Guide to Microdosing
What is microdosing mushrooms?
Microdosing refers to taking Psilocybin mushrooms in a dose so small as to be below the perceptual threshold. Such small doses allow you to receive the physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of Psilocybin mushrooms while continuing to go about your daily activities without significant changes in perception. While scientific studies are quite limited, personal reports from people across the globe indicate that microdosing mushrooms can help with an overall rebalancing of the physical and emotional body, essentially helping you become more in touch with your own needs and more able to meet those needs in a healthy way.
Because microdosing is the consumption of sub-perceptual amounts of psychedelic mushrooms it does not interfere with your ability to carry out your normal routine and responsibilities. In fact, the point is to integrate the the practice and effects in your regular life. The majority of microdosers report that not only can they perform all their regular tasks but they do so with enhanced focus and energy, increased creativity and improved mood.
What is Psilocybin?
Psilocybin is a psychoactive molecule found in over 200 species of mushrooms, collectively known as Psilocybin mushrooms or magic mushrooms. Psilocybin is converted in the body to Psilocin which has mind-expanding effects. Psilocybin mushrooms are found everywhere in the world (excluding Antarctica) and have been used across countless cultures and religions medicinally, religiously and spiritually.
Some of the more commonly known varieties of psychedelic mushrooms found in the wild are Psilocybe cubensis, Psilocybe semilanceata, Psilocybe cyanescens, Panaeolus or Copelandia cyanescens and Psilocybe azurescens.
How does it work?
Ingesting Psilocybin mushrooms, whether in small or large doses, allows the brain to become hyperconnected, creating increased communication between neural pathways. Research has found that upon ingestion of psilocybin, previously unconnected parts of the brain are able to form organized and stable links, essentially allowing for greater communication across the entire brain. While increasing previously non existent brain linkages, magic mushrooms also help those microdosing mushrooms to rethink deeply ingrained thought patterns that are linked to anxiety, depression and addiction. As a result of working with mushrooms, many people have been able to break compulsive behaviors and thought patterns, allowing them to lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.
Magic mushrooms work on the psyche in a fundamentally different way than pharmaceutical antidepressants. To describe the difference in most basic terms, you might say pharmaceutical drugs dull the emotions, allowing users a brief respite from depression and anxiety. Microdosing Psilocybin on the other hand, seems to work in a way that offers people an opportunity to actively face their most challenging thoughts and emotions and through practice of intentioned, scheduled microdosing, rewrite their patterns or responses to them, ultimately leading to enduring shifts in mind-set.
Psychedelics such as magic mushrooms are similar structurally to serotonin, our brain’s mood regulator. Psilocybin mimics serotonin and stimulates the 5-H2A receptor, which in turn leads to increased production of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and transmission of Glutamate. Together, BDNF and Glutamate regulate abstract thinking, thought analysis, and are pivotal in regulating mood and perception.
Microdosing mushrooms can not only help stimulate the 5-H2A receptor and boost mood and mental performance, it can also help us attenuate the Default Mode Network (DMN) which, when overactive, has been linked to depression, anxiety and the inability to be in the present moment. There is also evidence to suggest that working with psilocybin can help induce flow state, or the hard to verbalize feeling of being in focused, easeful harmony with our thoughts and actions.
Traditional use of Psilocybin mushrooms.
It is impossible to affirmatively know when this powerful entheogen was first discovered by humans, but rock paintings discovered in North Africa and Australia suggests that mushrooms may have been used by indigenous cultures as far back as 10,000 BCE. Mayan and Aztec ruins also show considerable evidence that shrooms were an important part of spiritual and religious rituals for healing and divination as far back as 1,500 BCE.
Beginning in the early 1900’s, ethnobotanists and anthropologists began visiting central and south america to study and collect psilocybin mushrooms, but it wasn’t until an article published in Life magazine in the 1950’s that magic mushrooms really piqued mainstream curiosity in the West. By the 1960’s research was being conducted at Harvard University that showed promising results, decreasing recidivism rates amongst prisoners and leading to profoundly increased spiritual experiences for graduate divinity students. While the psilocybin project at Harvard clearly indicated that medicinal use of magic mushrooms showed great promise, the US federally banned psilocybin in 1968, classifying it as a schedule I drug and helping to create a negative stigma around its use that led the uneducated, inexperienced public to consider the use of psilocybin as dangerous and irresponsible.
