Everything You Need To Know About Magic Mushroom Substrates

If you’re cultivating magic mushrooms in bulk, or without a grow kit, you’ll need to prepare a mushroom substrate. In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about the right substrate for your magic mushrooms.

When cultivating magic mushrooms, nothing is more important than doing so in the right substrate. Unless you’re using a mushroom grow kit that already comes with everything, you will need to source your own substrate. The thing is, unlike growing plants, where ordinary soil from the store may do, growing magic mushrooms is entirely different. Technically, mushrooms aren’t even plants, but fungi; this also means that mushrooms have distinct requirements for their substrate.



Plants get energy to grow from sunlight, and draw water and nutrients up from the soil. Fungi, on the other hand, do not require light to grow, and feed on decaying material in nature. The mushroom substrate is what the mushroom mycelium (the subterranean part of a fungus) uses for energy and nutrition. Because of that, it’s the most important factor when growing magic mushrooms.

If you purchase a prepared mushroom grow kit from Zamnesia, it already comes with a suitable substrate (a mix of perlite and vermiculite) and colonised “spawn” e.g. a rye cake permeated with mycelium. After some easy prep work, the mycelium in your kit will start to grow, and your mushrooms will come next.

But if you want to grow mushrooms in bulk, you will need a suitable substrate that will be inoculated with mushroom spores or mixed with mushroom spawn. The mycelium then grows throughout the substrate, and at some point, your mushrooms (the above-ground fruiting bodies of the fungus) will appear.

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There are all kinds of mushroom substrates. Some common ones include straw or hardwood sawdust, or a mix of coco coir and vermiculite. Even coffee grounds or manure can serve as a mushroom substrate.

Unlike garden soil, you need to prepare mushroom substrates before you can use them. You will need to add water, and potentially even nutrients as well. Most importantly, you will need to pasteurise or sterilise the substrate.



Mushroom substrates like straw, wood, manure, etc. contain a wealth of organic substances that your mushies will devour as they grow. But along with these substances, substrates can also contain mould, bacteria, and other (undesired) fungi. The thing is, these contaminants often grow faster than your magic mushrooms, competing with them for space and resources. Obviously, you don’t want this. You need to eliminate these contaminants so your mushrooms can grow optimally.

This can be achieved by pasteurising or sterilising your substrate before you introduce your mushroom spores.


Pasteurisation is when you heat up your substrate to temperatures between 65–85°C for a couple of hours using a hot water bath or steam. This won’t kill all harmful microbes in it, but it will give your mushrooms a good head start. Indeed, sometimes it can be advantageous for certain microorganisms to remain in the substrate.


To sterilise the substrate, you need to heat it to a much higher temperature (120°C+) under pressure. This will eliminate all living microorganisms that would otherwise compete with (or even spoil) your mushrooms.



Whether you need to pasteurise or sterilise depends on the type of substrate you’re using. Those with lower levels of nutrients, such as non-supplemented straw, can be prepared using just pasteurisation.

On the other hand, substrates containing very high levels of nutrients, such as supplemented hardwood sawdust, need to be sterilised as they are often contaminated with mould and other kinds of harmful microorganisms.


A good substrate shouldn’t just contain all the organic nutrients your mushrooms need to grow; it should also be easy to work with, and shouldn’t set you back too far in the way of cost. Know that there is no “best” option suitable for all types of mushrooms. For this reason, some growers like to experiment with different substrates to see which one yields the best results for each type of shroom.


COCO COIR AND VERMICULITE Magic Mushroom Substrates

A mix of coco coir and vermiculite makes for an excellent mushroom substrate. Coco coir is made from the husks and shells of coconuts, while vermiculite is a heat-treated and expanded mineral that can retain a lot of water. A typical coco coir and vermiculite mix is 1:1.

A coco coir and vermiculite mix isn’t particularly nutritious for plants, but it’s nutritious enough for growing many types of mushrooms. You should pasteurise it before introducing your spores.


Good gardeners know that spent coffee grounds have their uses. They are high in nitrogen, so they make for an excellent soil amendment. Coffee grounds are also decent as a mushroom substrate, although we wouldn’t recommend them as your first choice. The reason is that spent coffee grounds are very rich in organic compounds, so they can easily contaminate your operation. For that reason, it’s often better to add them to other substrates like coco or sawdust, rather than using them on their own. Best when sterilised, but pasteurisation can work too.


