Your Brain on Mushrooms: 4 Potential Benefits of Psilocybin
Magic mushrooms, shrooms, caps, mushies, hongos— just a handful of names to describe the hallucinogenic fungi best known for their trippy effects. Shrooms contain a powerful psychedelic compound known as psilocybin, which can cause you to feel high. However, taking them might come along with a few potential benefits for your physical and mental health, which we're breaking down below. Read on to learn about a few of the potential benefits of shrooms, how to enjoy them, and where to find them in Washington DC.
What is Psilocybin?
By definition, psilocybin is a hallucinogenic alkaloid found in a few mushroom varieties. When you eat a psychedelic mushroom, this chemical compound is responsible for the visual and auditory hallucinations you experience, which may cause your vision to bend or ripple. Sounds may also become distorted, making music sound intensely beautiful.
Psilocybin also causes a euphoric effect that makes you feel content and at one with the world around you. It's one of the reasons people have been tripping on shrooms for thousands of years— it's a spiritual experience that may fire up connection centers in the brain and bring you a sense of unity.
In higher doses, you might experience a lot of extra energy and excitement alongside altered perceptions of space, time, and reality. Most of the time, this is a long list of desired effects. But for some people, it might lead to adverse reactions, like the infamous bad trip or emotional distress.
Luckily, shrooms kick in in about 30 minutes and only last about 4-6 hours, so if you start to freak out, it's easy to distract yourself.
How does psilocybin work with your brain?
Psilocybin enters your body when you eat it from a magic mushroom. As it digests, your intestines convert it into psilocin, which also comes along with its own list of psychoactive properties. From there, it's absorbed into your bloodstream, making its way throughout your body and brain.
Shrooms enter the brain through the same receptors as serotonin, better known as our body's feel-good hormone responsible for sleep, happiness, optimism, and sexual desire. However, evidence suggests that psilocybin seems to have a dramatic effect on getting different portions of the brain to communicate at the same time.
Psilocybin may play a role in firing up different areas of the brain that don't normally communicate well. However, it may also slow down the communication between areas that normally talk to each other a lot.
The fact that psilocybin may be able to do both makes for disorganization in the brain, reducing the rigid boundaries between the auditory, visual, executive, and sense-of-self sections of the mind, leaving people in an altered state of consciousness. But this disorganization and the blurred lines between all of the different areas of your brain might be the key to the therapeutic values of shrooms. It might make it easier for your parts to talk to each other without going down the standard neural pathways that might be holding you back.
For example, a person with depression tends to be extremely self-critical, ruminating over everything they think, say, or do. Their normal minds go down the same anxious, negative thought patterns again and again. But psychedelics like magic mushrooms might be able to disrupt that. That might be part of the reason many people who take psychedelics find a way out of depression during their trips since critical thoughts are easier to control and thinking becomes more flexible under the influence of psilocybin.
But aside from the neural constellation of your mind on mushrooms, psilocybin may also alter your physical brain. Evidence suggests that psilocybin makes it possible for neurons to branch out and create new synapses, which helps them build and solidify new circuits in the brain. These pathways may become solidified with more and more positive thoughts.
While the outgrowth of these neurons doesn't make your brain more connected, it might help in ways that go back to our depression example. If you find a way out of your depression while you're tripping and feel more positive, and then you solidify these positive thought circuits with neuroplasticity, you might be able to maintain those insights and feel less depressed post-trip.
One study compares SSRI mood stabilizers to psilocybin to test the neuroplasticity theory. While SSRIs are known to increase neuroplasticity, the trial found that SSRIs weren't able to increase brain connectivity or well-being anywhere near as much as psilocybin.
With all that said, now, for the first time, brain science is lining up with anecdotal reports from people who trip— it may make you feel more connected, think more freely, or escape from negative thoughts. This unique circuit-building effect coupled with the altered state of brain communication could make a massive difference for people with depression, anxiety, addictions, and headaches.
Potential Benefits of Shrooms
Psilocybin might be good for a few other avenues of physical and mental health, outside of fun recreational use. Below are a couple of science-backed examples:
According to recent research, psilocybin was found to potentially treat migraines and cluster headaches. Cluster
headaches are a chronic pain condition that affects one in every 1000 people. There is no cure or reliable treatment for it, and to make matters worse, the pain is often literally unbearable. Cluster headaches have earned the nickname "suicide headaches" since 55% of people who suffer from them have had suicidal thoughts or hurt themselves during attacks.
Psilocybin might have a lasting effect on preventing cluster headaches and migraines by interacting with our serotonin receptors.
Depression and Anxiety
People with depression and anxiety usually have lower levels of serotonin, along with people who have eating disorders, substance use disorders, and cluster headaches. Normally, anxiety and depression are treated with SSRIs, which make serotonin more available to brain cells. It may take weeks for improvement to occur if it even happens at all. The theory of low serotonin or other chemical imbalances causing depression may have recently been debunked.
However, psychedelics demonstrate changes in neuron connectivity, potentially within 30 minutes. One study found that psilocybin reduced the participant's depression levels up to a year after the initial treatment.
On the other hand, is anxiety. In one study, cancer patients experiencing severe death anxiety were given either a really high dose or a really low dose of psilocybin. The group who took more experienced an increase in optimism, quality and meaning of life, and saw a significant decrease in death anxiety.
Shrooms may be able to help against both depression and anxiety from the neuroplasticity improving effects of psilocybin coupled with the altered state of consciousness it causes, allowing patients to draw meaning and work through their depressive or anxious tendencies.
Evidence suggests that there may be a link between psilocybin and substance abuse tendencies. One study looked at the effects of psilocybin on alcohol dependencies and found that it may have helped decrease the intensity and frequency of drinking and alcohol cravings. Another study found that psilocybin may have helped make it possible for smokers to abstain from smoking cigarettes after a 12-month period continually.
