Over a year ago, I was in the jungle of the Yucatan peninsula at a magic mushroom retreat with a guy from Oregon who kept raving about lemon tekking. “It’s stronger and faster and really the only way I consume mushrooms,” he told me and a few other curious guests. He described letting his homegrown mushrooms sit in lemon juice for 15 minutes before drinking it all as a shot, and my mind flashed back to high school when my friends and I would always chase our shrooms with orange juice. But I couldn’t recall if we were consciously lemon tekking or just following the advice of someone’s older brother for a stronger trip.
Now, over a decade later, the more I look into it, the more I’m learning there definitely is something happening when you mix acidic citrus juice with your dose of psilocybin mushrooms, but what exactly is it? And how does it change the experience?
What is Lemon Tekking?
Lemon tek refers to letting your dose of psilocybin mushrooms sit in lemon or lime juice before consumption—essentially cooking them as the citric acid starts to break down the mushroom material. How lemon tekking works on a chemical level is debatable (we’ll get into that later), but the general consensus among psilonauts who have tried it is that the technique concentrates your trip, making it shorter and stronger than chewing on dried fungi.
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Therefore, this is a bit of an advanced technique that I wouldn’t recommend to first time journeyers. But if you’re experienced with magic mushrooms and are looking for a way to make a small amount go further, to decrease nausea and body load, and to shorten and fundamentally change the experience, then lemon tekking might be a worthy avenue of exploration.
How Does Lemon Tek Work?
The general wisdom of mushroom message boards for the past decade or so says that lemon tekking works by mimicking the acids in your stomach in that the lemon juice begins to break down the mushrooms before you consume them. Since your stomach has an acidity of between 1.5 and 3.5 pH, lemons—with their pH of about 2 to 2.6—replicate that environment.
However, there’s speculation among the mushroom community that takes our understanding of lemon tekking to another level: that the lemon juice is converting the psilocybin of magic mushrooms into its prodrug psilocin, which is the compound that’s actually responsible for the signature entheogenic effects.
I asked Australian mycologist and fungi educator Caine Barlow about this theory, and he says that no one really knows for sure because it’s unproven; there’s no scientific research to back it up. Dr. K Mandrake, co-author of The Psilocybin Mushroom Bible echoes Barlow. “All of the knowledge on lemon tek is purely theoretical, based on the knowledge that psilocybin dephosphorylation is increased under acidic conditions combined with users generally reporting a quicker onset when using the Tek,” Mandrake says. “It’s a fairly reasonable hypothesis, but hasn’t really been tested properly as far as I’m aware.”
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But just because the theory that lemons dephosphorylate psilocybin into psilocin might not be correct, that doesn’t mean lemon tekking is a myth or only a result of the placebo effect. “It’s not witchcraft,” says Seth Warner, founder of the mushroom education resource MycoRising. He and Barlow both explain to me that, essentially, the lemon juice produces a homemade psilocybin extract.
Barlow explains that lemon tekking renders the psilocybin, psilocin, and other compounds more bioavailable, so when they hit your stomach as an extract, you start feeling the effects more quickly than when you eat raw mushroom material and spend the next hour or two digesting. “It’s just chemically digesting the compounds in the mushroom that are hard for the body to break down,” says Warner. “When it hits your stomach already acidic, your body doesn’t have to compensate. It’s all ready to digest.”
Warner explains that most of a mushroom’s psilocybin and psilocin are held in its cell walls. But unlike plants which have cell walls made of cellulose, fungi’s cell walls are made out of chitin, which is harder to digest. And so the acids in the lemons start breaking down that chitin before the mushrooms enter your digestive system. In fact, Warner points out that our bodies don’t have all the necessary enzymes to digest raw mushrooms (that’s why we cook them in order to eat them in every other circumstance). Moreover, he adds, many people don’t have chitinase, the enzyme that breaks down chitin, and so therefore lemon tekking “kind of gives us a get out of jail free pass for some of that heavier body load.”
