Can Magic Mushrooms Help With Stress?

Naomi Carr
Morgan Blair
Written by Naomi Carr on 22 January 2024
Medically reviewed by Morgan Blair on 24 January 2024

Psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical found in several types of mushrooms, is being increasingly studied for its therapeutic effects. The use of this treatment has so far demonstrated many benefits for a variety of mental health conditions, many of which include symptoms of stress or poor resilience to challenging circumstances. 

Can Magic Mushrooms Help With Stress?

What causes stress?

Stress is a bodily response to an experience or situation that threatens our mental or physical safety. It causes the release of stress hormones around the body that results in physical and emotional effects. This can include a feeling of worry, anxiety, or fear, and physical symptoms such as shaking and increased heart rate.

People will all experience stress at certain times, although everyone experiences and copes with stress differently. Some people might need medicinal or therapeutic support to help them manage the physical and emotional effects of stress, as it can have a detrimental impact on quality of life and functioning.

Many things can cause stress, including:

  • A heavy workload
  • Financial troubles
  • Housing issues
  • Worrying about an upcoming event such as a presentation at work or a party
  • Large social situations
  • Relationship, friendship, or family issues
  • Break-up or divorce
  • Experiencing hatred, abuse, or discrimination
  • Feeling a lack of control over certain aspects of life
  • Experiencing many changes at once
  • Moving house
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Childcare responsibilities
  • Health concerns
  • Mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Losing or starting a job
  • Positive events, such as weddings, holidays, or promotions

Can psilocybin (magic mushrooms) help with mental health conditions with symptoms of stress?

The use of psilocybin as a mental health treatment has been widely researched in recent years and has been classed as a ‘breakthrough therapy’ by the FDA. Many studies and anecdotal reports suggest a range of positive effects on mental health symptoms, including several relating to stress.

Psilocybin impacts serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in several functions including mood regulation and sleep. Various mental health conditions are associated with a reduction in serotonin, including depression, anxiety, and trauma-related conditions.

Recent studies have investigated the therapeutic use of psilocybin in one or two large doses under the guidance of a trained therapist. Results from these investigations show almost instantaneous changes in the brain, such as increased activity in the serotonergic network, improved neural connections, and reduced amygdala responses.

These changes are believed to reduce symptoms such as rumination and negative thought patterns and to improve resilience, optimism, and flexible thinking. As such, this can have a positive impact on various mental health conditions and symptoms that are closely related to stress such as anxiety disorders.

Many people who have used psilocybin for mental health symptoms have reported feeling able to think more freely, break negative thought cycles, and increase their resilience to stressful situations.

Microdosing vs. microdosing psilocybin for stress

Microdosing refers to the regular use of small doses of psilocybin, usually once per day. Macrodosing refers to using larger doses, usually less frequently, such as once every few weeks or months. Both forms of dosing can have potential benefits for stress and mental well-being.

Differences include the following:

Microdosing

Macrodosing

  • Taking small doses each day doesn’t create a psychedelic experience, although it still impacts brain chemistry.
  • Large doses will typically cause a psychedelic ‘trip’ or altered state of consciousness.
  • Found to improve mental health symptoms including stress and resilience for as long as the individual continues microdosing.
  • Found to have long-lasting effects, up to several weeks or months of improvements in mood and resilience through a spiritual, healing, or insightful experience.
  • Does not provide ongoing or long-lasting effects. Once microdosing is stopped, the effects are likely to stop too. 
  • After several weeks or months, the effects are found to reduce and symptoms can return, requiring repeated or alternative treatments.
  • Safe and effective, especially for people who have not used psilocybin or other psychoactive substances before and don’t wish to experience an altered state of consciousness.
  • Might be a daunting or unusual experience, particularly for those new to psychedelics, although this can depend on the dose, set and setting, and expectations.
  • Provides positive effects, including improved mood, increased awareness, feeling more positive, and greater stress resilience.
  • Provides positive outcomes when used to treat mental health (and some physical health) conditions, including ongoing changes in perception, outlook, and thought patterns. 

Can taking psilocybin for stress be dangerous?

Although there is increasing scientific and anecdotal evidence to suggest positive therapeutic effects of psilocybin, there is little research that implies there are any dangerous effects. However, surveys of psilocybin users have collated anecdotal reports that may indicate certain negative consequences of psilocybin use, particularly when taken in large doses.

Dangers of psilocybin use can include an unpleasant experience, known as a ‘bad trip’, that causes disturbing and distorted perceptions, unpleasant feelings, fear, or distress. Small percentages of individuals included in these surveys reported that they put themselves or others at risk of harm, thought about suicide, or sought medical help while experiencing a ‘bad trip’ on mushrooms.

The altered sense of perception and reality while using large doses of mushrooms can be overwhelming and frightening, with some reporting this experience to be one of the most challenging events of their lives. However, a large proportion of individuals in these surveys reported the experience to be very meaningful and positive, even those who had a distressing experience.

As with any psychedelic substance, there can be risks associated with an altered mental state. This highlights the importance of set and setting, which refers to the social and physical environment in which these substances are used. This can include:

  • Using a spiritual healer, trained therapist, or close friend to act as a supportive guide
  • Ensuring the environment is safe from physical dangers and is pleasant in terms of temperature, sounds, and comfort
  • Using small doses initially, particularly for the first experience

Many of these reported negative experiences occurred after a large dose, several doses, or when combining mushrooms with other substances. Microdosing or taking a smaller dose is possibly less likely to result in these outcomes and has, as yet, been found to cause no physical danger, although this requires further research.

Microdosing mushrooms for other conditions

Ongoing research is investigating the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin in the treatment of various conditions. Much of this research involves the use of large doses, given in one or two doses. However, there is growing interest in the idea of therapeutic microdosing.

