The Therapeutic Benefits of Psilocybin Mushrooms
By Mary Schumacher, for Wholecelium.com
The ritual use of psilocybin began over 3,000 years ago, with the first documented use in the 16th century. It was likely a very happy coincidence that the first man, woman or humanoid to imbibe did so. In other words, the possibility that they were just hungry is certainly there. Then again, it can be easily speculated that psychedelic mushrooms are here for a reason and emit their own alluring aura. Many people from many cultures see them as a pathway to spiritual enlightenment, as a way to connect to those and that around them.
Medicine men and women have been using magic mushrooms for those thousands of years. Not only as a medicine for someone who needed a severe session of therapy, but for their own vision into illness, the patient, the spirit and animal worlds and that which only they who’ve practiced can know. Peyote buttons, San Pedro cactus, magic mushrooms and different medicinal herbs were concocted into potions that opened up the gateways to mythical lore, the healing of the sick and the communication with “the other side.”
It took the modern western world a while to come back around to the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and its psychedelic counterparts after civilization became so civilized. Albert Hoffman first isolated psilocybin from psilocybe mushrooms in 1957 and then synthesized it in 1958. According to research done by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), “Psilocybin was used in psychiatric and psychological research and in psychotherapy during the early to mid-1960s up until its scheduling in 1970 in the US, and up until the 1980s in Germany.”
MAPS has been putting their enormous efforts into researching psychedelic therapy since their foundation in 1986 by Rick Doblin. Their research on MDMA, marijuana, ibogaine, LSD, psilocybin and other psychedelics have informed much of the policy changes that have taken place over the last 30 years. It took so much will, gumption and patience, but they are beyond a resource, they are the source that may successfully bring psychedelics back to the therapy table. MAPS takes the difficult and necessary steps to find a place for psychedelics to be legal in our society, at the very least for therapeutic consumption.
As MAPS aptly explains, it is well evidenced that psychedelic plants and mushrooms have been used for millennia all around the globe for both spiritual and therapeutic reasons. MAPS has deep interest in the effects of psilocybin on end of life or life threatened patients and how it affects their levels of anxiety and acceptance.
Psilocybin targets serotonin receptors; it does not react directly with dopamine receptors. It has extremely low toxicity, even in larger doses. Though for a therapeutic dose, be certain that you don’t overdo it. You can always ingest another gram an hour after the first gram or so for moderate tripping, connectedness and relaxation.
In the 1960’s, super psychonaut Timothy Leary along with Richard Alpert (later to become the famed spiritualist Ram Das) conducted psilocybin tests on themselves and graduate students at Harvard University. Aldous Huxley was also on the board. The experiments went from 1960-1962 until concerns were raised about the project’s safety. Leary and Alpert were fired shortly thereafter and as both had been academic superstars, their experimentation with their perceptions of reality didn’t end there.
Leary continued his experimentations and studies into psychedelics for the rest of his life. Based off the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Leary came up with the Five Levels of Psychedelic Experience. Psilocybin plays hefty roles in levels two through five, with level one focused on the lighter hallucinogen cannabis. Level three is where dissociative experiences begin along with “profound insights into life.” As the levels go up, the closer to ecstatic trance or the God experience one gets, but level three is likely the most therapeutic when trying to sort through your insides and what they’re really trying to tell you.
Because of people like Rick Doblin and Timothy Leary, the psychedelic experience and its exploration has increasingly come out of the shadows of laboratories and ancient cultures and into the present day, spreading its benefits like wildfire. Take Silicon Valley for example.
Microdosing with either LSD or psilocybin is another form of therapy popular in Silicon Valley especially. Microdosing has been shown to knock out cluster headaches and to help individuals to combat addiction, anxiety and deep-seated issues. Startup founders, venture capitalists, investors and developers in Silicon Valley love microdosing, which likely first grew in popularity with Apple founder Steve Jobs attributing his own creative successes to having taken LSD in his early years. LSD and psilocybin are the microdoses of choice and are attributed with some of the great tech leaps of the last decade. Most of these executives and tech wizzes are also “Burners” who frequent the yearly Burning Man event, one of the premiere psychedelic yearly experiences. When at Burning Man, the mega art, creativity flow and eclectic group of people can lend to a therapeutic experience, but it can also be more of an interactive party experience, beneficial in the connectedness from one tripper to the next.
Microdosing, however, is beyond a creative endeavor, it is a therapy and it works. From clearing and organizing one’s mind to feeling the simplicity of our likenesses and beautiful differences. Used in conjunction with music or other art forms is a way to enhance the therapeutic benefits. Microdosing with mushrooms from the Amanita family of mushrooms, specifically Amanita muscaria or Amanita pantherina, have been used in stroke victims to establish new connections in the mind and jump start synapses.
Self medicating in this way has changed the lives of many, many people over the many centuries behind us. And as psilocybin and other psychedelics continue to come further into the mainstream, more people stand to benefit. Even those who see mushrooms as a form of pure recreation, who have no intention of curing an ailment or depression of the spirit, are set to garner the goods. Laughter, fractal hallucinations and the sense of connectivity are healing whether seeking healing or not.
