Norpsilocin Guide: Effects, Benefits, Risks, and Legality

Norpsilocin Guide: Effects, Benefits, Risks, and Legality

Norpsilocin is a compound that is structurally similar to psilocin, the main chemical responsible for magic mushrooms’ psychedelic effects. Scientists discovered norpsilocin in 2017. A few years later, the team developed a synthetic method for producing the compound and other minor magic mushroom chemicals for further investigation. They conducted the first biological testing of norpsilocin and found it could be even more potent than psilocin.

This article explores norpsilocin, its scientific discovery, what research tells us today, and what we still don’t know about this fascinating psychedelic agent. 

What Is Norpsilocin?

Norpsilocin (4-hydroxy-N-methyltryptamine, 4-HO-NMT) was discovered by Dr. Claudius Lenz in Germany at the Hans-Knöll Institute in 2017. The discovery resulted from analyzing the many alkaloids found in psilocybin mushrooms

Researchers think norpsilocin is a byproduct of another magic mushroom alkaloid, baeocystin. This means that when the body metabolizes baeocystin, it turns into norpsilocin.

There are differing views as to whether norpsilocin is psychoactive. The alkaloid shows interesting activity in the lab, but it is currently unknown if the results will transfer to human models.

Sources of Norpsilocin

Researchers have only found norpsilocin in very small amounts in Psilocybe cubensis magic mushroom species. After the first study by Dr. Lenz, researchers have not found norpsilocin in other plants or species. However, they think norpsilocin occurs after humans digest natural sources of baeocystin, and baeocystin occurs in detectable amounts in several magic mushroom species. 

Researchers believe that baeocystin is a “prodrug” of norpsilocin, meaning that upon ingestion, the body metabolizes it into the active form, norpsilocin.

To date, the only known source of baeocystin is psilocybin mushrooms. Mycologists have found baeocystin in several genera throughout North and South America in low amounts, including:

  • Psilocybe
  • Conocybe
  • Panaeolus
  • Gymnopilus
  • Pluteus
  • Inocybe

In 2020, researcher Dr. Alexander Sherwood at the Ursona Institute published a method of synthesizing crystalline forms of norpsilocin, opening the doors for deeper study.

Norpsilocin Chemical Structure and Active Mechanisms

Norpsilocin is tryptamine, characterized by an indole system - a benzene ring and pyrrole ring - with the addition of a 2-aminoethyl group at the third position. Norpsilocin is identical to psilocin but lacks an additional methyl group, which changes its shape and appears to have an effect on norpsilocin’s psychoactivity.

Dr. Sherwood's studies inside the lab show norpsilocin as a potent 5HT2A receptor agonist or activator. The 5HT2A receptor is part of the serotonin system and is found in regions of the brain associated with memory, cognition, and psychedelic effects. Whereas psilocin is a partial agonist, norpsilocin is notably almost a full match for these receptors. 

Norpsilocin’s affinity for the 5HT2A in controlled lab settings is exciting. But scientists must investigate further. Preliminary tests of norpsilocin on mice did not show the compound's psychoactive effects, and no human data exists yet. There are only a tiny number of studies on norpsilocin, but researchers do have theories about norpsilocin's lack of psychoactivity:

  • Norpsilocin may have difficulty crossing the blood-brain barrier to bind to receptors. Dr. Sherwood hypothesizes that norpsilocin may not be fat-soluble enough to reach the brain.
  • Mono-amine-oxidase (MAO), an enzyme in the body that rapidly metabolizes neurotransmitters like norpsilocin, may also be a factor. Norpsilocin is a secondary metabolite to baeocystin, making it more susceptible to MAO degradation than other mushroom compounds.