Psilocybin use today
In the late 1990’s a resurgence in research into the medicinal uses of psilocybin mushrooms showed, once again, great potential for physical, psychological and spiritual breakthroughs. The 2011 release of Dr. James Fadiman’s The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys brought with it information about the previously unexplored realm of microdosing.
Fadiman’s studies, and the experiences and reports of psychonauts around the world, offered a catalyst for research into the benefits and potential uses of microdosing mushrooms. Fadiman’s self published research in 2016 indicated that microdosers were better able to combat addictions, handle debilitating emotional challenges and feel more connected and at peace with themselves and others. A 2015 podcast with popular American writer Tim Ferriss brought even more attention to the practice of microdosing and led to greater interest, experimentation and healing for individuals and researchers around the world.
A recent study out of Norway looked at the experiences of 21 men, nearly all of whom reported that microdosing helped improve their mood, cognition and creativity. A double blind, placebo controlled study published in Psychopharmacology at the end of 2018 showed that creativity was enhanced among microdosing participants. As information and experience increases across the globe, so too does the vast potential for healing and reawakening through entheogenic therapies such as microdosing psilocybin.
How to microdose
While micro-dosage varies depending on the person, an average microdose is about 1/20 to 1/10 of a “normal” dose. This varies depending on several factors, including diet, weight and metabolism. We suggest starting with 50mg (1 capsule) and increase from there if needed.
When to dose
Take one or two capsules within the first half of the day. One after breakfast and one after lunch for example. For beginners we suggest following a microdosing schedule for a few months. After that take a break for a month or so and then start a new schedule or simply dose when needed like before a big project or event.
Tips when getting started.
Be clear about your intentions.
Start on a day without social commitments.
Follow a dosing schedule.
Document your experience.
We typically suggest the Fadiman protocol of dosing every third day as its been the most effective for our clients. However there are other good options including the schedule suggested by Paul Stamets of five days on and two days off. You may wish to try a different schedule to find what works best for you but keep in mind both Stamets and Fadiman recommend leaving a couple of days between dosing to prevent a build up of tolerance . They also recommend following the microdosing protocol for several weeks and to document any effects you notice on mood, behavior, social interactions, etc.
Tracking Your Results
In order to understand the various ways in which microdosing can impact your health and wellbeing, tracking changes in your mood, thoughts and behaviours can be quite helpful. Changes can be subtle and regularly reviewing the following checklist can help you understand how medicinal mushrooms are working with you.
1. Thoughts: Does your mind feel clearer or more cluttered than usual? What kinds of thoughts are you experiencing? Are you focused and sharp or is your thinking dulled and muddled?
2. Emotions: Are you having more or fewer feelings than usual? Have your feelings taken on new meaning or significance? Has sexual intimacy changed?
3. Creativity: Are you viewing things from a different perspective? Do you notice new qualities in things you hadn’t thought of before? Do you have more ideas? Do solutions flow more easily?
4. Social: Has the way you express yourself changed? Do you notice changes in speech patterns? Facial expressions? Are you smiling more? Are you more agreeable or argumentative than usual? How are you speaking to and interacting with friends, family, coworkers and strangers?
5. Physical: How aware of your body are you feeling? Close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly. Are there any physical sensations being brought into your awareness?
6. Outlook: Do you feel positive or negative? Is your view hopeful or doubtful? Are you feeling fearful? Guarded? Do you feel connection? Love? Peace?
Potential benefits of microdosing
Almost anyone can gain from microdosing mushrooms. The potential benefits of microdosing are boundless. The following are just a handful of reported benefits from microdosers — this list is by no means exhaustive.
Exercise: Microdosing can help you stay motivated and focused. While you may not usually love to spend an hour working out, many people report having boosted will power and a clearer, deeper understanding of the expansive benefits of exercise, which offers motivation and incentive to push further with ease. Many people also feel that microdosing is performance enhancing.
Migraines and cluster headaches: Migraines and cluster headaches are debilitating, episodic and often chronic. Sufferers report headaches that affect not only their quality of life but their ability to maintain employment and satisfying relationships. Many people dealing with migraines or cluster headaches have run the gamut of available pharmaceutical treatments, usually reporting only temporary or unsatisfactory relief and often finding that secondary effects and prohibitive costs have led them to look for alternative treatments. Psilocybin is taken into the body, is part of the tryptamine family which includes the triptans and ergots found in many migraine medications. It acts on the same receptors as these pharmaceutical drugs do, but without any of the dangerous or uncomfortable side effects.
