WKU Wellness: A new use for mushrooms

Vidhi Parekh, Commentary writer

Mushrooms are a type of fungi that often come to mind when they involve pizza toppings. Most of the time, they are picked off of the cheesy slice by default. However, recently something interesting was discovered pertaining to mushrooms of the Psilocybe genus. This may lead you to believe that mushrooms are pretty mysterious –maybe even magical.

Like the genus name indicates, mushrooms of the psilocybe genus contain psilocybin. You may or may not be familiar with this term, but it is considered to be a psychedelic compound. Psilocybin is a known hallucinogen, and recent studies suggest that it could be a potential cure for depression and anxiety. 

Although the standard antidepressants do exist and are in use, the discovery of the compound psilocybin in mushrooms is exciting because of its enhanced effectiveness. While standard antidepressants show improvements over a long period of time, one to two treatments of psilocybin are enough to provide the same effect. Plus, for participants that were displaying resistance to the standard antidepressants, a single dose of psilocybin at 25 milligrams reduced depression scores significantly.

However, as with any potential medicine, the side effects must be noted. Participants of the study who received the dose of psilocybin did report headache, nausea, and dizziness. In addition to that, suicidal ideation and/or self-injury was noted in all dose groups. Hence, this is not something to experiment with at home. The safety profile of the drug is not optimal at the moment. Long-term trials are still needed to prove the effectiveness of this compound as a potential medicine. 

It doesn’t end here. Mushrooms are also used as a supplement to treat lung disease and cancer. In Asia, there are more than 100 types of mushrooms that are used in cancer treatment, and they range from Turkey Tail to Reishi. There is no strong proof that mushrooms alone can treat cancer, but research is being conducted to examine how they affect the immune system. There is a possibility that specific compounds present in mushrooms strengthen the immune system which, in turn, could help fight cancer.

In conclusion, mushrooms are pretty underrated. Definitely keep them in your salads and pizza toppings; they are harmless and full of beneficial properties.

Commentary writer Vidhi Parekh can be reached at [email protected].