Psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, has been gaining attention for its potential therapeutic benefits against inflammatory chronic diseases.
There is an increasing number of studies conducted to understand how psilocybin may alleviate symptoms mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and addiction. Magic mushrooms are a source of 5-HT2A receptor agonists, which have emerged as promising new treatment options for a variety of disorders related to inflammation. In this article we explore this topic further.
What are 5-HT2A receptor agonists?
The 5-HT2A receptor is a protein that is encoded by the HTR2A gene. It is a subtype of the serotonin receptor and is primarily found in the central nervous system, specifically in the cortex, hippocampus, and thalamus. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in various physiological processes such as mood regulation, cognition, and perception.
The most well-known 5-HT2A receptor agonists are psychedelic substances such as LSD, psilocybin, and DMT. These substances can be found naturally in some plants and fungi (eg. magic mushrooms and magic truffles) or synthesized in a laboratory (LSD).
There are also some pharmaceutical drugs that act as 5-HT2A receptor agonists, including some atypical antipsychotics such as clozapine and risperidone, and some antidepressants such as trazodone and nefazodone.
It turns out, 5-HT2A receptor agonists are showing surprising power as anti-inflammatory agents. There is growing evidence that psilocybin may function as an anti-inflammatory agent, offering a new and exciting treatment strategy for inflammatory disorders affecting both the mind and body.
Recent studies have shown that aside from stimulating neuroplasticity, psilocybin mushrooms and other 5-HT2A receptor agonists reduced inflammation in mice with colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. Psilocybin also reduced inflammation and oxidative stress in the brains of rats with traumatic brain injuries. After the first promising researches, hopefully we'll see new psilocybin based treatments combating inflammatory disorders, including:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- chronic pain
- inflammatory bowel disease
- multiple sclerosis
While more research is needed to fully understand the anti-inflammatory effects of psychedelic fungi it has also been suggested that psilocybin's anti-inflammatory properties may be related to its ability to modulate the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines small proteins that play important roles in communication within the immune system. Cytokines can be either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory in nature, depending on their specific functions. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are involved in promoting inflammation and activating immune cells to fight off infections or other threats to the body, while anti-inflammatory cytokines help to resolve inflammation and prevent excessive immune responses that can damage healthy tissues.
How does psilocybin regulate inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system to injury, infection, or other forms of stress on the body. When inflammation becomes chronic, it can contribute to the development of a range of health problems, including autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and even certain types of cancer. This is where psychedelic fungi may be able to help.
Studies have explored the mechanisms by which 5-HT2A agonists produce their anti-inflammatory effects. One potential mechanism is the activation of the sigma-1 receptor, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in various animal models. Another proposed mechanism involves the activation of the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) pathway, which plays a crucial role in the immune response and inflammation.
In addition to psilocybin, other compounds found in psychedelic fungi, such as ergothioneine and hericenones, have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Ergothioneine, for example, has been shown to reduce inflammation in human cells in vitro, while hericenones have been shown to reduce inflammation in mice with colitis.
Does it work?
While scientific research is still struggling to understand all the mechanisms behind psychedelics, there is simultaneously a lot of anecdotal evidence emerging.
Online forums like Reddit specifically are lighting up in recent years with reports from people who discover the benefits of magic mushrooms for inflammatory diseases. Specifically the habit of microdosing is showing astounding benefits that yet need to be fully explored and explained.
Although, it makes sense to hypothesize that intaking inflammation-regulating substances on a regular basis can help bring down levels of inflammation over time and secure a healthier state of homeostasis for the body.