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Norpsilocin Effects

Norpsilocin’s effects on the serotonin system are exciting, but it's too soon to say if norpsilocin has psychoactive or therapeutic effects in humans. One study in mice examined norpsilocin's effect on time dilation but found no effect

However, some psychonauts have self-experimented with the prodrug baeocystin and reported psychoactive outcomes. These anecdotes are the motivation behind continued research:

  • On the Joe Rogan podcast, Mycologist Paul Stamets reports dilated pupils and decreased anxiety but no other psychoactive effects during a self-experiment with norpsilocin's prodrug baeocystin.
  • Chemist and mycologist Jochen Gartz reported in his book Magic Mushrooms Around the World that various doses of baeocystin created psychoactive effects. While intriguing, no other anecdotes or studies confirm baeocystin or norpsilocin being psychoactive in humans.

Norpsilocin Benefits and Entourage Effects

Norpsilocin may (or may not) yield psychoactive effects independently. Regardless, scientists believe the compound could play a role in magic mushrooms’ "Entourage Effects."

Coined by cannabis legend Raphael Mechoulum, the Entourage Effect suggests that consuming a plant’s full spectrum of active compounds rather than a single chemical amplifies the therapeutic and psychoactive benefits. 

For example, magic mushrooms contain several active ingredients, including: 

  • Aeruginascin 
  • Baeocystin 
  • Norbaeocystin 
  • Psilocin 
  • Psilocybin

Some magic mushroom “Entourage Effect” theories are:

  • Norpsilocin could increase the effects of psilocin by "competing" for unwanted MAO attention when consuming whole psilocybin mushrooms. Because MAOs “attack” secondary metabolites like norpsilocin first, the presence of norpsilocin may act as a buffer that allows for higher concentrations of psilocin to remain in the blood. 
  • Magic mushroom species often contain MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) like harmine and harmane that help preserve neurotransmitter levels. These chemicals block the activity of the MAO enzymes, which break down norpsilocin and psilocin. By inhibiting MAOs, harmine and harmane-containing species like Psilocybe mexicana and Psilocybe cubensis could increase norpsilocin's effects.

Norpsilocin Risks

Studies of norpsilocin have not noted any toxicity, and norpsilocin appears safe in mice. Generally speaking, tryptamines are considered safe but are not entirely risk-free. No studies have focused on toxicity, so it is difficult to speak confidently about norpsilocin.

Norpsilocin Dosing 

Because norpsilocin's effects are unknown, there isn't a standard dose. The study measuring time dilation in mice uses a dose of 0.22 and 0.72 mg/kg. This study treated norpsilocin the same as psilocin, giving a dose assuming a higher potency than psilocybin. However, there was no observable effect. 

If norpsilocin is the psychoactive derivative of baeocystin, Jochen Gartz's experiments may offer a rough dose guideline. His anecdotes suggest that 4 mg of baeocystin gave "mild hallucinations for three hours," and 10 mg was psychedelic and comparable to psilocybin.

Norpsilocin Legality

Norpsilocin is a relatively new derivative, and its psychoactivity is unconfirmed. These factors likely contribute to it not being a Scheduled Substance in the United States or anywhere else in the world. 

However, norpsilocin is technically an analog (similar compound) of psilocybin. This fact makes it possible that federal legislation like the "Analog Act" in the United States could cause legal issues for anyone trying to sell related products.

Bottom Line

Norpsilocin is a newly discovered chemical compound closely resembling psilocin, the primary active ingredient in magic mushrooms. Although researchers have detected norpsilocin in small amounts in psilocybin mushrooms, its psychoactive effects on humans are still unknown. Mice studies indicated no psychoactive effects, but some psychonauts experimenting with the prodrug baeocystin reported mild physical and emotional changes. Despite the uncertainty surrounding norpsilocin's independent psychoactive outcomes, scientists believe it may contribute to magic mushrooms’ "Entourage Effect", in which consuming a fungi’s full spectrum of active compounds enhances the therapeutic and psychoactive benefits.

ACS Laboratory has cutting-edge techniques and equipment to ensure the potency and purity of multiple psychedelic compounds, including harmala alkaloids such as harmine. Contact ACS Laboratory about quality mushroom testing

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