Written by Ella Sky-Conroy
Artwork by Nekema
Have you ever been told that you are genetically similar to a banana?
Don’t worry, I’m not about to try to convince you that you may or may not be 13% tropical fruit.
Another question though, have you ever lost a loaf at the bottom of the bread basket and three weeks later had to fish out a green and purple tinted lump that once had toast potential?
We humans have an exceptionally complex relationship with fungus – they carry us through both good and ill health, whether we are conscious of it or not. Our skin, mouth and organs are home to numerous different strains of fungus. We are covered in them, inside and out. That mouldy multigrain? That’s basically us.
Mushrooms aren’t considered plants, animals or minerals. They belong to the kingdom of fungi. Since they breathe, taking in oxygen and exhaling carbon- dioxide, it truly can be said that we are like mushrooms, or that mushrooms are just like us…whichever resonates with you more. Interestingly, scientists actually deem the genetic composition of mushrooms to be more similar to us humans than any other plant. Through our breath we take in the new and exhale the old, constantly reconnecting and exchanging the energy around us. Either way, human or fungi, we breathe.
Let’s take Reishi. If you haven’t heard of this little guy before, Ganoderma Lingzhi(this term derives from a mixture of Japanese/Chinese definitions meaning “miraculous mushroom”) is a fungus which plays a very important role in Asian traditional medical systems for it’s health enhancing properties. As an alchemical health tonic and indeed a deep psychedelic, Reishi is said to have the ability to help us expand our consciousness and reach a deeper mythic state of being, asOne Willow Apothecaries puts it. Reishi is also a Shen expander, widening the spiritual elements of our psyches. Although much softer and actually subtler than the compound of psilocybin itself, Reishi has the potentiality to shift or even recalibrate our perception of reality, offering us a step into an altered state of being. Those having integrated Reishi into their life have reported “feelings of expansion” as well as “interconnection” and a “shimmering reality”. Going through a shift in experience, either through adaptogenic or psilocybin mushrooms, is without a doubt emotionally liberating. Although this experience can provoke both negative and positive thoughts, they are nevertheless often reported to be euphoric. This mushroom is considered an entheogen (Tierney 2010), which allows us a spiritual enhancement; a re-ignition of our souls.
Lion’s mane also has a space under the spotlight on the great stage of medicinal mushrooms. The “Stamets Stack” (introduced by Paul Stamets) mothers the idea of “stacking” both psilocybin and adaptogenic mushrooms together within minute, single doses, thus providing no stereotypical “trip” often associated with psilocybin itself. This is called a nootropic stack, and is essentially a cocktail of cognitive enhancers. Psilocybin, Lion’s Mane and niacin are the three ingredients in this specific cocktail. Stamets claims these substances to have a “harmonious and complimentary” relationship with each other. Lion’s Mane has the ability to promote cognitive clarity as well fighting inflammation and oxidative stress throughout the body. Psilocybin promotes courage and enhances empathy, much like the heart opening Chaga. Finally, niacin (better known as Vitamin B3) acts as the perfect messenger. This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant and is vital for signalling between nerve cells. Combining these two marvellous mushrooms along with the niacin produces a strong capacity to both “create new neutrons and neural pathways” but to also repair pre-existing neurological damage. The capacity of this “stack” was illustrated through a truly eye opening experiment in which scientists artificially induced dementia-like symptoms in mice through the introduction of a neurotoxin. Afterwards, they then introduced lion’s mane alone – without psilocybin or niacin – and the effects of the neurotoxin on the mice practically reversed. Stamets claims that micro-dosing psilocybin and combining it with an adaptogen such as lion’s mane holds the “potential to ignite the next quantum leap in human consciousness”. That’s quite a statement, Stamets!