What are you willing to do to make yourself immortal? Well, here’s a way to immortalize yourself: A new psychedelic has been discovered. There are no credible accounts yet of someone having tried this new psychedelic, unless you consider a random guy on Reddit to be credible. Just like Europeans lived surrounded by Psilocybe mushrooms but went centuries without a clue that these mushrooms are psychedelic, the whole world seems to have lived in the presence of a psychedelic mushroom that has never been consumed before.
I’m not the first person to have noticed this hidden gem. Hamilton Morris a while ago asked people for spores of this mushroom. I don’t get the impression he got any response, but I’ll have to send him a mail and ask him. However, other people have in fact managed to find this mushroom and extracted its active ingredient and tested it on animals. To understand how this new psychedelic was discovered and what makes it so interesting, I first need to explain a few things about how psychedelics work and why scientists are studying them.
But let’s go further back first. What is a psychedelic in the first place? A psychedelic is a type of hallucinogen. A hallucinogen in turn is a substance that makes you see things that are not there. The three types of hallucinogens are as following:
-Psychedelics: Make you look at reality in a new way.
-Dissociatives: Make you feel detached from the world around you.
-Deliriants: Convince you of things that are not real.
In descending order, they tend to be seen as more dangerous and generally less pleasant. Deliriants can be deadly and seem to have no clear health benefits. Taking deliriants is also generally seen as a very unpleasant experience. Dissociatives may cause brain damage, but they’re nonetheless used in medicine because they cause anasthesia and rapidly acting anti-depressant effects. There are some naturally occuring substances that are dissociative, but no plant or fungus is seen as genuinely “dissociative”, dissociatives are generally synthetic. Then there are psychedelics, which occur in a wide range of plants and are nowadays increasingly well known for their mental health benefits and enjoyable effects, despite years of persecution.
And then there’s Salvia. Salvia is a… there is no right answer! Salvia is one of the few substances (along with iboga perhaps) that doesn’t fit neatly into any of the above three boxes. Salvia’s visual effects are reminiscent of psychedelics, but the experience you have on salvia is so weird that it is more reminiscent of dissociatives and deliriants, but even that’s a bit of a stretch. There isn’t really anything we know of out there, that properly compares to Salvia.
Salvia is different from anything else
Funfact: If Salvia Divinorum had its own soundtrack it would sound like Melanie Martinez
To illustrate what I mean, yesterday I went to the forest at dusk and according to proper Dutch customs brought my bong with me, and sat down in the middle of the heath near an old oak tree. I smoked a big dose of Salvia extract and within a minute began to feel the effects. I was surrounded by some mosquitos that were buzzing, but their buzzing began to sound more like people. It felt like a bunch of people were walking in my direction and noticed me smoking Salvia, but at a rational level I was still aware that these were hallucinations. Just to be sure, I felt it was a good idea to put my bong back in my backpack.
Meanwhile, the world around me began to look increasingly cartoonlike. When I say cartoonlike, consider that the colours are being reduced to a few types, while the world takes on an innocent childish appearance with a dark undertone. The rough shapes of my visual environment were reduced to flat parts and it felt as if my consciousness could be part of any of them: I could be an insect flying by, a hill in the landscape, the tree I sat next to, anything. I was becoming detached from my body. Then I began to feel the presence of a Jester-type figure, a clownish guy. It felt like I was at a circus or a carnival of sorts, but not just in any manner.
The circus felt like a deeper reality that lies underneath our reality. Even today, if you were to ask me, I’d have to honestly admit to you that I still feel at some level as if this circus where the jesters hang out is a more real place than the world we live in. It felt as if the circus has a device of sorts that lets you choose what reality you want to live in and I chose this reality at some point.
The Jester was laughing at me, he found it quite amusing that I was scared of what was happening. He was not friendly, but not per definition cruel either, he was just the kind of person who loves to see chaos and pull jokes on people. It felt as if there were other jester-type figures there too. The talking people I believed were approaching? Just a joke the jester pulled on me.