In addition, Barlow believes the vitamin C in lemons, with its anti-oxidant effects, might also be playing a role in protecting the psilocin from oxidizing. And so basically, you’re getting the most bang for your buck and not losing any of the psychedelic compounds during the digestive process.
Does Lemon Tek Work with Lime or Other Citrus?
Yes, limes work just as well as lemons because their pH is essentially the same, clocking in around 2 to 2.6. However, when it comes to other citrus fruits, many aren’t as acidic and so won’t work as well. For instance, oranges and pineapples might seem like good alternatives, but their pH ranges are around 3.2 to 4.3, bordering on or crossing the threshold of stomach acid.
In a survey I created that over 40 people filled out, many participants reported using other high acidic fruits and ingredients in order to lemon tek, such as pomegranates (2.93 to 3.2 pH), lemonade concentrate, balsamic vinegar (3 to 4 pH), and even “cheap red wine.” This is probably a matter of preference and access, but as long as the pH is 3.5 or below, it should probably do the trick.
Lemon Tek Duration: How Long Does Lemon Tek Last?
The general consensus when it comes to lemon tekking is that it concentrates the magic mushroom journey. Many experience this as a much shorter come-up, come-down, and overall trip in general. And so if mushrooms generally take somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes to kick in, with the peak coming at around three hours or so, lemon tekking kicks in anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes (depending on if you had any food in your stomach), with the peak coming on a lot sooner. As far as the total length of your trip, it’ll depend on your dose, but if mushrooms generally last six to eight hours, expect a lemon tek journey to last more like four to six.
“[I] can feel effects on [my] psyche almost instantly,” said Steve*. “Come up is much more intense (almost violent sometimes). Duration of the trip is shorter. It seems less ‘wavy’ in the sense that it doesn’t come in waves of intensity, although that feeling is still present to a lesser degree. It seems to end more abruptly too.”
Warner compares the duration difference to extended release medication, such as Adderall: Eating raw dried mushrooms is more like an extended release trip because it takes your stomach so much longer to break everything down, and so your come-up, peak, and come-down take much longer than when you lemon tek. My survey respondents cited this as both a pro or a con, depending on the person. Some folks found that speeding up the experience was a major bonus; many even said something along the lines of, “Who has 8 free hours to do anything?” Others found it easier to get to sleep at a reasonable hour after a lemon tekked trip.
However, others felt it was too fast and they barely had time to get used to the mushroom experience before it ended. “The fast come up can be startling and it sometimes feels like it isn’t long enough of an experience to benefit. By the time I get into it, it’s gone,” described Andre*. And for first timers, maybe it’s best to have the slow come-up, peak, and come down to get used to how mushrooms feel at a more manageable pace. In fact, that’s the very reason I didn’t include lemon tekking in my book on how to use mushrooms; I felt it was more of an advanced technique and thought of my audience more as first-time journeyers. Warner says something similar, that lemon tekking “can be more abrupt if you’re not ready for the psilocybin experience.”
What Does Lemon Tekking Feel like?
In online forums, users have been debating over the past 15 years whether lemon tekking makes the experience stronger or not. Many argue it’s two to three times the strength of eating dried mushrooms, and so you only need to eat about half your normal dose. Similarly, some of my survey respondents said it made the trip “more profound” and strengthened the visuals and the peak.
However, not everyone is completely convinced that it actually intensifies the experience. “It feels different,” Warner tells me. “It’s not just faster on and off. It’s like, avoiding that body load. There’s something much sweeter about it, and it’s more comforting in a way.” Especially when you only consume your lemon juice extract and skip the mushroom bits, many report it’s more of a “heady” sensation than a bodily one. As for Warner, he feels there’s less exhaustion during and after because his body has so much less work to do in terms of breaking down all the complicated compounds in raw mushrooms.
Does Lemon Tek Reduce Nausea?
One of the most common reasons people lemon tek is they feel a noticeable decrease in nausea and GI upset. “[It] makes it easier on my stomach and allows me to have a more comfortable come up,” said Sarah*. Because of this, many swear by lemon tekking and don’t eat mushrooms any other way.
