Explore the history, physical characteristics, and psychedelic effects of iconic blue meanies mushrooms.
There are hundreds of species of psilocybin-containing mushrooms on our planet. These mushrooms have played roles in religion and medicine for centuries.
From 1970 to the present day, these fascinating fungi have largely been illegal throughout the world. However, research demonstrating the medicinal uses of “magic mushrooms” and their primary active ingredients, psilocybin, and psilocin, is slowly chipping away at the walls that were apprehensively and groundlessly erected around them.
Within the world of mind-altering mushrooms, there are a few that stand out: the penis envy mushroom, a strain of Psilocybe cubensis, renowned for its penis-shaped appearance and high potency; the “Flesh of the Gods,” AKA Teonanacatl, AKA Psilocybe mexicana, used in religious ceremonies in the Americas for centuries; but today, we will explore the characteristics of another iconic mushroom — the blue meanie.
“The blue meanie is the perfect alchemist: it transforms dung into gold, into the golden light of enlightenment.”
GALAN O. SEID
Blue meanies are dung-loving, grassland species of magic mushrooms that belong not to the Psilocybe genus, but to the Panaeolus genus. Blue meanies grow in tropical and subtropical climates across the globe.
The full scientific name for blue meanies is Panaeolus cyanescens, however, they are sometimes referred to as Copelandia cyanescens. To convolute things a little further, Panaeolus cyanescens shares the same abbreviation (P. cyanescens) as another psilocybin-containing mushroom — Psilocybe cyanescens, also known as “wavy caps.” Despite their shared abbreviation and mind-manifesting properties, blue meanies and wavy caps differ in myriad ways.
Don’t let the genus fool you. Just because blue meanies don’t belong to the Psilocybe genus does not mean they don’t contain psilocybin. Blue meanies have comparable concentrations of psilocybin to many potent Psilocybe strains. In fact, a forensic analysis of blue meanies seized by German customs revealed them to be highly potent, with psilocin contents of up to 3% — about three times higher than that of the well-known species Psilocybe cubensis.
Blue meanies mushrooms are usually a brownish color before fading to off-white or light gray in maturity. Their smooth-surfaced, convex caps (pileus) are rather small, ranging from 0.5 to 4 cm in diameter. As the cap loses water and dries out, it may change in color, develop cracks, and become opaque. When wet, the cap’s uppermost layer becomes more transparent.
The gills of blue meanies are tightly packed and adnate to adnexed, meaning they can be fully or partly attached to the stem, to which they are closely situated. Young gills are typically gray in color, turning black as spores develop, and have a speckled appearance. The stem (stipe) is narrow at about 2-4 mm thick but quite long, typically growing to about 7-12 cm in length. The same color as the cap, blue meanies stems are slightly enlarged at their base and, like other psilocybin-containing fungi, stain greenish-blue where bruised.
Magic mushrooms are generally known to stain an intense blue upon injury. This chemical reaction-occasioned color change is indicative of the presence of psilocybin and psilocin, the mushroom’s primary psychoactive compounds. Blue meanies may have gotten their name from the Blue Meanies characters in the Beatles film Yellow Submarine, who, as you may have guessed, are blue.
While blue bruising is a good indicator that mushrooms are psychoactive, it is not 100% foolproof and does not mean that they are safe to consume. There are a few mushroom species, such as Inocybe calamistrata, that bruise blue, and bear physical similarities with psychedelic mushrooms of the same genus, but are fatally toxic. As a result foraging for psychedelic Inocybes is not recommended.
As always, if foraging for psilocybin-containing fungi, one should exercise great care when identifying individual species.
Psilocybin is converted into its active metabolite psilocin in vivo. Once crossed the blood-brain barrier, psilocin shows a great affinity for the serotonin 5HT2a receptor, which is believed to be its primary psychopharmacological mechanism of action.
Blue meanies’ significant potency makes them more appealing to those who are not fond of magic mushrooms’ earthy taste since they can eat less and still experience profound effects. The recommended dosage is slightly over half of a common Psilocybe cubensis dose. As with all psychedelic experimentation, the right mindset, a controlled environment, and careful observation are foundational to positive experiences.
The effect profile of blue meanies, consistent with other kinds of magic mushrooms, though allegedly stronger, may include:
The subjective effects of blue meanies typically last around 4 to 6 hours.
Ethnobotanist Paul Alan Cox reported in the 1980s that blue meanies were cultivated on Bali Island, Indonesia where they were used for rituals and sold to foreigners. German anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist Christian Rätsch writes that in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Javanese textile artists received inspiration from the blue meanies, and the mushrooms can sometimes be spotted in their artistic creations.
When blue meanies were first identified in France, it was widely speculated that they came along with racing horses that had been imported from Indonesia, germinating in European soil by way of the hoofed mammal’s excrement. Talk about magic!
Though growing research suggests psilocybin is an effective therapeutic adjunct in the treatment of treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric illnesses, the place of actual psilocybin-containing mushrooms in medicine is yet to be determined.
Scientists often like to isolate one compound (psilocybin, for example) and measure its therapeutic effects against placebos or other treatment interventions. There are some plant medicine proponents though, who believe there may be more contributing to the experiential element of these medicines than a single extracted or synthetically produced compound.
For instance, blue meanies contain another compound, baeocystin which has some reports of psychoactivity. They also contain tryptophan, tryptamine, and serotonin. Perhaps the combination of these compounds and other hitherto unexplored chemical components of blue meanies produces a distinct subjective experience — a phenomenon controversially and commonly reported by those who have experimented with both toad-derived 5-MeO-DMT and the synthetic version.
Plants and mushrooms are complex life forms composed of an array of chemical compounds. There may come a time when sufficient funding and scientific interest facilitate an exploration of the therapeutic and subjective effects of different psilocybin-containing mushroom species and synthetically-produced psilocybin.
A potential avenue for future mechanistic research could be the determination of brain effects induced by different psychedelic mushroom species. For now, however, research seems to be focused on established psychoactive compounds which is, admittedly, proving more than worthwhile.
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