Psilocybin for Women: Nurturing a Holistic Approach to Well-being

Psilocybin for women is being explored for women's well-being, menstrual cycles, and more in this enlightening article. Find out more.
Psilocybin for Women. Photo of four women dressed in dusty blue flowy garments, wearing various fungi-shape hats.
Author: Alexandra Plesner
By Alexandra Plesner
Author: Milica Radovic-Mandic
By Milica Radovic-Mandic
September 20, 2023

Psilocybin, the naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in certain species of mushrooms, has gained significant attention in recent years for its potential therapeutic benefits. While research on psilocybin is evolving, we are interested in potential gender-based differences in its effects, its connection to the menstrual cycle, its use during pregnancy or breastfeeding/chestfeeding, and invaluable insights from indigenous wisdom.

Women’s health encompasses many physical, mental, and emotional aspects unique to their experiences. From menstrual health to reproductive well-being, women face a myriad of challenges that can impact their quality of life. Traditional approaches to women’s health often fail to address these complex needs comprehensively. Hence, there is a growing interest in exploring alternative avenues, such as psilocybin and other psychedelic medicines, as a potential tool for enhancing women’s health.

It is crucial to approach the topic of psilocybin for women and their health with cultural sensitivity, inclusivity, and respect. Acknowledging the importance of diverse perspectives and experiences is key to ensuring that psilocybin-based interventions are tailored to address the specific needs of the individual—woman or not.

Acknowledging women’s unique challenges, including pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, and menopause, it is crucial to recognize that traditional pharmaceutical research primarily focuses on male bodies. Unfortunately, the study of medication—including psychedelics like psilocybin—has not been an exception to this trend. Historically, the study of medication’s impact on women has been underrepresented and underfunded. This has led to a limited understanding of how medications affect women differently than men, particularly in the realm of psychedelics and their therapeutic potential. 

Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort to prioritize and fund research on women’s health, including exploring psychedelics. Little do we know about gender-based differences in psilocybin’s effects on women. Join us in an ongoing dialogue about this contemporary topic.

Gender-Based Differences in Psilocybin Effects

Research specifically focusing on gender-based differences in psilocybin effects remains limited. Most studies on psychedelics have not been designed to examine the potential variations in responses between men and women. As a result, the current understanding of how psilocybin affects women differently is largely based on anecdotal reports and observations. 

That said, some studies have examined the role of dose in relation to gender. One study published in 2014 found that female rats were more sensitive than male rats to the effects of psilocin, an active metabolite of psilocybin. The study used three different doses of psilocin (0.25, 1, and 4 mg/kg) and found that female rats showed greater behavioral changes than male rats at all three doses.

Another study published in 2021 examined the optimal dosing for psilocybin pharmacotherapy. The study considered weight-adjusted and fixed dosing approaches and found that a weight-adjusted dosing approach may be more appropriate for women. The study noted that women tend to have a lower body weight than men. Therefore, women may require a lower dose of psilocybin to achieve the desired therapeutic effects.

It is important to note that these studies were conducted on animals and may not necessarily translate to humans. Additionally, individual factors such as body weight, metabolism, and personal sensitivity to psilocybin can also influence the optimal dose for an individual, regardless of gender. To bridge the knowledge gap, it is imperative to promote gender-inclusive research in the field of psychedelics. By including a diverse range of study participants, researchers can capture a broader understanding of the effects of psilocybin, including potential gender-based differences.

Women’s Societal Expectations, Self-Esteem, and Body Image

Women frequently have certain social expectations and pressures that can negatively affect their perceptions of themselves and their bodies. Women always fight to live up to unattainable ideals because of societal conventions and media portrayals that frequently influence how they should act and look, contributing to anxiety, low self-worth, and feelings of inadequacy. Emerging research on psilocybin for women can provide them with a transformative route to break free from these expectations and embrace themselves.

