Collage with Janet Yellen covered in Mushrooms and Dancing Stick Figures on Photo of Yun Nan Background

That One Time the US Treasury Secretary Ate Shrooms in China

“I was not aware that these mushrooms had hallucinogenic properties," said Janet Yellen, US Treasury Secretary. "I learned that later.”

DoubleBlind Mag

Article by
Published on

It was the height of China‘s mushroom season in August 2023. Janet Yellen (D), the US Treasury Secretary, was in town for a four-day visit to strengthen diplomatic relations between both countries’ economies. On her first night in town, she and a group of colleagues went to a swanky restaurant chain in the province of Yunnan called Yi Zuo Yi Wang. Someone in her party allegedly ordered four plates of Jian Shou Qing, a local stir-fry dish featuring Lanmaoa asiatica, a mushroom from the Boletus genus.

She didn’t realize the mushrooms featured in the dish had psychedelic properties. “I went with this large group of people and the person who’d arranged our dinner did the ordering. There was a delicious mushroom dish; I was not aware that these mushrooms had hallucinogenic properties. I learned that later,” she told CNN.

An assistant of Yellen’s confirmed that the treasury secretary ate the mushroom stir-fry at the restaurant. “I can tell you that none of us were affected by the mushrooms,” Yellen told CNN while laughing. Boletes are said to lose their psychedelic properties if they’re cooked properly. Yellen swears that the restaurant thoroughly cooked her shrooms.

READ: You Can Buy “Legal Shrooms” On the Venice Beach Boardwalk


Yellen under fire for a trippy experience in China. Her casual response has many questioning her judgment as Treasury Sec. With whispers of intentiona

♬ original sound – Next News Network – Next News Network

But Yellen’s nonchalance incited controversy. According to conservative media outlets, there were calls for her resignation due to concerns that eating psychedelic mushrooms unknowingly reflected questionable judgment. Others on the political right questioned whether it was actually an accident.

Yi Zuo Yi Wang loved the media frenzy. They even incorporated Yellen’s visit into its marketing strategy by posting signage stating that Yellen ate trippy mushrooms there. The restaurant chain was slammed for weeks, stating on social media that “colleagues from headquarters… turned into mushroom-cutting workers” to keep up with demand. Several publications reported that Yellen kicked off China’s psychedelic mushroom craze. The Jian Shou Qing dish sold out across the country as a result, Forbes reported.

Yunnan is one of the major fungi hubs of the world. Its economy is largely reliant on los hongos, thanks to the region’s lush, subtropical evergreen forest boasting 900 edible species.

🍄 👁 🌈 ✨

How to Grow Shrooms Bundle

Take Both of Our Courses and Save $90!

According to the China Daily, the Yunnan Mushuihua Wild Mushroom Trading Center, a dedicated fungi market, draws around 20,000 visitors daily, surging to nearly 60,000 during peak seasons. According to recent stats, the province’s wild fungi sector experienced significant growth, escalating from $2.9 billion (21 billion yuan) in 2021 to $3.4 billion (25 billion yuan) in 2022.

Mushrooms from the Boletus genus are considered toxic in China. And, although this fungi is anecdotally said to be psychedelic, it doesn’t contain psilocybin or psilocin as its psychoactive constituents. Instead, these mushrooms contain other mind-altering alkaloids, but even scientists are unsure about how and why they create psychedelic effects.

“Lanmaoa mushrooms are considered poisonous as they can be hallucinogenic,” Dr. Peter Mortimer, a professor at Kunming Institute of Botany, told CNN. “However, scientists have not, as of yet, identified the compounds responsible for causing the hallucinations. It remains a bit of a mystery, and most evidence is anecdotal. I have a friend who mistakenly ate them and hallucinated for three days.”

Last year, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Lanmaoa asiatica was cited as the leading cause of “psycho-neurological disorders” associated with mushrooms in the country. Additionally, the US Department of Energy cautioned that incorrectly consuming this mushroom can induce hallucinations, Forbes reported.

The most common effect people report experiencing from these psychedelic Bolete mushrooms is seeing “little humans” dancing around the room, causing people to try and catch them with their fingers, according to creator Zoey Xinyi Gong (@zoeyxinyigong), who posted a reel about the situation on Instagram. “The locals even call it ‘little human’ season.”

Although Boletes don’t contain psilocybin, the experience of seeing “little humans” is worth noting because Indigenous cultures in Mexico, specifically in the Mazatec tradition, call psilocybin mushrooms niños santos, which translates to “little saints.”

READ: Natural Psilocybin Is More Effective in Therapy Than the Synthetic Compound

Zoey Xinyi Gong said that because some of the mushrooms are psychedelic or toxic, the Chinese government “puts up posters in restaurants to warn their residents to not eat the poisonous / psychedelic mushrooms. But the mushrooms are so delicious that the locals love to risk [it].”

In 2022, a total of 404 individuals experienced “mushroom poisoning” in Yunnan. Of those 404, nine people died. 

It is unclear what the classification of mushroom poisoning entails in China. Based on other reports, it appears that the Chinese government lumps in psychedelic effects under the umbrella of poisoning. It’s also unclear what mushrooms caused the nine deaths.

The good news is that Janet Yellen is still very mush alive.

About the Author

Read More
Editorial Process arrow

DoubleBlind is a trusted resource for news, evidence-based education, and reporting on psychedelics. We work with leading medical professionals, scientific researchers, journalists, mycologists, indigenous stewards, and cultural pioneers. Read about our editorial policy and fact-checking process here.

Legal Disclaimer arrow

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.

hand holding mushrooms
How to Take Shrooms

How Much Shrooms Should a Beginner Take?

Preparing for your first mushroom trip? We've got you.
People + Opinions

LAPD Launch Investigation Into Matthew Perry’s Fatal Ketamine Dose

An investigation is underway to determine the details of how Matthew Perry acquired the ketamine that led to his death.
Collage of Old Illustration of People Praying to Psychedelic Mushrooms
Health & Wellness

What Happens When Psychedelic Evangelism Goes Too Far?

Consequences can be dire when psychedelic enthusiasm takes on religious fervor. So what are the solutions?