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Australia’s first medicinal magic mushrooms underway

In an Australian first, the use of native magic mushrooms for medical treatment has been given the green light.

Dr Alistair McTaggart, mycologist and biologist at the University of Queensland, will collect and catalogue psilocybin mushrooms.

The federal government is investing $15 million to support Australian-led research into the use of mushrooms, ecstasy and ketamine to fight against illnesses such as PTSD, major depressive disorders and eating disorders. Previous studies have documented the benefits of psychedelics on treating these illnesses.

Image of magic mushrooms
Image via The Guardian

The psilocybin mushrooms are usually found growing in cow manure and leaf litter on forest floors after rain.

Speaking of the potential of magic mushrooms, McTaggart stated that “Psychedelic mushrooms are taking off, everyone’s talking about them…”.

He went on to mention that the USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] has sped up psilocybin treatment, where it has been considered a “breakthrough therapy“, particularly during the current COVID-19 climate, where mental health issues have been on the rise.

In Australia there is an estimated 20 species of magic mushrooms. Some are native, while others have been introduced.

Psilocybin mushrooms produce the psychoactive compound psilocybin, which has hallucinogenic effects similar to LSD.

Dr McTaggart likened the global magic mushroom industry to the medicinal cannabis industry 15 years ago: “Similar to the cannabis industry, mushrooms will need selection of genetic traits to upscale production or tailor different strains for different experiences.

Currently, the cultivation, manufacturing, possession, use and supply of psilocybin mushrooms is illegal throughout Australia.

Dr McTaggart said, “Consuming magic mushrooms can be dangerous – they can be mistaken for toxic mushrooms.”

Image of cartoon mushrooms
Image via The Daily Beast

This species of mushroom has also been the foundation of mental health research in Europe and the United States.

Grateful for beautiful magic mushrooms. (micro dosed) Thank you for healing. Thank you for showing me to slow down and appreciate my growth and who i am today 🤍 pic.twitter.com/6SOLBomkxc

— A🌿 (@a_adonutdisturb) August 27, 202

Another project in development will see Dr McTaggart use genomic sequencing to determine which species of native mushrooms in Australia are edible, poisonous or adaptable for medicinal use.

Dr Stephen Bright, senior lecturer at the Edith Cowan University, says this study of mushrooms could shift the world of psychiatry treatment as we know it:

“There is this real sense at the moment that this might lead to a paradigm shift in psychiatry…This is about doing psycho therapy in which the person receives the drug on one or two occasions, and is aimed at curing the mental health condition rather than treating the symptoms.