Article image

Synthetic psilocybin is less effective in therapy than natural mushroom extract

New research reveals that natural extracts from psychedelic mushrooms outperform chemically synthesized psilocybin in promoting neuroplasticity. This process, crucial for the brain’s ability to form new connections between nerve cells, is essential in treating conditions such as depression, PTSD, and schizophrenia.

This important study, conducted by an interdisciplinary team at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical Center, focused on the comparison between the natural and synthetic forms of psilocybin, particularly their effects on synaptic plasticity in mice.

Psychedelic mushrooms vs. synthetic psilocybin extracts

The findings suggest that the natural psilocybin extract not only has a more potent impact but also a longer-lasting one on the brain’s synaptic functions. This is a beacon of hope for millions globally who struggle with psychiatric conditions unaided by current pharmaceutical options.

Alarmingly, up to 40% of individuals with depression and those with OCD report no relief from existing medications, underscoring the urgent need for innovative treatments.

Orr Shahar, a PhD student, and Dr. Alexander Botvinnik, guided by Dr. Tzuri Lifschytz and Prof. Bernard Lerer, spearheaded the research. Their work notably differentiated the effects of mushroom extract from synthetic psilocybin by examining the head twitch response, synaptic proteins related to neuroplasticity, and metabolomic profiles in mice.

The natural extract not only increased levels of synaptic proteins in critical brain regions but also showcased a unique metabolic profile, implicating a broader therapeutic potential than its synthetic counterpart.

Entourage effect: Synergistic power of natural extracts

This discovery highlights the significance of the “entourage effect” found in whole extracts, a concept historically recognized but only recently appreciated in Western medicine.

Unlike the traditional preference for isolated compounds, this effect emphasizes the therapeutic advantages of utilizing whole extracts or plants, mirroring ancient medicinal practices.

Achieving a consistently stable compound profile poses a significant challenge when working with natural extracts, particularly with plants. However, mushrooms stand out as an exception.

The composition of mushroom compounds heavily depends on their growing environment, including factors like the substrate composition, the CO2/O2 ratio, light exposure, temperature, and the surrounding microbes.

Despite these variables, through controlled cultivation, it is possible to tame mushrooms, making the production of a replicable extract achievable.

This advancement opens the door to integrating mushroom extracts into mainstream medical practices. This would, in effect, combine the benefits of natural compounds with the precision of modern medicine.

Implications and future study of psilocybin extracts

The implications of this research are profound. As society grapples with a growing demand for effective psychiatric treatments, the exploration of natural psychedelics offers a promising path forward.

In summary, this study illuminates the superior therapeutic potential of natural psychedelic mushroom extracts over their synthetic psilocybin counterparts, heralding a new era in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

By demonstrating enhanced neuroplasticity and showcasing the profound “entourage effect,” this research paves the way for innovative, natural solutions to some of the most challenging mental health issues.

With controlled cultivation techniques ensuring consistent compound profiles, the integration of psilocybin mushroom extracts into Western medicine could transform the landscape of psychiatric care, offering hope and healing to millions who have yet to find relief through conventional treatments.

More about the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin

As discussed above, psilocybin, the active compound in psychedelic mushrooms, has emerged as a powerful tool in the realm of mental health treatment. Its ability to foster profound, lasting changes in the brain’s structure and chemistry has caught the attention of researchers and clinicians worldwide.

New path for treatment-resistant conditions

Psilocybin shows remarkable promise in treating conditions that have historically been resistant to traditional forms of therapy. Conditions like major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have all shown responsiveness to psilocybin treatment.

By facilitating a heightened state of openness and neuroplasticity, psilocybin enables patients to re-evaluate their thought patterns and emotional responses, leading to significant and sometimes immediate improvements in their conditions.

Mechanism behind psilocybin extract

The magic of psilocybin extract lies in its ability to temporarily dissolve the brain’s default mode network (DMN), a system thought to play a key role in maintaining our sense of self and our narrative identity.

By disrupting the DMN, psilocybin allows for a reset of sorts, where patients can step outside their entrenched ways of thinking and feeling, often leading to profound insights and emotional release.

This disruption is also associated with increased connectivity between different parts of the brain, fostering a state of enhanced creativity and openness.

Psilocybin’s broader impacts

The benefits of psilocybin extend beyond the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Research indicates that it can also enhance emotional well-being in individuals without diagnosed conditions, leading to increased peace, openness, and life satisfaction.

Furthermore, studies on terminally ill patients have shown that psilocybin can significantly reduce anxiety and depression associated with facing death, providing a sense of peace and acceptance.

Future of psilocybin therapy

As research continues and societal attitudes towards psychedelics shift, the future of psilocybin therapy looks bright. Clinical trials are underway to further understand its benefits, optimize dosing, and establish safe therapeutic protocols.

With its potential to radically transform mental health care, psilocybin stands at the forefront of a therapeutic revolution, promising a future where psychological suffering can be addressed more effectively and compassionately.

In summary, psilocybin is proving to be a true breakthrough in mental health treatment, characterized by its ability to catalyze deep psychological change and healing. As we continue to explore its vast potential, psilocybin could very well redefine what is possible in the realm of mental health and well-being.

The full study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day