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The resurgence of the modern psychedelic renaissance has revived critical interest in the novel therapeutic applications of numerous psychedelic compounds. Of these, Psilocybe Cubensis (more commonly known as the “magic mushroom”) has gained much attention recently for it’s effects at psychoactive doses (sufficient to produce a “trip”) as well the purported benefits of regularly ingesting much lower doses or “microdoses”. Perhaps even more interesting is the possibility of a synergistic “mycological entourage effect” of sorts (like the “entourage effect” exhibited by cannabis) that can be achieved by combining, or “stacking” magic mushrooms with other medicinal mushrooms such as Lion’s Mane and other compounds to boost their activity. Indeed, this is the intention of world renowned mycologist Paul Stamets as he intends to launch a nootropic supplement line for psilocybin microdosers that he claims can help humanity make the next “leap in human consciousness”. As research into psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and their applications at low dosages continues, this guide aims to offer appropriate historical context and an evidence-based review of microdosing psilocybin as well as explore the novel Stamets microdosing “stack” and it’s potential implications on humanity.

 

 

 

microdosing psilocybin psilocybe cubensis psychedelic science

What is Microdosing?

 Microdosing is the practice of ingesting a below-threshold, sub-perceptive dosage of a hallucinogenic substance, sometimes in tandem with other compounds to create a synergistic effect. At these levels, the psychoactive effects of these compounds are generally too subtle to be detected by the users conscious awareness, yet are still reported to enhance the senses and provide numerous other physical and mental benefits.[1] For psilocybin, a tenth of a gram still facilitates positive effects, and for LSD, around 10 micrograms seems to be enough exhibit positive physical and mental effects as well. Currently, clinical research into microdosing psychedelic compounds is limited and ongoing. Nevertheless, the enormous amount of anecdotal reporting continues to rise and is supported by the established benefits studied at full doses or “trip doses” (a dose sufficiently high enough to produce the characteristic hallucinogenic/entheogenic effects of that particular psychedelic compound). Thus, the available evidence warrants large-scale, double-blind, placebo controlled randomized trials to fully uncover and establish the physiological and psychological benefits microdosing has to offer.

microdose psilocybin psilocybe cubensis

The “Stoned Ape Theory” Proposes Mushrooms Helped Human Brains Evolve 

While microdosing with psychedelic compounds has gained much of its recent popularity through Silicon Valley techies, early humans may indeed have been consuming small quantities (or “microdoses”) of magic mushrooms to possibly improve their eyesight, gain extra energy and increase their stamina when hunting. Indeed, this is a fundamental crux of the “Stoned Ape theory” posited by the renowned brothers, Dennis and Terrence McKenna, that argues early humans were able to make their dramatic “leap in consciousness” due to the positive effects on neurogenesis and neural plasticity exhibited by various mushrooms—especially psychedelic ones. The world renowned mycologist Paul Stamets does state that while the theory is more accurately a “hypothesis” since it lacks empirical evidence to back it up, there is significant merit to it even though we are unable to test it. Indeed, the current practice of Silicon Valley techs microdosing to reportedly ramp up their productivity, creativity and overall enhance their cognition harkens back to the “Stoned Ape Theory” whereby early humans used low doses of psilocybin to improve their hunting abilities. While the connection between mushrooms and their relationship to human evolution runs deep and spans millennia, their more recent emergence of psilocybin in the West can be partially attributed to prominent figures like Robert Wasson that sought out the magic mushroom and detailed their experiences for the Western audience.

microdosing psilocybin psilocybe cubensis psychedelic science

Robert Wasson: How Psilocybin Made Its Way to the West

It would be remiss in this discussion not to briefly consider the first Westerner to share his experience of consuming Psilocybe Cubensis and the impact it had on raising awareness about the mushroom in the Western world. Thus, the prominent VP of Public Relations at J.P. Morgan & Co., Robert Wasson, and his role in sharing his firsthand experience in consuming psilocybin shrooms to the West through his encounters with Mazatec shamans cannot be understated.

