, like indigenes of old, all participate in mushroom or mescaline rituals. Psychedelics as a class of drugs when taken enmasse can be transcendental. As evidenced by the original Merry Pranksters circa '64 or the early rave culture circa summer of rave '89.

The most recent Global Drug Survey reveals psylocybin to be the least harmful rereational drug available. With cannabis and LSD a close second and third. Psychedelics are predicted to enjoy a revival because of their mental health benefits and intrinsic safety.

Skyrocketing online sales of mushroom growing kits and cactus seeds or cuttings are contemporary affirmation of the ongoing search for deeper meaning. Those ancient Aztecs just might have been onto something.