LOGS Magic Mushroom Substrates

Mushrooms love eating decayed organic matter, and one of them is dead wood. In theory, it may sound like a good idea to get a log and cultivate some magic mushrooms, but in practice this can be a little bit involved. First, not all mushrooms will grow on a log, as some eat only certain woods and not others. Secondly, it can take a long time for the first flush to emerge—from several months to a year. On the other hand, it may be worth it if not just for decorative purposes in your yard. Once inoculated, a log can produce flushes for many years and doesn’t need any maintenance or sterilisation!


Fungi often form a beneficial relationship with other organisms called mycorrhizal association. In our case, that would be trees. If you’re out in the wild, you may come across trees with mushrooms growing naturally along their trunk or branches. For our purposes, it wouldn’t be easy nor very practical to inoculate an actual tree with magic mushroom spores, although it may be possible. For mushroom growing at home, you’re better off using logs.


MANURE Magic Mushroom Substrates

A lot of mushroom species, particularly Psilocybe varieties, really love nothing more than manure. Manure is often used in commercial cultivation for culinary mushrooms, and it can be quite an involved pursuit.

To make a suitable substrate, manure needs to undergo composting. For this, a mix of manure and straw is heated to 72°C, which will destroy the “bad” microorganisms and benefit the good ones. Afterwards, the compost is pasteurised again to remove the remaining contaminants. Although widely used commercially, manure isn’t very practical for home use.


Soy hulls make another decent substrate for mushroom cultivation. You can achieve very good results by mixing them together with hardwood sawdust. Depending on the type of mushies you’re growing, it may require some experimentation to find out the optimal ratio. You can start out with a 1:1 ratio first, then work from there to see what gives you the best results.


SAWDUST OR WOOD CHIP MIXES Magic Mushroom Substrates

Along with coco and vermiculite mixes, hardwood sawdust is another commonly used substrate for mushroom cultivation. What makes it attractive, among other things, is that it’s a waste product from the wood industry, which means it’s widely available and cheap. Sawdust, however, is rarely used on its own; it’s typically mixed with wood chips to improve its structure and rate of colonisation. But not any type of sawdust works for mushrooms—it needs to be from hardwood like oak or maple. Softwoods are not suitable for growing magic mushrooms.

As an alternative to hardwood sawdust, you can use wood pellets. These are widely available as they’re used for wood stoves. Before inoculating, the pellets need to be soaked in water and broken up into sawdust.


Straw makes an excellent substrate for mushroom cultivation. As a waste product from agriculture, it is usually very cheap, so you can obtain lots of it for very little money. Although your mushrooms will love straw, know that it can be a little messy to work with as you need to chop, clean, and pasteurise it. Unless you’re a commercial mushroom grower sourcing huge amounts of straw from a farm, you’re likely better off getting a small bag from a grow store. This straw often comes pre-cut and cleaned. To pasteurise, toss the straw into a container and douse with hot water.

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Chances are you won’t have trouble sourcing any, or at least some, of the above substrates to grow your magic mushrooms. But if, for whatever reason, you can’t, or if you just feel like experimenting, there are other things you can use as well. Look into cellulose-based materials like paper and cardboard, as well as spent grain and even tea leaves. Then again, you likely won’t know which substrate works best for your type of mushroom until you try them. If you look on the internet, you can find lots of DIY mushroom substrate recipes.

For some cultivators, it’s not even so much the growing of shrooms that they enjoy most, but coming up with great new recipes for substrates. You won’t have trouble finding like-minded individuals online with whom you can talk to and share your experiences.



So, what is the best substrate for growing Psilocybe cubensis, aka our magic mushrooms and truffles? In our experience, mixes of coco coir and vermiculite, but also straw and manure, give great results. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use others, but some of these substrates might be harder to come by or are only optimal when mixed. Coco and vermiculite in a 1:1 mix provides optimal nutrition and has just the perfect structure for cultivation, so it is one of our favourites.


Once you have delved deep into the exciting realm of mushroom growing, you might be surprised with the amount of spent substrate you end up with. What to do with it?

If you just have a small operation, no need to toss anything—compost instead! Dedicate a space in your garden where you can keep a nice pile of waste that will eventually turn into the most excellent compost. This way, you won’t just end up with some awesome magic mushrooms, but also a great soil amendment for anything else you might want to grow!

