Magic Mushrooms hold promise medically
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Magic Mushrooms hold promise medically

London : United Kingdom | Jan 24, 2012 at 9:53 AM PST
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The active ingredient in these shrooms just may have long lasting effects on patients with depression

Two recent studies now reveal that active ingredient psilocybin found in those magic mushrooms may help those people with depression and drug developed from it could have long lasting effects on patients.

One study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research led by Professor David Nutt, DM FRCP FRCPsynch and Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris of the Imperial College of London, had found activity in medial prefrontal cortex, which is hyperactive in depression was regularly lowered.

In their study 30 healthy volunteers intravenously had taken psilocybin and their brains were examined with magnetic resonance imaging scanners (MRI's).

According to Professor Nutt in a briefing about Monday's study he had stated "Psychedelics are thought of as 'mind-expanding' drugs so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity.” He went on to note that by surprise researchers had discovered that psilocybin did cause activity to lessen in the areas which have the thickest association with other areas.

Professor Nutt further relates that these so called “hub” areas of the brain are known to play a role in restraining our experience of the world and keeping it orderly.

Researchers now know that deactivating these areas results in a state in which the world is experienced as “strange”.

The second study is scheduled for publication on January 26th in the British Journal of Psychiatry and had been conducted by the same research team. That study found that psilocybin had heightened recollections of positive memories among volunteers in comparison to those who had taken a placebo.

In a statement by Dr. Carhart-Harris notes that their findings support the idea that psilocybin expedites access to personal memories and emotions. He further states that this effect need further investigation but it does suggest that used in combination with psychotherapy, psilocybin may help people remember positive life events and reverse pessimistic minds.

Former Harvard Psychologist, Timothy Leary, who Richard Nixon once had called the most dangerous man in America for promoting the use of hallucinogenic substances and founder of the Harvard Psilocybin Program had favored this fungi noting they can be typically eaten but can be dried, smoked and made into tea.

Dr. Carhart-Harris noted that these magic mushrooms also referred to as “shrooms”have been used for centuries in healing ceremonies and were used extensively in psychotherapy in the 1950's.

Today in a briefing in London, Dr. Carhart-Harris has plans to follow-up with a controlled study consisting of 60 patients with depression. He notes that study may start at the end of this year.

Professor Nutt stated that as a treatment option, psilocybin may have an lasting effect after one dose in comparison to expensive anti-depressant medications, which need to be taken daily and have side effects. Dr. Carhart-Harris adds in that the participants in the study had shown no known side effects.

Researchers cite the recent study of Dr. Ronald Griffiths, PhD, John Hopkins University of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. His study had demonstrated that depression scores in terminal cancer patients were remarkably lessened in six months after being treated with psilocybin. Among his studies he also has found that psilocybin has anti-aging effects on personality and psilocybin really does have a spiritual effect on people.

In closing Dr. Nutt notes that this new research was very preliminary and had involved only small numbers of people and states "We're not saying go out there and eat magic mushrooms.” He does mention however, this drug has such a fundamental impact on the brain that it's got to be meaningful, it's got to be telling us something about how the brain works. So we should be studying it and optimizing it if there's a therapeutic benefit."

Kevin Healy, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists faculty of medical psychotherapy had noted that the study was interesting "but we are clearly nowhere near seeing psilocybin used regularly and widely in psychotherapy practice."

In the United States psilocybin containing mushrooms are illegal because they contain the Schedule 1 drugs psilocybin and psilocin.

There are alternative therapies that can help in relieving symptoms of depression. These include herbs, supplements and mind and body techniques

One herb that is commonly used is St. Johns Wort which has been used for centuries to treat numerous conditions including depression. It is listed as a dietary supplement. In Europe it is a popular treatment for depression and may be helpful for mild to severe depression.

Yoga may also be helpful when it comes to treating depression.

Research conducted on a small group of healthy people with no psychiatric problems had found yoga resulted in more movements in mood than walking. The study suggested that its beneficial result was not just from physical activity.

Dr. Chris C. Streeter, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and lead researcher for study stated researchers believe one of the reasons yoga makes people feel better is it increases the levels of a brain chemical GABA that is reduced in depression but not in those with anxiety.

Dr. Donald Hilty, M.D., co-chairman of the committee which makes the decision on which studies to highlight and professor of psychiatry at the University of California Davis, stated in an article to WebMD on Yoga May Help Fight Depression, it is always best to go with well studied treatments that have been proven and had added “complementary treatments such as yoga.”

Debbie Nicholson is based in Detroit, Michigan, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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