Psilocybin the Magic Ingredient in Mushrooms.

psilocybin-mushroom-110929The “magic” ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms is psilocybin, a compound that breaks down into psilocin in the body.
Psilocin bonds to serotonin receptors all over the brain, and can cause hallucinations as well as synesthesia, or the mixture of two senses.
Under the influence, for example, a person might feel that they can smell colors.
magic-mushroom
In keeping with the human tradition of eating anything that might alter your mind, people have been ingesting psilocybin-continuing mushrooms for thousands of years.
Synthetic psilocybin is now under study as a potential treatment for anxiety, depression and addiction.
via Trippy Tales: The History of 8 Hallucinogens 

Fantastic Fungi.

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To think any one of these lifeforms exists in our galaxy, let alone on our planet, simply boggles the mind.
Photographer Steve Axford lives and works in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales in Australia where he spends his time documenting the living world around him, often traveling to remote locations to seek out rare animals, plants, and even people.
But it’s his work tracking down some of the world’s strangest and brilliantly diverse mushrooms and other fungi that has resulted in an audience of online followers who stalk his work on Flickr and SmugMug to see what he’s captured next.
Axford shares via email that most of the mushrooms seen here were photographed around his home and are sub-tropical fungi, but many were also taken in Victoria and Tasmania and are classified as temperate fungi.
The temperate fungi are well-known and documented, but the tropical species are much less known and some may have never been photographed before.
Mushrooms like the Hairy Mycena and the blue leratiomyces have most likely never been found on the Australian mainland before, and have certainly never been photographed in an artistic way as you’re seeing here.
It was painfully difficult not to include more of Axford’s photography here, so I urge you to explore further.
All photos courtesy the photographer. (via Awkward Situationist)
See more fantastic Images via Fantastic Fungi: The Startling Visual Diversity of Mushrooms Photographed by Steve Axford | Colossal.

Coca-Cola and Cocaine, 1886-1903.

There’s nothing quite like the sugary rush that accompanies a cold glass of Coca-Cola — but did you know that the aptly named Coke used to deliver an even bigger kick?
Until 1903, the world-famous soft drink contained a significant dose of cocaine.
While the Coca-Cola Company officially denies the presence of cocaine in any of its products — past or present — historical evidence suggests that the original Coca-Cola did, in fact, contain cocaine.
Coca-Cola was first created in 1886 by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton, who modelled his beverage after a then-popular French refreshment, coca wine, made by mixing coca-leaf extract with Bordeaux wine.
To avoid liquor regulations, Pemberton chose to mix his coca-leaf extract with sugar syrup instead of wine. He also added kola-nut extract, lending Coca-Cola the second half of its name, as well as an extra jolt of caffeine.
While cocaine-infused beverages may seem far-fetched to modern readers, these drinks were quite common in the late 19th century. Cocaine was not made illegal in the United States until 1914, and until then, the substance had a variety of (sometimes questionable) medical uses.
Cocaine tonics, powders and pills were popularly believed to cure a variety of ailments, from headache and fatigue to constipation, nausea, asthma and impotence.
But by 1903, the tide of public opinion had turned against the widely used and abused narcotic, leading the Coca-Cola Company’s then-manager, Asa Griggs Candler, to remove nearly all cocaine from the company’s beverages.
But Coke wouldn’t become completely cocaine-free until 1929, when scientists perfected the process of removing all psychoactive elements from coca-leaf extract.
Source: Does Coca-Cola Contain Cocaine? | Cocaine in Coke

The secret life of fungi.

Photo: Fungus collected by South Australian State Herbarium
Just 150,000 of the world’s estimated 3 million fungi varieties have been identified.
The word ‘fungi’ may conjure up thoughts of mushrooms on pizza, or cartoon-like red and white spotted toadstools poking up from the forest floor.
But fungi also gives us bread, wine and cheese, provides the foundation of many pharmaceuticals, plays a critical role in ecosystems — and could hold the key to plastic recycling.
There’s an estimated 3 million varieties of fungi around the world — but the vast majority are still largely unknown to science.
Dr Tom May, a senior mycologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, says that’s partly because the fungi we can see is just “their spore producing structure”.
“That is just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.”The feeding and growing part of the fungus is hidden away as very, very fine threads; microscopic threads in soil or wood.”
And that mass of fine threads — which we call the mycelium — can be enormous.
Read on via Source: The secret life of fungi – RN – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Mandrake, Magical & Mysterious.

atropa_mandragora_drawing1The Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn (“djinn’s eggs”).
Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae).
Mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, and hyoscyamine.
The roots sometimes bifurcate, causing them to resemble human figures. Their roots have long been used in magic rituals, and today are valued by members of neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.
The roots of Mandrake were supposed to bear a resemblance to the human form, on account of their habit of forking into two shoots which form a rough figure of a human.
In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair. Many weird superstitions collected round the Mandrake root.
It was common belief in some countries that mandrake would only grow where the semen of a hanged murderer had dripped on to the ground.
And it was believed to cause death to whoever dug it up, as the plant would let out a shriek upon being dug up, which none might hear and live.
Therefore if you would dig up a Mandrake you should either do it from a distance using string, or tie the string to your dog and let him pull it up. Of course, then the dog would die from the terrible scream from the plant.
In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the author makes use of the legend of the mandrake’s scream, and anyone tending mandrakes wears earmuffs to dull the sound.
As an amulet, it was once placed on mantel to bring luck and happiness. Bryony roots were often cut into fancy shapes and passed off as Mandrake.
Small images made from Bryony roots, cut to look like the figure of a man, with millet seed inserted into the face for eyes, were sold to the foolish and uneducated.
They were known as puppettes and were credited with magical powers.
Italian ladies were known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for these artificial Mandrake amulets.
Read more via Growing Hermione’s Garden: Mandragora Officinarum – Mandrake.