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A Single Dose of Psilocybin May Provide Lasting Effects for Migraines

January 5, 2021 05:00 pm ET
A Single Dose of Psilocybin May Provide Lasting Effects for Migraines

Those of you who have had a migraine before will know that it is much more than pain. Cannabis has shown to have properties that can alleviate the symptoms of this disabling condition but now a study has shown that a single dose of psilocybin could provide long-lasting therapeutic benefits. Migraine treatments can often be unsuccessful so the fact that cannabis and psilocybin present as potentially effective treatments is quite important for those in need of relief. That being said, let’s have a look at the study which found the promise of psilocybin for long-lasting therapeutic benefits. 

Psilocybin is Illegal but Research is in Progress

Psilocybin is the psychoactive compound found in certain mushrooms, which is also why these mushrooms are often referred to as “magic” mushrooms, shrooms, or even liberty caps. The substance is historically used as entheogens in ceremonies and spiritual practices. Psilocybin is still illegal throughout much of the world but fortunately, there is a rising force of support and increases in research in order to improve the chances of legalization.

If you would like to learn more about psilocybin and how one could combine the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and cannabis, be sure to check out this article

Researching Psilocybin for Migraines

A team of researchers had their study published in Neurotherapeutics where they explored the migraine-suppressing effects of psilocybin. While psilocybin consumers can attest to the therapeutic effects of the substance, science has yet to support many of the claims.

This study is the first to make use of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design in order to assess the early feasibility of psilocybin for migraines (5). A double-blind study is when neither the participants nor the researchers know whether the placebo and actual substance is being administered to each participant. The placebo-controlled part of the study means that the researchers are using a substance with no effect as well as the actual substance in order to see if the psilocybin actually has an effect (3). The crossover part means the subjects were initially given a placebo and then transitioned to psilocybin.

Emmanuelle Schindler, the study’s first author, explained in an interview that “as a headache medicine physician, I see the need for a better understanding of headache disorders, including migraine, and the need for more treatment options. I’ve also studied the neuropharmacology of psychedelics for a number of years and appreciate their ability to help us understand more about the workings of the human brain (2).” 

Schindler goes on to state that when she learned that “patients with certain headache disorders reported lasting improvements after just a single or few doses of psilocybin or other psychedelics.” This made her wonder “whether these drugs couldn’t help us better understand the underlying pathology in headache disorders, as well as serve as a new form of treatment (2).”

The study involved seven women and three men who frequently experienced migraines. The participants received a placebo at first, though no one knew this at the time (5). They then moved on to consuming low doses of psilocybin; both of which were capsules. The participants also maintained a diary to document their migraines and began doing so two weeks after the first capsule was administered and two weeks after the active dose of psilocybin. 

The researchers found that psilocybin was associated with reductions in pain severity as well as improving the functional impairments commonly associated with migraines. Schindler told PsyPost that “This study is very preliminary and does not serve as a guide for how to manage migraine with psilocybin, but it does offer some important information (2).” During this interview, Schindler clarified that it was not a single episode of migraine that was being studied, but rather the disorder. She also explained that the doses of psilocybin were minimal and that the participants did not have any psychedelic experiences. 

The participants only received psilocybin once during the study but had continued to provide relief similar to the effect of taking a daily preventive medication (5). Considering the small dose with long-lasting effects, the reduction in pain, and improvement in functioning, Schindler stated that “there is no other oral treatment that can do this (2).”

A different study by Schindler was published in 2015 and found that psilocybin was also effective against a disorder called cluster headache – which is significantly painful (6). In this study, Schindler explained that lower doses were not only used and effective but were also preferred by the patients who expressed a dislike for taking higher doses. 

More Supporting Research is Needed

While small doses of psilocybin are reported to be effective with long-lasting therapeutic effects, there is much that still needs to be understood. This includes the likes of different doses and their safety when being consumed on a recurring basis as well as any potential variances amongst the magic mushroom strains, in case there is any significant factor. 

Self-medicating with psychedelics can be dangerous which is why we recommend that you only treat yourself with psilocybin under the treatment plan of a professional. If you are in a location where you are allowed to consume psilocybin, consider doing so by microdosing. This is when you consume low doses more frequently (i.e daily). It is also important to remember that the jury is still out on many important aspects of using psilocybin as a treatment, despite the plenty of promising anecdotal reports.


Note: Veriheal does not support illegally consuming therapeutic substances like psilocybin magic mushrooms but acknowledges that it transpires because of the current illicit status, which we strive to change by advocating for research, legal access, and responsible consumption. Always consult a physician before attempting alternative therapies.

1. DEA. (n.d.). Psilocybin fast facts – U.S. department of justice. Retrieved January 1, 2022, from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs6/6038/6038p.pdf 

2. Dolan, E. W. (2021, May 18). A single dose of psilocybin has a lasting therapeutic effect on migraine headache, according to a new placebo-controlled study. PsyPost. Retrieved January 1, 2022, from https://www.psypost.org/2021/05/a-single-dose-of-psilocybin-has-a-lasting-therapeutic-effect-on-migraine-headache-according-to-a-new-placebo-controlled-study-60793 

3. Hallingberg, B., Turley, R., Segrott, J. et al. Exploratory studies to decide whether and how to proceed with full-scale evaluations of public health interventions: a systematic review of guidance. Pilot Feasibility Stud 4, 104 (2018). https://pilotfeasibilitystudies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40814-018-0290-8

4. Psychedelics Legalization & Decriminalization tracker. Psilocybin Alpha. (2021, December 31). Retrieved January 1, 2022, from https://psilocybinalpha.com/data/psychedelic-laws 

5. Schindler, E.A.D., Sewell, R.A., Gottschalk, C.H. et al. Exploratory Controlled Study of the Migraine-Suppressing Effects of Psilocybin. Neurotherapeutics 18, 534–543 (2021). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13311-020-00962-y

6. Schindler, E. A., Gottschalk, C. H., Weil, M. J., Shapiro, R. E., Wright, D. A., & Sewell, R. A. (2015). Indoleamine hallucinogens in cluster headache: Results of the Clusterbusters Medication Use Survey. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 47(5), 372–381. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02791072.2015.1107664 

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Content Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Abraham Benavides, MD
Content Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Abraham Benavides, MD

Contributors: Sarah Walker
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