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The differences and similarities between magic mushrooms and ayahuasca

Updated: Jun 1

Why would you choose to attend a magic mushroom ceremony over an ayahuasca ceremony? What are the similarities and differences between both plant medicines? Magic mushrooms versus ayahuasca.

magic mushrooms versus ayahuaca

Similarities between magic mushrooms and ayahuasca

First of all, both ayahuasca and magic mushrooms are considered plant medicines or psychedelics. They both have a consciousness expanding effect. The molecular structure of the active ingredients is actually quite similar and both are acting on the serotonin receptors in the brain. Also, both ayahuasca and magic mushrooms have been ritually used for many generations by indigenous traditions in the places where they originate.

Different location of origin

This makes up for the first main difference: ayahuasca comes from the Amazon rainforest, whereas magic mushrooms grow all over the world. Ayahuasca is known to have been used by around 160 different indigenous tribes. About a century ago these indigenous practices merged with other spiritual traditions, like Christianity, and with mestizo culture. Nowadays many ‘hybrid’ forms of ayahuasca rituals have spread all around the world.

Although magic mushrooms can be found in many places, for a long time not much was known about their use in the western world. A still intact ritual mushroom tradition is that of the Mazatec in Mexico. When American banker Gordon Wasson wrote a report for Life Magazine in 1953, describing his own participation in these rituals, the news rapidly spread. It inspired people to start cultivating magic mushrooms at home. Nowadays around 200 psilocybin containing species have been ‘discovered’.

Nature spirituality

Living in the Netherlands we can say mushrooms are more ‘native’ to us than ayahuasca: they help us to develop our own forms of nature spirituality, connecting to the land we came from and to our own ancestors. For reasons of sustainability it might also be preferable to work with local plant medicines instead of importing them from far away.

A brew versus a fungus

Ayahuasca is a brew, a concoction of two ingredients: the vine Banisteriopsis Caapi and the leaves of either Chacruna or Chaliponga. Only their combined effect makes up for the distinguished ayahuasca experience. As the ayahuasca vine contains an MAO inhibitor you should be more careful with what you eat and stick to the so-called ayahuasca diet surrounding the days of your journey. Magic mushrooms, obviously, are not even ‘plants’ but fungi. You can eat them either fresh or dried.

Magic mushrooms and ayahuasca: differences in experience

Differences in the specific experience they bring about are a bit harder to distinguish, as the psychedelic experience in general is very subjective. Experiences vary widely and are amongst others affected by the set (like your intention and the preparation you did beforehand) and setting in which you take them.

However, to many psychonauts magic mushrooms and ayahuasca clearly have their own ‘spirit’ or character. The ayahuasca experience is often considered more rough: you first pass through the darkness, before entering the light. Nausea and vomiting are more common than during a mushroom journey. Still, this might also happen with mushrooms. Magic mushrooms are mainly considered to be gentle, friendly and playful. They have a lot of humour and often make you laugh.

Ayahuasca or magic mushrooms: which plant medicine is calling you?

Both plant medicines may teach you important lessons and can help you reconnect with yourself and the world around you. When choosing for one ceremony or another the main question to ask yourself should therefore be: which plant medicine is calling you?

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