Why magic mushrooms turn blue is a question that has plagued the minds of many mycologists since Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman isolated psilocybin and psilocin from the P. Mexicana mushroom in 1958. Since then, several studies have failed to establish the cause and purpose of the blue pigmentation that occurs in many mushroom species – that is, until recently.
Blue bruising is common in many mushroom types. In fact, some species, such as Psilocybe cyanescens, are named after the phenomenon of becoming blue. The blue bruising is also important to mycologists as it is one of the primary characteristics that help identify magic mushrooms.
The first breakthrough in the quest to figure out why mushrooms turn blue came in 1967, nine years after psilocybin and psilocin were successfully isolated. The 1967 study observed that psilocybin formed a blue color in psilocybin-treated rats’ brain cells. The researchers also found that oxygen was not needed for the process.
It then took researchers over five decades to unravel the mystery of magic mushrooms turning blue, which they finally did in 2019 when German researcher Dirk Hoffmeister and his colleagues identified the cause of the bluing reaction. In this article, we tell you why mushrooms turn blue, and whether all mushrooms bruise blue.
Why Do ‘Magic’ Mushrooms Turn Blue?
In a 2019 research paper named Injury Triggered Blueing Reactions of Psilocybe “Magic” Mushrooms, German researchers led by Dr. Hoffmeister performed a series of chemistry tests to establish the cause of the blue bruising in psilocybe mushrooms.
The experiments, like in previous studies, started with the researchers trying to extract the blue compound. And like in the earlier studies, it failed. However, they didn’t give up; instead, they employed novel analytical methods to observe the bluing process.
The study found that the pigment is not one specific compound, but a mixture of psilocybin oxidation compounds. All the pigments are associated with psilocybin, and most are quinoid psilocyl oligomers that share structural similarities in the indole core with indigo – a natural deep blue pigment extracted from several plants used to dye jeans.
The team found that a phosphatase enzyme converts psilocybin into psilocin by taking off its phosphate group. Psilocin is then acted upon by an oxidizing laccase enzyme, forming a heterogeneous mixture of quinoid psilocyl oligomers primarily coupled by C-5. These compounds are responsible for the blue bruising in psilocybe mushrooms.
However, the purpose of the blue pigment remains a mystery, with the team suggesting it may have a protective role against predators such as insects that feed on the plants.
Now that you know why mushrooms turn blue when bruised, the question that follows is “Do all psilocybin-containing mushrooms bruise blue?”
Do All Magic Mushrooms Bruise Blue?
Blue bruising is one of the most prominent features of magic mushrooms. The blue bruising is one of the ways to tell psilocybin-containing mushrooms from other species, but it’s not the only way, and its reliability is debatable. But do all psilocybin-containing mushrooms bruise blue?
Many strains of magic mushrooms bruise blue when injured or with age. Per the research study referenced above, psilocybin/psilocin is necessary for the blue bruising to occur, but that doesn’t mean all magic mushrooms will bruise blue; some don’t.
Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe azurescens are known for their tendency to bruise blue and for high psilocybin and psilocin content. Some mushrooms, such as the bluing bolete, may turn blue when bruised or cut despite not containing psilocybin. These are, however, hard to mistake for magic mushrooms due to their appearance.
Similar-looking mushrooms, such as Deconica species, may bruise blue or blackish, which may be confused for blue. Therefore, using blue bruising as the only tool to identify magic mushrooms is not recommended.
Does Bruising Affect Magic Mushroom Potency
Some people claim magic mushrooms that bruise more readily than others are more potent than others. This is yet to be confirmed. However, it can be argued that since the bluing process starts with psilocybin, a mushroom that bruises more readily is more potent.
Bluing may also affect the mushrooms’ potency as psilocybin must degrade for the blue bruising to occur. This means the more blue bruising on the mushroom, the more the psilocybin has degraded. Ultimately, there will be less psilocybin and psilocin to produce psychedelic effects.
Anyway, taking the utmost care when legally harvesting mushrooms (see this link; as of 2022 cultivating P. Cubensis spores is still illegal in most U.S. jurisdictions) is recommended to avoid unnecessary bruising. A little bruising here and there is okay, but you don’t want to cause extensive damage.
Now that you know why mushrooms turn blue, you may be interested in exploring further into the magical world of these psilocybin-producing fungi. To make your journey easier, we have created a guide on legally buying mushroom spores for research. But we don’t stop there.
At PNW Spore, Co., we provide high-quality syringes suitable for spore researchers of all experience levels. We have many different cultivars, including Golden Teacher, Penis Envy, Purple Mystic, and more. Order today and enjoy high-quality spores, fantastic offers and fast shipping.