Talking to both Barlow and Warner, it makes sense that this technique would be less hard on the body because you’re skipping the element that causes the most stomach upset: raw mushrooms. With lemon tekking, you’re essentially cooking your mushrooms in citrus juice like how a ceviche or aguachile cooks raw shrimp and fish in lime. The citrus starts to break down the cell walls and extracts the magical compounds like psilocybin, psilocin, and possibly others Barlow says, like baeocystin and norbaeocystin, leaving your stomach with less work and so less chance to feel upset.
It is worth mentioning some folks report some acid reflux from this technique, especially those with sensitive stomachs to begin with. A good way to minimize any kind of GI upset is by fasting for at least three to four hours before you lemon tek (basically skipping a meal), and to try and be mindful of your diet overall during the days leading up to your trip by eating healthy and avoiding alcohol. But also be aware that fasting before a mushroom journey can strengthen the experience, and in addition to the possible increased potency from the lemon tek, the combo can be intense, so start with a low dose (0.5 to 2 grams) for your first experiment.
How to Lemon Tek?
Lemon tekking is pretty straightforward, and all you’ll need is your dose of mushrooms, a grinder (coffee or cannabis grinders work well), one to two lemons or limes per dose, a glass, and a cheese cloth or a few thick coffee filters if nausea is your main reason for trying this technique.
A quick note on dose: Because many experienced mushroom users report lemon tekking can strengthen the experience, I suggest starting with about half your normal dose of dried mushrooms.
A quick note on strain and species: Many folks lemon tek strains of Psilocybe cubensis, psilocybin truffles (like P. tampensis or P. Mexicana), as well as some wild varieties (like P. caerulescens), which can be weaker than indoor grown cubes. However, when it comes to some of the stronger outdoor species like P. azurescens and other wood loving varieties with different ratios of psilocybin to psilocin, Barlow says that lemon tekking might not be necessary or perhaps may be too strong. What’s more, a survey participant also reported that lemon tekking the P. cubensis strains Penis Envy or Albino Penis Envy (both known for their strength) can also be an intense experience.
So always be mindful of what kind of mushies you’re lemon tekking; it might be in your best interest to get to know your medicine first by taking a dose sans citrus to get a feel for its strength.
Lemon Tek Guide
Step One: Grind up your mushrooms into a powder by using a coffee or cannabis grinder (blender could also work), and place them in a shot glass.
Step Two: Squeeze the juice of one to two limes or lemons over the powdered mushrooms so that they’re completely covered in juice.
Step Three: Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Optional: Some folks like to put their mushrooms and lime/lemon juice in a shaker and constantly move it around during this time, while setting their intentions.
Step Four: Drink as a shot.
Optional if nausea is your main concern: Strain the mushroom bits out of your citrus juice using a cheese cloth or a few coffee filters. Be sure to squeeze all the juice out into a glass. Then consume the juice only and discard the mushroom bits in a safe place.
Lemon Tek Tea
Some people like to turn their lemon-psilocybin concentrate into a tea for a better taste and easier digestion. To do this, follow steps one through three from above. Then, instead of drinking as a shot, strain the mushroom material from your lemon juice, and add the juice to a cup of tea of your choice (ginger and green teas seem to be favored) that’s hot, but not boiling. You could also just add some water, ginger and sweetener, like honey, to your lemon juice extract and consume it as a lemonade.
In the survey, some folks also reported they find it beneficial to enjoy a nice cup of tea before they ingest their lemon tek to prepare their stomach for the mushrooms. Totally up to you!
All in all, lemon tekking is an easy way to make a homemade magic mushroom extract that can decrease nausea and change the experience. Because it can come on more strongly, consider enlisting a trip sitter, especially for your first lemon tek journey. And always take the time to prepare yourself, as well as your set and setting before a psychedelic experience. Safe travels!
*names changed for privacy
Michelle Janikian is a journalist focused on drug policy, trends and education. She’s the author of “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.