Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Four Psilocybin-Containing Magic Mushroom Water Extracts in vitro on 15-Lipoxygenase Activity and on Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Cyclooxygenase-2 and Inflammatory Cytokines in Human U937 Macrophage Cells

J Inflamm Res. 2021 Aug 5:14:3729-3738. doi: 10.2147/JIR.S317182. eCollection 2021.


Purpose: During a pathological inflammation, macrophages are activated to produce accumulation of inflammatory mediators such as induced-cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), 15-lipoxygenase (15-LOX) and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Pathological inflammation is a significant problem in many chronic diseases. As a result, more research into natural remedies with anti-inflammatory potential is crucial. Since ancient times, psilocybin-containing mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms, were used for mind healing and also to advance the quality of life. However, not much is known about their anti-inflammatory potential. This study aimed at investigating the anti-inflammatory effects of four psilocybin-containing mushrooms (Panaeolus cyanescens, Psilocybe natalensis, Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe cubensis leucistic A+ strain) from genus Panaeolus and Psilocybe for the first time in vitro on 15-LOX activity and also on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation in human U937 macrophage cells.

Methods: Mushrooms were grown and extracted with boiling hot water. Effects of the four water extracts on 15-LOX activity were determined. Confluent human U937 cells were differentiated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and treated with the hot-water extracts (25 and 50 µg/mL) 2 hours before being stimulated with 1 µg/mL LPS over 24 hours. Quercetin was used as a positive control. Control cells were differentiated but not LPS-induced nor treated. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and IL-10 concentrations were measured. Levels of COX-2 and mitochondrial activity were also determined.

Results: The four water extracts had poor 15-LOX inhibition activity with IC50 > 250 µg/mL. Extracts were safe at the concentration studied and inhibited the LPS-induced production of pro-inflammatory mediators, TNF-α and IL-1β significantly and lowered IL-6 and COX-2 concentrations in treated human U937 macrophage cells. Water extracts also increased percentage viability of treated cells and levels of anti-inflammatory IL-10 non-significantly.

Conclusion: The study suggested that the hot-water extracts of the four psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms have potential anti-inflammatory effects executed by down-regulating pro-inflammatory mediators.

Keywords: 15-LOX; COX-2; Panaeolus cyanescens; Psilocybe cubensis; Psilocybe cubensis A+ strain; Psilocybe natalensis; pro-inflammatory cytokine.

Grants and funding

The study was funded by the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) and MJ Medtech Grants to S.M. Nkadimeng. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to publish the results.