It's not often that the natural wellness community and pharmaceutical industry unite, but the concept of microdosing with mushrooms is bringing people together. This new wellness trend may stick around for a while, too, as more and more research surfaces to support the use of psilocybin for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Unfortunately, psychedelic mushrooms are illegal in the U.S., though some states are working to change the rules. Colorado and Oregon, for instance, have already passed measures to decriminalize psychedelics and, in some cases, legalize their supervised use. Other states, like Utah and Missouri, initiated and funded research to further evaluate their medicinal potential before considering legalization measures.
Either way, psilocybin therapy is on the rise, and microdosing with mushrooms is one of the most popular ways to do it. If you’re curious about just how this low-dose psychedelic therapy works, (or how to use other medicinal mushroom doses to your advantage) we’re about to drop the facts for you. We’ll dig into the details about psilocybin mushroom dosage, potential benefits, popular dosing protocols, risk factors, and much more. Let’s jump in:
DISCLAIMER: This article aims to provide information only and is not intended to be interpreted as medical advice. You should always consult your doctor before making any changes to your wellness routine and especially before using any supplements or medications to treat a diagnosed condition.
Microdosing has been associated with benefits for various mental health conditions and is often associated with improved quality of life.
Microdosing psilocybin mushrooms allows users to take advantage of the benefits without experiencing intense hallucinations.
A mushroom microdose may be as small as 0.1 grams, but everyone's best dosage is unique.
Table of Contents
What is a Mushroom Microdose?
Although much of what we know about psychedelic mushrooms comes from a history of macrodose usage, researchers have recently turned their interests towards evaluating the potential cognition enhancing benefits of sub-threshold psychedelic dosages, also known as microdoses.
The concept of microdosing isn’t new. In fact, it’s the entire basis of homeopathic medicine–taking only the smallest possible amount of a substance necessary to elicit medicinal effects.
Microdosing mushrooms is especially beneficial because it allows us to make use of psychedelic mushrooms in a more practical way. A full-sized psychedelic mushroom dose will send you on a deep hallucinogenic trip, sometimes lasting 6-8 hours or longer. In many cases, the potent psychedelic effects of psilocybin mushrooms make them impractical for medicinal applications.
A mushroom microdose, when done correctly, won’t elicit any hallucinogenic effects. Microdosing shouldn’t disrupt your ability to function or live your daily life. Instead, it makes tiny microshifts in your cognitive function that can improve your outlook and help to provide a solid cognitive foundation over time.
Typically, microdosing is a temporary or intermittent event. Unlike prescription medications that are taken daily for years, microdosing is done for a certain period of time or at certain intervals, and you continue to reap the benefits for months and years afterwards.
Of course, also unlike prescription medications, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to microdosing, which means the actual dosage, frequency and duration, and benefits you experience will be unique to you. We’ll give you some guidelines below to help you work out a hypothetical microdosing regimen, but first, let’s take a look at the research available to evaluate the potential benefits of microdosing mushrooms.
A Look at the Science Behind Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms
Psychedelic therapy was a key point in mental health research in the 1960’s and researchers were able to bring to light the monumental potential of psychedelic mushrooms in only a few short years. However, psychedelics garnished a bad reputation due to the spread of illicit street use and research was eventually tabled. In the late 1990’s, the U.S. government began handing out grants to permit such research once again, and what we’ve learned in the last 20 years has led to a dramatic uptick in academic interest.
Research is, of course, still limited, but what we know about psychedelic therapy has led several states to legalize its guided use. Guided mushroom trips have been successfully used as a one-dose management option for anxiety, depression, and have even been noted to boost the quality of life and eliminate fears and anxiety surrounding death for terminal cancer patients.
Researchers have not yet narrowed down why psilocybin may have such a profound impact on the human psyche, but most participants agree that the experience is so deeply spiritual and moving that it induces a more empathic perspective and allows for increased personal growth and more positive perspective by reframing our conditioned states of being.
Microdose research is more limited than macrodose research–but many researchers agree that the psilocybin should theoretically work the same way when taken in small doses over time as it does when large doses are taken periodically.
We won’t theorize any longer though–let’s look at the evidence available. We’ll break it down by use and deliver only the facts so you can draw your own conclusion:
It's hard to sum up the complete benefits of microdosing psilocybin, but one study does a pretty good job of elaborating on the scope of its potential.
A 2019 study conducted by Vince Polito and Richard J. Stevenson followed 93 participants through the Fadiman protocol (a microdosing protocol we will discuss below) and required them to submit daily reports that would be compared to the participants baseline report that was taken before the protocol began.
