Heard the recent hype around magic mushrooms as a potential mental health treatment? Maybe you’re wondering exactly how they might work to improve anxiety and depression.
After all, they’re known to cause hallucinations and other changes in perception. So, wouldn’t that mean they’re more likely to increase anxiety than relieve it?
It’s certainly true that some people notice anxiety and paranoia when taking mushrooms. Yet more and more research suggests psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound in mushrooms, may have long-lasting benefits when it comes to reducing anxiety and depression.
Psilocybin shares some similarities with serotonin, a chemical messenger that plays an important part in mood regulation. Low or imbalanced levels of serotonin can lead to anxiety and depression. But mushrooms act on your body’s serotoninergic system, so they could help restore the balance of serotonin in your body.
Read on to get more details on the research exploring mushrooms for anxiety, plus a few important safety tips.
Unpacking the hype around microdosing
The practice of microdosing, or taking a small dose of psychedelics every few days, appears to be enjoying some rising popularity.
While the actual size of the dose can vary, most people report taking only up to 10 percentTrusted Source of a full dose, sometimes lessTrusted Source.
You might assume such a small dose probably wouldn’t have much effect, but that’s actually the idea behind microdosing.
People often take full doses of mushrooms specifically for the “trip” they produce, which might include hallucinations and other changes in perception, including:
expanded emotional or cognitive insight
meaningful or spiritually significant experiences
Still, you could experience what’s commonly called a “bad trip” when taking a full dose. A negative experience with mushrooms might include frightening hallucinations, paranoia, and fear, not to mention other unpleasant emotions.
A microdose, however, may not cause the same changesTrusted Source in perception. In short, you could get the benefits of psilocybin without the potential risk of negative outcomes.
So, what exactly are those benefits?
Existing research on microdosing primarily focuses on self-reported use and benefits, though an upcoming clinical trial may add new insight.
Participants who responded to research surveys mentionedTrusted Source enhanced performance and productivity as one of the main reasons behind their microdosing. Of course, “enhanced performance” can cover a lot of ground. More specific benefits include:
a boost to creativity
heightened concentration and focus
People also microdose with mushrooms in order to improve mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression. But evidence supporting this use remains pretty limited, in part because psilocybin remains mostly illegal.