Image Depicting Collage of Maria Sabina and R Gordon Wasson

A Brief History of the Huautla Mushroom—and Why it Matters

This mushroom is named after the town María Sabina lived in—but we shouldn't forget it's history.

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In 1955, inside a tiny adobe house with a thatch roof, Mazatec curandera Maria Sabina shared psilocybin mushrooms with Gordon Wasson, a banker who would later popularize magic mushrooms in the Western World. It all went down in Huautla de Jiménez, a town of a few thousand high in the Sierra Madre mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Forty years later, Psilocybe cubensis from the nearby pastures was collected, and the “Huautla” mushroom strain entered the online mushroom market.

Sabina spoke only Mazatec, but recordings of her story were edited and translated into English by Álvaro Estrada and Jerome Rothenberg. According to the translation, Sabina, who began eating the mushrooms as a child, was asked to give Wasson the mushrooms a town authority. “It’s true that Wasson and his friends were the first foreigners who came to our town in search of the saint children [mushrooms] and that they didn’t take them because they suffered from any illness,” Sabina said, in translation. “Their reason was that they came to find God. Before Wasson nobody took the mushrooms only to find God. The little mushrooms were always taken for the sick to get well.”

Their meeting turned the town of a few thousand residents into a vortex of shroom activity, with rumors of celebrities like John Lenon and Bob Dylan making pilgrimages to try magic mushrooms. Later, Sabina said that, after these encounters, the saint children lost their purity and no longer elevated her. “The young people are the ones who are most disrespectful. They take the children at any time or place.” Yet, she says, even if she had not been asked by an authority figure to give Wasson mushrooms, “I would still have shown them my wisdom, because there is nothing bad in that, the children are the blood of Christ.”

READ: What Made María Sabina Unique

Photo Depicting Sierra Madre Mountains
Sierra Madre Mountains. Image Courtesy of Roy Luck via Flicker.

Tourism and prospecting pharmaceutical companies would change Huaulta forever; mushrooms became part of the local economy. María Sabina’s house was burned down (twice). “Some people thought it was because I revealed the ancestral secret of our native medicine to foreigners,” Sabina said, in translation. “Other people believed that the motive for burning my house was that the arsonist thought he was bewitched by me.” The consequences of Wasson and Sabina’s meeting are mixed, but ultimately, they created the conditions spawning the modern-day mushroom industry, which sells spores from mushroom strains like Huaulta.

What Species Are Huautla Mushrooms? Huautla Mushroom Origin

Huautla mushrooms are a landrace variety of P. cubensis mushrooms. Landrace is a term used to describe mushrooms that grow in a particular geographical location. Although, the mushrooms are not a different species. Mycologists often name mushrooms after the location where they collected the fungi—in this case, Huautla de Jiménez in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Huautla mushrooms likely grew on or near cow pies in classic cubensis fashion; they’re dung-loving mushrooms. 

Photo Depicting Psilocybe Cubensis Mushrooms
Psilocybe Cubensis. Image Courtesy of Alan Rockefeller via Mushroom Observer.

Huautla spores are now sold in online shops. As far as we can tell, Shroomery user Club99 introduced Huautla’s spores to the underground mycological community. The exact collection date is unknown, but based on old Shroomery threads, the spores began circulating in the late 90s. Initially, spores were freely traded amongst the online mushroom community, but now they can be bought for just under 20 bucks.

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Huautla Characteristics, Features, and Spores

Huautla often fruits with long, somewhat slender stems, which sometimes curl or have a yellowish tint. Caps are average to small and exhibit typical cube coloring of soft gold to burnt caramel, with dark purple to brown spores.

Huaulta mushroom is a typical cubensis; it shares characteristics with its kin, Golden Teachers, Acadian Coast, and B+. The physical expression of Huautla can vary considerably across grows. Growing conditions likely influence size, shape, and potency more than genetic predisposition.

What’s a Mushroom Strain?

“Terms like strain and variety are concepts that even modern-day scientists argue over, with each discipline of biology having their own preferred definitions,” writes Dr. K Mandrake, co-author of the Psilocybin Mushroom Bible. “Generally speaking though, strains should all originate from the same species (usually Psilocybe cubensis) and can interbreed freely.” Mandrake’s covers the important distinction for DoubleBlind.

