How Mushrooms Can Save the World with Paul Stamets: A Review

By Sheida Livai

Mycologist Paul Stamets Hints at the Revolution That Will Move Humans to a Higher State of Consciousness

Hosted by DoubleBlind, a live session took place only a few days after drug reform won a clean sweep in the US election. Attendees were eager to hear from the renowned mycologist who has carried the psychedelic torch for decades.

Throughout the interview, Stamets shared insights on how to move forward with legalization and the widespread use of medicinal mushrooms in an ethical and sustainable way. He also gave the audience an inside look at some fascinating data emerging from his research in partnership with several universities, including UBC, Harvard, and WSU. He spoke with a hint of mystery and excitement in his voice about what’s to come.

Paradigm-Shifting Breakthroughs

While there is reasonable fear around which mushrooms help you and which ones harm you, Stamets reminded us that humans are descendants of fungi, making our evolutionary separation from them 650 million years ago.

Mushrooms are just compacted mycelium,” Stamets said with a smile. Mycelium has an innate immune system that humans have been using as medicine since before the dawn of civilization.

While ancient cultures have known about the medicinal effects of forest fungi for decades, they’re now being confirmed by scientific studies, and Stamets said these findings not only benefit humans; they show that mycelium are “essential to the health of the ecosystems they reside in.”

Lion’s Mane for the Brain

When it comes to neurodegenerative decline with age, Stamets reminded the audience that it is an inevitability of life.

There is now plenty of strong scientific evidence supporting the ability of Lion’s mane for slowing down neurological decline, and clinical studies showing the efficacy of lion’s mane for treating depression and anxiety. Beyond the disease framework, lion’s mane has even been shown to cause an increase in cognitive function, a key piece of the consciousness-shift Stamets believes we are due for. He said there is an enormous body of intellectual knowledge being lost due to neurodegenerative diseases, and he passionately expressed the importance of protecting it.

Lion’s mane. Photo: Henk Monster

Microdosing for Mental Health

Last year, Stamets launched microdosed.me, a UBC Behavioural Research Ethics approved study to determine the effect of psilocybin microdosing on mental health, especially depression and anxiety. Over 14,000 people have signed up to have their anonymous (and protected) data analyzed.

With 100 non-microdosers signed up as a comparative, the free app tested a range of markers, from memory to hearing and eyesight. It also gauged neurological health using a tapping game to measure and track reaction times. With such a huge dataset, Stamets was able to give the audience a preview of his incredible findings so far.

Even with a high variability of factors, Stamets and his team found a level of statistical significance in the data that strongly supports the efficacy of microdosing for improving mood and mind states. He aims to publish three (30, 60, 90 day) research papers, with the first coming soon.

Natural Science of Synergy

While bioactive polysaccharides in mushrooms called beta-glucans have been touted as being “essential for immune-stimulating activity” in the body, Stamets argues that this is old science. Since manufacturers can only patent what they are able to isolate and synthesize, there is no business advantage to conducting scientific research on whole plants and fungi.

He said “the immune system is activated multi-factorially by many components in mushrooms” and that these “work synergistically to optimize health,” pointing to the scientific literature.

Mushrooms offer complexity that the body can select from, pulling out constituents that work together to target a particular issue.

Transparency From Manufacturers 

There is growing concern around mass commercialization and commoditization of medicinal mushrooms, which stems from a rightfully diminished trust in large corporations.

While the widespread demand for psychedelics has made way for opportunists to weasel their way into the market, Stamets made several suggestions on how the industry can mitigate risk and operate ethically moving forward.

He said that companies may not want to divulge information about their suppliers, and stressed that “not knowing the source of your mushrooms” is a risky game to play with your health. Companies must be 100% clear on what their product contains, and if one or two characters make anyone sick with contaminated mushrooms, it puts the entire industry at risk.

Making the Quantum Leap

Stamets put forth the notion that we are due for yet another evolutionary shift in human consciousness, and as a proponent of the Stoned Ape Hypothesis, he believes a powerful combination of constituents may get us there.

 

Stamets shared a fascinating hypothesis emerging from his own research, suggesting that stacking psilocybin with niacin (B3) and Lion’s mane has the potential to unlock parts of human consciousness that we haven’t yet been able to explore.

He noted that the niacin produces an intense dermal flush and itching, so people are less likely to abuse it recreationally and more likely to use it therapeutically.

Cultivating Unity Through Purpose

As the 90-minute interview came to a close, DoubleBlind posed a final question to Stamets, one he is all too familiar with: How will mushrooms save the world? 

His short answer: by bringing people together.

Mushrooms can help us overcome the fears that divide us. By upholding values of the psychedelic community, being transparent, ethical, and keeping it out of the hands of big pharma, we are able to create a pathway toward greater accountability.

I take this responsibility very seriously,” Stamets said. He hopes to open a B Corporation in the near future and make medicine available to the masses.

For people who are interested in learning more about the power of mushrooms and read up on the latest scientific studies, see Stamets’s database of research articles.

A revolution is happening from the underground.

It is now time for us as human beings to move to a higher state of consciousness,” Stamets said, with a calmness and assurance on his face that hinted at something profound on the horizon.

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