How Society Shapes Esteem

There are four main social factors to look at regarding women’s self-esteem and body image:

  1. Unrealistic Beauty Standards: Women are constantly exposed to idealized and unreachable physique images in the media. These depictions might cause dissatisfaction with how they look, causing body image issues and low self-esteem.
  2. Societal Expectations: Women are frequently pressured to perform traditional roles and adhere to social norms, restricting their freedom and potential for personal development. Struggling to live up to these standards can undermine self-worth and confidence.
  3. Gender Bias and Discrimination: Women may experience biases and discrimination based on their gender in various spheres of life, such as relationships, jobs, and education. These events might have a detrimental effect on one’s self-esteem, reinforcing feelings of inadequacy.
  4. Internalized Stereotypes: Women are more likely to internalize societal messages that cast doubt on their worth, competence, and looks. These internalized prejudices can potentially alter opinions of oneself permanently.

Psilocybin-assisted treatment has been shown in studies to promote openness, foster a sense of community, and lessen anxiety and despair. Psilocybin also has the ability to induce altered states of consciousness, which enable users to perceive themselves and their surroundings differently. Women who encounter this shifted perspective can transcend their self-doubt and liberate themselves from the societal norms ingrained in their upbringing. Psilocybin-assisted therapy may encourage self-compassion and self-acceptance, assisting women in embracing their uniqueness and worthiness independent of cultural norms. Psilocybin experiences have been associated with higher emotions of empowerment and a sense of purpose, allowing women to confront limiting beliefs and develop more self-confidence.

Women face specific social factors that can profoundly impact their self-esteem and body image. Embracing self-acceptance and liberation from societal expectations are crucial steps toward empowering women. Psilocybin-assisted therapy offers a unique and potentially transformative approach, allowing women to break free from societal constraints and reconnect with their authentic selves.

Hormonal Fluctuations and Mental Health in Women

Anxiety, depression, and mood disorders are common mental health issues that disproportionately impact women. Due to hormonal changes, women are particularly susceptible to these illnesses throughout the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. Recent studies have looked into the effectiveness of psilocybin in treating mental health disorders. 

Mood changes during the menstrual cycle are caused by fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels. During pregnancy, women experience hormonal peaks and abrupt declines after giving birth that can lead to PTSD responses. During menopause, changes in estrogen levels impact the serotonin receptors in the brain and mood control. 

Women are more prone to thyroid hormone malfunction because of their particular hormonal makeup. The thyroid plays a crucial role in emotional health and women’s ability to regulate moods. Illnesses like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and other autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease, are more common in women than men. 

The Potential of Psilocybin

Psilocybin has demonstrated promise in treating anxiety and mood disorders. Psilocybin can help in mood disorders by altering states of consciousness that can encourage introspection and aid in treating underlying mental health challenges. Also, psilocybin may increase neuroplasticity, enabling the brain to make new connections and respond to emotional difficulties. Because of its potential to lessen the fight-or-flight response, psilocybin’s effects on the nervous system may help people who experience chronic stress. Psilocybin may also indirectly affect thyroid function by influencing serotonin receptors, which may assist people with thyroid issues to feel more stable in their moods. 

Women’s mood disorders, anxiety, and depression must be treated with a comprehensive strategy that considers the effects of hormonal changes. While more research is required, psilocybin therapy has the potential to provide these women with a cutting-edge and perhaps successful therapeutic option. Understanding how hormone imbalances, the neurological system, and psilocybin’s therapeutic effects interact may lead to novel treatments for mental illness and give women more control over their own emotional well-being.

Psilocybin for Women. Galactic star-like purple and grey background with a woman in greyscale holding hands to temples and a glowing white light shining from forehead. Purple glowing psilocybin mushrooms line the foreground.

Psilocybin and the Menstrual Cycle

The relationship between psilocybin and the menstrual cycle remains relatively unexplored. However, some women report that hormonal fluctuations can influence psilocybin experiences during their menstrual cycle. 

In her book “The Psilocybin Handbook for Women,” Jennifer Chesak explores case studies and anecdotal evidence that indicate the potential benefits of psilocybin in regulating irregular menstrual cycles. Furthermore, she highlights its potential effectiveness in addressing conditions such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), endometriosis, and menstrual migraines. In a recent interview, Chesak mentioned: “I am incredibly grateful to researchers Natalie Gukasyan, MD, and Sasha Narayan, MD, at Johns Hopkins, for their case study research on how psychedelics may affect the menstrual cycle. Although we need more research, case studies and anecdotal reports indicate that psilocybin may help to regulate the menstrual cycle if it has become irregular.”