Facing Death: For people facing death, a daily battle with depression and anxiety can become a crushing reality. Studies out of Johns Hopkins and New York University show that psilocybin can significantly reduce depression and anxiety in patients facing death as well as improve feelings about life, relationships and spirituality. Of those participating in the studies, 80% still had a more positive outlook on life and death 6 months post trial. Researchers believe that this is due to properties found in magic mushrooms that can produce unique changes in thoughts, perceptions, and emotions.
Mushrooms for Depression: Consider the fact that depression is one of the leading causes of disability and poor health around the world. Research indicates that there may be a part of the hippocampus whose electrical pathways are particularly active in depressed patients. Now consider that one unique characteristic of psilocybin is its ability to alter existing brain pathways and create new connections. Could magic mushrooms offer transformative relief for those suffering from depression? Studies indicate that for people suffering from depression, including treatment resistant depression, even a single dose of magic mushrooms can cause immediate and sustained relief from feelings of depression, as these new pathways are stimulated.
Alleviating Anxiety: The extreme fear and worry that come with anxiety can make life for those suffering feel overwhelming. It is estimated that 275 million people around the world suffer from anxiety disorders and some of the most commonly prescribed medications to alleviate anxiety actually lead to paradoxical effects such as increased anxiety, suicidal thoughts and violent behavior. Microdosing mushrooms has shown to not only alleviate anxiety but to also help people look within at the root causes of their fears and anxiety, allowing them to ultimately feel more peaceful. A study published in a 2017 report indicates that mushroom therapy affects two areas of the brain; the amygdala and the default mode network, both of which have been closely linked to how we process emotions including anxiety.
Mushrooms and OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is known to be extremely difficult to treat. As the symptoms can be unusual and even morbid in nature, those suffering from OCD often feel ashamed and stigmatized which can lead to further mental health struggles. A 2005 study out of Arizona and Texas on the efficacy of psilocybin mushrooms on treating OCD showed significant reductions in OCD symptoms of all test subjects, more than half of whom described their experience as mentally and spiritually enriching.
Breaking Addiction: The potential benefits of microdosing mushrooms to treat addiction are two-fold, offering both a preventative and therapeutic result. Research indicates that experience with psychedelic mushrooms can actually reduce instances of opioid dependence, suggesting a protective effect. While it is a commonly held belief that addiction is caused by drugs, many believe it to be a symptom of trauma. For those suffering from addiction, microdosing mushrooms has been shown to help people reflect upon the cause of their trauma and find healthier ways to create connection and meaning in their lives.
Relief from Menstrual Pain: Some women have reported relief from menstrual pain, PMS and PMDD, and hormonal fluctuations related to menopause.
Heightened Creativity and intelligence: A recent study on microdosing out of the University of Toronto showed scores higher on measures of wisdom, creativity, open mindedness and problem solving for participants. Another study out of Norway reported similar results with microdosing participants also indicating better mental clarity and relief from pre-existing conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Spiritual Growth: With the appropriate dosage, setting and intention, working with magic mushrooms can lead to a spiritual experience that can profoundly shift your perspective forever. Many people report feelings of interconnectedness, self love, spiritual understanding and connection to nature. In a study from Johns Hopkins University on the long term psychological effects of psilocybin on adults, two-thirds of participants reported that their experience was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences of their entire lives, with a dozen of them saying it was the single most profound spiritual experience they’d ever had.
Achieving Flow State: Flow state has been defined as “The optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best… being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Microdosing stimulates flow state, allowing dosers to be more creative, patient, open minded and focused. Rather than being distracted by worry about the past or future, people who microdose have reported feeling more present and able to perform talks with accuracy and ease.
Microdosing Psilocybin for PTSD: Many people facing PTSD and the extreme challenges they deal with recovering from trauma find that traditional psychotherapy and medication may not be enough to ease their suffering. Many have had to deal not only with the mental anguish associated with trauma but also with social isolation and rejection that only serves to compound their suffering. Because of the promising results research has shown with psilocybin in treating various disorders including PTSD, the FDA has granted it “breakthrough therapy designation,” allowing research looking at its therapeutic potentials to be fast tracked.
Treating Eating Disorders: In 2019 Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Research Unit began a clinical trial to look at the effects of psilocybin in people with chronic anorexia nervosa (AN). Given the phenomenological similarities between AN and other psychological disorders that have been positively responsive to the therapeutic use of psilocybin, researchers are hopeful that mushroom therapy can be used to help treat eating disorders.
