benefits of magic mushrooms in the UK
It is the season when many people ingest our fungal friends – beyond a fun time – what are the benefits?
As autumn turns to winter, this is the season when many enthusiasts head to wilder parts of the country and spend hours walking methodically around looking at the ground. The object of their desire is the mysterious little fellows we call the Liberty Cap – the UK’s indigenous hallucinogen.
Magic mushrooms are found all over the world and almost every culture has a historic, sacred relationship with these important medicines. For example, there is evidence in the form of stone paintings that Saharan aboriginal tribes of North Africa might have been using mushrooms from around 9000 BC.
Today in the UK the magic mushroom foraging season has increased due to climate change from about 33 days of autumn fruiting to more than 70. Prof Lynne Boddy, a fungal ecologist says –
“Climate change has had a dramatic effect on the fruiting season, every year the start and end of the season is dependent on the weather, and we can see that up until the late 1970s it was largely consistent. However, on average, the first fruiting date now comes much earlier in the year than previously, while the last fruiting comes later.”
Some people forage them simply for the pleasurable effects of euphoria induced following consumption. For others, they use the fungus as a means to gain spiritual insights and new knowledge. Interestingly, anecdotal tales of the benefits of eating magic mushrooms is now being supported and extended by new scientific research.
It turns out the witches, druids, pagans and hippies were right – eating magic mushrooms is good for you… here’s why –
1. Increase of “openness” and other beneficial shifts in personality
Humans are born open and full of love – eager to: connect, learn and grow as sentient beings. Over the course of our lives, experiences that may cause suffering close us down. Obvious examples include when we get our heart broken – we may be less open to future romantic encounters. People who have a series of negative events associated with aspects of their lives can close down to the detriment of future experiences.
Clearly, this can sometimes protects us, but in many cases, we may close down more than we need to and we limit our life potential by shutting out new experiences and opportunities.
In these cases psilocybin can help.
In a 2011 study, researchers found “significant increases in Openness following a high-dose psilocybin session.” Openness is a psychological term for someone’s attitude toward new experiences, and is associated with traits like imagination, creativity and aesthetic appreciation. Not only did openness generally rise during a psilocybin session, but in nearly 60 percent of study participants, it remained significantly higher than baseline for more than 1 year after the session.
Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.
2. Smoking cessation and other addictions
If you are caught up with unhealthy patterns in your life psychedelics can help. Magic mushrooms have been shown to help treat addiction to habit-forming drugs like cocaine and nicotine.
In 2008, Amanda Feilding of The Beckley Foundation initiated a collaboration with Johns Hopkins University on a pilot study investigating psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to overcome nicotine addiction. With continued support from the Heffter Research Institute, the ongoing research is strengthening the case for psilocybin as a breakthrough treatment for substance abuse disorders.
3. Reduce depression
Psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychoactive mushrooms, has provided the spiritual and cultural bedrock of many great civilisations. The Aztecs referred to teonanácatl, which translates as ‘divine mushroom’, and modern neuroscience has revealed how psilocybin interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain in order to produce a range of consciousness-altering effects.
New research demonstrates how effective magic mushrooms can be at treating depression. In some cases, one dose can be enough to alleviate the symptoms permanently.
The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which he tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.
The Beatles music got much better after they took psychedelics
4. Dissolve your ego and increase creativity
Psychedelics in general and psilocybin specifically can enable states where our conscious experience of the world is freedfrom its association with our specific ego which may be revealed to be an illusory construct. A 2017 study, temporary ego loss could be beneficial in the right context. These expansive, sometimes life-changing experiences help us to feel profoundly connected and alive. They also boost creativity.
I’ve never been a religious person. I’ve been a spiritual person since I was about 15, 16, when I was first introduced to Psilocybin [mushrooms]. That really opened me up to thinking about the universe in a different way, and coming to significant realizations about my connection to something greater than me.
Patients given psilocybin report continued well-being a year later.
The psychedelic ingredient of magic mushrooms could help manage patients’ anxiety.
The benefits for people who have had positive or even mystical experiences induced by the psychedelic drug psilocybin — the psychoactive ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’ — linger for as much as a year, according to the latest follow-up study of such patients.
The study offers more support to those who argue that, when used responsibly, some drugs more commonly taken for leisure can safely be used to relieve the stress associated with severe chronic diseases such as cancer.
“This experience has a compelling meaningfulness and spiritual component to it that is strongly conserved over time,” argues the study’s lead author, Roland Griffiths of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Although only a single dose was administered to the 36 patients in the original study, they reportedly still considered the experience to have valuable after-effects at the time of the follow-up study.
A clutch of new studies using psilocybin are now planned or under way in the United States, hoping to alleviate cancer-related anxieties with only one dose that has a lasting, positive outcome for patients.
