Suffer from migraines? Psilocybin can reduce their frequency, study finds

A first-of-its-kind exploratory study has found that a single dose of psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms) can reduce migraine frequency by 50 per cent for at least two weeks.

In case you needed any more reason to celebrate psilocybin, a recent study, led by researchers from the Yale School of Medicine, has shone a light on more potential benefits of the magic mushroom compound – this time in relation to migraines.

The double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over study yielded promising results for the effects of psilocybin on migraine frequency.

Psilocybin Mushroom Migraine
Photo: The Verge

While data up until recently has been anecdotal at-best, this new study involved a small trial of ten migraine sufferers, where some participants were given a placebo and others were given psilocybin over a total of two sessions. The participants were first asked to spend two weeks keeping a ‘headache diary,’ a practice that was maintained leading up to and following each session.

The author of the new study, Dr Emmanuelle Schindler, confirmed that psilocybin did have a profound impact in reducing the severity and frequency of migraines.

“Compared to placebo, a single administration of psilocybin reduced migraine frequency by about half over the two weeks measured,” he said in an email to New Atlas.

”In addition, when migraine attacks did occur in those two weeks, pain intensity and functional impairment during attacks were reduced by approximately 30 per cent each.”

Most interestingly, the results, published in the journal Neurotherapeutics, showed a lack of correlation between the strength of the psychedelic experience and the therapeutic effect.

Unlike psilocybin treatments for depression and addiction, which suggest that the intensity of the psychedelic experience impacts its therapeutic benefits, the migraine/psilocybin trial did not detect that association.

In fact, subjects who reported the high levels of altered consciousness showed smaller reductions in migraine frequency.

This means that the therapeutic effects of psilocybin can perhaps be achieved through microdosing, a practice where sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic substances are taken to improve creativity, mood, and general outlook.

“This is definitely a finding we’re interested in exploring further,” Dr Schindler said.

“If these outcomes are confirmed to be independent, it suggests that the migraine-suppressing effects do not involve the same systems that cause the acute changes in sensation and perception. Psilocybin has some chemical and pharmacological similarities to existing migraine medications that are not psychedelic, so we plan to investigate its therapeutic effect in this context.”

While the results are exciting, Dr Schindler warns that this was a small preliminary study, aimed at hopefully uncovering potential areas worth deeper investigation. Well, looks like she may have found some.

Not only do these new finding offer insight into how psychedelic compounds could help those suffering from debilitating migraines, but the study also sheds a fraction of light onto the unexplained physiological causes of chronic headache disorders.

Dr Schindler’s next migraine study is starting soon and will focus on longer follow-up periods and different dose effects. However, she also plans to investigate the effects of psilocybin on post-concussion headaches, which are similar to a migraine.

“I’m not aware of any other groups investigating psilocybin or related compounds in migraine, though cluster headache is currently being studied, not only by my group but also Swiss and Danish researchers,” she said.

So… perhaps Joe Rogan and his space aliens were onto something all along?