47.1 % of the group were microdosing psilocybin, and the rest were taking LSD. Among this group, they quickly noted a clinically significant increase in measures of connectedness, contemplation, creativity, focus, happiness, productivity, and wellbeing. After 6 weeks, participants were evaluated again, and measures showed a significant decrease in overall depression, stress, and inattentiveness.
Finally, the researchers noticed a significant increase in “absorption,” or the subject’s engagement with their subjective experience, which has a heavy impact on our physical and philosophical involvement in the world.
Improved Brain Health (Neuritogenesis and Spinogenesis)
A 2018 study found that serotonergic psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms influence and upregulate the processes of neuritogenesis and spinogenesis. Neurotogenesis and spinogenesis involve the creation of neurons and the development of their dendritic spines and axon terminals, or the “limbs” of our brain cells that help to carry out neurotransmitter function. Various conditions are associated with low dendritic spine density, like chronic stress, neurodegenerative disorders, depression, and more.
According to this evidence, psychedelic mushrooms may stimulate signaling pathways by creating new neurons and fortifying overall neural connectivity.
Reduced Over-Thinking (Ego Death)
Some evidence has suggested that serotonergic psychedelics may reduce activity in the Default Mode Network (DMN), or the brain region responsible for our sense of “I,” sometimes described as “ego.”
In cases of psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD, and ADHD, the DMN is shown to experience significant hyperactivity which is associated with obsessive, and often negative, self-conceptualization.
Clinical trials have suggested that reducing DMN activity can help to reduce hyper-rumination experienced by people with anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and related disorders. It may even help to reduce drug seeking behavior in those suffering from addiction.
This type of interaction is difficult to quantify and research, but is thought to be activated by a lack of focus on our surroundings where thought is otherwise directed inward.
In a 2008 study involving 36 participants who were given a 30mg dose of psilocybin, researchers found that 22 of the participants were reported to have a “complete mystical experience”, defined as “ego dissolution (as assessed by the EDI; Nour et al., 2016), unity (as assessed by the 5D-ASC), positive mood (as assessed by the 5D-ASC), [and] transcendence of space and time, ineffability, noetic quality, and reverence or sacredness.”
Fourteen months later, 21 of the 22 volunteers continued to meet the criteria, and 58% of participants still considered the psilocybin experience as one of the five most meaningful experiences of their lives. A majority of participants also considered the experience to be one of the five most spiritually impactful, significantly impactful in improving overall wellbeing and life satisfaction, and significantly impactful in positively changing life behaviors.
Potential Benefits of Microdosing
- Enhanced mental clarity and focus
- Increased creativity and problem-solving abilities
- Improved mood and emotional well-being
- Heightened sense of empathy and connection with others
- Reduced anxiety and stress levels
- Enhanced mindfulness and self-awareness
- Increased energy and motivation
- Improved cognitive function and memory
- Enhanced spiritual and mystical experiences
- Accelerated personal growth and self-development
- Expanded perspectives and insights
- Alleviation of symptoms related to certain mental health disorders
- Reduction in addictive behaviors and substance misuse
- Enhanced neuroplasticity and brain health
- Improved quality of sleep
- Potential for increased openness and receptivity to new ideas and perspectives.
How to Get Started With Mushroom Microdoses
Microdosing psychedelic mushrooms is illegal in most areas, but if you happen to live in an area where it is not prohibited and want to get started, here’s what you need to consider:
How to Determine Microdose Dosage
Determining a microdosage for mushrooms can be tricky. You’re looking for a sub-perceptual threshold, meaning that you should feel generally sober throughout the day and should not experience any overt hallucinogenic effects, such as visual or auditory distortions.
But that doesn’t mean you should feel nothing. Heightened mood, energy, creativity, and cognition should be observed. Just keep in mind that your microdose should not impair your ability to complete daily tasks in any way.
Finding this threshold may take a bit of experimentation.
A mushroom microdose is usually somewhere between 0.1-0.2 grams of dried mushroom material. That’s one-tenth to one-twentieth of a gram. At your first dose, you may even consider starting with 0.05 grams to better gauge your experience and make sure you don’t encounter any uncomfortable effects.
On your next dose, you may consider increasing your dosage to 0.1 grams to see how you feel. This will be plenty for some, but others may prefer more. If you feel like an increase is needed, increase the dosage in increments of 0.1-0.2 grams per dose.
Remember, the goal is to take a substantial enough dose to feel positive “glow” effects but without any physical effects or hallucinations.