1. Shrooms Soothes Anxiety
If you’re the kind of person who suffers from bouts of anxiety, there’s some good news for you. Psilocybin mushroomscan help reduce your anxiety levels. A study conducted by a team of scientists at John Hopkins showed that moderate doses of shrooms in conjunction with psychotherapy helped terminally ill patients overcome anxiety and depression caused by their diagnosis. After a 6 hour treatment almost 80% of the participants showed significantly reduced anxiety and depression, results that were still evident 6 months down the line. 83% of those treated reported they were more satisfied with their quality of life, while two-thirds admitted their psilocybin session was one of the five most important experiences in their lives.
2. Magic Mushrooms Lowers Depression
You may or may not know this, but Canadians are ranked as one of the highest users of antidepressants in the world. OECD, which released this statistic says that as much as 9% of Canada’s population is on one medication or other for fighting depression. Luckily a lot of research has been done on psilocybin therapy in relation to depression. In fact, psilocybin therapy has been given “breakthrough therapy” status by the FDA for the treatment of depression meaning its approval for such use is now being fast tracked.
Among the more promising outcomes of research is a 2017 study by the Imperial College London which found that psilocybin “may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression.” A different studyalso showed that psilocybin combined with psychological support can revive one’s emotional responsiveness. It suggested that the chemical works without emotionally blunting patients as is the case with conventional antidepressants.
3. Shrooms Alleviates OCD Symptoms
You’re probably familiar with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a condition that’s associated with unreasonable thoughts and fears that result in compulsive behaviors like constantly washing your hands for fear of germs, or the need to arrange things in a specific way. Patients suffering from bipolar disorders are usually the most affected. Studies done by the University of Arizonashowed that magic mushrooms were able to successfully treat the symptoms related to this disorder.
According to Dr. Francisco Moreno and Dr. Brian Bayze who work at the university, psilocybin works together with various serotonin receptors in the brain, including those which control certain brain regions of individuals with OCD. By treating them with multiple doses of shrooms, the binding activity of serotonin receptors changes thereby reducing such symptoms.
4. It Can Treat Addiction
Whether you’re addicted to smoking, alcohol, or cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms could provide the answer to breaking these habits. One pilot study conducted by John Hopkins University researchers revealed that psilocybin therapy enabled participants to abstain from smoking for a period of 12 months during which follow-up was done.
Matthew Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry, who led the study believes shrooms can potentially treat other substance abuse disorders like alcohol and cocaine addiction. According to him, these disorders are caused by “a narrowed mental and behavioral repertoire”. Such people can be shaken out of their routines using well-coordinated psilocybin therapy sessions.
5. Magic Mushrooms Stimulates Growth of New Brain Cells
We know that psilocybin can help the brain establish new connections across its different regions but, get this, it can also help the growth of neorons in the brain. Research done by the University of South Florida showed that psilocybin enabled lab rats to overcome their fear by promoting the growth of new neurons in their brains, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. To put it differently, psilocybin repairs and grows brain cells by binding itself to receptors in the nerve cells that stimulate healing. Dr. Briony Catlow, the study leader, hopes the findings can be extended to humans in clinical trials.
6. Psychedelic Mushrooms boost your creativity
It’s no secret that magic mushrooms improve your mood. At higher doses shrooms can send you into a euphoric state, but they can also promote a sense of creativity and insightfulness even at lower doses better known as microdoses. A 2018 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology corroborates this. It found that participants who microdosed on psychedellic mushrooms came up with more ideas on how to solve a task. The researchers found that they “were more fluent, flexible and original in the possibilities they came up with”.
7. They Can Change Your Personality
Although brain function generally returns to normal after psilocybin psychotherapy session, research has shown that some effects can last longer. One such study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that psilocybin can result in long-term changes in behaviors, attitudes and values. While studying its effect on five broad domains of personality- neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, it demonstrated that there were “significant increases in openness following a high-dose psilocybin session.”
Openness refers to an individual’s attitude towards new experiences, and goes hand in hand with characteristics like imagination, creativity and aesthetic appreciation. In the study researchers reported that openness not only increased during the psilocybin sessions with participants, but almost 60% of the participants maintained a significantly higher level of openness more than one later. However, those who went through this personality change are only the ones who had a complete mystical experience during their high-dose session. The study went on to explain that the high dose should be administered under supportive conditions.
8. Shrooms Can Potentially Treat Alzheimer’s
Following the findings by scientists that psilocybin promotes neuroplasticity in the brain, psychiatrists like Prof. Roland Griffiths from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine think there’s an opportunity to study the effects of psychedelics in people with early Alzheimer’s disease. Speaking to Forbes, he said, “To the extent that these drugs produce neuroplasticity, there may be some enduring effects on cognitive process,” Although that’s in the future, he’s happy that for now they know they can treat depression that comes with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis using magic mushroom drugs.
FINAL WORD: MAGIC MUSHROOMS OFFER MORE THAN JUST A PSYCHEDELIC TRIP!
So, those are five surprising or lesser-known benefits of magic mushrooms. As mentioned, research trials are continually being carried out to discover more properties of this hearty hallucinogen, and there’s still a ways to go. The future of magic mushrooms is definitely exciting, and one we should watch with close attention. Who knows what it will hold, and what discoveries will be made…