Georg Written by: Geore
Based in Spain, Georg spends a lot of his time not only geeking out at his computer but in his garden as well. With a burning passion for growing cannabis and researching psychedelics, Georg is well versed in all things psychoactive.

About Magic Mushroom Use

Magic mushrooms are wild or cultivated mushrooms that containpsilocybin, a naturally-occurring psychoactive and hallucinogeniccompound. Psilocybin is considered one of the most well-known psychedelics, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations.1

Psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that has a high potential for misuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

Although certain cultures have known to use the hallucinogenic propertiesof some mushrooms for centuries, psilocybin was first isolated in 1958 by Dr. Albert Hofmann, who also discovered lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Magic mushrooms are often prepared by drying and are eaten by being mixed into food or drinks, although some people eat freshly picked magic mushrooms.

Also Known As: Magic mushrooms are also known as shrooms, mushies, blue meanies, golden tops, liberty caps, philosopher’s stones, liberties, amani, and agaric.

Drug Class: Psilocybin is classified as a hallucinogen.

Common Side Effects: Magic mushrooms are known to cause nausea, yawning, feeling relaxed or drowsy, introspective experience, nervousness, paranoia, panic, hallucinations, and psychosis.

How to Recognize Shrooms

Mushrooms containing psilocybin look liked dried ordinary mushrooms with long, slender stems that are whitish-gray and dark brown caps with light brown or white in the center. Dried mushrooms are rusty brown with isolated areas of off-white.

Magic mushrooms can be eaten, mixed with food, or brewed like tea for drinking. They can also be mixed with cannabis or tobacco and smoked. Liquid psilocybin is also available, which is the naturally occurring psychedelic drug found in liberty caps. The liquid is clear brown and comes in a small vial.

What Do Magic Mushrooms Do?

Magic mushrooms are hallucinogenic drugs, meaning they can cause you to see, hear, and feel sensations that seem real but are not. The effects of magic mushrooms, however, are highly variable and believed to be influenced by environmental factors.2

Shrooms have a long history of being associated with spiritual experiences and self-discovery. Many believe that naturally occurring drugs like magic mushrooms, weed, and mescaline are sacred herbs that enable people to attain superior spiritual states. Others take magic mushrooms to experience a sense of euphoria, connection, and a distorted sense of time.

The psilocybin found in shrooms is converted to psilocin in the body and is believed to influence serotonin levels in the brain, leading to altered and unusual perceptions. The effects take 20 to 40 minutes to begin and can last up to 6 hours—the same amount of time it takes for psilocin to be metabolized and excreted.3

A number of factors influence the effects of magic mushrooms, including dosage, age, weight, personality, emotional state, environment, and history of mental illness.

What the Experts Say

While magic mushrooms are often sought out for a peaceful high, shrooms have been reported to induce anxiety, frightening hallucinations, paranoia, and confusion in some.4 In fact, most hospital admissions related to the use of magic mushrooms are connected to what is known colloquially as a “bad trip.”

Off-Label or Recently Approved Uses

Magic mushrooms have been used for thousands of years for both spiritual and medicinal uses among indigenous people of America and Europe.

In 2018, researchers from John Hopkins University recommended reclassification of the drug from Schedule I to Schedule IV in order to allow for medical use. Studies suggest that psilocybin can be used to treat cancer-related psychiatric distress, depression, anxiety, nicotine addiction, and substance use disorders.3

In 2019, Denver became the first city to decriminalize mushrooms. Oakland became the second city less than a month later. This does not mean that shrooms are legal but that the city is not permitted to “spend resources to impose criminal penalties” on people in possession of the drug.

Common Side Effects

All hallucinogens carry the risk of triggering mental and emotional problems and causing accidents while under the influence. Among adolescents, magic mushrooms are frequently taken in combination with alcohol and other drugs, increasing the psychological and physical risks.

The amount of psilocybin and psilocin contained in any given magic mushroom is unknown, and mushrooms vary greatly in the amounts of psychoactive contents. This means it’s very hard to tell the length, intensity, and type of “trip” someone will experience.