In some cases, low-serotonin levels may cause you to have very little response to psilocybin mushrooms. In that case, just continue to increase your dosage in small increments. However, this hindrance will fade over time as neurotransmitter levels increase. You just may need to continue your microdose regimen for several weeks before you feel the effects.
A Note About SSRIs or Antidepressants and Mushroom Dosing
Disclaimer: We want to clarify that you should not stop or replace medication without a doctor’s guidance, and psychedelic mushrooms are not approved to treat any health conditions or to replace common prescription medications.
Some people have found some benefit in using mushrooms to help them taper off of SSRIs and other antidepressants, and these are also the people most likely to benefit from a microdose regimen. Keep in mind that discontinuation of these pharmaceuticals is likely to result in certain side effects, including changing serotonin and dopamine levels, which will affect how your body responds to psilocybin over time.
Just after discontinuation, you may find that you have little to no response to the mushrooms because serotonin and dopamine levels are low. In this case, you may need to adjust your dosage to 0.1-0.2 grams at a time to feel the effects.
As you taper off of medications and continue microdosing, however, serotonin and dopamine levels will continually rise, making you more receptive to the effects of psilocybin. Over time, you may need to lower your dose down to the point at which you do not feel hallucinogenic effects.
Mushroom Microdose Dosing Protocols
Once you have an idea of where you’d like to set your starting dosage threshold, you’ll want to consider the actual protocol, or frequency of dosing. Each protocol has a different frequency for dosing or number of “off” days in between doses. In other words, you won’t take a microdose every day, rather you’ll follow a dosing schedule to help you get the most out of your microdosing regimen.
There are three popular methods, which we will discuss below:
The Fadiman Protocol
The Fadiman Protocol, created by Dr. James Fadiman, American writer and psychedelic researcher and co-founder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, which is now known as Sofia University. This is arguably the most popular microdosing method used today. The concept behind Fadiman’s protocol is that taking specific and repetitive days off in between microdoses allows the user to evaluate the effects of the microdosing process more clearly.
Because this is a gentle and self-assessment-focused regimen, it’s a great option for beginners. This protocol is balanced on a three day cycle that can continue for a set number of weeks or indefinitely. It contains one microdose day and two off days to assess the effects. Here’s what that looks like:
Day 1: Microdose
Day 2: No dose, but “transitional/afterglow effects” are still apparent.
Day 3: No dose, no lingering effects. Sober day is to be used for assessment.
Day 4: 2nd microdose
This method can be used with any microdose dosage and you should use the guidelines above to find a dosage that works for you without inducing hallucinogenic effects.
The Stamets Stack
The Stamets Stack was coined by Paul Stamets, an amateur mycologist and author who has studied hallucinogenic and non-hallucinogenic mushrooms in depth for over 20 years. Stamets’ protocol involves a mushroom nootropic stack that contains medicinal mushrooms and other supplements that are designed to improve the overall uptake and benefits of each dose.
You may want to read "What are Smart Drugs?" or "Most Effective Nootropics: Which Nootropics are Backed by Science?" to learn more about nootropics.
The Stamets stack includes:
- 0.1 grams of Psilocybe cubensis mushroom
- 5-20 grams of whole or powdered Lion’s Mane mushroom or 50-200 mg of Lion’s Mane extract
- 75-200 mg of Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Stamets suggests dosing for four days on, three days off. Here’s what that looks like:
Days 1-4: Microdosing days
Days 5-7: Off days
Days 8-11: Microdosing days
Days 12-14: off days
Stamets is unique in that he argues the case for many medicinal mushrooms in correspondence to psilocybin mushrooms. More specifically, he makes the case for Lion’s Mane’s potential benefits for boosting neurogenesis (nerve regeneration) and improving brain function. Niacin is supposed to help push the psilocybin and Lion’s Mane compounds deeper into the cells because it acts as a flushing agent that can pass the blood-brain barrier.
However, it should be noted that although Stamets has done substantial work in the field, many people disagree with his sentiment that whole mushroom products or myceliated products are better than mushroom extract products. You can learn more about this by reading "Mushroom Powder vs Extract: Which is Best?"
Often, people use the protocols above and then decide on a more intuitive path, otherwise known as intuitive microdosing. This microsdoing path allows you to dose more dependently on your needs and environment, which may be a better option for those who want to plan microdose days around work or just based on how they’re feeling and when they feel a microdose is necessary.
You need to follow a few guidelines when intuitively dosing:
- Always leave one full day of not dosing between microdoses.