At present, there is little scientific evidence to support microdosing. However, some research details self-reported outcomes of psilocybin microdosing. These studies suggest benefits for several conditions, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders (SUD). Positive effects and improved symptoms include:

  • Improved mood
  • Improved anxiety
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced sensitivity to trauma
  • Improved mindfulness
  • Greater self-awareness
  • Feeling more in touch with emotions
  • Better focus
  • More energy
  • Feeling more optimistic
  • Reduction in the use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, and illicit substances
  • Improvements in cognition, such as thought clarity and memory

It is likely that, along with growing interest in the use of macrodoses, psilocybin microdosing will become more widely researched to reach a better understanding of its risks and potential benefits in the treatment of stress-related conditions.

Adaptogenic mushrooms for stress

Adaptogenic mushrooms are different from psilocybin mushrooms as they do not contain any psychedelic properties. They instead are adaptogens which are proven to reduce the body's physical, biological, and chemical stress response. This includes interaction with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA axis), the body's main stress response system, which releases stress hormones known as glucocorticoids. Adaptogen mushrooms help regulate the HPA axis, enhancing resistance to stress and promoting homeostasis (the body's natural stability). 

Scientists and botanists have discovered a range of mushrooms that have adaptogenic properties, including Cordyceps, Reishi, and Lion's mane. Like psilocybin edibles, adaptogenic mushrooms are sold in a variety of products including teas, gummies, and powders.

Resources:

  1. Mental Health Foundation. (Updated 2021). Stress. MHF. Retrieved from
  2. Mind. (2022). What Causes Stress? Retrieved from
  3. Heal, D.J., Smith, S.L., Belouin, S.J., & Henningfield, J.E. (2023). Psychedelics: Threshold of a Therapeutic Revolution. Neuropharmacology, 236, 109610. Retrieved from
  4. Daws, R.E., Timmermann, C., Giribaldi, B., Sexton, J.D., Wall, M.B., Erritzoe, D., Roseman, L., Nutt, D., & Carhart-Harris, R. (2022). Increased Global Integration in the Brain After Psilocybin Therapy for Depression. Nature Medicine, 28, 844–851. Retrieved from
  5. Barrett, F.S., Doss, M.K., Sepeda, N.D., Pekar, J.J., & Griffiths, R.R. (2020). Emotions and Brain Function are Altered up to One Month After a Single High Dose of Psilocybin. Scientific Reports, 10, 2214. Retrieved from
  6. Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Christopher, A., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C., Dinh-Williams, L-A., Hui, K., & Hapke, E. (2019). Psychedelic Microdosing Benefits and Challenges: An Empirical Codebook. Harm Reduction Journal, 16, 43. Retrieved from
  7. Bienemann, B., Ruschel, N.S., Campos, M.L., Negreiros, M.A., & Mograbi, D.C. (2020). Self-Reported Negative Outcomes of Psilocybin Users: A Quantitative Textual Analysis. PloS One, 15(2), e0229067. Retrieved from
  8. Carbonaro, T.M., Bradstreet, M.P., Barrett, F.S., MacLean, K.A., Jesse, R., Johnson, M.W., & Griffiths, R.R. (2016). Survey Study of Challenging Experiences After Ingesting Psilocybin Mushrooms: Acute and Enduring Positive and Negative Consequences. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1268-1278. Retrieved from
  9. Hartman, S., & Margolin, M. (2020). The Case For Macrodosing. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from
  10. Palmer, M., Maynard, O.M. (2022). Are You Tripping Comfortably? Investigating the Relationship Between Harm Reduction and the Psychedelic Experience. Harm Reduction Journal, 19, 81. Retrieved from
  11. Tupper, K.W., Wood, E., Yensen, R., & Johnson, M.W. (2015). Psychedelic Medicine: A Re-emerging Therapeutic Paradigm. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 187(14), 1054–1059. Retrieved from
  12. Rootman, J.M., Kryskow, P., Harvey, K., Stamets, P., Santos-Brault, E., Kuypers, K.P.C., Polito, V., Bourzat, F., & Walsh, Z. (2021). Adults Who Microdose Psychedelics Report Health Related Motivations and Lower Levels of Anxiety and Depression Compared to Non-microdosers. Scientific Reports, 11, 22479. Retrieved from
  13. Polito, V., & Stevenson, R.J. (2019). A Systematic Study of Microdosing Psychedelics. PloS one, 14(2), e0211023. Retrieved from
  14. Panossian, A. (2017). Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1401(1), 49–64.
  15. Liao, L., He, Y., Li, L., Meng, H., Dong, Y., Yi, F., & Xiao, P. (2018). A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chinese Medicine, 13(1).
  16. Vyas, S., Rodrigues, A. J., Silva, J. M., Tronche, F., Almeida, O. F. X., Sousa, N., & Sotiropoulos, I. (2016, March 10). Chronic Stress and Glucocorticoids: From Neuronal Plasticity to Neurodegeneration. Neural Plasticity.
  17. The rise of the Adaptogens: How functional mushrooms are going mainstream. (n.d.). Planet Organic. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from

Activity History - Last updated: 24 January 2024, Published date:


Reviewer

Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan is a mental health counselor who works alongside individuals of all backgrounds struggling with eating disorders. Morgan is freelance mental health and creative writer who regularly contributes to publications including, Psychology Today.

Activity History - Medically Reviewed on 18 January 2024 and last checked on 24 January 2024

Medically reviewed by
Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan Blair

Reviewer

Ready to talk about treatment? Call us today. (855) 648-7288
Helpline Information
Phone numbers listed within our directory for individual providers will connect directly to that provider.
Any calls to numbers marked with (I) symbols will be routed through a trusted partner, more details can be found by visiting https://recovered.org/terms.
For any specific questions please email us at info@recovered.org.