Consuming shrooms can result in a mild trip causing the user to feel relaxed or drowsy to a frightening experience, marked by hallucinations,delusions, and panic. In the worst-case scenario, magic mushrooms have even been known to cause convulsions.5

Side effects of magic mushrooms can include both physical and mental effects.

Physical effects:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Yawning

Mental effects:

  • Distorted sense of time, place, and reality
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations (visual or auditory)
  • Having introspective (spiritual) experiences
  • Panic reactions
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Nervousness

More research is needed on the long-term, lasting side effects of magic mushrooms but it has been reported that users can experience long-term changes in personality, as well as flashbacks long after taking mushrooms.

Since magic mushrooms look similar to poisonous mushrooms, poisoning is yet another potential risk of taking these drugs. Mushroom poisoning can cause severe illness, organ damage, and even death.

It’s also common for magic mushroom products to be contaminated. A study of 886 samples alleged to be psilocybin mushrooms analyzed by Pharm Chem Street Drug Laboratory showed that only 252 (28%) were actually hallucinogenic, while 275 (31%) were regular store-bought mushrooms laced with LSD or phencyclidine (PCP), and 328 (37%) contained no drug at all.6

Help for Mushroom Poisoning

If you suspect that you or someone you care about ate a poisonous mushroom, call poison control right away at 800-222-122. Don’t wait for symptoms to occur. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Signs of Use

If your loved one is using shrooms, they may be nauseous or appear nervous or paranoid. In the case of drug use, it’s always important to pay attention to any changes in sleeping and eating patterns as well as shifts in mood and personality and social activities.

Myths & Common Questions

There are many myths about magic mushrooms. Some people believe, for example, that magic mushrooms are “safer” and produce a “milder” trip than other hallucinogenics.

In fact, in addition to their potential to poison anyone who takes them, magic mushrooms are just as unpredictable in their effects as other drugs. Some people have reported much more intense and frightening hallucinations on magic mushrooms than on LSD.

Many people also confuse fly agaric mushrooms with psilocybin-containing mushrooms—but they are not the same. Fly agaric mushrooms contain the psychoactive chemicals ibotenic acid and muscimol, which are known to cause twitching, drooling, sweating, dizziness, vomiting, and delirium.7

Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal

Like most drugs, the more you use magic mushrooms, the more tolerance you develop. Tolerance also develops quickly with regular use. This means that you need more of the drug to achieve the same effect.

Developing a tolerance can be especially risky with shrooms because consuming a large amount can result in overdose symptoms, which while not fatal, can include agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, panic or paranoia, psychosis, and seizures.

How Long Does Psilocybin Stay in Your System?

The short-term effects of magic mushrooms typically wear off in 6 to 12 hours.3 But users can experience long-term changes in personality and flashbacks long after taking the drugs.

The average half-life of psilocybin ranges from an hour to two, and it generally takes five to six half-lives for a substance to be eliminated from your system.

The typical urine drug screening for employment does not test for psilocybin, but there are specific tests that can be ordered to test for the powerful hallucinogen. Like many other drugs, magic mushrooms can be found in hair follicles for up to 90 days.8


Psilocybin is not addictive and does not lead to compulsive use. This is partly because the drug can cause an intense “trip.” Plus, people can build a tolerance to psilocybin fairly quickly, making it hard to have any effect after several days of repeated use.5


While users rarely report physical symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using the drug, some experience psychological effects, which may include depression.

How to Get Help

If you suspect your teen is experimenting or regularly using magic mushrooms, consider having a firm yet loving conversation with them about the risks of psychedelics, especially when combined with alcohol or other drugs. At this time, it’s also important to emphasize that you are there to help and support them.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

5 Women in Psychedelics You Should Know About

Badass women making waves in the psychedelic movement, from research to drug policy reform

Michelle Janikian // Dec. 2, 2019

Women have always played an integral role in psychedelic healing and research, even if they haven’t always been highlighted as mavericks in the field. But as the “Psychedelic Renaissance” goes mainstream, it’s time to start recognizing groundbreaking women in psychedelic science and activism. The five women we’ve chosen to feature are all actively changing the landscape of psychedelics, from developing leading theories in how they work, to advocating for fair access for all. These women, among many other women and gender non-conforming folk, are shifting the way society and science view these substances and bringing forth a new generation of doctors, researchers, and policymakers, with psychedelics at the core.

