Talk about an alternative treatment. Two new studies suggest a compound in psychedelic mushrooms may help treat people with depression.
Researchers found that people treated with psilocybin -- the active ingredient in magic mushrooms – had lower levels of depression and greater feelings of well-being.
The first study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, involved 10 volunteers and found that psilocybin boosted their feelings of well-being and their ability to recall of personal memories for up to two weeks.
Researchers suggested their findings indicate that psilocybin might prove useful as an adjunct to psychotherapy.
The second study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, monitored the brain activity of 30 healthy people given psilocybin using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners.
The scans showed the compound decreased activity in the brain's "hub" regions -- areas also affected by drugs used to treat depression.
Researchers also found that psilocybin reduced blood flow in the hypothalamus, where blood flow increases in people with cluster headaches. Some headache sufferers have reported that psilocybin improved their symptoms.
David Nutt, of the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, was the senior author of both of the new studies.
Nutt and his colleagues said the findings suggest more research should be done into the therapeutic potential of such compounds.
“Psychedelic drugs have a long history of use in healing ceremonies,” they wrote. “But despite renewed interest in their therapeutic potential, we continue to know very little about how they work in the brain.”