 

Through his course of CIA funded research, the accomplished ethnomycologist and author made significant strides in raising awareness of the psilocybin mushroom’s powerful therapeutic potential. In his 1957 photo essay “Seeking the Magic Mushroom”, Wasson describes his fateful 1955 journey to Oaxaca, Mexico where he partook in a sacred Mazatec ritual where he consumed the mushroom with indigenous tribesmen in ceremony. Replete with photos from the famous Allan Richardson of several mushroom species identified by the then director of the French National Museum of History, Roger Heim, Wasson became one of the first Westerners to share a firsthand account of the profound experience using the sacred mushroom with the Western world. Wasson’s account was powerful and compelling, influencing iconic figures in the psychedelic movement to travel to Mexico in search of this mushroom, including the legendary  and estranged Harvard Professor, Dr. Timothy Leary.[2]

 

These events would ultimately snowball into the beginnings of groundbreaking psychedelic research into these compounds which, after an unfortunate period of prohibition, are finally beginning to resurface in our world today.

microdosing psilocybin psilocybe cubensis psychedelic science

A Note About Current Psychedelic Research

 Indigenous cultures have aligned their traditions around the powerful potential of medicinal mushrooms for millennia while scientific research is finally starting to catch up. Some of the most promising research revolves around the ability of psychedelics like psilocybin to promote functional and structural neuronal plasticity (e.g. the ability of the brain to form new neural connections is heightened).[3] Specifically, psilocybin (the active compound in magic mushrooms) has been shown to cause neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a part of the brain integral to learning and memory.[4]

 

Furthermore, psilocybin has been shown to modulate the parts of the brain that process fear and it is very likely this is responsible for the remarkable effects seen in patients with life-threatening cancer who overcome their fear of death.[5] Such evidence regarding the neurological benefits of these mushrooms certainly offer support to the “Stoned Ape theory” as it’s possible the enhanced emotional intelligence and reduced fear response garnered from taking such mushrooms may have catalyzed the formation of leaders among groups of early humans, helping the species advance over other species in the animal kingdom.

 

Today, current research shows immense promise and clinical utility of psilocybin in the treatment of mental health.[6] A first of its kind, the John Hopkins University Center for Psychedelic Research has been a pioneering force in psilocybin’s efficacy in the treatment of a variety of neurological disorders.[7] These studies show remarkable effects from large doses of psilocybin, but what about microdosing? Studies are limited, but anecdotal reports and self-reporting from the first clinical trial are indeed very promising.

microdosing psilocybin psilocybe cubensis psychedelic science

A Clinical Snapshot of Microdosing Today

 Today, everyone from the pioneering Silicon Valley techs to spiritualists and patients suffering from a variety of mental health conditions are looking to psychedelics and microdosing in particular, to improve their lives. While clinical research is still in the early days for microdosing studies, trials are underway and early results show positive reported results from participants, however, they were unrelated to the observed pattern of reported outcomes.[8]

 

Notably, another 2019 study stated that subjects who were microdosing reported “improved mood (26.6%) and focus (14.8%), and in terms of challenging outcomes, such as physiological discomfort (18.0%) and increased anxiety (6.7%).”[1] Combined with the available research regarding “trip” doses, this plethora of positive anecdotal and subject reported data about microdosing strongly calls for large scale, gold-standard clinical trials into the clinical utility of microdosing psychedelics.

 

Paul Stamets is certainly one to get behind the massive potential microdosing psilocybin for humanity with his newly patented psilocybin microdosing “stack”.

microdosing psilocybin psilocybe cubensis psychedelic science

Paul Stamets on “Stacking” Supplements for an Optimal Microdosing Experience

 

While different protocols for “stacking”, or the use of different substances to synergize and promote the beneficial properties of complementary compounds in a formula, exist, a true focus should be placed on psilocybin. In particular, a recently patented formula by Paul Stamets calls for the addition of both Lion’s Mane mushroom and niacin, or vitamin B3 to create, in essence, a mycological entourage effect between the medicinal mushrooms and an overall synergy among the compounds in the formula.

