Peering up behind prehistoric mosses, a vast network of medicinal fungus has been growing on Earth for 800 million years before anything resembling a human came along. Only now are we beginning to truly understand and harness the medicinal benefits. What we learn next could revolutionize the physical and mental health industries.
Maryam Marissen, Chief Executive Officer of Doseology, a Canadian life-science company focused on health solutions around mushrooms both functional and therapeutic, says it’s time for people to get excited.
Without a doubt, mushrooms have been used as medicine in ancient cultures for centuries. The day-to-day benefits of medicinal mushrooms are now being adapted by western culture into consumer products like coffees, teas, and a line of mushroom-focused supplements like the ones produced by Doseology, created with the general public in mind.
In the midst of a pandemic, many are considering the efficacy of alternative health therapies like never before in modern history. Marissen agrees, “More and more people are turning inward, and they’re asking themselves, ‘Do I have all that I need to thrive, and if I don’t, what are the solutions?’” Mushrooms used as supplements whet the appetite of biohackers and health enthusiasts alike.
Beyond manufacturing mushroom-related consumer products, Doseology is also researching the benefits of psychedelic mushrooms for mental health. Although many people currently associate shrooms with recreational and illegal use, Marissen believes that the future of the mushroom industry is in medicinal products and mental health therapies, not recreational usage.
Marissen has a personal connection to her company’s mission, which explains her passion for advocating new mental health solutions. She came to her home in Canada as a refugee when she was nine years old, and as an adult found that the trauma she experienced in her early life needed to be addressed. Her mental health journey presented an opportunity to take a low dose of psilocybin—a psychedelic compound produced by some mushrooms. One single session had a great impact on her functioning and productivity, and she immediately started thinking of the implications for others who had experienced similar trauma.
“I saw this could have so much potential, not just for me but for others too, and that we needed to look at this further.”
It’s the purview of molecular biologists to study psychedelic mushroom compounds like psilocybin, which touts incredible potential benefits for those who have extreme mental health disorders like major depression.
The belief is that these mushroom-derived psychedelic compounds can affect the structures of the brain responsible for depression, anxiety, and other illnesses. That, coupled with more traditional therapy, means a patient could go from having a dysregulated nervous system to potentially addressing the root of their disorder.
Marissen believes that the psychedelic compounds in mushrooms will not replace the current medicines prescribed to people with mental health issues but will be another tool in the toolbox for clinicians can offer.
“It’s not about mitigating symptoms,” Marissen claims. “It targets your past experiences, your trauma, and allows you to undergo this integrative therapy that works toward the root causes that are more based on your experiential background as well as your physiology.”
Bans on psychedelic mushroom research since the ’60s have severely hampered the ability of scientists to study psilocybin and related compounds for these uses. Clouds have been lifting with recent legislation in both the U.S. and Canada, although obtaining access to the compounds still proves to be a challenge for researchers.
Although the research that would allow mass usage is still far away, the mental health industry is already primed for psychedelics to fit seamlessly into therapeutic interventions because of the rise in popularity of experiential therapies like Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming (EMDR), and Eye Movement Integration (EMI).
These processes involve a licensed therapist who focus a client on a negative circulated belief. They gently guide the client through their past experiences, releasing the root cause of the negative belief, and replacing it with a more empowering one. This type of intervention alone has been very successful in patients with forms of PTSD, but there remain one in three people who are resistant to any form of treatment because of the extent of their trauma, according to Marissen.
“If you look at the bigger picture, a lot of our mental health societal issues are really because there is a huge gap in patients who have unmet needs with current therapies. And it drives this mission to invest all this time and resources into the potential of these drugs to become new solutions for those who have not had success with anything else out there.”
So what about patients who have mild mental health disorders but are stable in their cognitive function? Might psychotropic mushrooms have a place in their mental health routine?
Marissen says we are still far away from all the implications of what mushrooms and other psychedelics can do for us. The first priority in its clinical application is increasing the safety of the compounds, then isolating their beneficial aspects and reducing side effects, and seeing how they can be implemented into medically supervised treatment programs. But beyond that, she is hopeful the general public will be able to incorporate safely-researched psychedelic mushrooms into their life strictly as medicine.
“Whatever the outcome [of the research] is, I only see it as being positive across the board. We are dealing with plants and species that have been here longer than we have. There’s a level of intelligence in them that I think we can fully tap into and that can bring profound benefits to us as a human species undergoing overwhelming forces of change.”
It could be that the Earth was pre-populated with organic substances that could cure any ailment if used properly, and our science is still catching up with that natural wisdom. While we don’t know the full potential of what fungus can do for us, the future looks promising.
This article is opinion and not a substitute for professional advice. Disclaimer