Depression: Mushrooms and Meditation as a New Treatment?

Depression: Mushrooms and Meditation as a New Treatment?

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Meditation and psychoactive mushrooms for depression

Depressive moods to full-blown depression are relatively widespread today. However, the available treatment approaches show very different effects and sometimes there are significant side effects associated with drug therapy. Alternatives to the treatment of those affected are therefore urgently sought. Researchers see a possible approach here in the active ingredient psilocybin, which is contained in psychoactive mushrooms.

In a recent study, a research team from the University of Zurich was able to prove that the fungal active ingredient in combination with meditation leads to even better treatment results for depression. The mindfulness meditation increased the positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin - also in the long term, reports the research team. The results of your study were published in the scientific reports.

High therapeutic potential

Interest in medicine in natural active ingredients for the treatment of depression has recently increased significantly. Psilocybin in particular is believed to have a high therapeutic potential for depression and anxiety disorders. The active ingredient from the so-called magic mushrooms changes perception in a direction that counteracts depression, the researchers report.

Limits of the self dissolve

Depression is characterized by "excessive self-centering, recurring negative thoughts and feelings towards oneself and impaired social behavior", explains the research team. The psilocybin in the mushrooms counteracts precisely these characteristic features of depression: "The boundaries of the self begin to dissolve, a feeling of happiness and connection with other people and the world spreads," the researchers said in a press release from the University of Zurich to the study results.

Synergy effects between meditation and psilocybin

The mushroom ingredient gives an experience of self-transcendence and reduces self-focus. Similar states are also observed in the so-called mindfulness meditation, the researchers explain. This could lead to stress relief, lasting feelings of happiness as well as more empathy and altruism. In the current study, possible synergy effects between mindfulness meditation and psilocybin were examined for the first time.

Participants received psilocybin or placebo

On forty participants with meditation experience who underwent a five-day so-called “mindfulness retreat”, the researchers checked to what extent the treatment results can be improved by combining the fungal active ingredient with meditation. On the fourth day of the stay, the participants received "either a single dose of psilocybin or a placebo using the double-blind procedure", the University of Zurich said.

Meditation increases the positive effects of psilocybin

Subsequent psychometric and neurocognitive measurements have shown that "meditation increased the positive effects of psilocybin and at the same time counteracted potentially stressful aspects of the psychedelic experience," the researchers report. The depth of meditation and the intensity of the positive experience of self-transcendence was increased by the fungal active ingredient "without negative reactions such as fear or disorientation", said Lukasz Smigielski, first author of the study from the University of Zurich.

Long lasting effect

Even four months later, the researchers found that the meditators who had taken psilocybin had more positive psychosocial behavior, better self-acceptance and more empathy than those in the placebo group. The current results "indicate that mindfulness training increases the positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin, can lead to more empathy and a permanent reduction in self-centered features", summarizes Professor Franz Vollenweider, head of the study at the University of Zurich.

New therapeutic approaches

According to the researchers, the findings also open up new therapeutic perspectives for the treatment of depression, which are often associated with a strong self-focus and social deficits. In addition, mindfulness meditation appears to teach skills such as regulating attention and judging feelings without judgment, which counteracts potential negative reactions to psilocybin. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Lukasz Smigielski, Michael Kometer, Milan Scheidegger, Rainer Krähenmann, Theo Huber, Franz X. Vollenweider: Characterization and prediction of acute and sustained response to psychedelic psilocybin in a mindfulness group retreat; in: Scientific Reports (published October 24, 2019),
  • University of Zurich: Mindfulness meditation increases positive effects of psilocybin (published October 24, 2019),

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