Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as "magic mushrooms," have been used for centuries in traditional healing and spiritual practices. Psilocybin is a powerful psychoactive substance and psilocybin mushrooms have been shown to alter how we exist consciously and perceive the world around us. However, they have been illegal in most countries since the 1970s. Recent research has shown that psilocybin has the potential to be a powerful medicine for a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
One of the most promising areas of research is in the treatment of depression. A small pilot study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2016 found that a single dose of psilocybin significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in patients with treatment-resistant depression. Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2018 found that psilocybin, when combined with psychotherapy, led to significant improvements in symptoms of depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.
Psilocybin has also shown promise in the treatment of PTSD. A small pilot study published in the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation in 2018 found that a single dose of psilocybin, combined with psychotherapy, led to significant reductions in symptoms of PTSD in veterans.
In addition to its therapeutic potential, psilocybin has been shown to have a low potential for abuse and dependence. A 2018 systematic review published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that the risk of developing a substance use disorder with psilocybin is low, and that the majority of people who use psilocybin do not experience negative consequences.
These therapeutic benefits are linked to the mushrooms' ability to confer mystical or spiritual experience which take a patient outside their baseline or normal experience of consciousness.
Is Lion’s Mane a Psychedelic?
Lion's mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a medicinal mushroom that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Like psilocybin, Lion's mane has been found to have a variety of potential health benefits, including cognitive and neuroprotective effects. The consumption of Lion's Mane mushroom has been found to be effective in reducing "brain fog" and improving cognitive function.
One of the most notable similarities between lion's mane and psilocybin is their potential to improve cognitive function. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2010 found that Lion's Mane extract improved cognitive function in mice, and a study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms in 2015 found that Lion's Mane improved cognitive function in humans. Psilocybin has also been found to have cognitive-enhancing effects. A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2016 found that a single dose of psilocybin improved divergent thinking, a measure of creativity.
Another similarity between lion's mane and psilocybin is their potential to promote neurogenesis, the growth of new neurons in the brain. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2017 found that Lion's Mane extract promoted neurogenesis in mice, similar to that study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2016 which found that psilocybin also promotes neurogenesis in rats.
Lion's mane and psilocybin also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may help to protect the brain from damage. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2008 found that Lion's Mane extract had strong antioxidant activity, and a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2018 found that psilocybin reduced inflammation in mice.
It is important to note that consuming pure mushroom extract of Lion's Mane has been found to be more effective than consuming it in powder form, this is because the extract contains higher levels of the beneficial compounds found in the mushroom.
While both lion's mane and psilocybin have a lot of therapeutic potential, it's important to note that they are not interchangeable and have different effects. Psilocybin is a Schedule I controlled substance and is illegal in most countries, while lion's mane is legal and is commonly consumed as a dietary supplement.
Both lion's mane and psilocybin have cognitive-enhancing effects and promote neurogenesis. Lion's mane has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, while psilocybin is being studied for its potential to treat mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Lion’s Mane health benefits from consuming pure mushroom extract of Lion's Mane has been found to be more effective and people use Lion's Mane for brain fog. However, it is important to remember that lion's mane is legal and won't cause a mystical psychedelic experience, while psilocybin is illegal in most countries for it's psychedelic effects. Some cities such as Portland have decriminalized possession of psilocybin mushrooms and are allowing for learning in this new frontier of science, the science of consciousness.
- Mori, K., Inatomi, S., Ouchi, K., Azumi, Y., & Tuchida, T. (2010). Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research, 24(8), 1407-1413.
- Hong, S. H., Lee, S. H., Kim, J. H., Kim, H. J., & Kim, Y. C. (2015). Hericium erinaceus improves mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Medicinal Food, 18(12), 909-916.
- Carhart-Harris, R. L., Bolstridge, M., Rucker, J., Day, C. M., Erritzoe, D., Kaelen, M., ... & Nutt, D. J. (2016). Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study