What is Psilocybin?

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Some magic mushrooms to be degustated


A molecule with magic effects?

Psilocybin retreats are very popular right now. But what exactly is psilocybin?

This naturally-occurring molecule can be found in many species of mushroom (fungus). For more than 9,000 years, humans have made use of certain mushrooms for their psychoactive properties, sending them on psychedelic journeys. Magic mushroom ceremonies have therefore existed for a very long time.

But there’s nothing magic about that… In fact, psilocybin simply acts on serotonin receptors in the brain.

A mushroom that affects the brain?

Like all psychoactive substances, the psilocybin that comes from certain mushrooms can temporarily modify the chemistry in your brain. Pre-Columbian civilizations used mushrooms in their shamanic rituals.

Once inside the body, psilocybin is transformed into psilocin, a molecule capable of activating serotonin receptors in the prefrontal cortex and sparking deep reactions.

This intrinsic link between psilocin, serotonin, and psychological wellbeing is what led us to create Tangerine Retreat.

An old Aztec figure with a magic mushroom

The role of the prefrontal cortex

The link between psilocybin and serotonin

The prefontal cortex is a part of the brain involved in cognitive functions linked to personality: regulating emotions, mood, attention, free will. It is therefore directly involved in psychological disorders such as depression.

Psilocybin stimulates these serotonin receptors in the prefrontal cortex, making the brain absorb more of the neurotransmitter. This stimulation is what leads to psychedelic reactions and states of modified consciousness.

Effects of psilocybin

For some, consuming those “magic” truffles or mushrooms can therefore take them on a powerful sensory journey, with visual stimulation, bursts of euphoria, and a feeling of deep wellbeing.

Researchers are looking into this particular long-lasting feeling of wellbeing, especially in patients suffering with forms of depression that don’t respond to medication.

A Mystical Experience

Mental rewiring for a fresh start

Taking “magic truffles” sets off a very personal reaction, directly linked to the path that the user’s life is on.

Participants often report seeing situations or feeling things that were directly related to moments in their lives. Subsequent analysis of this personal experience is what helps people reconfigure their mind and take steps towards making a fresh start.

This mystical experience is not a therapy in and of itself, but it does serve as a catalyst for people to come to terms with their lives and build the resilience to deal with any situation.

A place of peace in the heart of the Netherlands

Psychedelic Retreat in the Netherlands

September 23-25, 2024

Spoken language(s) : Spoken language(s) french Spoken language(s) english Spoken language(s) german

  • Ceremony: one opportunity to take psilocybin
  • Protocol: one video session before and one after the retreat
  • Retreat: three days – two nights on site
  • From € 1,790

Why should I go on a psilocybin retreat?

Guidance around the procedure

A psychedelic retreat is not just about taking hallucinogenic truffles. Also, Tangerine Retreat doesn’t aim to simply provide truffles for recreational use.

The advantage of this type of therapy is that you can make the most of personal guidance throughout your journey. It’s important to do the groundwork to allow participants to clear their minds, and to monitor them to guide their psychedelic trance towards a beneficial path.

The good effects

Our facilitators at Tangerine Retreat are here to help everyone prepare their journey and get the most out of the effects of the psilocybin. Outside of a specialized institute, it’s quite unlikely that the molecule will yield any meaningful effects. The presence of facilitators precisely helps to avoid any bad trip with mushrooms.

A mushroom with spores

What research is being done into psilocybin?

Recognized institutions

For 40 years, researchers have been interested in the links between mental health and depression. These last 15 years have seen some specialized institutions shake up the common preconceptions around psilocybin, despite restrictions that remain in place in many countries. For example, we can cite the work of Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, and the Medical Council of Research in the UK.


Some researchers have observed positive effects in using psilocybin as a treatment for severe depression, alongside psychotherapy. Just one dose of psilocybin helped some patients achieve an improved state of mind.

Anxiety disorders

Other experiments are ongoing to try to establish a link between taking psychedelic truffles and reducing symptoms of anxiety. One study shows that occasional psilocybin use helps terminal cancer patients reduce their anxiety around death.

Moreover, there are several captivating documentaries on psilocybin and psychedelics available for those wishing to further their knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions about Psilocybin

The following article talks about magic mushrooms and mushrooms that contain psilocybin for educational purposes. Please note that Tangerine Retreat only offers psilocybin truffles on its retreats in the Netherlands.

What do magic mushrooms look like?

For some, it would be a dream come true to be able to pick their own magic mushrooms. But extreme caution is always advised, as it’s very easy to come across a poisonous variety, especially if you’re not an expert and don’t have experience picking mushrooms.

So, it’s important to always seek advice from a specialist before consuming mushrooms you’ve harvested yourself – and don’t ingest any mushrooms that you’re not sure about.

Also, be aware that in many countries, including France, picking mushrooms is strictly forbidden. Only psilocybin truffles are offered to participants at retreats in the Netherlands.

How is psilocybin made?

The mushroom synthesises psilocybin all by itself. You’ll find it in its natural state in varieties of psilocybes such as Psilocybe cubensis. As for psilocin, it’s a modified (but still natural) form of psilocybin that’s found in the human body.

