What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin is a psychedelic compound that occurs in certain mushrooms (often referred to as “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms”).
Psilocybin mushrooms have a long history of use in Mesoamerica in spiritual and religious rituals and are currently one of the most popular recreational psychedelics in North America and Europe.
These mushrooms are increasingly being used in therapeutic settings to treat a wide variety of ailments and disorders, including cluster headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, and addiction, among others.
While psilocybin mushrooms are categorized as a controlled substance, highly controlled human studies have been permitted for their potential use in medical and psychiatric settings at leading institutions.
How does psilocybin work?
More than 180 species of “magic” mushrooms produce the psychoactive compound psilocybin. When you ingest psilocybin, your gut converts it into another chemical called psilocin, which triggers changes in the brain. It increases activity in the visual cortex, leading to changes in perception; it decreases network activity in the “Default Mode Network,” driving the experience of ego loss; and it increases connectivity among different regions of the brain. Researchers believe it’s the combination of these effects that makes psilocybin an effective tool for combating depression and addiction, for which research shows support.
Psychedelics work more directly, by mimicking serotonin. This means that one of their main effects is to stimulate a serotonin receptor called “5-HT2A” located in the prefrontal cortex.
Stimulating the 5-HT2A receptor leads to two important results:
- TThe production of “Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor” (BDNF) which is “like Miracle-Gro for your brain. It stimulates growth, connections, and activity.” 
- The increased transmission of “Glutamate,” the neurotransmitter most responsible for brain functions like cognition, learning, and memory. 
Glutamate and BDNF work together in ways we’re still understanding, but it’s become clear that having more of each leads to many of the benefits that microdosers are seeking. 
Psychedelics also cause parts of the brain that don’t usually communicate with one another… to communicate with one another! These unique connections are formed by dampening the activity of an often over-used part of our brain called the “Default Mode Network” (DMN). 
The DMN is responsible for an array of different mental activities, including day-dreaming, self-reflection, and thinking about the past or the future. Some studies suggest that depression is linked to an overactive DMN.  It’s possible that a highly active DMN causes us to ruminate, over-analyze ourselves, and constantly step out of the present moment to question the past and the future.
This helps explain why these substances could be used to combat depression and anxiety, and also lead to insights and creative perspectives that otherwise remain inaccessible to us.
What is microdosing?
Microdosing is the act of consuming sub-perceptual amounts of psychedelics such as LSD or Psilocybin, the active ingredient in Mushrooms. Sub-perceptual means the effects are subtle but can have a noticeable influence on your life. A microdose is usually 1/10-1/20 of an active dose, ranging from 50mg to 200mg.
Typically, individuals integrate sub-perceptual doses into their weekly routine. In contrast to the recreational use of psychedelics, individuals who microdose consume on a schedule, often dosing every 2-3 days, and do not observe any impairment to their normal functioning.
What are the effects of psilocybin microdosing?
Psilocybin is often referred to as a nootropic agent, meaning it has numerous functions in the brain that can improve the health of the hippocampus, or the part of the brain that is responsible for learning and converting short-term memory to long-term memory.
Psilocybin can help the hippocampus form new cells, which can, in turn, lead to what scientists call “the extinction of trace fear conditioning”. Conditioned fear response is common in individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to The Third Wave, effects of microdosing 50mg-250mg of psilocybin can include:
- Mood enhancement
- Decreased stress
- Emotional stability
- Mindfulness, presence, and peace
- Openness and self-forgiveness
- Increased empathy and sociability
- Conversational fluidity
- Alleviation of persistent conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD
- Increased motivation (e.g. to make positive lifestyle changes)
- Increased focus/productivity
- Increased flow states
- Clearer, more connected thinking
- Improved memory
- Enhanced senses
- Enhanced appreciation for music, art, etc.
- Increased creativity
- Easier meditation
- Increased enjoyment of physical activity and everyday tasks
- Relaxation and increased awareness of body
- Enhanced athletic endurance
- Increased energy overall (without anxiety or a subsequent crash)
- Amplification of mood, positive or negative
- A slight sedative effect
What are the benefits of psilocybin microdosing?
Psilocybin can help to overcome fear response, depression, anxiety, and the symptoms of mental health conditions, while also improving cognition and creativity.
To reduce the frequency and intensity of undesirable states caused by various forms of mental illness including:
- Mood disorders
To increase the frequency and intensity of desirable states/outcomes:
- Flow states
- Improved relationships/increased empathy
- Athletic coordination
- Leadership development
Reported benefits of microdosing include:
- Improved Mood – Peacefulness, overall well-being, calmness, happiness, and a reduction in the symptoms of depression. It also includes more emotional connection, a general sense of optimism, and an improved outlook on life.
- Improved Focus – Covers skill sets like the ability to focus or concentrate and enhanced self-awareness.
- Creativity – Aside from a general sense of improved creativity, this also includes behaviors such as being more open, enhanced curiosity, ability to shift perspectives, and divergent thinking.
