Norbaeocystin Guide: Effects, Benefits, Risks, and Legality

Norbaeocystin Guide: Effects, Benefits, Risks, and Legality

Norbaeocystin is a naturally occurring compound in several species of psychedelic mushrooms. Scientists think it may have a role in new production methods of psilocybin. Whether it is psychoactive is unknown, but research combining the compound with psilocybin shows a possible amplification of effects. Norbaeocystin may also influence the gut microbiome, a new angle on mental health treatment.

Let’s explore.

What Is Norbaeocystin?

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Norbaeocystin is an active compound in psychedelic mushrooms whose structure is closely related to psilocybin. To date, no definitive research exists regarding its potential psychoactivity. 

The discovery of norbaeocystin occurred in 1968 by Leung and Paul. The mycologists isolated the derivative from psilocybe baeocystis and the related compound baeocystin. The researchers named the mushroom after the compounds.

Natural Sources of Norbaeocystin

Scientists have only identified norbaeocystin in psilocybin-containing mushrooms. It’s unclear whether it exists elsewhere in the plant or animal kingdom. 

To date, laboratory tests confirm norbaeocystin in the following mushroom genera:

  • Psilocybe 
  • Inocybe 
  • Panaeolus 
  • Pholiotina 
  • Pluteus

Synthetic Sources of Norbaeocystin

In 2020, researcher Dr. Alex Sherwood and his team at Usona Institute synthesized norbaeocystin in the laboratory and several other compounds found in psychedelic fungi.

Another team led by Dr. Alexandra Adams at Miami University developed a biosynthetic method for creating norbaeocystin using genetically engineered E. coli bacteria. The group altered the genes of the bacteria while searching for a new production pathway for psilocybin. 

The team succeeded in synthesizing psilocybin with a new strain of E. coli. In the process, they engineered another E. Coli strain capable of producing norbaeocystin. The E. coli-produced psilocybin and norbaeocystin are in use in other studies.

Norbaeocystin Chemical Structure

Norbaeocystin is a tryptamine derivative, and its chemical structure is an indole consisting of a benzene ring and a pyrrole ring. Norbaeocystin is an analog of psilocybin because of the similarities between the compounds. 

The difference is psilocybin’s phosphate ester group is attached to its nitrogen position. In contrast, norbaeocystin has a carboxyl group in the same position. The tiny variation appears to have significant effects on norbaeocystin’s pharmacological actions.

Norbaeocystin Mechanism of Action

Scientists don’t yet understand norbaeocystin’s mechanism of action, or how it works in the body, nor do they have evidence that it exhibits psychoactive effects.

Dr. Sherwood hypothesizes that norbaeocystin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier due to its chemical structure. Crossing this barrier is essential to bind with 5-HT2A serotonin receptors, which are responsible for eliciting psychedelic experiences. 

Dr. Sherwood also theorizes that the body breaks down norbaeocystin too quickly to exhibit effects.

One crucial enzyme in the process is monoamine oxidase or MAO. Dr. Sherwood suggests MAO might break down norbaeocystin rapidly and prevent absorption. 

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Norbaeocystin Effects

Norbaeocystin may not be psychoactive. However, it still may contribute to the effects of psychedelic mushrooms. 

For example, Miami University master's student Nicholas Alexander Anas documented that an equal dose of norbaeocystin and psilocybin in rats appeared to induce amplified effects. 

Researchers typically measure the strength of psychedelics in rats by observing the "head twitch response," also known as HTR. A high HTR often means a substance interacts with 5-HT2A receptors. Norbaeocystin showed no HTR in rats, which often means a substance is not psychedelic.

Nicholas Anas noted an HTR in rats with psilocybin, but when he added norbaeocystin, the HTR doubled. Whether these results translate to humans is unclear, but they hint at the possibility of the entourage effect

Norbaeocysin and the Entourage Effect

Current research indicates that psilocin, the metabolite of psilocybin, is the only hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms. 

Anas has not proposed a theory on how norbaeocystin might increase psilocybin's effects, only pointing to norbaeocystin modulating psilocybin.

Dr. Sherwood suggests norbaeocystin may amplify magic mushroom potency by drawing MAO enzymes to it and away from psilocybin and psilocin. This process slows psilocin’s breakdown, making more of it available for psychedelic effects.

Norbaeocystin Benefits

Beyond modulating magic mushroom effects, Norbaeocystin benefits may lead to a healthier gut.  

The gut is full of trillions of living creatures, and generally, a higher diversity helps the body fight off damaging microorganisms. When this ecosystem is out of balance, it can lead to disease and mental health challenges.

In his thesis, Nicholas Anas found that norbaeocystin impacted the gut microbiome, increasing the diversity of organisms inside it. It is unknown if the effect was strong enough to affect clinical mental health markers, but the microbiome is a promising area of interest in other psychedelic research.

Norbaeocystin Risks

The reports of humans and animals consuming mushrooms containing the compound have reported no toxic effects. The small amount of norbaeocystin naturally occurring in mushrooms doesn't appear to be a risk. However, the existing research has not focused on toxicology. 

Norbaeocystin Legality

Norbaeocystin is not a Scheduled Substance in the United States or anywhere else. The need for more attention on norbaeocystin is likely due to its recent discovery, unknown psychoactivity, and obscurity. 

There have been no legal proceedings mentioning norbaeocystin. However, the compound could theoretically trigger legal complications if treated as an analog of psilocybin. The "Analog Act" in the United States treats any analog of a Scheduled substance as the banned substance itself.

Bottom Line

Norbaeocystin is a naturally occurring compound found in psilocybin mushrooms that remains curious. Research cannot yet confirm or deny its psychoactivity. Results in rats show the potential for norbaeocystin and psilocybin to create an entourage effect. Another preliminary study hints that the compound could support a healthy gut microbiome, which could have significant mental and physical health benefits. 

As a DEA-registered Laboratory, ACS tests Psychedelic Mushrooms from other DEA-registered labs for Norbaeocystin and eight other tryptamines as well as Harmine and Harmane.

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