5 Important Things You Should Know About the Health Science of ‘Magic’ Mushrooms
By Jared Levenson
Magic mushrooms were temporarily popularized in America in the 1950-60’s. People who took these mushrooms claimed they would see visions and travel through different dimensions during their ‘trip’.
However, seeing other worldly creatures seemed too strange to western culture at that point in history. ‘Magic’ mushrooms, also known as psilocybin mushrooms, quickly became classified as an illegal drug after people became afraid of the mushroom’s mind-altering effects.
Once psilocybin mushrooms became classified as an illegal drug, federal and state scientific research had to stop. Interestingly, as Michael Pollan details in his book, “How to Change Your Mind” before mushrooms were classified as an illegal drug, there were hundreds of published scientific studies about psilocybin mushrooms.
Nowadays, in part because of Michael Pollan’s book and other cultural trends, magic mushrooms are back on the rise. The entire state of Colorado has decriminalized mushrooms, as well as Oakland city. Most importantly, the Food and Drug Administration has changed their criteria and is now allowing extensive scientific research on psilocybin mushrooms.
With the change in federal guidelines and the new trends in culture, here are 5 important things you should know about the science of ‘magic’ mushrooms.
1 - How Scientific Research Is Conducted on Psilocybin Mushrooms
You might be wondering how scientists study psilocybin mushrooms and their effects.
Usually what occurs in a research session is a participant will take a pill containing a certain dosage of a synthetic psilocybin. The participants are given a spacious room in a comfortable, well-lit setting. The participants are given music to listen to, snacks to choose from, and a bed to rest on.
Additionally, there will be mental health professionals that counsel the participants before and after their experience to provide emotional and psychological support. Participants also answer questionnaires before and after their experience as well as interviews. Lastly, the participants are usually asked to fast at least 8 hours before consuming their mushrooms.
2 - The Documented Benefits of Psilocybin Mushrooms
Psilocybin has shown promise for helping to cure a number of difficult health ailments.
Most notably, 1-3 psilocybin treatments along with cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to help people who are addicted to cigarettes to quit their addiction. These treatment outcomes have been shown to last up to 1 year and potentially longer.
I’m sure you can begin to see the revolutionary potential of magic mushrooms. No other clinical drug has shown anywhere close to the success the psilocybin mushrooms have had to help people with their smoking habits.
And the research is not limited to cigarette treatment as well. An extensive 2020 by Aday and colleagues reviewed 34 of the best and most recent mushroom studies from the available scientific literature.
They found that psilocybin made ‘enduring’ changes in personality, depression, spirituality, anxiety, wellbeing, substance addiction, and mindfulness. The key word is ‘enduring’.
The incredible promise of ‘magic’ mushrooms is how long-lasting the positive effects benefit people.
3 - How to Minimize Risk In Taking Psilocybin Mushrooms
With all the scientific evidence piling up for the tremendous benefits of psilocybin mushrooms, you might start thinking about taking some yourself. Once you start thinking about taking these mushrooms yourself, you start to wonder about the risks involved with taking mushrooms.
The western culture has demonized ‘magic’ mushrooms. While most of the negative perception about mushrooms is simply the fear of the unknown, there are risks associated with mushrooms.
I’m sure you’ve heard of mushrooms giving people a ‘bad trip’ like when someone loses control or has a panic attack. Fortunately, scientists have been able to isolate the cause of bad trips and give practical steps to avoid having a ‘bad trip’.
The vast majority of ‘bad trips’ are caused by the participant feeling unsafe in a certain environment. In scientific language, this is known as the ‘setting’.
If you are in a loud, noisy environment this can possibly make you feel unsafe, especially when under the effects of a psilocybin mushroom. Additionally, if you have work or family pressures that are extremely pressing, these psychological pressures can cause a bad trip.
However, scientists have found that if the ‘setting’ is safe then nearly all mushroom experiences are positive and profound, no matter what dosage. Therefore, to minimize the risk of having a bad trip while on a psilocybin mushroom, please consider taking the mushroom in a natural setting like a campground on a weekend when you have nothing to do.
In addition, the scientific research always includes both a participant and a mental health counselor. While you may not need a professional counselor by your side, it’s always a good idea to have a friend close by who knows that you are doing mushrooms and has agreed to look after you for a few hours while you’re under the effects of the mushrooms.
4 - What About Vomiting While on Mushrooms?
It’s quite common to feel a queasy or anxious stomach when you take a large dose of mushrooms. If you take a small dose of mushrooms, or microdose, then your stomach will be fine and you’ll have no problems.
If you are taking a larger dose of mushrooms, it’s quite likely that your stomach will become ill. You may vomit. Please know that if you feel bad that it’s perfectly natural at a high dose.
While this can be difficult, if you are in a safe situation you will be fine. The key to get through these tough times is one, to feel safe and be in a safe situation. Aside from that your intention needs to be that you’re on a journey, or a trip, and that you no longer have control. You have to realize that once you have taken the mushrooms and the psilocybin is in your body, there’s no going back.
It’s best to surrender and realize that being forced to feel some of these things will teach you powerful lessons that will change your life forever. Plus, the good news is that mushrooms are non-addictive in part because of the difficult times they can confer.
5 - How Much Mushrooms to Take and Where to Get Them
Technically speaking mushrooms are still an illegal drug, except in certain parts of the country. I’m not going to tell you where to get them, but just know that there are millions of mushrooms grown and harvested each day in the United States alone.
If you really want to get some mushrooms, you can probably find someone who has them.
Lastly, I suggest getting a food scale for $15-20 so that you can measure out the amount of mushrooms. I suggest going small in the very beginning, like .5 grams. This will be a very minimal amount and won’t cause any bad trips, but you’ll still get a little taste of what mushrooms are like. And don’t worry either about missing out on the benefits because science research is beginning to also highlight the benefits of microdosing, or taking a small dose of mushrooms.
After you have tried this amount, you’re welcome to experiment with more mushrooms if you’d like. Perhaps try 1 gram next time.
You can prepare mushrooms by boiling them in water. Just put the mushrooms in some water and let it boil for 10 minutes. You can add honey, tea and get it so the taste is just right for you.
I hope this short guide helps you get over any negative perceptions about mushrooms and gives you a little more reason to try them!
About the author:
Jared Levenson is an Intuitive Eating Counselor who helps people with disordered eating. His podcast, Eating Enlightenment, focuses on new ways to think about and eat food. For more information, visit https://eatingenlightenment.com.