If you’re a cannabis consumer, you’re familiar with the topic of different strains. But when it comes to magic mushrooms, all the different types are less frequently discussed. What are the differences between Psilocybe cubensis strains, and which ones are the strongest?
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What exactly are “strains”?
Strains can occur naturally or selective breeding can be used to create new strains that boost specific characteristics and effects in plants. In biology, a “strain” refers to a subtype, genetic variant, or culture within a biological species. A group of similar strains can also form sub-species within the species. In that case, the sub-species would come before “strains” and after “species” in the scientific classification. Here’s a couple examples of the correct orders when it comes to both cannabis and mushroom types:
CANNABIS: Kingdom (plantae) – order (rosales) – family (cannabaceae) – genus (cannabis) – species (sativa/indica/ruderalis) – possible subspecies – strain (blue dream).
MUSHROOMS: Kingdom (fungi) – division (basidiomycota) – class (agaricomycetes) – order (agaricales) – family (hymenogastraceae) – genus (psilocybe) – species (P. cubensis) – possible subspecies – strain (Penis Envy).
Now, let’s zero in on psilocybe. Nearly all species of mushrooms within the psilocybe genus contain the psychedelic compounds psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. Narrowing it down even further, the most popular species of psilocybe is cubensis. There are well over a hundred species of p. cubensis alone, and many different strains as well.
A cube’s a cube
Again, psilocybe cubensis mushrooms are the most sought-after magic mushroom species, so if you’ve eaten psilocybin mushrooms, but had no idea what species it was, chances are it was a cube. That’s because “cubes” are the easiest magic mushroom to cultivate indoors. In fact, due to decades of selective home breeding, there are now 60 different strains of P. cubensis that are used fairly regularly (and many more that we barely know about) like Golden Teachers, B+, Penis Envy Mushrooms, and Pink Buffalo. You may have heard the phrase before “a cube’s a cube”, because all the cubensis strains are psychoactive, but that’s not necessarily accurate, as potency can vary.
Different types of cubensis strains grow easily in the wild and can be found all over the globe, particularly throughout the southern US, into Mexico, Central American, and South America, but they also grow in Cuba, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia. While these can be quite potent, indoor-grown strains are known to be stronger because they’re bred for potency and cultivated in very specific conditions (certain substrates, clean environment, consistent temps and humidity, etc.).
As for the medical benefits of different mushroom strains… it’s hard to say. Although some clinical trials testing the efficacy of psilocybin for mental health have emerged in recent years, the subjects in these studies actually receive synthetic psilocybin, rather than psilocybin extracted from the whole mushroom. Knowing what we know about the entourage effect, it’s safe to say that the effects of using natural, full-spectrum mushroom extract (or just eating the entire mushroom itself) could have vastly different effects than the isolated compound.
Potent mushroom strains
The varieties, or strains, vary in how well and how fast they grow, what conditions they prefer, their color, size, and shape, and in the quality and intensity of the experience they give to users. Psilocybin concentration does differ from one mushroom to the next, and it’s likely that each strain does have a distinctive typical potency. However, the difference is likely subtle, and there is a lot of overlap between strains due to individual variation.
That said, let’s take a look at a handful of the more popular cube strains that shroomers are more likely to encounter:
Penis Envy: Named for their noticeably phallic shape, Penis Envy mushrooms have grown quite a following because of their remarkable potency. I’m also partial to them because they are the first and only strain of shrooms that I’ve grown myself. As the story goes, Penis Envy mushrooms were discovered by Terence McKenna in 1971, when he found a flush of mushrooms growing on a pile of cow droppings in the Amazon.
He brought some spore prints back home with him and the rest is history (a complicated history that we’ll save for a later time). Today, Penis Envy mushrooms are the second most searched P. cubensis strain on google, and the best-selling among spore retailers.
Golden Teachers: Golden Teacher mushrooms are another sought-after strain that are said to be particularly easy to grow, compared to other strains that need more specific conditions and are more easily contaminated. As such, they’ve been the most widely used and cultivated magic mushroom strain for quite some time, and they’re commonly referred to as a “beginner strain” because many people try Golden Teachers for their first time shrooming.
Liberty Caps: Liberty Caps (also known as Blue Legs, Pixie Caps, and Witches Hats) are another very common strain of P. cubensis. My first soiree into the world of magic mushrooms was with Liberty Caps many years ago, and it was a lot of fun. They grow in fields and pastures around the world and are partial to slightly colder temperatures than other strains.
Liberty Caps have one of the most extensive and colorful histories among shroom varieties. They were documented for the first time in 1799, after a family picking mushrooms in a London Park accidentally ate them for dinner and began experiencing symptoms of the psilocybin. Local chemist Augustus Everard Brande wrote about the family’s experience in an article titled “On A Poisonous Species of Agaric”, that was published the London Medical and Physical Journal.
Although there might not always be a huge difference between strains, there are some variations that are noticeable enough that people are still able to develop preferences. I’m partial to Penis Envy mushrooms, mainly because I’ve grown quite familiar with them and I enjoy the effects, whereas other mushrooms I’ve tried sometimes didn’t do much of anything at all. It’s hard to say what or if there are any therapeutic advantages to using certain magic mushroom strains, but more research on natural, whole-mushroom medicine will one day help us to make sense of it all.
Do you have a favorite shroom strain? Is it your preferred strain to grow, consume, or both? Drop us a line in the comment section below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!
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