Ann Shulgin

DoubleBlind: Ann Shulgin

Born in 1931, Ann Shulgin is often seen as a matriarch of the psychedelic movement. Before MDMA was classified as a Schedule I substance in 1985, and then 2C-B in 1995, Shulgin provided psychedelic-assisted therapy with these substances for many in the Bay Area using her expertise in Jungian psychology. She is the widow of the renowned chemist, Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, who had a license from the DEA to essentially invent new psychedelic compounds and test them on himself, synthesizing over 230 new psychoactive compounds in the process, including 2C-B. Together, they co-wrote two classic psychedelic books,PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story and TIHKAL: The Continuation, detailing those substances, including their own rating scale to judge the personal effects. Ann Shulgin is also the Founder of Transform Press, has contributed to many other books and publications on the subject, including Ecstasy: The Complete Guide andThe Secret Chief Revealed, and continues to write and speak on psychedelic issues.

Monnica Williams

DoubleBlind: Monnica Williams

Monnica Williams, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, researcher and professor who’s dedicated to expanding psychedelic-assisted therapy access to minorities and people of color (POC). She’s a trained MDMA-assisted therapist and has worked on Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) PTSD trials, including the only site exclusively available to POC. As an expert in race-based trauma, Williams is working with MAPS on making MDMA-assisted therapy more inviting and inclusive to marginalized communities by training more therapists of color and tweaking certain aspects of the protocol, like the language and music used. Williams is also the Clinical Director of the Behavioral Wellness Clinic in Connecticut as well as the Associate Director of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, a publication and organization that bridges the divide between sacred entheogenic traditions and current psychedelic science. To bring light to racial disparities and cultural differences in treating anxiety disorders, Williams has authored over 100 peer-reviewed papers as well as articles and book chapters in her field.

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Rosalind “Ros” Watts

DoubleBlind: Ros Watts

Rosalind Watts, Ph.D. is the clinical lead of groundbreaking trials on psilocybin for depression at Imperial College London. Through her experience guiding many psilocybin-assisted therapy sessions in her work at Imperial, she has written several key scientific papers on the subjective psilocybin experience and psychological mechanisms of post-trip changes. Themes she explores in her work, like psilocybin’s ability to connect people with themselves, others, and the world, and to help people move from “avoidance to acceptance” of difficult emotions, is shaping how the psychedelic and scientific communities explain how mushrooms work for relieving mental health conditions. Based on this work, Watts has recently developed the ACE Model (Accept, Connect, Embody) to provide psychedelic therapists with a framework on how to work with a depressed population.

Bia Labate

DoubleBlind: Bia Labate of Chacruna

Bia Labate, Ph.D., is an anthropologist from Brazil with a focus on psychoactive substances, drug policies, shamanism, and religion. She is involved in the psychedelic movement as the Executive Director of Chacruna, and organizes and speaks at many events in the community. Labate is also the Public Education and Culture Specialist at MAPS, adjunct professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), visiting professor at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico, and author of over 20 books and several peer-reviewed papers. She is a huge proponent of including more diverse voices in the psychedelic community, especially of queer, women/non-binary, Latinx, and indigenous folks in these important and societal-shifting conversations.

Natalie Ginsberg

DoubleBlind: Natalie Ginsberg of MAPS

Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, M.S.W., is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at MAPSwhere she lobbies in support of cannabis and psychedelic research and policy change. She is dedicated to building and organizing the psychedelic community as well as pushing these issues to the front of social change. Ginsberg originally got involved in advocacy work after her experience as a social worker in low-income neighborhoods in New York City where she became frustrated with systemic failures making it impossible for her clients to succeed. Before joining MAPS in 2014, she worked as a policy fellow with the Drug Policy Alliance and helped to bring medical cannabis to New York state in an attempt to end racist marijuana arrests. Now, in coordination with MAPS and Imperial College London, she is co-developing a psychedelic peace-building strategy between Israelis and Palestinians, inspired by the potential of these substances to heal systemic, intergenerational trauma and build community.

Michelle Janikian is a journalist focused on drug policy, trends and education. She’s the author of the upcoming book, “Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion: An Informative, Easy-to-Use Guide to Understanding Magic Mushrooms”, writes a column for Playboy about psychedelics and cannabis and has also contributed to High Times, Herb, Rolling Stone and Teen Vogue.

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