But what he found most hilarious is that I decided to go to the forest and smoke salvia at dusk. “This guy considers his life difficult, so he decides the solution is to go to the forest and smoke Salvia at dusk! Isn’t that hilarious!” The Jester was poking fun at me for other figures in the circus it seemed, it seemed as if I was their spectacle of sorts. The jester was not particularly impressed with the fact that I find my life rather difficult.
But he wanted to pull another joke on me it seemed. “If you really think your life is so difficult and you want to experience something different, how about we make you swap places for a while?” I could envision him thinking. I began to feel my ego pull away from my own physical body and so at this point I had enough of it. I wasn’t having any of this, this guy is not being nice to me, so I’m not eager to be thrown into whatever other organism or physical object my ego could be thrown into.
I decided I needed grounding, so I just began walking back to my bicycle. By using my physical body, and feeling its interaction with the ground, I could “ground myself” and hold onto my physical body, that’s the idea I had. I walked through the hills back to my bicycle, but the hills did not feel like real hills. It felt as if I was walking over people, jester type clowns who were just once again pulling their jokes with me. By the time I got back to my bicycle, which was at most a few minutes later, most of the effects were gone. There was a lingering feeling of social paranoia, but not to a delusional degree, I simply feared that it’s not smart to be alone by yourself at the forest at dusk.
So yeah, Salvia is something else. Everyone who has tried Salvia as well as regular psychedelics can confirm that Salvia feels very different from the others, whereas the others merely feel subtly different from each other. Mushrooms feel like meeting a feminine deity who helps you look at your problems from a different more constructive perspective. The San Pedro cactus lasts longer than the mushrooms and feels more energetic and masculine. Whereas the mushrooms tend to encourage abstract thinking about the meaning of existence and such questions, the San Pedro cactus is more eager to show you all the great parts of the world and insists that you yourself are adequate. To be blunt: If you want to save someone’s life, give them mushrooms. If you want to help them live a happy life, give them the cactus.
And Salvia? Salvia takes you to a surreal cartoon circus where a bunch of Jesters pull jokes on you. How does Salvia fit into the picture? I have no clue. If the world serves a purpose and came into existence with intentions, I can understand why there are psychedelic mushrooms growing everywhere. You don’t have to look far to stumble onto them and even the most tyrannical government would struggle to keep us from growing them. You can use heat-scanning helicopters to look for cannabis plants, but good luck finding mushroom growers like me. If the world is a story and the author wants to give us a reminder that he hasn’t betrayed us, psychedelics are the kind of thing I would expect to show up.
But why Salvia? Is it enjoyable? If you look at a modern art piece where a bunch of naked people roll around in their own menstrual blood, you probably wouldn’t say that you enjoyed it, but you knew what you were signing up for and you went anyway. Is it a learning experience? Well, I think you can derive about as much meaning from it as you can get by watching Un Chien Andalou. You take Salvia and you feel as if you’re returning to a world that’s more real than ours, but the world you are returning to is so bizarre and absurd you feel embarassed to mention that it feels convincingly real.
If Salvia has a message to share, it’s that existence itself is ridiculous. If you want to meet someone who is nice to you, take a cactus or take Psilocybe mushrooms. If you want to meet someone who will convince you to ride around on a monocycle in public dressed like a clown while reciting Camus, you should probably smoke Salvia. Why did I smoke Salvia? Because I wanted to gain understanding. I want to understand what it has to say, what its perspective is on existence, but I think I could get a more coherent answer if I dug up Charles Manson’s corpse.
Take psychedelics and you’ll feel like you have all the answers. Take Salvia and you’ll feel like any attempt at an answer is an act of hubris. Take the San Pedro cactus and there’s a proud man who wants to share with you the beauty of his design. Take the Psilocybe mushrooms and you meet a Goddess who loves her children. Smoke Salvia and you meet a jester who’s glad that you signed up to have a bunch of jokes pulled on you.
“Oh come on, it can’t be that absurd.” You say. No, it’s much more insane than that. I haven’t told you about the conveyor belts you’re pulled apart on, the childhood memories you revisit in person, the book in which you see your own actions frame by frame, or even the multiple timelines you can see branching off. Oh and I haven’t told you about the supreme experience, which I haven’t gone through myself, which is to meet the shepherdess.