How It Works

Estrogen levels impact binding at 5-HT2A receptor sites, which are the primary sites of action for psilocybin. Studies have indicated that estrogen has the ability to enhance the density of 5-HT2A binding sites in specific regions of the brain. These regions include the anterior frontal cortex, cingulate cortex, primary olfactory cortex, and the nucleus accumbens, which play crucial roles in regulating mood, mental state, emotion, cognition, and behavior. These findings offer insights into why medications that block 5-HT2A receptors (such as fluoxetine) and estrogen therapy have shown efficacy in alleviating symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. Sex hormones may play a role in how psilocybin affects us. However, there still needs to be robust scientific research on this topic.

One study published in 2021 examined the effects of classic psychedelics on menstrual and reproductive function. The study found that classic psychedelics, including psilocybin, can cause menstrual changes and even reverse amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) in some cases. However, the study was limited to a small case series, and more research is needed to fully understand the effects of psilocybin on the menstrual cycle.

Magic mushrooms, such as Psilocybe species, contain various compounds or alkaloids, including psilocybin and psilocin. In addition to psilocybin and psilocin, other alkaloids found in magic mushrooms include norbaeocystin, baeocystin, norpsilocin, and aeruginascin. The concept of the entourage effect suggests that these different compounds work together to produce specific outcomes. Barbara Bauer, former Editor and one of the founders of Psychedelic Science Review, suggests that “female hormones add another layer of complexity to the equation by exerting their effects on these receptors”.

What’s Needed Next

While anecdotal reports provide valuable insights, scientific research on the interplay between psilocybin and the menstrual cycle is limited. More rigorous studies are needed to understand the precise dynamics and potential therapeutic implications comprehensively. Controlled experiments that investigate the effects of psilocybin for women at different stages of the menstrual cycle can shed light on how hormonal fluctuations influence the subjective and objective aspects of the psychedelic experience.

Psilocybin Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding

Psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” is a psychedelic substance that has been used for centuries in spiritual and therapeutic contexts. However, limited research exists on the effects of psilocybin use during pregnancy or breastfeeding/chestfeeding. Due to the lack of comprehensive studies and potential risks, it is advisable for pregnant or breastfeeding/chestfeeding women to avoid psilocybin use. The safety of psilocybin during these critical stages remains uncertain, and it is crucial to prioritize the well-being of both the mother and the child.

The Challenge Ahead

Comprehensive studies examining the effects of psilocybin, specifically during pregnancy and breastfeeding/chestfeeding, are lacking. Due to legal and ethical considerations, conducting controlled studies involving pregnant or breastfeeding/chestfeeding women presents significant challenges. Consequently, the available scientific data on this topic is limited, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. According to a fact sheet from Mother to Baby, a non-profit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists service, there is no data on the effects of psilocybin use during pregnancy or breastfeeding/chestfeeding. The fact sheet advises pregnant or breastfeeding/chestfeeding women should avoid psilocybin use due to the lack of information on its safety. 

Without sufficient research, it is challenging to determine the safety profile of psilocybin during pregnancy and breastfeeding/chestfeeding. The primary concern lies in the potential risks associated with using psychedelics during these critical stages of development. Psilocybin affects serotonin receptors in the brain, potentially influencing the neurodevelopment of the fetus or the breastfed/chestfed infant. We know that substances crossing the placenta during pregnancy can potentially impact fetal development. It is unclear whether psilocybin crosses the placental barrier or how it may affect the developing fetus. The lack of knowledge regarding potential risks and long-term effects makes it advisable for pregnant individuals to avoid psilocybin use to ensure the health and well-being of the unborn child.

