Recreational Drug Research

Dr. Hofmann & the Discover of Psilocyben
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Dr. Albert Hofmann, the brilliant Swiss chemist, philosopher, author, and retired Director of the Pharmaceutical-Chemical Research Laboratories of Sandoz Ltd., Basel, is best known for fathering his "problem child," LSD, on April 19, 1943.  Thirteen years later, a brief article in a local paper caught his eye.  The article stated that a researcher from America had traveled to southern Mexico and participated in a native ritual where mushrooms were consumed that produced strange visions. Already intimately acquainted with the molecular structures of the known psychedelics, Dr. Hofmann was curious about the chemical constituency of the mushrooms. The researcher was, of course, R. Gordon Wasson, but his name was not mentioned in the article and Dr. Hofmann would remain interested in the mysterious mushrooms.  {Wasson has published a delightful work on mushroom, Soma, Divine Mushroom of Immortality, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1968, which jk owns a copy of}.

grey-oversoul.jpg

 

A year later Dr. Hofmann was contacted by Professor Roger Heim, esteemed French mycologist and Director of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, who requested his assistance in carrying out the chemical investigations of the sacred Mexican mushrooms. Roger Heim had accompanied R. Gordon Wasson on his 1956 expedition to Huautla de Jimenez and identified and named several of the species used by the Mazatecs in their divinatory and curing rites. His beautiful watercolor renderings of sacred Psilocybes accompanied Wasson's Life article in 1957.

In 1956, Moore, who was in reality a CIA operative specializing in the synthesis of psychoactive and chemical weapons for the CIA, offered R. Gordon Wasson a $2,000 grant from the agency's front group, The Geschikter Foundation, and invited himself along on Wasson's next expedition. Wasson, like Dr. Hofmann, had no idea as to Moore's true identity. Moore was hoping to obtain samples of the mushrooms, isolate their active principles and provide the CIA with some new "mind-control" toys.

Fortunately, Moore's efforts were unsuccessful and the honor, deservedly, went to Dr. Hofmann. Working with 100 dried grams of the mushroom Psilocybe mexicana, which Heim had provided from artificial cultures grown skillfully in his lab, Dr. Hofmann isolated and named the active compounds psilocybin and psilocin. Chemically they are 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine and 4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Dr. Hofmann's results were subsequently published in the March 1958 issue of Experientia.

 

For the complete article with pictures of Hofmann, the chemical structures of psilocybin, psilocin, related alkaloids, and  an account of  others involved with the discover and popularization of this family of mushrooms go to http://www.stainblue.com/ah.html#psilocin.    Also found is the story of peyote, an extensive bibliography, wonderfully illustrations and photographs.  The stainblue in the website address refers to the color of the stem of the psilocybin mushroom stem when picked.  The stem easily bruises and results in the oxidation of the psilocybin compound in the mushroom at that location, which discolors the stem during the first hour after picking.  The discoloration is unique and therefore is used to confirm this genus of mushrooms. --jk

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