The shepherdess is the entity who seems to be the Goddess of Salvia Divinorum. The DMT entities are eager to meet you. The Psilocybe mushroom for me felt like meeting someone who feels deep love for me. But from the reports I’ve read, the Shepherdess has no real clue what to do with you. She is as confused as you are to meet her. Sometimes you’ll encounter her in a parade. You enter the back of the parade in the circus, jesters and other cartoonish figures are further up front and the shepherdess leads the parade. But enlightening knowledge? Meaningful insights into the reason of your suffering, the purpose of the human condition? The Shepherdess doesn’t seem to bother with any of that. She lives in her own wonderland and if you bother visiting it you’re taken along for a ride, but don’t expect to be welcomed as a dignified guest.
And if you think all of this is frightening as shit, well ding ding ding we have a winner! When it kicks in you’ll find yourself thinking “oh fuck, I did it again, it’ll be over in a few minutes though”. If it wasn’t so frightening I would delve in much deeper, but it’s not even frightening in the way a nightmare is, it’s the dissolution of reality as you know it.
What is Salvia doing in your brain?
You might argue that Salvia Divinorum shouldn’t be smoked, it should be chewed. You’re not wrong. The thing is, when you chew Salvia Divinorum, you simply get the entire process drawn out. Instead of highly frightening, you spend half an hour kind of unnerved. Instead of being launched into a different realm, or seeing reality dissolve, you get to watch alternatives to reality open up as you chew. It doesn’t change the fundamental nature of the experience itself. The difference is quantitative, not qualitative.
But now we have to ask ourselves what Salvia does. The reason, at a neurochemical level, why Salvia is so different from regular psychedelics, is because it activates a different receptor in the brain. Psychedelics activate the serotonin receptors in your brain. Some, like mescaline, also seem to release a bunch of dopamine in the process. These are “feel good” chemicals. A flood of dopamine makes you feel confident, a flood of serotonin makes you look at things from the bright side.
Salvia doesn’t bother with serotonin or dopamine receptors. Salvia activates the Kappa opioid receptor. There are three main types of different opioid receptors in the body. There’s the most notorious one, the mu opioid receptor. Hitting the mu opioid receptor seems to be the closest thing we can experience to pure undilluted pleasure in this life. If you see a guy injecting fentanyl in his SUV in the middle of the walmart parking lot, that’s a guy who’s pressing the pleasure button in his brain. Orgasms, good food, most of us just waste a lot of time dancing around it. The main problem is that you need increasing amounts to get the same feeling and that it’s deadly.
Then there’s the delta opioid receptor. This one is more mysterious. It seems to have some antidepressant effects and like the previously mentioned receptor, it kills pain. If you want clear answers about this one, I don’t have them, I’m not even sure the scientists who study it have them. But now we get to the interesting one. The Kappa opioid receptor. The Kappa opioid receptor suppresses pain to some degree, but most importantly, it’s involved in how we experience social pain.
Put some mice together, make one mice continually face defeat in conflict with another mice, this mice will become submissive, socially withdrawn and lose interest in activities it normally finds enjoyable. Why? Because of the Kappa opioid receptor. Everytime you experience social pain, your body is releasing a burst of dynorphin that binds to your Kappa opioid receptors, the dynorphin seems to kill the social pain. Eventually however, your Kappa opioid receptors are numbed from all the dynorphin they’re exposed to and withdraw into the cells. Now you’ve got a problem. This is the kind of syndrome we see with people who are burned out from life, who suffer learned helplessness.
Let’s go back to my Salvia trip. Why is the first thing I notice from the trip a delusion that some random people my age are wandering by and noticing me smoking Salvia in the forest? What’s the most awkward thing you can experience while you’re smoking Salvia in the forest? People wandering by who notice you smoking Salvia in the forest. Expose your brain to a sudden burst of Kappa opioid agonists like Salvinorin A (the active substance of Salvia) and boom, you’re exposing yourself to a feeling of social pain that’s fundamentally based in a delusion.
