Psilocybin in Petri Dish

Psilocybin Mushroom Potency Can Degrade by Nearly 50% in Six Months, New Data Shows

A preliminary experiment by Hyphae Labs shows that the potency of psilocybin mushrooms can drastically decrease in less than a year.

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We’ve all been there. You acquire mushrooms, eat some, and store the rest in a shoebox in the back of your closet. Next thing you know, six months fly by, and you remember the pot of hallucinatory gold sitting next to a storage bin of junk you never unpacked from your last move. You ransack your closet and unearth the package of mushies. They look the same; a little crispy, but nothing out of the ordinary. 

You wonder: Are they still good?

If you ask the Google machine, you’ll find an array of different answers—most of which are written by various websites vying for your SEO clicks. (Except for maybe Reddit.) But new data points exist on this issue that, at least for now, act as an official bench marker to determine how quickly mushroom potency degrades.

“Mid-last month, I decided to retest some of the mushrooms we have in the backlog from six months ago,” says Tomás, the lead chemist at Hyphae Labs, a scientific organization based in Oakland that’s built its portfolio on psilocybin mushroom research and potency testing. “All of them had different levels of potency ranging from 6 milligrams per gram all the way up to 23 milligrams per gram to see if there was any change in alkaloid content.”

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The data produced from this relatively off-the-cuff experiment showed patterns that surprised the chemists. “There were two sets of distinct patterns that showed up. In the oldest sample, where as psilocybin used to be the major component and psilocin was the minor component, the two flipped,” Tomás tells DoubleBlind in a phone interview. “90 percent of the psilocybin content was gone. But in that same sample, the psilocin content went up significantly.”

So, what does this all mean? Breaking it down in (admittedly) oversimplified terms, fresh psychedelic mushrooms are naturally loaded with an array of alkaloids. The largest percentage of which is usually psilocybin. Among the lowest is psilocin. For context, Tomás says there’s a 10 to 1 ratio of psilocybin to psilocin in most psychedelic mushrooms.

Psilocin most notably comes into play after we eat mushrooms. Psilocybin converts into psilocin in our digestive tracts, which then produces the psychedelic experience. (Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, but for the sake of this story, that’s basically what happens). The concept of something “breaking down” is known as the metabolic process, which is a regular occurrence in biochemistry. It also happens in nature regularly.

Where this experiment gets interesting, according to Tomás, is the amount of total molecules accounted for inside the mushroom. The team at Hyphae Labs used an equation called “Psilocybin Equivalence,” which produces a figure for how many psilocybin, psilocin, or other alkaloid molecules there are in a mushroom. 

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“When we first tested the mushrooms, there was a certain number of psilocybin molecules,” Tomás tells us. “When we retested it using the psilocybin equivalence equation, even though there was a conversion of psilocybin to psilocin, the equivalent that accounts for the total number of molecules went down by 40 percent.”

What on Neptune does this actually mean? Tomás explains that while they observed the expected shift from psilocybin to psilocin, the lab results showed that likely both the psilocybin and psilocin degraded. “This not only happened due to psilocybin converting to psilocin, but some of that psilocin also degraded into something further down the pipeline. And it left us with only 60 percent of the total molecules that we started with. So, not only did we see a drop of 40 percent in total potency, but most of the psilocybin was converted into psilocin.”

The chemists at Hyphae Labs also tested samples from three months ago for comparison. The lab results showed that psilocybin only broke down into psilocin minimally. “It went down proportionally, but significantly less than the samples from half a year ago,” Tomás says. “The [amount of molecules] went down maybe 10 percent.”

READ: How to Store Shrooms

The difference here is that you don’t see the flip-flopping of alkaloid content, where the number of psilocybin molecules nosedives and the amount of psilocin skyrockets. The amount of psilocin in the samples from three months ago never surpassed the number of psilocybin molecules, suggesting the molecular integrity of the mushroom is still intact. 

However, not all of the samples tested fit the curve. Tomás says that one of the samples from six months ago still had all of its molecules accounted for—and actually increased in potency. “Logically, this shouldn’t happen,” he says, “but this is why science is cool, and why we continuously test things and gather data.”

Another one of the samples originally tested months ago had higher psilocin content. “I can’t necessarily explain why that is,” he says. “It could be because the mushrooms were old and already started degrading [when they got to us] or because there’s something different about this mushroom profile that is significantly different from the rest.”

Tomás says the Hyphae Labs team is designing a more detailed experiment around the longevity of alkaloid molecules, specifically psilocybin and psilocin. The results of the first experiment—and the public’s receptivity to it—warrant a deeper investigation into storage conditions, including how heat, moisture, and oxygen play a role in the degradation of psilocybin and the timeline in which it occurs.

Praise the deep-space mushroom deities that someone is doing this work. Now, we can be more practical about how long mushrooms will last in the cool, dark shadows of our closets.

“This doesn’t mean that all mushrooms six months from when they’re grown are going to degrade 90 percent in psilocybin automatically,” Tomás says. “It means the samples I tested did. That’s why we’re about to design a more elaborate study.”

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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.

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