- Self-Efficacy – This applies to such behaviors as ambition, self-motivation, self-confidence, and a sense of agency. It also relates to improved mental health, including increased introspection, the practice of meditation, and other aspects of behaviors tied to self-care.
- Improved Energy – In this case, “energy” refers to things like mental stimulation, wakefulness, and alertness.
- Social Benefits – Outside of more engagement with others, this category also includes more empathy, a greater sense of connection, and more extroversion.
- Cognitive Benefits – When microdosing, the user experience heightened mental clarity, better memory recall, and an improvement in problem-solving ability.
- Reduced Anxiety – This applies to a reduction in both general and social anxiety.
- Physiological Enhancement – Includes enhanced visual acuity, cardio endurance, reduction of migraines and headaches, and higher quality of sleep.
For those struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, mood disorders and/or addiction (to name a few), microdosing can create a number of positive changes.
Clinical research has shown that larger doses of psychedelics are effective at treating depression, anxiety, and addiction. Anecdotal evidence backs up the idea that a regular microdosing regimen can also have healing benefits for sufferers of various mental health conditions:
How do I start microdosing?
The average psilocybin microdose can range from 25mg to 250mg. Osmosis products range from 50mg to 350mg.
To start microdosing, take 1 capsules a day for 4 days with a 3 day break in between OR start slow with 1 capsule every 3 to 4 days. Some individuals find success with 2 days on 2 days off. You may need to experiment to find the dosing regimen best for you, as it can be dependent on schedule.
Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to begin, plan to start your microdosing protocol on a day when you have little to do, where you can be in a place that doesn’t trigger your anxiety. While the amount of psilocybin you’ll be taking will be sub-perceptual – meaning it is unlikely to affect you in a way that prevents you from going about your day-to-day – it may cause certain emotions or feelings to arise, and so it is best to be in a comfortable, safe place, where you can process these emotions in peace. Your environment and intention can have a profound impact on your experience. Some prefer to microdose at home, while others might find solace in nature.
Osmosis advises to take capsules on an empty stomach, preferably away from any caffeine. (Some microdosers find that, depending on the blend, the energy provided by the other supplements are enough to reduce their reliance on coffee or tea.) Eating around the time of your dose won’t completely nullify the effects, however, dosing with fattier foods will increase the length of time it takes for you to feel them.
Individuals who are taking SSRIs should leave a buffer of a minimum of three hours between a microdose and their medication.
Beyond spacing your dose away from food, caffeine, and medication, how you consume is up to you. Some individuals prefer to microdose in the morning, while others find they prefer to take it before bed. Others still consume two or three capsules per day to help keep their mood lifted and mind sharp.
Capsules are generally taken whole, however, if you decide that you would like to take a smaller dose, capsules can easily be opened up and dissolved in water, tea, juice, or over food.
Depending on your weight, you may require more than one capsule per day.
After the first few days of microdosing, your body will quickly build a tolerance to the mushrooms, and you’ll have a better idea of when to take them. Some individuals might find that after they build a tolerance to the mushrooms, they might require an increased dose. Others have found that after building a tolerance, they eventually become more sensitive to the mushrooms.
Listen to your body and, if you’re inclined, keep a journal to note the changes in the size of your dose, when you’re taking it, and how it is affecting you.
Once you’ve become comfortable with the protocol, you can safely integrate microdosing into your daily routine and lifestyle.
What interacts with psilocybin?
Since psilocybin is a potent serotonin agonist, it’s best to avoid using it while on any medications that alter the serotonin system, such as SSRI antidepressants like Prozac.
Psilocybin should not be mixed with Tramadol, as it can lead to Serotonin Syndrome. Be cautious if mixing psilocybin with amphetamines or recreational drugs.
There are no known harmful interactions between cannabis and psilocybin, however cannabis may increase the effects of psilocybin.
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.”
TIP: Setting your intention
Whenever one chooses to undergo a psychedelic experience, having a clear and laser-like intention is incredibly useful to creating a positive framework for that journey. Whether the intention is to kick a chronic addiction, heal from a traumatic experience, discover one’s purpose in life, or commune with nature, it’s important to know what you are aiming for. Whether or not the experience ends up like you hoped it would, having an intention beforehand helps you to remember your goal and re-ground as waves of the unexpected arise. After the experience is over, it helps you to deconstruct the insights and challenges of your journey within the context of your stated goals, rather than as random occurrences.
James Fadiman has this to say about intention:
“For some people, it is helpful to identify your goals. Your goals may be spiritual: to have direct experience with aspects of your tradition or another tradition, to transcend prior beliefs, even to transcend belief itself. You may hope to have what is called a “unity experience,” in which there is no separation between your identity and all else. Your goals may be social: to improve relationships with your spouse, children, siblings, parents, colleagues, friends, and spiritual and secular institutions. Your goals may be psychological: to find insight into neurotic patterns, phobias, or unresolved anger or grief.”
How can I learn more about psilocybin and microdosing?
2. See our resources:
Educational websites (coming soon)
Documentaries and videos (coming soon)