 

Lion’s Mane is a medicinal (non-hallucinogenic) mushroom which has legitimate, neuroprotective qualities, promotes the production of nerve growth factor, and is considered a nootropic within brain-hacking communities, aiding in the relief of depression and anxiety.[9] Interestingly, the pharmacological action of Psilocybe cubensis (“magic mushrooms”) is such that it substitutes for serotonin (5HT) in the brain and acts as a more effective neurotransmitter thus activating neurogenesis, forming new neurons and subsequently, new pathways of knowledge.[4] Indeed, Stamets advocates for the benefits of this combination, claiming it optimal in achieving maximal benefits from the mushrooms.

microdosing psilocybin psilocybe cubensis psychedelic science

The “Mycological Entourage Effect” Expanded & The Role of Niacin in Stamets’ “Stack”

 In combination with the neurogenerative properties of Psilocybe cubensis, Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) helps to create a synergistic interaction that helps to boost the benefits of both substances (similar to the “entourage effect” of the Cannabis plant). The addition of niacin, as per Stamets’ suggestion, is two-pronged. The first benefit is associated with its propensity to create a “flush”—at around a 100mg dosage, the body will visibly become red, and substantially itchy, as well.

 

This is borderline uncomfortable, but tends to last only from ten to twenty minutes. The flush is actually a stimulation of the peripheral nerves within the nervous system, and combined with a small dosage of psilocybin and the stacked Lion’s Mane, arguably boosts the overall neurogenerative effects. Additionally, if this eventually becomes a mainstream, prescribed type of medication, (Stamets is generally one to look ahead toward the realm of patentability, while also considering safety and pragmatism), the niacin would discourage abuse. If someone were looking to get high, taking enough of these combined, encapsulated stacks would equate to a very high dosage of niacin, causing much greater overall discomfort.

microdosing psilocybin psilocybe cubensis psychedelic science

More Research Into Microdosing Is Currently Underway

The benefits of microdosing are still being studied, but users often report an increased level of empathy, anxiolytic effects, and a disruption of normal thought loops, leading to increased creativity and the ability to tackle problems from a novel perspective. It is this element of novelty that seems to be enticing Silicon Valley, with the industry of computer coding implementing microdosing to view coding difficulties from new perspectives. Additionally, artists of all mediums are on the forefront, using these substances to add new dimensions to their artistic endeavors.

 

Future Implications of Psilocybin Microdosing on the World at Large

 With the relaxing legality surrounding psychedelics, microdosing is becoming a legitimate means to personally address behavioral issues, boost creativity, add increased levels of compassion to human interaction, and challenge societal norms. The research is clear that magic mushrooms have profound neurological effects that have been studied and found to be therapeutic (such as that of neurogenesis and rewiring the fear pathway).  With the renowned mycologist Stamets aiming to launch his Microdosing psilocybin “stack” as a mainstream supplement to benefit the masses, could the world at large truly be on the brink of making a “quantum leap in consciousness”, as described by Stamets himself? This clinical biologist and science writer certainly hopes so and is eager to see what the new research uncovers. Until then, citizens of the US and those of the world are adding to the anecdotal evidence that microdosing has real, legitimate benefits that should not be ignored, but rather embraced and celebrated.

 

If you like great mushroom content like this, you’ll love our upcoming Mushroom Conference (MushCon for short)! Make sure to get your tickets here to get the deepest insights from leading mushroom experts. 

Works Cited

 

  1.     Anderson, T. et al. Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook. Harm. Reduct. J.16, (2019).
  2.     Hippies Flocking to. Mexico for Mushroom ‘Trips’ – The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1970/07/23/archives/hippies-flocking-to-mexico-for-mushroom-trips.html.
  3.     Ly, C. et al. Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity. Cell Rep. 23, 3170–3182 (2018).
  4.     Catlow, B. J., Song, S., Paredes, D. A., Kirstein, C. L. & Sanchez-Ramos, J. Effects of psilocybin on hippocampal neurogenesis and extinction of trace fear conditioning. Exp. Brain Res. 228, 481–491 (2013).
  5.     Griffiths, R. R. et al. Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. J. Psychopharmacol. Oxf. Engl. 30, 1181–1197 (2016).
  6.     Daniel, J. & Haberman, M. Clinical potential of psilocybin as a treatment for mental health conditions. Ment. Health Clin. 7, 24–28 (2018).
  7.     Johns Hopkins launches center for psychedelic research | Hub. https://hub.jhu.edu/2019/09/04/hopkins-launches-psychedelic-center/.
  8.     Polito, V. & Stevenson, R. J. A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics. PLoS ONE 14, (2019).
  9. Li, I.-C. et al. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav. Neurol.2018, (2018).