Are you curious to know the difference between Ayahuasca and Sacred Mushrooms?

These two psychedelic substances both inhabit the worlds of transcendental experience and the shared chemical realm of dimethyltryptamine.

Used for millennia for healing, sacred ritual, expansion and mystical experiences – now both Mushrooms and Ayahuasca have found a resurgence in modern medical research as well as new age culture.

So what’s the difference between mushrooms vs ayahuasca vs and how do they compare?

We’ll answer that question in this article through research between the psychedelics’ difference in chemistry, effects and the role that cultural history has played in their use and development.


Ayahuasca vs Mushrooms

Ayahuasca is a Sacred psychedelic tea, brewed from the banisteriopsis caapi vine and leaves of chacruna.

Psilocybin, or “Sacred mushrooms” are a type of fungi of the psilocybe variety. 

While both produce psychedelic effects, they differ in their:

  • Chemical makeup
  • Consumption and usage
  • Physical and cognitive effects
  • Therapeutic and recreational applications.
  • History


Ayahuasca and psilocybin both produce internal chemical similarities when ingested.

They differ in the fact that ayahuasca is a mixture of different substances and chemical compounds, while magic mushrooms’ main psychoactive compound stems from one source. Both consist of active forms of tryptamines.


Chemical Makeup of Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is brewed with the following plants:

The main ingredients of Ayahuasca:

• Banisteriopsis caapi  

• Psychotria viridis — both have hallucinogenic properties.

Psychotria viridis contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a psychedelic substance that occurs naturally in the plant.

DMT is a powerful hallucinogenic chemical. However, it has low bioavailability, as it gets rapidly broken down by enzymes called monoamine oxidases (MAOs) in your liver and gastrointestinal tract.

For this reason, DMT must be combined with something containing MAO inhibitors (MAOIs), which allow DMT to take effect. Banisteriopsis caapi contains potent MAOIs called β-carbolines, which also have psychoactive effects of their own.

When combined, these two plants form a powerful psychedelic brew that affects the central nervous system, leading to an altered state of consciousness that can include hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and euphoria.



Chemical Makeup of Sacred Mushrooms

There are nearly 200 mushrooms that contain the psychoactive compounds that can result in a psycedelic journey. Mushrooms with the highest concentration of these compounds come from the fungi genus Psilocybe.

The two main chemicals in these mushrooms are:

  • Psilocybin
  • Psilocin

Once ingested, the psilocybin breaks down and is transformed into psilocin. From a layman chemist perspective, psilocin is like a cousin to DMT, as the only difference in chemical structure is the 4-hydroxy. This also allows the molecule to process in the brain without needing an MAOI to stop quick dissolution in the stomach.

Both psychedelics contain tryptamines as active compounds, but Ayahuasca requires a round of alkaloids to usher in the experience.




Ayahuasca is typically experienced during traditional ceremonies led by a shaman. The brew is drunk during ceremonies at night so that visions are easier seen. The liquid has the consistency of molasses and most find the taste to be bitter and unpleasant. Ceremonies are overseen by a shaman and other facilitators or helpers.

There are no known cases of overdose on ayahuasca, and it is suggested that it’s not possible.

However, it’s important to undergo ayahuasca preparation before you partake in a ceremony, including following a preparation diet for the weeks leading up to and following an ayahuasca experience. Generally, this means to avoid any and all processed foods, red meat including pork and dairy and fermented foods as well as any toxic substances or alcoholic beverages that are processed thru the liver.

Preparation and consumption consists of:

  • Followed dietary guidelines and food restrictions.
  • Abstaining from eating 4-5 hours beforehand.
  • Mental preparation through meditation
  • Setting an intention

Shamanic preparation consists of:

  • Ayahuasca vines are broken up into a pot to simmer.
  • Finely shredded alkaloid leaves are ground and boiled with the vine.
  • Ayahuasca brew is ready to drink.

    It can take anywhere from 0-40 minutes for Ayahuasca’s effects to kick in.

Sacred Magic Mushrooms 

Mushrooms, or psilocybin, are on a different side of the same psychedelic coin. Many people believe that there is a subjectively less bodily discomfort compared to Ayahuasca.

However, at “heroic doses” of 5g or more (depending on the person ingesting the dose) they pack a powerful punch.

Like Ayahuasca, it is also suggested that you can not overdose on mushrooms. 

Preparation and consumption consist of:

  • Abstaining from eating at least two and half hours beforehand.
  • Preparing the dosage by either chopping up the mushrooms or boiling them in a liquid tea.
  • Grinding into powder form
  • Placed in chocolate form to eat
  • Consume the mushrooms.

It takes 30-60 minutes for the effects of psilocybin to kick in.

