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  • Psychedelic Mushrooms – A Promising Treatment for Anxiety

Magic Mushrooms - A Promising Treatment for Anxiety

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Magic mushrooms are being discussed more and more as an effective treatment for mental health including anxiety disorders. Research suggests that psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in psychedelic mushrooms, has long-lasting benefits when it comes to reducing the severity of anxiety and paranoia.

Psilocybin’s chemical structure is similar to serotonin, an essential chemical for mood regulation in the brain. Imbalanced or low levels of serotonin cause a potential threat of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Psilocybin mushrooms act on the body’s serotonergic system, therefore they help to restore the balance of serotonin and improve mental health long-term.

Mushrooms and Anxiety: A Brief Overview

Recent research has focused on new treatment options to treat anxiety. Those involve a variety of natural medicines including a number of varieties of medicinal and magic mushrooms. One of the areas studied is psilocybin, the active ingredient found in magical mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Lion’s Mane, or Cordyceps can relieve anxiety as well. These mushrooms have been traditionally used for therapeutic purposes and are an important part of many East Asian medical practices.

Learn More: The Beginner’s Guide to Magic Mushrooms

How Does Psilocybin Work?

Magic mushrooms across the world have an active compound called psilocybin. This substance is a classic psychedelic, which enters the brain by binding to the same receptors as serotonin, a chemical in the brain that controls body functions such as feelings of well-being, happiness, sexual desire, and sleep. Low levels of serotonin are often linked to people who are suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, cluster headaches, anorexia, tobacco addiction, alcohol use disorder, and substance abuse.

Psilocybin mushrooms among other psychedelic drugs such as LSD, Mescaline, and Ketamine are being researched for their potential to treat mental health conditions. Many clinical trials were conducted in recent years all suggesting one thing, psychedelic treatment is beneficial for many mental health conditions even when all other controlled substances and medications seem to fail. This is also true for anxiety disorders that affect many individuals.

Magic Mushrooms – Anxiety and Depression Treatment

As psilocybin shows potential for helping people overcome mental health problems such as anxiety or treatment-resistant depression, its medicinal properties are slowly recognized, and its use is gaining traction in more clinics across the United States. The whole idea is to use it alongside psychotherapy rather than as a standalone treatment.

Originally, psilocybin was studied for its ability to ease anxiety and fear among patients with terminal illnesses, such as life threatening cancer. Recently researchers have been exploring its potential health benefits for people who have depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and emotional trauma.

The Ultimate Magic Mushroom Strain Guide

Unlock the secrets of the magical world of mushrooms with ‘The Ultimate Magic Mushroom Strain Guide’. Learn all about the different psilocybin mushroom strains nature has to offer.

Studies conducted in 2016 found that psilocybin, quickly and significantly reduces anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness in patients diagnosed with cancer. Another study in 2020 showed that people who are diagnosed with treatment-resistant major depressive disorders also benefit from taking psilocybin.

Its ability to alter perception and mind is one of the reasons psilocybin may be beneficial in the treatment of mental illnesses. Psilocybin-containing mushrooms can act as a catalyst for the therapeutic process, as they cause the patient to become more suggestive, and when combined with professional psychotherapy it is a one two knockout punch. A single dose of psychedelic-assisted therapy can be equal to attending multiple sessions of traditional psychotherapy alone, as psilocybin mushrooms can bring up intense memories and emotions that can lead to profound insights in patients.

Is Psilocybin Safe To Use?

Researchers, who performed a systematic review and analyzed recent psychedelic-therapy studies, have concluded that psilocybin is relatively safe overall. However, some people can experience unpleasant side effects, which are most of the time mild. Most commonly these side effects are:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • sleepiness
  • headache
  • increased blood pressure

However, many of these side effects can be avoided. At this point, taking psilocybin with the help of a therapist can be beneficial. The therapist can aid you with the preparation for the psychedelic experience, he could help you better understand the side effects and how to respond to them if they occur.

Assistant professor at the UW School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Nathan Sackett stated that for someone to get the full benefits from their psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, they may need to experience and work through some forms of distress and anxiety, which can be unpleasant at the time, but it wouldn’t be harmful if everything is done in a safe and controlled environment. The whole point is to look at the bigger picture and cure day-to-day anxiety long term.

Mental Health Benefits of Microdosing Psilocybin

You probably have heard about microdosing, many people use a variety of psychedelic substances like LSD, Psilocybin, Ketamine, and other psychedelics to microdose.

Microdosing is a practice that involves taking very tiny amounts of the psychoactive compound, to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as, help people become more productive and creative. These doses are typically so small that they do not cause hallucinogenic effects.

As opposed to the 25-milligram pill of psilocybin that produces a full-blown psychedelic experience, a typical microdose of dried mushrooms is between 0.1 and 0.3 grams.

There is also a practice in microdosing called “stacking”, mycologist Paul Stamets developed this method in which the microdose of mushrooms is taken with additional substances that are believed to boost the health benefits of the fungi, according to him. A well-known “Stamets Stack” included vitamin B3, Niacin, and the mycelium of a specific mushroom called Lion’s Mane.

People who are microdosing, often report reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, improved mood, increase in creativity, and overall improvement in mental health.

“Macrodosing” Psilocybin Therapy

More and more research has come to the same conclusion, a large dose of hallucinogenic mushrooms may have major benefits when it comes to treating anxiety. The good news is it also helps seniors with these issues and current research is being done to see if it can help combat dementia.

