Everyone knows the potential destructive power of hurricanes, but few people are aware that storms like Hurricane Irene encourage growth of psychedelic mushrooms.
Yes, it sounds trippy, but one of the strange aftermaths of a hurricane is an increased amount of mushrooms popping up — especially the psilocybin — or “magic” kind — the ones that cause hallucinations.
According to Dr. Casey Simon, an addiction expert based in Orange County, Calif., hurricanes create the perfect climactic conditions for the mushrooms to grow.
“Mushrooms are spores and they multiply in moisture and are spread by wind,” he told HuffPost Weird News.
Dr. Suneil Jain, a naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, Ariz., goes even further.
“The moisture, humidity, the wind and the temperature during hurricanes is the perfect climate for mushrooms,” he told HuffPost Weird News. “Also, both hurricanes and mushroom growth are associated with new or full moons, so there may be a lunar element as well.”
Jain says, generally, psychedelic mushrooms are noted by their bluish-gray stems, but stresses that many mushrooms can be toxic and ones picked in the wild should not be consumed unless they’ve been examined by an expert.
However, despite the hallucinogenic effects, he says that magic mushrooms are relatively safe.
“These substances have been used for centuries, with just a handful of cases of addiction, or long-term problems,” he said. “Generally, they are fairly benign.”
Recent studies by Johns Hopkins University suggest psilocybin mushrooms may have medical benefits, and Jain is one of those who believes the findings could have a positive impact on humanity.
“There is evidence that it can help in treating OCD, body dismorphia issues and even marital problems,” he said.
Simon says the real danger of the mushrooms isn’t the psilocybin.
“Some mushrooms can attract a fungus that makes them more toxic,” he said. “It looks like a gray mold on the under side. Just a few differences in temperature can make a difference.”
Jain says that’s why experienced mushroom experts pick mushrooms when they are as fresh as possible.
“The optimal time to pick is right after the storm before the other elements can affect them,” he said.
Still, the news that the whole East Coast of the U.S. could soon be awash in ‘shrooms is bound to get every hippie worth his hemp sandals and hacky sack on the hunt for a new high.
Mushrooms are likely to pop up in locations where bark is used for decorative landscaping, like industrial parks and government offices, according to ethnobotanist Clark Heinrich
It’s important to emphasize that wild mushrooms — both mind-altering or not — should not be consumed willy nilly, but Jain hopes to use the fact that so many potentially medicinal mushrooms will soon be popping up all over the East Coast as a way to raise a discussion about an aspect of the medical-pharmaceutical industry he doesn’t like.
“There are a lot of medicinal plants that [have health benefits],” he said. “For instance, the main ingredient in statin drugs comes from red yeast rice. But instead of focusing on the plants that can heal, medical science tries to find the active ingredient, change it slightly and then market that so they can charge a lot.”
“Besides that, singling out one ingredient in the plant, like psilocybin, doesn’t take into account that everything in the plant, and that they all work together.”