Being a natural plant and also known as “shrooms”, “Magic mushrooms” or psilocybic mushrooms, they are, like marijuana, banned by the U.S. Government. And like marijuana, these mushrooms may not be without medical properties that thanks to them, they could deserve a place on natural medicine shelves for treating depression, eradicating mental illness, and improving cognition.
According to research from the University of South Florida, psilocybin, the active component within psychedelic mushrooms, has the ability to grow new brain cells—potentially offering treatment for mental illness and improving cognition.
The study, published in Experimental Brain Research, reports that psilocybin is able to bind to special receptors in the brain that stimulate healing and growth. In the case of these mushrooms, brain cell growth occurs. In experiments on mice, the researchers found psilocybin actually helped to repair damaged brain cells and cure or relieve PTSD and depression.
Lead researcher, Dr. Juan R. Sanchez-Ramos, tested the effects of psilocybin by training mice to fear an electric shock when they heard a noise associated with the shock. Then, by giving them psilocybin, the mice were able to stop reacting to the noise-trigger much faster than those mice not treated with the mushroom compound.
Other research also confirms that this same compound could greatly help with depression, helping the majority of participants in one study achieve great well-being.
Psilocybin is referred to as a “nootropic” agent, or one that has numerous functions in the brain that can improve hippocampus health. The hippocampus is part of the brain responsible for learning as well as converting short-term memory to long-term memory. New brain cells in the hippocampus from the psilocybin translates into a healthier and sharper brain overall.
The research on psychedelic mushrooms isn't extensive. Because these mushrooms are known for causing hallucinations, unguarded self-treatment should not be practised. However, this plant, like marijuana, does not deserve a place in the Schedule I classification of illegal substances. Like marijuana, the U.S. government has determined ‘shrooms as having no medicinal value’—an obviously-flawed determination that worths further researching.