Scientific research conducted on a small study group in 2016, explored the benefits of psilocybin for easing feelings of depression and anxiety in people diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. The benefits they report are as follows:

  • Quality of life
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The clinical trials were followed up 6 months later, and the results were astounding, as the researchers found these health benefits continued in up to 80% of participants. Many of them also said to feel less distracted by the possibility of dying.

The research was followed up more than 3 years later with several participants. They found out that these benefits still held. Many participants described their psilocybin experience as one of the most meaningful and profound life experiences.

A 2020 research reviewed three different studies, where people suffered from depression and anxiety due to life-threatening diseases like cancer. The participants took psilocybin in doses ranging from 0.2 to 0.4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

In the following years, a number of additional studies and self-reported surveys led to a similar conclusion. Psilocybin treatment can greatly reduce anxiety, treat depression, and improve the overall quality of life.

Researchers found that psilocybin did seem to be effective in anxiety relief, as well as relief in depression, and improved overall well-being by easing the fear of death.

Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research Studies

The Johns Hopkins Medicine Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research leads a global effort in analyzing and implementing innovative therapeutics with psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin.

Since the early 2000s, a group of researchers at John Hopkins have been examining the long-term effects of psilocybin therapy in healthy volunteers with no previous experience with psychedelics.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine Center analyzed the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and came to the conclusion that it may be a good substitute for prescription medication in the treatment of opioid addiction, alcohol addiction, and improvement in overall brain health.

Therapeutic effects of psychedelic therapy have been noted to be effective up to a year after the initial dose, and the severity of anxiety attacks and depressive symptoms have greatly declined during the following months after the therapy.

Who Should Not Take Psilocybin?

Nevertheless, there may be people who should avoid taking psilocybin. People diagnosed with schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychosis, and people who are already taking MAOI antidepressants should avoid this kind of treatment. However, in these cases, there are also non-psychedelic mushrooms that may also have a huge impact on reducing the severity of anxiety and depression.

Another group of people who are not suitable for this kind of treatment is those who are currently using SSRI medication, as the brain is already flooded with serotonin, said Fredrick Barret associate director of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University.

Anxiety Treatment With Non-Psychedelic Mushrooms

There are thousands of people with mental health concerns who will never undergo psychedelic therapy. For those who are not ready to try psilocybin-induced therapy, there are other non-psychoactive alternatives to magic mushrooms for anxiety. The most common therapeutic mushrooms are Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and Cordyceps.

They are available in several different forms such as tinctures, capsules, and even fresh mushrooms.

Reishi

Ganoderma lucidum, also known as lingzhi in Chinese medicine, is commonly known as Reishi. Growing on decaying wood, it is known for promoting longevity and well-being.

Experts believe that compounds found in Reishi (Triterpenes, Beta-glucan, Polysaccharides, and Lignin) have antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. It is also possible that this influence the serotonin system. The neuroprotective properties of these mushrooms positively affect the central nervous system and brain cells.

Research into Reishis anti-anxiety effects was primarily conducted on mice. A 2015 study investigating its effects on FST (Forced Swim Test), this behavioral test is often used to test new antidepressants. After dosing, the mice had a reduced duration of immobility, which indicates a type of antidepressant property of the mushroom.

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) is one of the most thoroughly researched mushrooms for mental health. It’s also known as the monkey head mushroom or bearded tooth mushroom. Similarly to Reishi, Lion’s Mane is considered a delicacy in East Asian cultures.

In 2010 a study investigated the impact of Lion’s Mane on anxiety in 26 female subjects. Study participants had a range of indefinite complaints, without a specific medical condition. One group ate a placebo cookie while the other was given a cookie with Lion’s Mane. At the end of this scientific research, a group who ate Lion’s Mane cookies scored lower on several measurables, including anxiety, irritability, frustration, and palpitations.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that infects and develops inside the larva of insects. It is well-known as a tonic herb and has a range of potential physical and mental health benefits, including improvement of brain function, and the ability to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.

Cordyceps is a nutritionally rich fungus that contains multiple bioactive compounds such as amino acids, vitamins B1, B2, B12, K, and Polysaccharides.

Peer-reviewed studies that have been conducted on animals suggest that Cordyceps can produce antidepressant effects after just 5 days of regularly taking the dose. It may also help fight symptoms that are accompanied by depression and anxiety such as fatigue. Although, further research is required.

The Bottom Line – Mushrooms to Treat Anxiety

Psilocybin shows tremendous promise as a therapeutic agent for helping people who are struggling with anxiety and depression or are going through a terminal illness.

Psychedelic research that has been done so far, regarding psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms, showed great promise for its potential benefits in the treatment of these medical conditions.

There are two main ways to take psilocybin therapeutically.

“Macrodosing,” which is taking a larger amount of psilocybin, most of the time followed by a psychotherapy session, and “Microdosing” which is taking relatively small doses that do not induce hallucinogenic effects.

Microdosing is not necessarily followed by a psychotherapy session, it is focused more on regularly taking the doses for a prolonged period of time. However, both ways showed great results in previous studies and clinical research as well as in anecdotal reports. The future is extremely exciting for tapping into the health and healing potential of magic mushrooms.

The Complete Guide to Microdosing Magic Mushrooms

Learn all about microdosing psilocybin mushroom.

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By Keith Gigliotti

Based in Denver, CO, Keith Gigliotti has spent the last 7 years fully immersed in the world of plant medicines and psychedelic therapy as a marketer, brander, writer, and content developer. His experience and passion for this emerging field led him to joining 1UpMaps, a premier resource for trustworthy psychedelic education and therapeutic exploration. Keith has been featured in numerous plant medicine and psychedelics publications and events. He is committed to nudging the psychedelics space further into the mainstream consciousness through purpose-driven content that both informs and inspires.

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