Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental disorders. According to the World Health Organization, depression alone affects more than 264 million people globally. Anxiety is even more prevalent, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States alone.
Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options for anxiety and depression, ranging from conventional medications to alternative herbs. The past few years have seen vigorous campaigns by medical researchers to popularize alternative anxiolytic herbs, such as magic mushrooms (psychedelic mushrooms).
While magic mushrooms remain illegal in all countries, some researchers claim that they carry powerful therapeutic properties that could help to relieve anxiety and depression. But how factual are those claims? Read on to find out.
How Do Magic Mushrooms Interact With The Body?
Generally, the effects of magic mushrooms come from two main compounds, namely psilocybin and psilocin. When consumed, the body breaks down psilocybin into psilocin, which then produces psychedelic effects. Those effects vary in intensity and duration, depending on various factors.
Some of those aspects include:
- Body mass index
- Body chemistry
- Strength of dosage
- Method of preparation
All factors held constant, the psychedelic effects of magic mushrooms peak within 3 to 4 hours of consumption, and can last up to eight hours. Some of the common mind-altering effects of magic mushrooms include visual and auditory hallucinations, distorted perception of time and space, and increased mental awareness.
How Could Magic Mushrooms Help With Anxiety and Depression?
Various triggers can cause anxiety and depression. Each of those triggers leads to a surge in stress hormones like cortisol while suppressing the effects of ‘feel-good’ hormones like endorphins and serotonin.
Another common cause of anxiety and depression is abnormalities in the structures as well as functions of 5HT2A receptors in the brain. Research has cited such abnormalities as some of the major risk factors for various mental disorders, such as anxiety/depression, drug addiction, schizophrenia, etc.
The psilocybin compound in psychedelic mushrooms mediates the effects of stress hormones by ‘resetting’ the brain. Psilocybin delivers effects similar to those of electroconvulsive therapy. By resetting the brain, psilocybin may offer patients the energy and motivation they need to break out of their anxious or depressive conditions.
Remember that most antidepressants relieve anxiety and depression by dulling your emotions. In essence, antidepressants help to reduce feelings of sadness while also suppressing feelings of happiness. So, while they may work to make you less depressed, they sadly also are likely to take your happiness away.
On the contrary, psychedelic mushrooms may relieve these mental conditions by allowing you to reconnect with your emotions. Succinctly put, magic mushrooms may take your brain back to where it originally was before the feelings of depression set in. Patients using magic mushrooms are generally more confident about dealing with their emotions, which is instrumental for long-term recovery from anxiety and depression.
Magic mushrooms also come with a range of other medicinal compounds, including tryptophan-based beta-carbolines like harmine and harmane. These compounds have been shown to boost brain function. Harmane, harmine, and other beta-carbolines work synergistically to inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase. Monoamine oxidase is the enzyme that facilitates the inactivation and degradation of psilocin, rendering it ineffective.
Why Should Magic Mushrooms Be Considered to Medically Treat Anxiety and Depression?
1. Present long-lasting effects
A majority of mental conditions resulting from abnormalities in the 5HT2A receptors are commonly relieved using drugs that block these receptors. That makes many conventional antidepressants less effective. Fortunately, psychedelic mushrooms work against anxiety and depression without blocking 5HT2A receptors, which explains why their effects last longer. Research suggests that a single dose of psilocybin may be all it takes to relieve anxiety and depression symptoms in cancer patients.
2. They deliver minimal side effects
As we already indicated, psychedelic mushrooms induce hallucinations and an enhanced sense of awareness in some people. But other than these, there are no other worrying side effects to watch out for. That’s in contrast to conventional antidepressant medications which can trigger a range of side effects, such as increased appetite, blurred vision, erectile dysfunction, etc.
While you can overdose on these mushrooms, you are not likely to die. An overdose or bad trip can be intensely difficult to experience which can include uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms such as anxiety and panic attacks, vomiting and diarrhea, agitation, paranoia, psychosis, seizures, and a coma. Psilocybin mushrooms have a low toxicity, and death from overdose is very rare, a typical overdose can last 6-8 hours, though some effects can take days to fade.
Psychedelic mushrooms are generally non-addictive as the active compounds – psilocybin and psilocin – only create short-term tolerance. So, provided they’re administered within a short duration of time (which is fortunately often the case), these mushrooms present minimal risks of dependence. What’s more – you can consume the mushrooms along with other substances that are known to counter psychoactive effects, such as cannabidiol (CBD). However, psilocybin mushrooms, as with other hallucinogens, have a significant ability to cause tolerance, which means that even occasional use may require higher doses to get the same effects later on.
Magic mushrooms may be earning their place among the most effective anxiolytic herbs in the future. Although they remain illegal in all countries, it’s only a matter of time before these mushrooms enter the mainstream global pharmaceutical industry.