“Every grower is going to have different nutrition; it’s going to have different strength or help of genetics that they’re working with,” says Jasper Degenaars, Chief Education Officer at Fungi Academy, a fungal education center in Guatemala, who adds, “arguing that strain names mean potency, like with cannabis, it’s false.”

Degenaars points out that “even within the same growing environment, the same genetics, the same food and conditions, everything the same. One mushroom in the same box can have double the amount of active constituents as the other mushrooms.” Indeed, Degenaars began his interview saying, cubensis strains are “bullshit.”

Psilocybin Strains vs. Species

Strain is a term originating with microbiology. The term is borrowed by the cannabis community and often misapplied in the underground mushroom community. In microbiological terms, a strain is a “a group of organisms that belong to the same species but share certain genetic characteristics not found in other members of the species.” Theoretically, mushroom strains are cultivated variations of a particular mushroom species, created by interbreeding the mushrooms over a period of time. As Dr. K Mandrake, co-author of the Psilocybin Mushroom Bible, writes for DoubleBlind:

“It’s important to point out here that a truly distinct strain should display stable characteristics that can be reproduced in every grow project. Just because you grew a funky-looking shroom doesn’t mean you’ve really isolated a new strain, unless you can prove that you can grow the same characteristics repeatedly.”

Dr. K Mandrake for DoubleBlind

For cannabis, imagine the difference between Sour Diesel and Durban Poison — both are technically Cannabis sativa but marketed as having different effects. In the mycological community, however, the legitimacy of strains remains a hot topic. Many claim unique subjective effects between strains and arguments for genetic differences exist, but others, like Degenaars, are skeptical.

On the other hand, species are different types of mushrooms in the Psilocybe genus, a step up the genetic tree. Examples of Psilocybe species are P. mexicanaP. cyanescensP. azurescens, and almost two hundred others. These have distinct physical features and, in some cases, distinctive subjective and physical effects. For example, azurescens are said to cause “wood lover’s paralysis,” a temporary and sometimes complete loss of motor skills not typically seen in other psilocybe species.

“For me, it’s just so much classic California marketing,” says Degenaars about cultivated cubensis strains like Huaulta, but adds the growing environment could influence a mushroom’s character. “I’ve been lucky enough to forage for wild cubensis on four continents, and they always feel different to me than the cultivated varieties. I think that’s more interesting. And I think that’s also why I, personally, have a different experience with the other species because I generally don’t get them cultivated.”

How to Grow Psilocybe Cubensis Huautla

A survey of Shroomery posts for those who cultivate Huautla reveals a similar sentiment around Huaulta’s requirements—grow Huautla like any other cube. Colonization times vary across grows, and the ideal temperature is around 68-78 degrees—a standard range for cubes.

Degenaars says when growing any mushroom, starting with a strong culture goes a long way, and healthy, fast-growing mycelium is half the work. “Because if it’s slow and not doing so well, it’s going to face more contamination. That’s just the reality because it’s not going to be able to out-compete the organisms in the substrates that you’re providing.”

“The other half is like, what we teach is just patience. It’s don’t try to rush things.” He then echoes Daoist master Lao Tzu, saying, “Nature is never in a hurry. And yet everything happens on time.”

Huautla de Jiménez: The Original Shroom Boom

In Huautla de Jiménez, psilocybe cubensis is known as San Isidro. Many different species of psilocybe mushrooms are known in Huautla de Jiménez, like Psilocybe caerulescens (also known as landslides or derrumbe) and Psilocybe mexicana (the little birds or pajarito.) But categorizing different cubensis strains like Huaulta is a Western invention and a deviation from Mazatec tradition.

READ: It Turns Out Mushrooms Have a Language—And We’re Just Figuring Out How to Decipher It

Photo Depicting Psilocybe Caerulescens Mushrooms
Psilocybe Caerulescens. Image Courtesy of Alan Rockefeller via Mushroom Observer.

“There wasn’t this commercial aspect of mushrooms. It was created because of the need for these pharmaceutical companies to produce the active agent in mushrooms,” says Marcos Garcia de Teresa, a Mexican anthropologist who published a paper on the impact of Wasson’s numerous visits to Huautla de Jiménez.

