Magic mushrooms: Health benefits and Side effects

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati

Magic mushrooms or Psilocybe mushroom or shrooms which is psychoactive fungi that contain psilocybin and psilocin, active metabolite and is responsible for most psychedelic effects and active agent in the central nervous system (1). Psilocybin mushrooms are classic hallucinogenic mushrooms that contain more than 100 species worldwide. Psilocybin-containing mushrooms are Conocybe, Gymnopilus, Panaeolus, Pluteus, Psilocybe, and Stropharia.

Normally dried and powdered mushrooms are chewed raw, but may be consumed in the form of tea or ingested fresh. These mushrooms are both cultivated and found in the wild. Cultivated mushrooms tend to be more potent through a selection of stronger mushroom strains with more active ingredients (up to 10 times that of some wild mushroom species (2).

History of Magic mushrooms

Psilocybin mushrooms were used by the Aztec shaman in healing and in a variety of religious and divinatory rituals. These mushrooms were known as teonanacatl, meaning “god’s flesh” Psilocybin and psilocin were first isolated by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1957 from the Central American mushroom Psilocybe Mexicana, and synthesize these compounds later in the same year (3).

Health benefits of Magic mushrooms

1. Treats anxiety

Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin which improves the mood and anxiety of patients with advanced-stage cancer.  It also enhances physiological and psychological response thus this mushroom act as a promising agent of hallucinogens for the treatment of anxiety reactive to advanced-stage cancer (4).

2. Help with addiction

Psilocybin found in magic mushrooms in the dosage of moderate (20 mg/70 kg) and high (30 mg/70 kg) for 15-week has a beneficial effect on people 12 out of 15 who quit smoking (5). 

Moreover, hallucinogens of these mushrooms have clinically relevant effects in alcohol and drug addiction. The improvement in 10 people was seen in drinking during weeks 5-8 like decreases in craving and increases in abstinence self-efficacy with no adverse effects (6).

3. Treat mood disorder

Psilocybin is a psychoactive compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms known as a prodrug of psilocin which may be useful pharmacological tools for the treatment of drug dependence, and anxiety and mood disorders, especially in treatment-resistant patients (7).

4. Lower mental problems

Magic mushroom is related to a lower rate of mental health problems. It is non-addictive and does not cause brain damage thus can be used for the long term without any adverse effect (8).

5. Treat obsessive-compulsive disorder

Consumption of psilocybin-containing mushrooms (2 g) may reduce OCD symptoms like incapacitating and compulsive counting, showering, and ritualistic washing of clothes, hands, and body, spent up to 4 hours every day in front of the mirror (9). A magic mushroom (Psilocybe argentipes) also reduced OCD symptoms in mice without any side effects (10).

6. Antidepressant properties

Cancer patients often suffer symptoms like depression and anxiety. However, supplementation of high-dose psilocybin improves depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety (11). 

7. Boost brain health

Psilocybin promoting the growth of both neurites and dendritic cells, promote structural and functional plasticity in prefrontal cortical neurons.  Thus, these mushrooms act as a neurotherapeutic agent who enhances the birth of new brain cells and prevent or inhibit neuronal death and neurodegenerative diseases (12). 

8. Altered consciousness

Psilocybin obtained from magic mushroom altered states of consciousness and induces night dreams to include perception, mental imagery, emotion activation, fear memory extinction, and sense of self and body which are closest to lucid dreaming without any adverse effect on health (13, 14).

9. Treat cluster headache

Psilocybin-containing mushrooms help in delaying and shortens the cluster headache period (15).

10. Anti-inflammatory properties

Presence of psychedelics similar to psilocybin act as an anti-inflammatory agent which may be beneficial to treat inflammation, regulate inflammatory pathways via novel mechanisms, and may represent a new and exciting treatment strategy for several inflammatory disorders (16).

Side effects of Magic mushrooms

1. Risk of mydriasis and hyperreflexia

A research study suggested that after ingestion of magic mushrooms (Psilocybe semilanceata ) show acute effects on the patients’ behavior which may be life-threatening such as mydriasis and hyperreflexia was developed by 27 cases (17).

2. Not safe during pregnancy

Magic mushrooms contain lots of benefits although no clinical data reported with psilocybin exposure on fetal effects in human pregnancy or in animal experiments. But still not advisable during pregnancy (18).

3. Risk of blindness and kidney failure

Psilocybe mushrooms are consumed for their hallucinogenic properties, however, one research study shows that after the ingestion of magic mushrooms, 25-year-old, hepatitis C-infected man, cause severe rhabdomyolysis and acute renal failure, and later developed posterior encephalopathy with cortical blindness (19).

Furthermore, after intake of Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms by 15-year-old male feel symptoms like hypertension, nausea and abdominal pain further cause acute kidney injury (20).

4. Consumption of false mushroom

Cortinarius mushrooms are eaten by a person which is believed to be magic mushrooms with symptoms like nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain begin in 8 hours after eating resulted in acute renal (kidney) failure (21).

5. Although magic mushrooms are safe, mortality is extremely rare by this mushroom is rare and can be used by a regular consumer without psychiatric history but it sometimes causes a fatal outcome. One study reported that after intake of psilocybin mushrooms by a young man jumped from a second-story balcony due to influence (22). 




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