The Complexities of Breast Milk

It is understood that various drugs, including pharmaceuticals, consumed by breastfeeding mothers can be detected to some extent in breast milk. However, substances with a shorter half-life tend to be eliminated from the body more rapidly. The concentration of a drug in the mother’s blood plasma is directly related to the amount of the drug present in the milk, and the quantity of a drug that enters breast milk depends on the dose taken by the mother.

Adding further complexity, the composition of breast milk often varies within a single feeding. The early milk, known as foremilk, has a higher lactose content, while the later milk, known as hindmilk, contains more fat. Consequently, fat-soluble drugs may be present in higher concentrations in the latter part of feeding.

As per the findings of anthropologist and executive director of the Chacruna Institute, Dr. Bia Labate, some indigenous communities, such as the União do Vegetal and Santo Daime, have been reported to include pregnant and breastfeeding individuals in their ayahuasca ceremonies. These mothers consume smaller amounts than usual, and no published scientific reports indicate any toxicity from these practices.

With limited research available, the effects of psilocybin use during pregnancy and breastfeeding/chestfeeding remain uncertain. As a precautionary measure, it is advisable for pregnant and breastfeeding/chestfeeding individuals to avoid psilocybin use. The mother’s and child’s health and well-being should be prioritized.

Indigenous Wisdom, Women, and the Sacred Use of Psilocybin

Indigenous cultures have a rich history of utilizing psilocybin-containing mushrooms for spiritual and healing purposes. In many of these cultures, women have played a central role in using these substances. Their traditional wisdom offers invaluable insights into the responsible and respectful use of psilocybin. 

For centuries, indigenous cultures have used psilocybin-containing mushrooms for spiritual and healing purposes. In many of these cultures, women have played a central role in using these substances. For example, the Mazatec people of Mexico have a long history of using psilocybin mushrooms in their traditional healing practices, with women serving as the primary healers.

Collaborating with indigenous communities can enhance our understanding of psilocybin’s potential benefits while ensuring cultural sensitivity and inclusivity. For example, the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines aims to bridge ceremonial plant medicines and psychedelic science, placing social sciences and culture at the center of the conversation. The institute works with indigenous communities to honor their traditions and knowledge while advancing equity and access in psychedelic medicine.

Indigenous cultures possess a wealth of knowledge regarding the responsible and respectful use of psilocybin-containing mushrooms, particularly within the context of women’s spiritual and healing practices. By embracing indigenous wisdom, collaborating with these communities, and honoring their cultural practices, we can deepen our understanding of the potential benefits of psilocybin for women. 


Psilocybin, although a promising therapeutic agent, requires further research to address the specific considerations for women. Caution should be exercised when considering psilocybin use during pregnancy or breastfeeding/chestfeeding, and professional guidance is crucial. Exploring gender-based differences, understanding the potential interplay between psilocybin and the menstrual cycle, and incorporating indigenous wisdom can contribute to a holistic understanding of psilocybin’s effects on women. As research continues to evolve, it is essential to approach psilocybin use with care, respect, and a commitment to personal and collective well-being.

“My hope is that the concept of altered states of consciousness is accepted by society.” Amanda Fielding.

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Women’s Societal Expectations, Self-Esteem and Body Image

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Psilocybin and the Menstrual Cycle

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Psilocybin Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding

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The content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should be a substitute for medical or other professional advice. Articles are based on personal opinions, research, and experiences of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Support.

Published by:
Author: Alexandra Plesner
Alexandra Plesner
Alexandra, the co-founder and creative director of Psilocybin San Francisco, brings a decade of strategic design experience, having held key roles at agencies like Normally Ltd, Method Inc., and Dazed Media. With an MA in Design Studies and an MSc in Psychology focused on psychedelics, she combines creativity with scientific rigour. She explores the intersection of psychedelics, design, and human creativity.
Author: Milica Radovic-Mandic
Milica Radovic-Mandic
Milica is a passionate advocate for psychedelics' transformative potential, with a decade of exploration and an MSc in Psychology focused on Psilocybin. She founded Psilocybin San Francisco, an educational platform promoting informed psilocybin use and harm reduction. Fluent in five languages, she's an experienced event manager, TED licensee and a global volunteer, currently exploring psychedelics in San Francisco, where she resides.

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