Helping Long Term Demoralization in AIDS Survivors: Dr Brian Anderson from UCSF is currently looking at the impact of psilocybin assisted group therapy for treating demoralization in long-term HIV/AIDS survivors. These are people who were diagnosed before the availability of life saving antiretroviral drugs and who were essentially told that a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. Most watched friends and community members die and most have felt isolated and rejected and hopeless because of their diagnosis.
Risks of microdosing.
Generally speaking, psilocybin mushrooms are physiologically safe. The chances of addiction or overdose are basically non existent. A potential concern is that there is limited research available on the long term impact of microdosing. For this reason, we recommend only limited periods of microdosing. The psychological risks of microdosing are also minimal. However, while a physical addiction to psilocybin is unlikely, the potential for psychological addiction exists for any repeated behavior, including microdosing. Although rare, some dosers have experienced increased anxiety on dosing days, although this can usually be linked to taking doses that are too high. There have also been reports of disrupted sleep patterns and digestive issues. We recommend a lower dosage if any negative effects are felt.
Of all psychoactive substances. Psilocybin has the lowest potential of dependancy or lethal dose.
*A note from James Fadiman on microdosing precautions:
“We specifically do not recommend that people with colorblindness, who live with diagnoses of psychotic disorders or along the autism spectrum try microdosing. People with colorblindness report lasting visual distortions from microdosing. Literature suggests people with psychotic disorders may be harmed by psychedelics. In our experience, people with diagnoses along the autism spectrum seem to require dosages that far exceed what is traditionally considered microdosing.”
Frequently asked questions.
Will I be tripping?
No. A microdose is 1/20th to 1/10th of a standard dose. The effects are sub perceptual, meaning you should feel more focused and energized and remain fully cognizant and capable of going about your daily life. You should not feel like your perception of reality is distorted. If you do, your dose is too high. We recommend you start low and see how you react as you find the correct dose for your body.
Can I still work and meet my usual responsibilities?
Yes. Microdosing is integrated into your daily routine. It allows you to be more focused and creative but should not negatively impact your ability to effectively meet your usual responsibilities.
Is microdosing mushrooms illegal?
In Canada, psilocybin mushrooms are controlled under Schedule III of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, meaning their sale, possession, production, ect. are prohibited unless authorized for clinical trial or research purposes. Microdosing, however, is strictly therapeutic and its effects are not intoxicating. As studies continue to shed light on the abundance of medical and emotional benefits of psilocybin, there is reason to hope that both medical and legal authorities will soon reconsider the unreasonable and outdated restrictions placed on magic mushrooms.
Is microdosing safe?
While there are no indications that microdosing is anything but beneficial, there is very little research available about the long term impacts of microdosing. Existing long term studies have focused on larger doses of mushrooms and do not show mushrooms to be dangerous even when the trip is “bad.” In fact, difficult trips generally lead to greater breakthroughs and positive outcomes overall. Death or illness from toxicity are unheard of.
Are there medications I can’t take with mushrooms?
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medications for many psychological disorders, including depression, OCD, PTSD, and anxiety. Some of the most common SSRIs are:
• Citalopram (Celexa, Cipramil)
• Escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex)
• Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
• Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Faverin)
• Paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat)
• Sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral)
SSRIs work by temporarily boosting serotonin levels which, in rare cases, can lead to serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal. It is therefore not safe to take psilocybin, even in microdoses, when on a SSRI.
Can I overdose?
A physical overdose is not a danger with psilocybin — you will not die from psilocybin mushrooms. However, if you accidently macrodose there are sometimes undesirable outcomes, usually not serious but can be uncomfortable in the wrong environment. These may include varying degrees of fear, anxiety, panic and feeling out of control. There are some things you can to as you ride out the trip, including:
Breath. Use your breath as an anchor.
Move your body. This can help you get out of your head and start feeling more comfortable.
Eat. This will allow you to feel more grounded and in control.
Get outside. Being in nature often helps to relax people feeling stressed out from a bad mushroom experience.
Listen to music. Something soft and instrumental.
How do I get started with microdosing?
Reach out to us at Neuro Botanicals to learn more about microdosing and what it can do in your life. We are a small collective of cultivators, herbalists and psychedelic practitioners who have first hand experience with the healing benefits of medicinal fungi and we are here to support you as you embark on your path to optimal wellness