What is meant by mushrooms


Many mushrooms are among the oldest hallucinogenic drugs known to man. In a religious context, mushrooms containing psilocin and musimol have been used in healing rituals and as entheogens in Europe, Asia and the New World since prehistoric times. Even today, knowledge about the effects of some mushrooms is passed on from generation to generation in many European families and enjoyment takes place outside of youth culture as part of precisely traditional rituals.

The greatest danger comes from the likelihood of confusion. Even experienced mushroom pickers keep thinking of highly poisonous mushrooms as harmless edible mushrooms, which sometimes ends with bad poisoning of entire round tables. Another danger comes from the unconscious consumption of some inconspicuous mushrooms. In the Middle Ages, for example, the dreaded Antonius fire struck entire villages at regular intervals. Many of the villagers suddenly behaved in the most strange ways. In particularly severe cases, the limbs also turn black, which ends with their dying and sometimes with the death of the person concerned. At that time it was seen as a god's vengeance - today we know that the cause was the ergot that thrived on rye ears and thus got into the food chain.

In addition to the animal kingdom and the vegetable kingdom, mushrooms actually form a third kingdom of their own, since they cannot be clearly assigned to either of the two kingdoms, but rather have part of the typical characteristics of both. Since they have no locomotor part and no sensory organs with which they can react to various environmental influences - both characteristics of a plant - they cannot be classified in the animal kingdom. However, the fungi also lack plastids and cellulose, which in turn excludes them from the plant kingdom. In addition, like most plants, they do not produce chlorophyll. As with animals, energy is generated through the utilization of organic substances.

The fungus itself is the mycelium, which consists of a network of fungal threads (hyphae). It usually lives in the ground or in plants, such as trees, in animals or in excrement. What one understands by the word “mushroom” in everyday language is merely the fruiting body that the mycelium can develop to spread the spores.

Even if it is not entirely correct, the fungi are assigned to the plant kingdom according to the classical nomenclature and form the Mycophyta (fungi) division, which can be divided into 5 classes. 2 These classes are important for the drug issue: Ascomycetes (sac fungi - e.g. ergot) and Basidiomycetes (mushrooms - all mentioned here, except ergot). When further subdivided, the class of mushrooms is split into several orders. The mushrooms discussed here belong to the order Agaricales (leaf mushrooms), whose characteristic is the formation of a hat-shaped fruiting body.

Many species from the two classes of mushrooms and sac mushrooms are also grouped under the term large mushrooms (macromycetes). This means mushrooms that develop an easily visible fruiting body. All of the mushrooms described here also belong to this group.