GWI names magic mushrooms as 2018 wellness trend. New study touts benefits

Mushrooms – both magic and muggle – were named as one of the top wellness trends of 2018 by the Global Wellness Institute’s Global Wellness Summit, 2018 Global Wellness Trends Report, tagged as both crucial to the Earth’s ecosystem and “uniquely effective human medicine.”

According to the GWI, the rediscovery and creative use of mushrooms – “in mental wellness, as true superfoods, and in beauty products,” mark them as a top wellness trend in 2018 and beyond.

These spores, it’s pointed out, are the largest set of organisms on the planet. Some we toss into salad and pasta sauce, others are deadly poisonous, and others still are enjoyed for their hallucinogenic substance, psilocybin. These last have been illegal in many places for years. But they’re seeing a new respect and resurgence of interest, including of the academic and medical research kind.

“Brain resetting” magic mushrooms will start to emerge from underground: more people will microdose them as creativity and brain boosters (a Silicon Valley “start-up” practice now spreading around the world). And, yes, magic mushroom retreats (like MycoMeditations) will keep popping up in places where legal (whether Jamaica or the Netherlands), where the “trip” gets combined with increasingly luxe wellness experiences. And we’ll see movement on the legalization front, making this magic mushroom “moment” reminiscent of the early days of the cannabis-as-wellness trend.”

The GWI report tags research into psilocybin’s potential benefits as a treatment for depression, anxiety, addiction, and end of life distress.

So, it’s only fitting that news this week has emerged of a study finding that psilocybin could make people feel more connected to nature, as well as “less likely to endorse authoritarian views.”

PsyPost.org reports that new research from the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, “is the first to provide experimental evidence that psilocybin treatment can lead to lasting changes in these attitudes.”

And since those in the wellness world are usually on top of the studies connecting exposure to nature and improved health outcomes, this could have significant meaning.

Study authors Taylor Lyons and Robin L. Carhart-Harris reportedly write that “our findings tentatively raise the possibility that given in this way, psilocybin may produce sustained changes in outlook and political perspective, here in the direction of increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarianism.”

This sounds like a cliché, since psychedelic substances, including “shrooms” and “acid,” (LSD) have been associated with anti-authoritarian countercultures, like the hippie movement,  for decades. Previous studies have also found that psilocybin use is correlated with nature-relatedness and liberal political views.

So, Lyons and Carhart-Harris reportedly wanted to know whether psilocybin use promoted these attitudes — or whether they were a consequence of it. Which came first, the chicken or the egg, in other words.

The new study compared two groups of seven participants: one group with treatment-resistant major depression who had received two oral doses of psilocybin, and one group of healthy control subjects who did not receive psilocybin. They surveyed the participants about their political views and relationship to nature prior to the psilocybin sessions, then again at the one week marker and several months later.

At the first week mark, participants who received psilocybin treatment showed a significant increase in nature relatedness, and a significant decrease in authoritarian attitudes, both of which were sustained at the follow up. The researchers also observed a reduction of depressive symptoms in those who took psilocybin.

“Before I enjoyed nature, now I feel part of it. Before I was looking at it as a thing, like TV or a painting… [But now I see] there’s no separation or distinction, you are it,” one participant is quoted as saying.

There were no significant changes noted among participants who did not receive psilocybin.

Researchers say that due to factors including the small study sample, it would be “hasty” to make strong claims about the effects of psilocybin. However:

“This pilot study suggests that psilocybin with psychological support might produce lasting changes in attitudes and beliefs. Although it would be premature to infer causality from this small study, the possibility of drug-induced changes in belief systems seems sufficiently intriguing and timely to deserve further investigation.”

Whether or not attitudes towards mushroom will see the same shift as cannabis remains to be seen.

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