- Reserve at least 2 consecutive days out of each 7-day period to skip dosing.
- Journal to assess how you feel, and use sober days to connect with your natural state in order to heal and progress more intentionally.
What To Expect After Microdosing
As we mentioned earlier, the benefits of psilocybin therapy are thought to extend far beyond each actual dose, which brings people to ask–what happens after microdosing mushrooms?
After a macrodose trip, many mushroom users describe a lingering effect called “afterglow.”
This effect is generally described as an uplifting, relaxed “buzz” that’s not psychedelic, but has a very apparent positive impact on mood and stress levels. Some people claim that the effect can last anywhere from days to weeks, and others even enjoy the afterglow period so much that they claim it is the primary reason they enjoy mushroom therapy.
Microdosing is obviously different, but not really. You don’t ever trip when microdosing correctly, but the “afterglow” is the entire point. After microdosing, you can expect to feel generally more happy and relaxed. Some people also report feeling more energetic and having clearer overall cognition, leading to heightened creativity and productivity.
This buzzy lift is what most people are after while microdosing–not the immediate effects. Researchers aren’t yet sure what causes the afterglow effect, but some experts believe that psilocybin has a long term (possibly even permanent) impact on your neural system that improves neural functions and calms reactivity.
Is Microdosing Safe?
It is rare for people to report encountering negative or undesirable effects after microdosing mushrooms or other psychedelic substances. Macrodoses are more often associated with “bad trip” experiences, but permanent negative side effects are still incredibly rare.
Typically the effects of microdosing are very subtle and include only enhanced mental clarity and increased positive outlook and quality of life. In some cases individuals may experience hallucinogenic effects if they exceed the recommended dosage.
Because microdosing mushrooms may elevate neural activity and physical engagement, it may lead to feelings of tiredness or fatigue. To counter this, take periodic breaks and implement reset weeks, being sure to incorporate plenty of rest.
Some people also experience mild nausea after consuming their microdose. This may be caused by taking the microdose on an empty stomach. Although taking it with food may reduce its efficacy, you may decide to incorporate small amounts of food to counter this effect. Taking ginger or activated charcoal may also help to reduce this discomfort.
It is also worth noting that body temperature may fluctuate more than usual while microdosing. If you have a heart or respiratory condition, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a history of psychosis, it is advisable to consult a medical professional before engaging in the use of any psychedelic substances.
Keep in mind that psychedelics are not addictive, but just like any behavior, they can potentially become habit-forming. Practicing microdosing with intentionality, intuition, and appropriate support can mediate negative side effects and can be one of the most naturally healing endeavors you’ll embark on.
Alternatives to Psychedelic Microdosing
Psychedelic mushrooms are not available in all areas, but there are some alternative medicinal mushrooms that may have similar benefits. These mushrooms, like Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps, are readily available in supplement form and can be purchased online.
While Lion's Mane mushroom is not a psychedelic in the traditional sense, it has been reported to produce a variety of cognitive and neurological effects. These effects include increased focus and mental clarity, improved memory and learning, and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some users also report experiencing a mild euphoria or "buzz" after consuming Lion's Mane mushroom.
Generally speaking, the primary benefits associated with Lion’s Mane include:
Improves cognition: Human evidence is limited, but one study concluded that daily consumption of the mushroom improved cognitive performance in older adults.
Increase growth of nerve cells: Research has also confirmed that Lion’s Mane extract may encourage the growth of new nerve cells and may stimulate faster healing within the nervous system. Another study found that daily doses of Lion’s Mane extract resulted in faster nerve regeneration in rats with nerve damage compared to control subjects.
- Mood support: One study suggests that Lion’s Mane was able to reduce the incidence of anxiety of depression in animal models. Another study concluded that Lion’s Mane could potentially be useful for treating depressive disorders.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is a fungus that grows on caterpillar larvae in the high-altitude regions of China, Tibet, and Nepal. This mushroom has been traditionally used as an energy booster, and recent research has confirmed its ability to increase energy and reduce fatigue. It is also frequently used as an adrenal support supplement.
In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, participants who consumed cordyceps extract for 12 weeks reported a significant improvement in their exercise performance and endurance compared to the placebo group. Another study published in 2017 echoed these results. Participants experienced an increase in tolerance to high-intensity workouts after supplementing with Cordyceps for only one and three weeks.
Cordyceps also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help reduce muscle damage and promote recovery after exercise. Consistent daily doses of cordyceps are associated with increased performance, heightened productivity, and improved overall wellbeing.