Magic Mushrooms vs. Medicinal Mushrooms: What’s The Difference?

Magic Mushrooms vs. Medicinal Mushrooms: What’s The Difference?

People have been using various mushrooms as medicine for thousands of years. And today, they continue to draw attention to their potential health benefits. 

Besides their medicinal or recreational uses, mushrooms are also celebrated for their culinary value. And magic mushroom edibles are also a popular method of consuming psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms. They can be incorporated into a variety of foods, such as chocolates and gummies, providing a more palatable option for those who find the taste of raw mushrooms unappealing. 

However, understanding the differences between magic and medicinal mushrooms is crucial for anyone interested in exploring the potential benefits of mushrooms, whether for health or spiritual exploration.

In this article, we will explore these differences between magic mushrooms and medicinal mushrooms, two categories of fungi that, despite their similar names, serve very different purposes.

Magic Mushrooms and Their Psychoactive Properties

Magic mushrooms, also known as psychedelic mushrooms, contain a naturally occurring compound called psilocybin. This compound is known for its psychoactive properties, meaning it can alter one’s perception, mood, and cognitive processes. The magic mushrooms effects can vary depending on the dosage, the individual’s mental state, or even the environment.

Historically, magic mushrooms have been used in religious and spiritual rituals in various cultures due to their psychoactive properties. Today, they are classified as Schedule I drugs in many countries, meaning they are illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute.

However, recent research has begun to explore the potential therapeutic uses of psilocybin. Preliminary studies suggest that psilocybin may be effective in treating a range of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Health-Boosting Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms 

These mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, particularly in Asia, and are now gaining popularity in the West as dietary supplements.

Some of the most well-known medicinal mushrooms include reishi, chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane.
Here are some health benefits of different medicinal mushrooms:

  • Many medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi, shiitake, and turkey tail, are rich in polysaccharides, specifically beta-glucans, which have been shown to support immune health.
  • Chaga and cordyceps, among others, are packed with antioxidants, which help to fight off harmful free radicals in the body, protecting against cellular damage and inflammation.
  • Lion’s mane mushroom is known for its neuroprotective properties. It contains compounds called hericenones and erinacines that stimulate the growth of brain cells, potentially improving memory and cognitive function.
  • Cordyceps is often used by athletes for its ability to enhance energy production and improve oxygen utilization, potentially boosting physical performance and stamina.
  • Some medicinal mushrooms, like reishi, have been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promoting heart health.
  • Certain types of medicinal mushrooms, such as maitake and reishi, may help to lower blood sugar levels, making them a useful supplement for people with diabetes.

Unlike magic mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms do not induce psychoactive effects and are generally considered safe for regular consumption. They can be consumed in various forms, including teas, tinctures, and capsules, and are often used to support overall health and well-being.

One of the key differences between magic mushrooms and medicinal mushrooms is their legal status. Magic mushrooms, due to their psychoactive properties, are classified as controlled substances in many countries and are illegal to possess, cultivate, or distribute without specific authorization.

It’s also important to consider the ethical implications of using magic mushrooms. Some argue that the use of these substances for spiritual or therapeutic purposes should be protected under freedom of religion or cognitive liberty.

However, others caution that these substances can be misused and may lead to harm if not properly regulated. Furthermore, in some countries, the legal penalties for possession, cultivation, or distribution of magic mushrooms are severe and can include fines or even imprisonment.

On the other hand, medicinal mushrooms are legal in most places and can be purchased over the counter as dietary supplements. However, it’s important to note that while medicinal mushrooms are generally considered safe, they should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions or those taking other medications.

Medicinal mushrooms, while legal, are also subject to regulations and standards, particularly in the supplement industry. Quality can vary between products, and some may not contain the levels of active ingredients that they claim to. Therefore, it’s important for consumers to do their research and choose reputable brands. Additionally, while medicinal mushrooms are generally considered safe, they can interact with certain medications and may not be suitable for everyone.

Usage and Preparation

Magic mushrooms are often consumed recreationally for their psychoactive effects. They can be eaten fresh or dried, brewed into a tea, or mixed into food. The effects typically begin within 20 to 40 minutes of ingestion and can last up to six hours.

The use of magic mushrooms is not limited to recreational purposes. Some people use them for spiritual or personal growth experiences, often referred to as “psychedelic therapy.” The preparation and setting in which they are used can significantly influence the effects and experience. It’s recommended to have a sober “trip sitter” present, especially for those new to magic mushrooms.

Medicinal mushrooms, however, are typically consumed for their potential health benefits. They can be eaten as part of a meal, brewed into teas, or taken as dietary supplements. Unlike magic mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms do not induce psychoactive effects.

Medicinal mushrooms are also used in various forms of traditional medicine, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. The type of mushroom, preparation method, and dosage can vary depending on the condition being treated. Some medicinal mushrooms are also used in cooking, not only for their potential health benefits but also for their unique flavors.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Both magic and medicinal mushrooms can have potential risks and side effects. For magic mushrooms, these can include nausea, increased heart rate, and changes in perception and mood. Some individuals may also experience more severe psychological effects, such as paranoia or psychosis.

The risks associated with magic mushrooms are not only physical but also psychological. Some people may have challenging experiences, often referred to as “bad trips,” which can involve anxiety, fear, and confusion. There’s also the risk of “flashbacks,” where an individual re-experiences aspects of a trip days or even weeks later.

Medicinal mushrooms are ‌considered safe for most people when used appropriately. However, some individuals may experience side effects such as digestive upset, allergic reactions, or skin rash.

While medicinal mushrooms are generally safe, they are not without risks. Some medicinal mushrooms may have blood-thinning properties and should be used with caution by individuals with bleeding disorders or those taking blood-thinning medications. As with any supplement, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting to use medicinal mushrooms, especially for those with underlying health conditions or those taking other medications.


While both magic and medicinal mushrooms come from the same fungi family, they serve very different purposes. It’s important for individuals to make informed decisions about their use. Whether one is interested in the psychoactive properties of magic mushrooms or the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms, responsible use is key. Always remember to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen or therapy.

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