Psychedelics, and especially magic mushrooms, will be touted as having many amazing applications over the coming decades. From large doses of psilocybin for depression to microdoses of mushrooms for arthritis pain—the science has only just started and many questions remain unanswered and unasked.
Until concrete data is gathered on the effects of magic mushrooms on the body and mind, we’re left to explore anecdotes, small studies, and theoretical musings on the benefits of psychedelics. One specific area of importance is the possibility of receiving an immune boost from fungi—both a vague marketing term and a very real contributor to optimal health.
The immune system and how to boost it
Your immune system is best seen as a reflection of your overall health and fitness:
- Immune boosters: Exercise, vitamins, minerals, healthy diet, and even mindfulness.
- Immune compromisers: Injury, disease, deficiencies, stress, some medications, and lack of sleep.
- Immune balancers: Vaccinations, some medications, and the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut.
Unfortunately, for many supplements and proprietary blends touted by ‘experts’, the title of “immune booster” does not require support or verification, and is not a claim that bothers the FDA or Health Canada.
For all intents and purposes, the onus is on you to verify the statements concerning supplements and non-pharmaceutical products.
When it comes to supplementing your diet, there are only a few specific additives or foods that definitely (supported by extensive research) boost your immune system, Vitamins C and D for example. Individual products or compounds are unlikely to single-handedly swing immunity in your favour—a holistic and all-encompassing approach is a preferred method. However, there are some indirect approaches to bolstering your immunity that have some basis in fact.
Mushrooms and the immune system
When added to a balanced diet, mushrooms provide a component of health that fruits and vegetables aren’t able to produce. Vitamin D is a compound that is integral to immune function and optimal health, and can only be created through direct exposure to sunlight. Humans produce it in the skin, but only with adequate time in the sun.
Fungi are also capable of this process, creating Vitamin D that is able to be absorbed by humans who lack it.
Placing sliced mushrooms in the sun for only 15 minutes, spread over tin foil, can increase the concentration of Vitamin D by nearly 25%.
Psychedelics and the immune system
In general, psychedelics can be an immediate stressor to your body, with elevated hormone levels (e.g. Cortisol) associated with emotional stress. However, this heightened level of stress rarely lasts much longer than a trip, when other benefits begin to manifest after the initial onslaught. Aside from the potential for significant impacts on stress and mental well-being, an intriguing hypothesis is being proposed that also implicates microdosing psychedelics.
Research has definitively demonstrated a connection between the gut—and the organisms that inhabit it—and our brain. Further, gut health has been implicated in major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, addiction and autism. These findings have prompted Dr. Kim Kuypers, preeminent psychedelic research, to propose
“…low doses of psychedelics exert their effects via an indirect ‘central’ route, i.e., via the gut…psilocybin is a phytochemical that ends up in the gut after oral administration.”
Serotonergic drugs are known to affect the GI tract—SSRIs have been used for their therapeutic value in the treatment of gastric disorders. With 95% of the body’s serotonin localized to the gut, the effect of psychedelics is only beginning to be uncovered.