De Teresa spent months in Huautla de Jiménez and reading Gordon Wasson’s archived personal letters, detailing how Wasson’s arrival turned magic mushrooms into a commodity. Previously, money was never exchanged for the services of a curandera like Maria Sabina. Psilocybin mushrooms were sacred, and as De Teresa details ‘”priceless,”‘ while one of his sources states a mushroom was “‘not sold because of its sacredness, but it was rather given.'”

De Teresa documents Wasson arrived in Huautla de Jiménez during a time of financial hardship. Coffee was a local staple of the economy, and prices plummeted. When Wasson began traveling to Huautla and buying kilos of psilocybin-containing mushrooms to sell to pharmaceutical companies, Mexican journalists accused him of luring locals away from coffee and into more accessible income. Indeed, as word spread and tourists flocked to Huaulta, a new profession emerged — honguero — a mushroom picker.

Huautla Legality

“If police found you on the highway with mushrooms, it is still illegal, but it’s tolerated in Indigenous regions,” says De Teresa, adding that for tourists in Huautla. “It’s not really regulated. There’s nothing you can do if things go bad.” 

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In the United States, there is less tolerance for psilocybin. Still a Schedule I Substance, mushrooms like Huaulta remain illegal under US federal law and the UN convention advising most of planet Earth. Jamaica and the Netherlands are notable exceptions, along with Oregon’s system of legally licensed growing facilities and service centers. Colorado has decriminalized psilocybin and is drafting their own legal framework for future producers and service centers. 

Around the United States, a patchwork of jurisdictions are decriminalizing psilocybin or granting special access for specific medical conditions. These laws are shifting regularly, so it’s best to check for news in your local area. In Canada, a Special Access Program also exists for medical exemptions. British Columbia is testing out a drug decriminalization model until 2026, after which it will be evaluated.

READ: Mushroom Dosage: What is the Right Amount of Shrooms?

Huaulta Strength, Dose, and Effects

Unfortunately, official numbers on Huaulta’s concentration of psilocybin and related compounds aren’t publicly available. While other Mexican cubensis strains like Mazapatec, Melmec, and Escondido rank high in competitions gauging the psilocybin content of cubensis, Huaulta is regarded as standard strength from anecdotes.

There are few Huaulta-specific trip reports online. One Shroomery user was “very impressed. Crazy body high. Definitely a keeper.” When dosing Huaulta, plan for one to three grams, a standard range for dried psilocybin mushrooms. If you are new or trying a fresh batch, start small. The first mushroom effects tingles should appear around 45 minutes. If nothing is happening, or you want to go deeper, always wait at least two hours to understand how the mushroom affects you before taking more. 

Huautla Mushrooms Safety and What to Expect

Generally speaking, no one can tell you what your mushroom trip will be like. It’s important to stay open and curious, as magic mushrooms can bring on an array of feelings, personal insights, and revelations. Mushrooms will bring up body sensations like heat, chills, shaking, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. 

Carefully planning a trip beforehand is key. Planning means considering a trip sitter and understanding how to create your optimal set and setting. Set is your mindset, which can be prepared with education, intentions, or talking to a psychedelic professional. The setting is the environment where you will trip. Planning outdoor adventures or indoor coziness can make mushrooms more manageable. Consider clothing, snacks, water, music, and items that help you feel safe if things get weird. And they might — shrooms can bring up strong emotions, trigger anxiety, confusion, loss of motor skills, and looping thoughts, so stay safe!

Was this article on Huautla mushrooms helpful? Continue learning about safe(r) tripping.

“Set and setting” is a concept introduced by Timothy Leary in 1964—now it’s a bedrock concept in psychedelic harm reduction. But why is it so important? Licensed therapist Bailey Rahn walks you through the basics.

Psilocybin experiences can be powerful—and a pleasant trip is never guaranteed. Learn about recovering from challenging and traumatic trips from Dr. Erica Zelfand.

Psilocybin is still illegal in many places. So, possessing, purchasing, or manufacturing psilocybin-containing mushrooms can result in legal penalties in many places. Learn more about the changing status of mushroom legality from journalist Mattha Busby.

DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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