There’s evidence that tripping on magic mushrooms could actually free the mind.
Several studies, including two promising recent clinical trials, suggest that psilocybin, shrooms’ psychoactive ingredient, may hold the potential to help relieve severe anxiety and depression.
Still, because they’re classified as Schedule 1 — meaning they have “no accepted medical use” and are illegal — it’s been pretty tough for scientists to tease out exactly what they can and can’t do.
Here are a few of the ways we know shrooms can affect your brain and body:
Shrooms can make you feel good.
Flickr / Even Forester
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, magic mushrooms can lead to feelings of relaxation that are similar to the effects of low doses of marijuana.
Like other hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD or peyote, shrooms are thought to produce most of their effects by acting on neural highways in the brain that use the neurotransmitter serotonin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More specifically, magic mushrooms affect the brain’s prefrontal cortex, part of the brain that regulates abstract thinking, thought analysis, and plays a key role in mood and perception.
They can also make you hallucinate.
Visualization of the brain connections in a person on psilocybin (right) and in someone given a placebo (left).Journal of the Royal Society Interface
Many users describe things like seeing sounds or hearing colors. A 2014 study was one of the first to attribute this effect to the way psilocybin affects communication across brain networks.