Researchers hope magic mushrooms study paves way for research into mental health benefits

Jan 12, 2024, 6:30 AM

Psilocybe aka magic mushroom study specimen...

Holotype specimen of Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata. (Eliza Peterson/NHMU)

(Eliza Peterson/NHMU)

SALT LAKE CITY — Researchers at the University of Utah and the Natural History Museum of Utah just finished up the biggest study to date on the evolution of Psilocybin fungi, better known as magic mushrooms. 

The nature of psilocybe fungi is under-researched, according to Bryn Dentinger, the senior author and mycology curator for the museum.

Hallucinogenic effects might be psilocybin’s best-known property.

However, according to postdoctoral researcher Alex Bradshaw, the properties of psilocybin are often misunderstood.

“Psylocibin consumption has gone back like hundreds and hundreds of years of cultural uses in places like Mesoamerica. It’s also beginning to come out and it’s helping a lot of people deal with these really strong mental issues,” Bradshaw said.

He said this research helps efforts to use the organism for more than recreational drug use.

What the study of Psilocybin revealed

The U and NHMU’s three-year study revealed some major findings.

One of those findings is that psilocybe organisms existed much earlier than the researchers thought.

They tracked its existence to around 65 million years ago, right around when the dinosaurs went extinct. They also tracked the evolutionary history of the mushroom. Researchers speculated that the original purpose of psilocybin was to ward snails and slugs off the mushrooms. 

A key piece of the study also included creating a family tree for the psilocybin organism. 

“We now have a really robust foundation on which we can continue to expand. But it also means that we have a really strong predictive framework that allows us to develop and test hypotheses,” Dentinger said.

These hypotheses will focus on the therapeutic aspect of psilocybin, which is something that these researchers say could change the game for mental health treatment.


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Researchers hope magic mushrooms study paves way for research into mental health benefits