Cheers to Science: The LSD Molecule and the origin of the LSD trip

It’s always super exciting to find out something new about one of your favorite things, right? Well that’s how we feel about psychedelic drugs, specifically LSD, here at the Magical Mushroom. We always knew and experienced LSD, but did we really understand anything more than the acid trip experience itself? Not really. Did we know about the LSD molecule itself? Absolutely not. That’s when we started to research LSD and take notes. We learned a lot: Mutant Receptors, Receptor Protein, LSD Bound Human Serotonin Receptor, and even general mechanics of the human brain. We learned a lot and we would love to pass on some of our knowledge and notes on to you. Think of this as entry level education on LSD. Let’s learn about the LSD molecule and it’s two chemical compounds; Lysergic Acid and Diethylamide, which are combined in a lab setting to create what we know as “acid.” 

Back to the Beginning, Origins of LSD

The first person who synthesized the drug accidentally discovered its hallucinogenic effects when he spilled some on his hand and then licked it off. Good Ole’ Albert Hofmann. He was actually working to stabilize lysergic acid, a derivative of a fungal compound used in a migraine medicine he was working on at the time. The result? He synthesized a compound called lysergic acid diethylamine, or LSD. Thank you Albert Hofmann! After doing some tests to confirm what had happened, Hofmann concluded that LSD’s psychoactive properties come from serotonin being converted into its active form by enzymes inside our body rather than through oxidation by ai liker other drugs. The story goes, he ended up testing it on himself later that month of his fateful first experiment and boy, did he have a solid acid trip. 

Check out this amazing LSD Origins video here:

Albert Hofmann and LSD

After this discovery, the drug was given the name lysergic acid diethylamide and it soon hit the streets and became a popular party drug. Many people would take LSD and go to LSD parties to experience their own altered reality of colors, sounds, emotions and feelings, not to mention substance abuse, which is what caused LSD to fall out of favor very quickly. In fact, by the 1970s, this recreational drug (hallucinogenic drug), was banned. Thankfully, fast forward to 2021, we are finally studying the psychedelic experience and psychiatric drugs again in an effort to find medicine and solutions for our ever growing mental health problem. 

Understanding LSD and its Psychedelic effects

Now we’re left with an interesting question: Why does LSD give such profound psychedelic effects? Well, there’s still a lot that researchers don’t know about LS,  but they do have evidence through studies that shows that LSD triggers activity in serotonin receptors which is what causes hallucinations. It also affects other chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine which affect mood and perception so some scientists think LSD boosts the level of neurotransmitters in these areas.

In fact, pro-tip and beyond LSD Molecule 101, but read this super fascinating study and accomplishment done by Dr Bryan Roth at Chapel Hill: A Scientific First: How Psychedelics Bind to Key Brain Cell Receptor

lsd molecule
This illustration shows the chemical architecture of amino acids that make up the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor complex bound to a psychedelic compound (pink, top). (Roth Lab)

Essentially, scientists could alter the chemical composition of drugs such as LSD and psilocybin to treat mental illness. Imagine the same therapuetic benefits as LSD, but without the hallucinations? Amazing work by his team. 

LSD Acid Molecule and Chemical Structure

The lysergic acid molecule is composed of lysergic acid, diethylamide group and a propanolamine group which are combined together to create the LSD chemical structure. It’s important to note that lysergic acid is naturally occurring in ergot fungus (Albert Hofmann and his Migraine Medicine found that out) which grows on grains, so LSD can be easily made with this ingredient.

Lysergic acid contains lysine amino acids which are thought to be bound together by covalent bonds but scientists believe the propanolamine part has ionic bonds instead. When LSD is ingested orally it breaks down into lysergic acid before triggering serotonin activity.The LSD molecule contains lysergic acid which is made up of lysine, ethylamine, and diethylamine. It also contains two benzene rings bound together with one oxygen atom each.

LSD is a chiral compound with two stereocenters at the carbon atoms C-5 and C-8, so that theoretically four different optical isoforms of LSD could exist. LSD, also called (+)- D -LSD or lisképzelet, contains lysergic acid which forms lysergsäureaamid. Lysergsäureaamid itself can be synthesized by reacting diethylamine with lysergsaüreseabidin. Lysergsaüreseabidin can in turn be obtained by reacting lysergsaüree with an organic base. These lysergsäureaamids can form lysergic acid diethylamid (LSD) when lysergic acid reacts with N,N-diethylamin. The LSD molecule contains lysergic acid which is made up of lysine, ethylamine, and diethylamine. It also contains two benzene rings bound together with one oxygen atom each.

Effects of LSD – Real Scientific Info

A LSD trip starts around 30-45 minutes after ingestion and effects peak about 3 hours afterwards for 4 to 8 hour long ‘trip’. Depending on other factors, dosage for example, it could up up to 12 hours. Effects may include altered thoughts, feelings, awareness of one’s surroundings, perceptions, and state of consciousness along with an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Pretty amazing stuff (unless it is a bad trip). 

The effect depends on the amount of LSD taken, the user’s personality and mood, as well as the surroundings in which the LSD is used. LSD also often produces a feeling of distorting body image, feelings, sounds and time perception. Time perception is always my big feeling on good trips.This comes from lysergic acid diethylamide’s effects on lysergic acid diethylamide receptors in the brain. The lysergic acid being present turns lysergic acid diethylamide molecules into lysergsäureaamid which all bind to lysergsäureaamid receptors which induce hallucinations.

In addition this causes changes in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and temperature along with dilated pupils and increased activity levels that may persist even when a person is no longer experiencing the LSD trip. The LSD molecule can bind to 5 different lysergsäureaamid receptors which all induce LSD trips when they are activated.

For example lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) binds weakly to both 5ht 1a and 5ht 2 serotonin receptors which affect mood, perception, hunger, thought, sleep and sensations like pain. Also, LSD may cause increased activity in one or more of these serotonin pathways resulting in nausea, muscle rigidity or aches due to tension, also difficulty urinating or diarrhea; increased perspiration; rise in body temperature; pupil dilation; insomnia; dry mouth and tremors.

These side effects usually pass as LSD leaves the system and lysergic acid diethylamid (LSD) is broken down by the liver. In general, LSD trips can be both pleasant as well as frightening depending on lysergic acid diethylamide’s effects on lysergic acid diethylamide receptors in the brain which leads to hallucinations or an altered sense of time, space and self. Make sure to take proper dosing and be in the right environment when taking psychedelic drugs.


If you’ve ever wanted to know the science behind your acid trip, this article was for you. In summary, the LSD molecule is a derivative of the ergot fungus. Ergot has been used in medical treatments for centuries, but it was when Albert Hofmann first synthesized and ingested LSD-25 that he experienced his “unusual sensations” and had what would be called an acid trip. This discovery led to further studies on how this drug can help with mental health disorders such as PTSD or depression, which we hope will lead to more research into these drugs today. See Bryan Roth above. 

We hope this has been an informative and educational blog post that left you with a better understanding of psychedelics and the LSD molecule and it’s effect on humankind. We encourage you to read the references below as well. Super helpful information there. Have you tried any psychedelic substances? How did they affect your life or state of mind? Let us know in the forum or the comments section below!

References and Sources:

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

The Magical Mushroom is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by tapping into psychedelic users, experts, journalists, and growing community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Corey Riley.

Published by Chris Riley

Entrepreneur building media, tech, and health properties. Join the journey. Twitter Business: @marketplaceRx, @breatheallergy, @SimplyPitch Digital Health:

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