During a visit to Mexico, Gordon Wasson, a mycologist, discovered the use of psilocybin mushroom in spiritual ceremonies by Indian tribes. Upon experiencing the spiritual and hallucinatory effects of the mushroom, Wasson returned to the area accompanied by an experienced mycologist, Roger Heim, who managed to cultivate the mushroom once in France and send samples of it to the scientist who had discovered lysergic acid, Albert Hoffman. From the mushrooms, Hoffman successfully isolated two compounds which he further named psilocybin and psilocin. Analogs of these compounds were further synthesized and were employed mainly for psychotherapeutic uses. Many tests on psilocybin were made at Harvard University in the early 1960’s. However, along with LSD, psilocybin became a scheduled substance in 1970, making it illegal. During this time, psilocybin mushrooms became a part of the psychedelic and hippy movement and were used for recreational and spiritual purposes. Research on psilocybin ended in the late 1980’s because of strict rules imposed by the government but recently scientist have started researching on this chemical once more.
Psilocybin’s chemical structure is C12 H17 N2 O4 P. It has a ring configuration by the name of indole attached to an ethyl amine substituent. Indole’s are aromatic compounds that have a benzene ring attached to a pyrrole ring containing nitrogen. Psilocybin’s chemical structure is derived from an amino acid and tryptamine called trypthophan. It also has a visible structural resemblance with serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for “happiness”. Psilocybin is very soluble in water, insoluble in organic compounds and slightly soluble in methanol and ethanol. This due to the fact that it is a zwitterionic alkoid, meaning that it is a neutral compound, yet it posses formal electrical charges of the opposite sign that even out. Once in the stomach, due to the highly acidic environment, psilocybin undergoes a removal of its phosphate group, and is converted into psilocin. This process is called dephosphorylation. Aqueous solutions of psilocybin are very sensitive to light and rapidly oxidize in its presence. A great variety of analytical methods can be used for psilocybin identification and evaluation. Amongst them are thin layer chromatography, gas chromatography used along with mass spectrometry , infrared spectroscopy and high performance liquid chromatography.
Although prescribed use of psilocybin is rare nowadays for medicinal purposes; many tests have been done on its medicinal uses in patients with personality disorders. Some tests have shown a noticeable reduction in obsessive compulsive disorder as a result of psilocybin use. Psilocybin has also been tested and is sometimes administered to cancer patients and has been proven to ease mental stress and the emotional baggage caused by cancer by changing the patient’s perspective on his/her situation and life in...