Psychoactive mushrooms are also a wonderful way to connect to your deep, spiritual self and what inspires you outwardly as well. With a little focus and funneling of thought, one can go inside to find answers, questions, spiritual queries and an unending supply of love and creativity.
There is also, of course, the potential for a “bad” trip when using psychedelics; we’ve all heard or experienced a horror story where the mirror was not a friend or where thoughts went to dark places or even an experience with the darkness instead of the spirit based kinds of light that are hoped to be tapped into. It’s less common to go down the wrong mindset with psilocybin than with LSD or stronger hallucinogens, but the potential is there.
When using mushrooms for therapeutic reasons, complex thought processes and memories can easily surface. They may even be necessary to deal with whatever it is that you are trying to delve into. From PTSD to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, cluster headaches to end of life therapy, cancer to paralysis, psychedelic mushrooms have been shown to ease the anxieties that come with these disorders and happenstances.
It is key to go into a therapeutic trip with a prior mindset that is therapeutic in itself. Be open and don’t let the slight anxiety that can happen while the mushrooms first kick in guide your thoughts. It is so important to be as unafraid as possible. If it is fear that you are trying to conquer, it is important to expect to go through work during your experience, not simply a coast through of colors and breathing walls, but a guided thought process that takes those fears into consideration, embraces them, and with a self love that accepts that you are human and fear is human and it is also temporary. Let the mushrooms guide you and keep your thoughts loose. Play music that flows through you like pure spring water. Look at a beautiful work of art or a psychedelic tie dye. You’ll see colors when you close your eyes and sometimes, if you find a comfortable spot to sit back in, you can close your eyes and go out into the galaxy to pluck the answers you seek.
The therapeutic benefits of mushrooms are magic in and of themselves and they are a blessing to many. They are intermingled with the spiritual connections that can especially be felt at higher doses. Often a journeying psychonaut who has ingested a shaman size dose of psilocybin will feel part of a “grid” that reaches from the tips of their fingers to the galaxy, enveloping nature and running through it with an almost electric current. In this state it is possible to feel a sense of direction for humanity, to see things on a very large scale that can make one feel spectacularly small, yet special to be given a shot on this Earth and to be imbibing on its natural psychedelic fruits.
If not ready to shoot out to the stars and back in the mindset you’re in when the mushrooms present themselves, lower doses that could be considered moderate, back to that third level of psychedelic experience, can be especially valuable to one who is feeling lost in the world. Perhaps things have changed around one irreversibly. Perhaps one lacks direction and it eats away at their days. However it is that one is feeling lost, mushrooms can literally open up pathways that can guide to the next level of the game of life. They can “show the way” or show the ways that are not to be taken. Often, mushrooms will open your heart to speak to you and tell you what it is in life that is sincere around you and that which is toxic or bringing you down without purpose.
The disenchanted are another type who benefit greatly from psilocybin. Psilocybe mushrooms like cubensis or liberty caps bring the enchanted out in everything that surrounds, including the air being breathed. If feeling as if life has ceased to hold magic, magic mushrooms are a true form of therapy when taken with the intention of being open to enchantment and suspending the disbelief that may have one in a vice.
If enslaved by negativity, full of sarcasm, disenchanted, lost and angry, a mushroom regime may be the best solution. Begin in the footsteps of the tech geniuses and micro dose with eighth or quarter grams. This can be done daily and is a therapy that has some immediate effects, but its true benefits are the longterm effects. As the weeks go by, feel your mind open up to new possibilities. The possibility that things aren’t as dire as they seem. If things are dire and there is truly nothing to be done, the mushrooms bring on a sense of acceptance and connectedness. Realizations bubble to the surface and as your mind relaxes you can increase your dosage. Remember though that you will build up a tolerance to mushrooms almost immediately when taking higher doses and will need to wait a week or two between serious trips to continue therapy.
Happy, safe tripping and may you find the answers and healing you seek.
The Five Levels of Psychedelic Experience
- 1. Of all the psychedelics, cannabis is the most mild and falls into this category. An enhancement plant, cannabis engages up more deeply in music, starts to soften the lines of perception and brings on a sense of connection.
- 2. A high dosage of cannabis or a low dosage of psilocybin bring on the second tier. Closed eyes see colors and shapes, unsummoned thoughts and ideas surface, mild hallucinations may occur and creativity spikes.
- 3. The third level is achieved by taking what would be considered a “normal” dose of either LSD or psilocybin. This is where the walls breathe or melt, sacred geometry plays on the backs of eyelids and deep, spiritual and therapeutic thoughts emerge.
- 4. Number four is the strongest dose you can take and still have somewhat of a “grip.” It’s associated with even more dissociative thoughts. Strong visuals present themselves and a deeply spiritual or otherworldly experience is very likely. Epiphanies present themselves and perception is enhanced on all levels.
- 5. To get here, you either need to take shamanic doses of psilocybin or a strong hallucinogen such as DMT. The trip takes one over completely and visions take over one’s reality to create a complete landscape of psychedelia. Seeing God like figures and communicating with them is also a common phenomenon when in level five. A loss of reality is the true mark of this top tier of tripping. Proceed with caution and expect to have a lot to think about when you eventually come down…