A less evil twin to Salvia Divinorum?
So, here is where it gets interesting. In the beginning it was generally thought that receptors are relatively simple, sending one kind of signal to the cell. An agonist triggers activity through a receptor, an antagonist reduces activity through a receptor by binding to it without being active (preventing active substances from doing their work) and an inverse agonist triggers activity but triggers so little activity compared to the normal situation that it’s actually reducing the activity.
As with so many things in biology, now it’s increasingly clear that this is an enormous simplification. Different substances, can activate different pathways, through the same receptor. Why is psilocin a psychedelic, while the weight loss chemical Fenfluramine that binds to the same 5HT2a receptor through which psilocin causes its psychedelic effects has no such effects? The answer is functional selectivity. Two chemicals can bind to the same receptor in your brain and activate entirely different pathways. In the case of conventional psychedelics, the effects of the particular pathways that are activated through the 5HT2a receptor seem to be very beneficial for the brain.
So, the same thing is true for Salvinorin A, the main active substance in Salvia Divinorum. Dynorphin is the reference molecule, but the range of pathways that Salvinorin A activates it relatively similar to the ones activated by Dynorphin. Keep in mind, this is very different from normal psychedelics, as with normal psychedelics the pathways that are activated are a select subset of the pathways activated by serotonin.
But now we return to our mysterious mushroom. The Collybia mushrooms contain a substance known as collybolide. Collybolide hits the same receptor as Salvinorin A and has a molecular structure that looks very similar to Salvinorin A. The difference however is that Collybolide has a preference for activating a specific set of pathways. This leads to a number of effects. Although Collybolide is just as effective as Salvinorin A at reducing pain, it’s far more effective at reducing itching than Salvinorin A.
But there are other differences too. Whereas Salvinorin A at a dose of 2 mg per kilogram makes animals more immobile in a forced swim test (a sign of the animals resigning to defeat), Collybolide has the opposite effect. According to the authors, it seems that Collybolide thus has an antidepressant effect. If Collybolide proves to have psychedelic effects like Salvinorin A, we may expect the psychedelic experience to be very different from Salvinorin A. Instead of being taken to a surreal carnival where a bunch of jester toy with you, it might be a far more positive experience.
What should we do?
I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued. The mushroom that contains Collybolide is not normally eaten, but it’s not poisonous either. The mushroom is relatively widespread and it grows on decaying wood. Saprotrophic mushrooms like these are relatively easy for us to grow. In fact, all that you tend to need is some spores and a sterile growing environment. These are the same techniques we use to grow Psilocybe mushrooms.
So, first things first, I’m putting out a request to you, my dear reader:
This fall, please look around in your environment and see if you can find Collybia maculata.
Collybia maculate looks as following:
Now I need to give a word of caution: If you think you found this gem, don’t just eat it. Before eating mushrooms you harvested yourself, check with some people online whether they’re genuinely the species you think they are.
The mushrooms we’re looking for grow in evergreen forests on decaying needles and logs. Fortunately for me, that’s exactly the environment I live in, so I plan on actively scouting my own environment this fall.
If you manage to find these mushrooms yourself this fall, the first thing you need to do is MAKE A SPORE PRINT! You can find the instructions here.
After making your spore print, my recommendation would be to fill some needles with the spores, so that we can start growing these mushrooms under sterile conditions.
Finally, if you manage to grow a large batch of these mushrooms, there’s a fair chance you will go down in infamy: You will have introduced a new psychedelic to the world!
Please keep in mind that this mushroom would be entirely legal for cultivation. There are no laws yet that prohibit the cultivation of this mushroom and I don’t quite envision police forces around the world storming into people’s houses and figuring out what kind of mushroom they’re growing.
In addition, for the sake of clarity, please realize that we need to be cautious when it comes to eating this mushroom. I’m not saying that this is something growing everywhere that you can just safely eat, I’m saying that this is a potentially very groundbreaking organism. There’s no clear evidence of toxicity I’m aware of, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.