Good Vibrations – The Benefits of Microdosing ‘Shrooms

Words: Robyn Samuels

What started as a biohack for professionals, coding nerds and creatives to enhance cognition and tap into imagination, has now become common practice. Microdosing, the self-administration of hallucinogenic substances, isn’t a new discovery. It’s been used for centuries by native tribes, for medicinal benefits and transcendental, spiritual experiences. But its benefits also go beyond chasing a ‘trip’…

Taking incremental doses of psilocybin mushrooms may stabilise moods, and assist with mental health and brain functioning.

The Lowdown on Microdosing

Microdosing involves taking small amounts of a psychoactive substance between two or three times a week. The threshold intake is typically 10-20 milligrams or between 5-10% of a standard dosage, thus negating the psychedelic effects associated with the substance.

Because of the alleged benefits, many creatives and professionals have turned to psilocybin mushrooms to increase their state of productivity and mental clarity. The new-world trend is thought to have emerged from Silicon Valley, California, where coders often microdose psilocybin mushrooms to source energy and creativity in stressful environments.

Other motivations for microdosing typically include alleviating anxiety, especially in social settings; managing pain; and improving creativity, alertness and mental focus – often required in professional fields that demand long work hours.

Medical Wonder or ‘Public Enemy’?

Traditionally, alternative substances have been used for thousands of years. Ancient Amazonian tribes use ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogenic, during rituals and spiritual and religious ceremonies. The brew is made with leaves of Psychotria viridis shrubs and Banisteriopsis caapi vine stalks, which is chemically similar to the psychedelic drug DMT( N, N-Dimethyltryptamine). Those who have experienced ayahuasca – only advised under the guidance of experienced shamans – have reported out-of-body experiences and visual and auditory hallucinations.

Many experience a phenomenon known as ‘neurasthenia’ – often referred to as ‘seeing sound and hearing colour’.

Similarly, North American Indians use peyote, derived from cacti containing mescaline, psychoactive alkaloids. In ancient Greece, it was believed that they drank an elixir containing ergot from rye or wheat, which has LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) components. South America Aztec Indians often used psilocybin mushrooms to conduct spiritual and healing ceremonies, except they referred to it as ‘teonanácatl’, meaning ‘god’s flesh’.

Hallucinogens, whether sourced from the earth or synthetically produced, have always been controversial. This was even true for the Aztecs some 2000 years ago, when Spanish missionaries destroyed evidence of psilocybin usage in the 16th century. In recent times, the same was done when LSD was made illegal, which halted scientific research involving the administration of psychedelics for psychotherapy.

While many psychedelics are still illegal… there has since been a global resurgence of psychedelics.

Furthermore, ex-U.S. President, Richard Nixon, waged The War on Drugs in 1971, declaring hallucinogens and synthetic drugs ‘public enemy number one’. While many psychedelics are still illegal and drug abuse remains a socio-economic problem globally, especially within impoverished communities, there has since been a global resurgence of psychedelics, and a growing interest in microdosing psilocybin mushrooms.

That being said, they are not to be confused with functional mushrooms

What’s the difference between functional mushrooms and ‘magic mushrooms’, you ask? Functional mushrooms, also known as ‘medical mushrooms’, act as adaptogens, which help stabilise biological, physical and chemical stress imbalances within the body.

These fantastic fungi can be thought of as superfoods – many people use them for a nutrition boost. Popular functional mushrooms include Lion’s Mane, cordyceps, chaga, maitake, reishi, etc. Functional mushrooms have been known to have incredible health benefits, like improving cell regeneration, and according to some studies, helping with memory retention in Alzheimer’s patients.

Functional mushrooms are legal and are sold at wellness stores, whereas psilocybin mushrooms are illegal in many countries.

Psilocybin mushrooms, colloquially known as ‘magic mushrooms’, contain hallucinogenic components; the active ingredient in psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) resembles the chemical structure of DMT. Consuming them causes hallucinogenic effects, such as euphoria and altered perception of time and space. Many experience a phenomenon known as ‘neurasthenia’ – often referred to as ‘seeing sound and hearing colour’. Adverse physiological effects associated with taking excessive amounts of psilocybin mushrooms may include stomach aches, vomiting, or having a ‘bad trip’ altogether.

This outcome often depends on two variables associated with ingesting psychedelic substances – set and setting. ‘Set’ being the mental and emotional state of the person at the time the substance is taken, whereas ‘setting’ relates to external conditions and the social environment in which the psychedelic is administered. That being said, both functional and psilocybin mushrooms offer considerable benefits.

4 Unique Benefits of Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms

Although more research is needed to unearth the extended benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and other hallucinogenic drugs like LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), it’s hard to deny existing research about the benefits of microdosing. Here are a couple of unique uses for microdosing psilocybin mushrooms and claimed benefits, according to scientific findings:

Chronic Pain Management

Functional mushrooms like Lion’s Mane have been associated with managing nerve disorders. As for self-administered psilocybin mushrooms, preliminary studies have shown that microdosing could be effective in managing chronic neuropathic pain, and results could be even better coupled with physical activity. The study also showed that even with self-administration, the patients had minimal cognitive adverse effects. Furthermore, this could help create a decreased dependency on pharmaceutical analgesic (painkiller) medications.

Cognitive Enhancement & Creativity

Psychotropic substances such as Cannabis and psilocybin are believed to improve creative capabilities and ‘expand’ the imagination – a common practice for many professionals and creatives alike. Interestingly, some studies in the Netherlands are also examining the benefits of cognitive enhancement, but with the use of truffles.

A study involving microdosing psilocybin mushrooms showed that it could increase convergent (logic) and divergent thinking (creativity).

Anxiety & Depression

Apart from positively affecting mental clarity and cognition, psychedelics can reportedly have a beneficial impact on anxiety and depression. One study examined the effects of microdosing on mental health. Participants were given incremental doses to avoid impairment of mental faculties and regular brain function. Results showed that repeated self-administration led to improved results in participants with anxiety and depression compared to non-microdosers. Some studies have also been done on microdosing psilocybin mushrooms to treat anxiety and depression in end-of-life cancer patients.

The study also found that the uptake of psilocybin mushrooms was better when coupled with a functional mushroom (Lion’s Mane), niacin (vitamin B3) or chocolate – a practice known as ‘stacking’.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorders) & Trauma

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has been linked to treating patients (such as veterans) suffering from PTSD, and other trauma-related disorders. Although conclusive results are needed to determine benefits, an overview reported that psilocybin could be effective in treating traumatic memories, disconnection, depression and other symptoms.

There’s still a long way to go in discovering the full potential of psilocybin and regulating microdosing within safe environments – it’s certainly not without its challenges – but the preliminary evidence is exciting.

*This article aims not to promote the use of psilocybin mushrooms or any illegal substances, but rather to inform readers.

Read more on the Benefits of Functional Mushrooms – From Lion’s Mane to Turkey Tail.

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