When the mushroom molecule arrives in the digestive tract, our alkaline phosphatase enzymes break it down and transform it into psilocin, making it compatible with human consumption.

In reality, it’s the psilocin that instigates the psychedelic effects on the brain.

Which mushrooms contain psilocybin?

In truth, most varieties of psilocybin mushrooms look just like any other mushroom, which makes identifying them difficult.

Psilocybes are a particular genus of mushroom that love being part of a crowd. They tend to grow in groups of light brown-tinted mushrooms that can be a little sticky when freshly picked.

You can tell a psilocybe apart by looking closely at its cap, stalk, or spore colour. The genus “psilocybe” comes from the Greek for “bald swelling”, owing to the small lump at the top of its smooth cap, somewhat like the mound of a hill. The texture of the magic mushroom’s stem is quite firm, which makes it resilient to handling. The spores are the reproductive organ of mushrooms and you’ll notice that psilocybe spores are a dark purple shade, which can be seen by pressing and gently tapping the top of the mushroom.

In any case, it’s always best to ask for expert advice to be sure about what you’ve picked.

Where does psilocybin come from?

The substance has existed for a very long time throughout human history. A large number of ancient civilisations used psilocybin ritualistically, perhaps as a cure. While we’re not sure exactly where it comes from, scientists have identified psilocybin mushrooms on every continent and in most countries. Psilocybin is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions where the humidity of the forests and richness of the humus are conducive to the proliferation of these fungal specimens.

The most common varieties of mushrooms currently known include:

  • Psilocybe azurescens, from north-west American;
  • Panaeolus cyanescens, which grows in the Americas, south-east Asia, and the south of France;
  • Psilocybe semilanceata, which is chiefly found in and around Europe;
  • Psilocybe cubensis, which can be found all over Asia;
  • Panaeolus cambodginiensis, which comes from subtropical Asia and Hawaii.

In 2023, psilocybin can be sourced legally in several states and territories: the Netherlands and Jamaica, where retreats are generally held; and Canada, the state of Oregon and soon Australia have opened the way to psilocybin treatment upon medical prescription.

What are the potential benefits of magic mushrooms

We know that magic mushrooms have been used for thousands of years to reach states of modified consciousness in shamanic rituals throughout the world. Ever since the 1970s and 80s, scientists have been interested in the links that may exist between psychological disorders, like depression, and psychedelics, both of natural origin (ayahuasca, peyote, mushrooms, mescalin) and synthetic (LSD, MDMA).

People that use truffles or mushrooms talk of intense mystical experiences, a deep opening to personal exploration, and a feeling of long-lasting internal peace.

Magic mushrooms and depression

According to a growing number of scientific studies, patients for whom traditional antidepressant treatment has failed react positively to psilocybin. Studies such as this one by Professor Goodwin demonstrate reductions in symptoms of depression that last for several months after just one dose of psilocybin. Another, carried out by Robin Carhart-Harris, shows how a group of patients who were prescribed 25 mg of psilocybin every three weeks reported exactly the same benefits as another group treated with an antidepressant (escitalopram).

While it’s always worth interpreting these results with a critical eye, they nonetheless give us a glimmer of hope about potentially as-yet unexplored treatments for mental health problems.

The medical perspective

Overall, scientific research into the subject focusses on the various interactions that have been documented between the brain and psychedelic mushrooms. There are even studies which aim to show how truffles can help with complete alcohol withdrawal or even death-related anxiety in patients diagnosed with incurable cancer.

What are the risks?

Taking psilocybin is considered to be a low-risk practice. However, some people can experience temporary discomfort in the 30 to 60 minutes following a dose of psilocybin truffle. These effects can include nausea and drowsiness, but this unpleasant experience subsides by the end of the psychedelic journey, after four to six hours.

People suffering from untreated high blood pressure or heart conditions, as well as pregnant women, are not advised to use any type of psychedelic. Likewise, anyone with previous experiences of – or a predisposition to – psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, dissociative personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or epilepsy are, on average, at risk of experiencing more or worse side effects, notably feelings of paranoia. Taking hallucinogenic mushrooms is therefore not recommended for people in these cases.

What is psilocybin microdosing ?

Microdosing psilocybin means taking a tiny dose of the substance every day or several times a week, as you may with a dietary supplement, for example.

The idea is that you can experience and maintain the benefits of psilocybin without going as far as embarking on a full-scale psychedelic journey. People who microdose are generally looking to improve their mood, relieve chronic pain, improve cognitive function, or reduce symptoms of depression.

Microdosing is a particularly fashionable technique thought up by psychologist James Fadiman, who recommends taking microdoses every other day. As an example, a “microdose” is typically around 0.3 g of truffle.

Does microdosing work?

For now, scientific research into the microdosing method hasn’t demonstrated an indisputable efficacy. The supplement-like technique certainly seems to change brain activity but experiments haven’t clearly demonstrated that it leads to a psychological benefit, for example for depression. Psilocybin retreats, on the other hand, offer two stronger, one-off doses.