Researchers have found that people who drank a tea made from hallucinatory mushrooms showed improvement, empathy, and creative thinking – and while they didn’t last forever, these effects could be seen long after the intense, mind-altering mushroom trip wore off.
The study, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, asked participants to submit to a wide range of psychological tests the day before and the day after consuming shroom tea, then again one week later. The tests were designed to evaluate both convergent and divergent thinking – the first refers to the process of scanning lots of information in order to come up with a single solution to a complex challenge while the latter involves inventing a bunch of possible solutions based on a tiny amount of information.
The results showed a significant increase in divergent thinking the day immediately following the mushroom experiment and increased improvement in convergent thinking for the following week. Empathy levels were also enhanced through the entire period, an outcome that correlated with an increase in general life satisfaction.
The active compound that makes these mushrooms “magic” is psilocybin, and it’s currently being considered as a possible depression treatment – several trials, though small, have gotten great results.
Study author Natasha Mason explained in an interview with PsyPost that people who struggle with depression often exhibit diminished “creative, flexible thinking and empathy” which can cause them to get stuck in “repetitive and rigid patterns of negative and compulsive thoughts.”
Psilocybin, like LSD and other psychedelics, interrupts patterns of cognition and allow room for freer, more flexible thinking that could help people with depression break out of negative loops.
The results of this and other studies are limited in scope, so more research on more people is needed for the ideas to move forward. That said, the use of psychedelics by physicians and therapists may well be the way of the future when it comes to treating mental health.