Ayahuasca Sacred Mushrooms
Drank in a ceremonial brew.Drank in ceremonial brew, chocolate,
or Eaten dried without any further preparation. 
Your body does not build a tolerance to Ayahuasca.Your body develops a tolerance to mushrooms quickly.
No known cases of overdose: Lethal Dose LD50 estimated to be around 50 times a regular dose. Should not be mixed with Alcohol or toxic substances. No known cases of overdose: Lethal Dose LD50, estimated to be around 1000 times a regular dose. 
Takes 20-40 minutes to kick in.Takes 30-60 minutes to kick in.
Can only be drunk in a liquid form.Can be eaten or drank in a liquid mixture.
Ayahuasca vs Sacred Mushrooms


No two Ayahuasca or Mushroom trips will be alike. These psychedelics act in ways unique to your biochemistry, personal essence, place, mood and environment.

Psychedelic pioneers, Dr. Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert (Baba Ram Dass) and Ralph Metzner, paved the way in their studies at Harvard and experimentation in the 1960s counterculture era in establishing the fundamentals of set and setting[*].

How you’re feeling, where you are and who you are with will drastically alter your psychedelic experience.

While there is no universal psychedelic experience, there are a number of recurring motifs, visions and scientifically documented physiological and psychological effects inherent in each experience.




Ayahuasca results in a “purge,” which includes vomiting, sweating, shaking, crying, or going to the bathroom. Many practitioners believe this is a cleansing activity and they must endure to gain proper insight from the medicine.

Everyone experiences Ayahuasca differently, and no one ceremony is the same, which is why it’s difficult to explain the effects that Ayahuasca can take. Some may have visions for hours, and some have none. Some participants purge, and some don’t. Some can go into their mind and “rewire” thought patterns, and some blast up into the universe. Some experience healing from past emotional trauma and some may have a physical experience of healing. Some visit their ancestors or past loved ones, and some may experience an immense feeling of gratitude and love for the world.

During ceremony, there is usually an opportunity to have a second or third cup. The amount of medicine ingested also impacts your experience. The experience can last a 4-6 hours before returning back to a baseline of your normal perception.


Initial physical experiences may consist of:

  • Increased heart rate, body temperature and tingling sensation.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Euphoria and a sense of leaving your body.


Ayahuasca has been known to induce common mental experiences and affect people in the following ways:

  • Spiritual encounters and the ultimate oneness and reality of being.
  • Insights into various psychiatric disorders and addictions.
  • Conveyed spiritual teachings from plant spirits

Subjectively, Ayahuasca also seems to induce similar visions and states which are tied directly to the forest and peoples of South America. Users report seeing this type of imagery even without any preconceived notions of the experience or having researched anything beforehand.

The experience blasts through cultural preconceptions and resonates on a universal level with people of all different backgrounds.


Physical and Mental Effects of Sacred Mushrooms

Psilocybin mushrooms are easier to dose than ayahuasca, as the latter is drank in cups that vary in size.

Standard doses of dried mushrooms come in the form of 1-1.5g, while 2-5g will produce stronger sensory hallucinations. The effects of a mushroom experience can last anywhere up to 6 hours or more, also dependent on the dosage.

A roundup review of multiple scientific studies found that “…Psilocybin dose-dependently induced profound changes in mood, perception, thought and self-experience, most subjects described the experience as pleasurable, life changing,  other worldly, and having a spiritual awakening.


Initial physical experiences may consist of:

  • temporary Increased heart rate, body temperature and tingling sensation.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Euphoria and a sense of leaving your body.

Psilocybin has been known to help with and elicit emotions that include:

  • Demonstrated potential in helping to address a wide range of mental conditions such as depression and substance abuse, traumas, ptsd, addiction and more.
  • Heart healing
  • Increased Clarity and awareness 
  • Feeling of oneness with a spiritual connection to the spiritual world 
  • Beneficial changes in a positive personality structure
  • Healing
  • Expanded Creativity

The majority of studies have found Ayahuasca and Mushrooms immensely helpful in treating a wide range of ailments and mental illnesses and promoting wellbeing.



Ayahuasca and Sacred Mushrooms may differ in the way they are used and what they’re made of. But in terms of experience and rich cultural histories, the two substances are alike in many ways.

Subjective experience and the many trip reports out there indicate that you’ll experience profound insights on both substances. Ayahuasca seems to take more of an initial but brief physical toll on the body in the form of purging. Slight nausea may initially occur with mushrooms.

The jungle motifs and the visionary journey are one of the universal experiences of Ayahuasca. Mushrooms also carry over connotations of nature spirits and equally incredible experiences.

There is no way to qualify one as being either better or more intense than the other as they both offer their own unique qualities. Whatever plant or fungi you choose to explore, may your experience be beautifully transformative.


Mike Kolagrossi, Phoenix White & Jillian Kubala