Revised January 26, 2005; August 29, 2007; May 1, 2013; and April 23, 2017.
Copyright 1998-2017 by John W. Allen.
VISIONARY MUSHROOM ARTICLES
PSYCHOACTIVE MUSHROOMS IN THAILAND:
SOME ASPECTS OF THEIR RELATIONSHIPS TO HUMAN USE, LAW AND ART
John W. Allen and Mark D. Merlin
[This is a reprinting and an update of an original article by John W. Allen
and Mark D. Merlin which first appeared in 1992 in Volume 2-3:98-108 of Integrations:
The Journal of Mind Moving Plants and Culture.]
Recent ethnomycological investigations on the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Pha-ngan
in the Gulf of Siam, Thailand (Allen & Merlin 1992) revealed that many restaurants
were offering food items containing psychoactive mushrooms known as hed keequai.
In English this refers to a "mushroom which appears after water buffalo defecates."
The hed keequai mushrooms discussed in this paper are two macroscopically indistinguishable
species of fungi, Psilocybe cubensis (Earle) Singer (fig. 1) and Psilocybe subcubensis Guzmán
(fig. 2). The latter species was previously only known from Mexico, Central
and South America, and Australia (Guzmán 1983; Allen, Merlin, and Jansen 1991).
Fig. 1-----------------------Fig. 2
Another species used recreationally is Copelandia cyanescens and some variations
(Fig. 2a); And the newly discovered species Psilocybe samuiensis Guzmán, Bandala
and Allen (Fig. 2b).
These mushrooms appear in the manure of the Asian water buffalo Bubalis Bubalis,
of which 1 in 10 are pink (Fig. 2c) and these mushrooms are common in rice paddies
(Fig. 2d) throughout Southeast Asia
Fig. 2c -------------------Fig. 2d
The recreational use of psychoactive fungi at several resort areas in Thailand
most likely had its origins in Bali in the late 1960's. Schultes & Hofmann
(1973) first reported that psychoactive mushrooms were being gathered by local
natives in Bali in the early 1970's. These mushrooms were then marketed directly
to tourists or to resort restaurants to be prepared in commercial food items.
Foods containing the psychoactive fungi became popular with many foreign tourists
in Kuta and other areas of Bali. Schultes and Hofmann (1973) also noted that
Copelandia species were consumed by local natives and offered to tourists during
festivals and ceremonies on that island. Although the mushrooms are currently
illegal in Bali, as they are in Thailand, they are still prepared and offered
to the tourist when requested (Mood 1987). In August 1991, JWA attended a festival
on the island of Koh Pha-ngan known as the "Festival of the Mushrooms". This
festival, celebrated each month during the full moon, is attended by hundreds
of tourists who ingest hed keequai (Fig2e).
The use of these psychoactive fungi among tourists and German immigrants in
Thailand has provided many local native farmers (male and female) and their
children with a means of earning extra, albeit illegal, income through the gathering
and sale of the mind-altering fungi (Fig. 3).
Below is an average rice paddie which zigzags in and out the island from one
location to the next. This is where the mushrooms grow profusely.
This especially applies to those who live in and around the rice paddies where
the manure of the water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and some cattle (Bos indicus,
Bos sundaicus, etc.) provide an abundant supply of these fungi after sufficient
Below is an image of the cattle which produce the manure that make the mushrooms
grow so well in this hot climate(Fig. 4d).
Collection of the fungi occurs during the rainy (monsoon) season (July-October,
see below Fig. 4e and Fig. 4f).
They are then sold to resort restaurants and tourists. The most common food
items listed on restaurant menus containing hallucinogenic mushrooms include
omelettes, pizzas and fruit drinks ("smoothies"). See Fig 4g and Fig. 4h below
which show a deluxe omelette from Munchies Resort at Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui
Island and a burnt omelette from Koh Pha-ngan Island in Thailand.
Fig. 4g-----------------------------Fig. 4h
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