While further study is still needed to understand the mechanisms behind psilocybin and substance use, evidence suggests that it may have a lot to do with the ability to reframe the idea of quitting substances while in an altered state and then solidifying these beliefs with the neuroplasticity effects of psilocybin.
Potential side effects of shrooms
While evidence suggests a lot of potential benefits to taking psilocybin for your mind and for feeling better about the world around you, there are still a few possible side effects you should be aware of before you try it for yourself.
Headaches — One study suggests that the onset of psychedelic effects may cause mild headaches. While they're not severe or debilitating, they might be uncomfortable.
Nausea or vomiting — A lot of people have a hard time digesting mushrooms since they're so fibrous. It isn't uncommon to experience nausea as you begin digesting mushrooms. In extreme cases, you may vomit. You may want to grind your mushrooms up a bit before you take them to help make digestion a little easier.
Increased heart rate and blood pressure — Psilocybin can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. It's important to keep yourself cool and comfortable during a trip and avoid psilocybin altogether if you have high blood pressure or heart problems.
Loss of coordination or speech — When a trip takes hold, you'll start to feel a little weird. Since your vision and audial processing power will be limited, you may have trouble with coordination or your movements. It may also be a bit difficult to speak clearly. But don't worry; after the effects peak, you'll get them back.
Another potential side effect of a mushroom trip is the dreaded "bad trip."
A bad trip is an intense feeling of paranoia, dread, or fear, coupled with a variety of unpleasant thoughts and feelings. They may or may not come with visual hallucinations and can be a pretty scary experience. One survey found that 39% of people who had a bad trip described it as one of the top five most challenging experiences they've ever faced.
But that's not to say that bad trips are just that— bad. They're usually just hard. A bad trip typically brings uncomfortable self-realizations to the surface. They're caused by uncomfortable pathways our brains go through while under the influence of psilocybin. Ensuring you go into a mushroom trip with a positive outlook or goal for the trip in a comfortable setting you're familiar with may make it less likely to experience a bad trip.
The best advice is to just go with the flow and dig deep. Sometimes those challenging experiences make it possible for you to grow and rewire your mind after the trip is over. You might draw new meaning from this challenging experience and leave it feeling better about something you may not have known was bothering you.
There's nothing to be afraid of— you're just high, and it'll pass. You can distract yourself by changing up your scenery or putting something on tv. You should always trip under the supervision of a trip sitter, too. You can talk to them, and they'll help you get out of it.
Who shouldn't take magic mushrooms?
While psilocybin comes with a few potential benefits, it's not for everyone. Keep in mind that further research is still needed to solidify any scientific findings and to determine the long-term safety and efficiency of shrooms.
If you have high blood pressure, a heart condition, or take medications like SSRIs or anything that might raise your blood pressure, you'll want to avoid psilocybin. If you're vulnerable to psychosis, psychedelics may lead to psychotic episodes.
You may also want to avoid psilocybin if you're in a chaotic environment or not being supervised. You should always have someone you trust monitoring you while you trip so they can call for help if you become incapacitated or experience a medical emergency. A calm environment is also crucial to preventing a bad trip.
You should also never use psilocybin to self-medicate against any condition, including anxiety and depression. There are many other proven methods to help you treat your conditions, including medication, therapy, and regular doctor visits. None of the information in this guide is intended to be used as medical advice.
What kinds of products contain psilocybin?
The most common place to find psilocybin is in cubensis mushrooms, like the ones we carry. Magic mushrooms come in a variety of different strains, similar to cannabis, and each one offers different effects. Some might be more visual, and some might cause more of a body high. These are the easiest to use and dose since you can eat them directly or grind them up for mixing into foods or beverages.
However, there are a couple of other options you might want to try if you don't want to deal with storing dried mushrooms. You can opt for mushroom chocolate bars, which are made by emulsifying the shrooms and adding them to chocolate for easy, consistent dosing and a tasty flavor. At Flower Ave, we carry Boom mushroom chocolate bars. We are also one of the only companies to deliver the delicious Polka Dot mushroom chocolate in DC. Occasionally we'll also have One Up mushroom chocolate bars, which are pretty popular.
How many should you eat?
You'll want to use a scale to measure out a serving of magic mushrooms. The amount you take will determine how intense your trip feels, so you'll want to start low and go slow, especially if it's your first time. You can always eat more, but you can't make your trip less intense if you go overboard from the get-go.
A good rule of thumb is that you can take between 0.03g to 0.5g if you want to microdose without tripping. If you want to trip, start with about 1g of mushrooms and wait and see how you feel. You should begin feeling the effects in around 30 minutes to an hour.
If you want to stop at one gram, that's okay! However, if you want your trip to be more intense, you can take up to 3.5g. Just keep in mind that an eight of shrooms is going to make you trip balls, so if you're new or inexperienced with mushrooms, always start at one gram and take more after an hour or two if you desire.
Keep in mind that every strain varies in potency. One bag of shrooms might make you trip at 0.5g, while you might not feel another until you've eaten 2 grams. Always start with a low dose and work your way up to see how the bag will affect you before you take more.
Shrooms Delivery DC by Flower Ave
At Flower Ave, we believe that there's a lot of potential for psilocybin to make all of us feel more in tune with ourselves, our loved ones, and the world around us. In our experience, people who trip are nicer. That's part of the reason we offer psychedelic gifts in our online store.
We take care to hand-curate our gift menu to only offer the highest-quality shrooms for delivery in Washington DC. We test each product before it ever appears in our store, so you can always feel free to ask us questions about how the strains feel and how they work before we bring them to you anywhere in the city. Flower Ave offers a shroom delivery experience in DC that you can trust, and we're excited for you to take a trip with us.