What is Psilocybin?

April 16, 2023 5 mins to read
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Psilocybin is a natural psychoactive compound in certain species of mushrooms, commonly referred to as “magic mushrooms” or “psychedelic mushrooms.” Over 100 species of mushrooms are known to contain psilocybin or its derivative psilocin, with the most well-known species including: Psilocybe cubensis, Psilocybe semilanceata, and Psilocybe azurescens. Recent studies have shown potential therapeutic effects to micro dosing with psilocybin, though more research is needed.

The History of Psilocybin and Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms are well documented in historical records and their use in traditional medicine and spiritual practices. Records go as far back as 1000 BCE in Central America, where they played a vital role in religious ceremonies and healing rituals among indigenous cultures, such as the Mazatec, Mixtec, and Zapotec people. The psychoactive effects of these “magic mushrooms” were hailed as a gateway to communicate with deities and gain insights into the nature of reality.

R. Gordon Wasson & Albert Hoffmann

In the 1950s, the Western world became more aware of psilocybin mushrooms due to the work of researchers like R. Gordon Wasson and Albert Hofmann, who studied the cultural and pharmacological aspects of these fungi. Since then, psilocybin has been the subject of scientific research and a growing interest in the potential therapeutic applications of psychedelic substances.

What is Micro-Dosing?

Micro dosing involves consuming very small amounts of psilocybin, typically ranging from 0.1-0.5 grams of dried mushrooms. At such a small dose effects are sub-perceptual, meaning they do not produce the intense hallucinogenic effects normally associated with higher doses of psilocybin.

Benefits of Psilocybin?

Research on micro dosing psilocybin is still in it’s infancy, but some preliminary studies show some potential positive effects. Although more research is needed to better analyze the potential benefits, as well as the safety and efficacy of regularly micro dosing with psilocybin.

Some of the studied benefits of micro-dosing with psilocybin include:

  1. Improved mood: Some studies and self-reports suggest that microdosing psilocybin may help improve mood and overall emotional well-being. A study by Anderson et al. (2019) found that individuals who micro dosed, reported reduced levels of depression.
  2. Enhanced creativity: Anecdotal reports and some research have indicated that micro-dosing psilocybin could lead to increased creativity, problem-solving abilities, and unconventional thinking. A study by Prochazkova et al. (2018) found that micro-dosing with psychedelics improved convergent and divergent thinking.
  3. Reduced anxiety: Some evidence suggests that micro-dosing psilocybin might help alleviate anxiety and improve overall emotional balance. A study by Anderson et al. (2019) found a decrease in self-reported anxiety levels among individuals who micro-dosed.
  4. Increased focus and productivity: Some users of psilocybin microdoses have reported increased focus, productivity, and motivation, although scientific research in this area is still limited.
  5. Improved social interaction: Anecdotal reports suggest that microdosing psilocybin may enhance social skills, empathy, and emotional openness, which could lead to better interpersonal relationships.

Again, more extensive research is needed on psilocybin and it’s health benefits to better determine it’s safety, efficacy & potential side effects during long-term use.

Psilocybin and Cancer

Like much of the research on psilocybin, it’s potential benefits for cancer patients is still in the early stages. Although some studies have shown microdosing could potentially provide benefits to cancer patients, particularly in the areas of anxiety, depression, and overall quality of life. Here are a few of the studies on psilocybin and it’s potential health benefits:

  • Ross et al. (2016) found that a single moderate-dose of psilocybin, in conjunction with psychotherapy, led to rapid and sustained reductions in anxiety and depression among cancer patients.
  • Griffiths et al. (2020) showed that psilocybin-assisted therapy could lead to significant and lasting improvements in anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer diagnoses. These findings, while promising, need further research to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of psilocybin-assisted therapy for cancer patients.

Suggested Reading

If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the history and use of magic mushrooms in traditional medicine, check out these books and articles:

  1. Stamets, P. (1996). Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World: An Identification Guide. Ten Speed Press. (This book by mycologist Paul Stamets provides an extensive overview of psilocybin-containing mushrooms, their identification, and historical use.)
  2. Wasson, R. G. (1957). Seeking the Magic Mushroom. Life Magazine. (This seminal article by R. Gordon Wasson introduced the Western world to the use of magic mushrooms in traditional Mazatec ceremonies.)
  3. Schultes, R. E., & Hofmann, A. (1992). Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Healing Arts Press. (This book by ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes and chemist Albert Hofmann offers an in-depth exploration of various psychoactive plants, including psilocybin mushrooms, and their roles in traditional medicine and spiritual practices.)
  4. Guzmán, G. (2008). Hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mexico: An overview. Economic Botany, 62(3), 404-412. (This article provides a comprehensive review of the history, taxonomy, and cultural significance of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mexico.)

Disclaimer

The information in this article is for educational purposes and we advice you to check local laws to ensure use is legal in your locale. Using psilocybin and other psychedelics is still illegal in many countries, and it is important to consider the legal and safety risks associated with their use.

Also, While the potential therapeutic effects of psilocybin are interesting and emerging, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional or a mental health specialist for more information and guidance about the use of psilocybin, particularly in microdosing amounts.

References

  1. Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C., Dinh-Williams, L.-A., Hui, K., … Hapke, E. (2019). Microdosing psychedelics: Personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers. Psychopharmacology, 236(2), 731–740.
  2. Prochazkova, L., Lippelt, D. P., Colzato, L. S., Kuchar, M., Sjoerds, Z., & Hommel, B. (2018). Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting. Psychopharmacology, 235(12), 3401–3413.

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