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paul stamets and psilocybin mushrooms
DoubleBlind Mag
paul stamets and psilocybin mushrooms

Inside Paul Stamets’ Massive Microdosing Study

"We now know that psilocybin mushroom microdosing works. It is indisputable that there are benefits." —Stamets

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Updated August 25, 2022

DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here.

Very few mycologists can match the multidisciplinary chops of Paul Stamets. Not only has the former logger become a prolific author of respected papers on mushroom science, but he’s bridged the gap between academia and public awareness with a suite of mind-expanding TED Talks, consumer mushroom blends, and books, including Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Save the World, Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World, Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, The Mushroom Cultivator, and most recently, Fantastic Fungi. He’s a central voice in the accompanying Netflix film of the same name.

While visiting the remote Canadian island of Desolation Sound, British Columbia, Stamets called in [2020] for an intimate conversation with DoubleBlind Magazine. He reveals the details of his daily routine and mushroom regimen, his perspective on the current tension between decriminalization activists and indigenous peoples, his ambitious plans for a microdosing business, and his vision for the mushroom movement’s social revolution. 

This interview was edited by Beckett Mufson for brevity and clarity.

DoubleBlind: What does a day in the life of Paul Stamets look like?

Paul Stamets: I wake up early—usually at three in the morning—and then I’m in this state between being conscious and asleep. I’ve been having lucid dreams a lot lately. Oftentimes, I have these epiphanies of nonlinear thinking. Before I think about the day, these synaptic junctions spark on. My best ideas have come in that dream state. 

Next, I get up. I love coffee, so I have a double shot of espresso and then I do push-ups. I did 105 push-ups this morning. I’ve been doing them since I was 18, and I do them four or five days a week. Then I get up, take a shower, and go check out my cultures. Then, invariably, I end up in my emails and getting ready and doing my normal rituals. 

In the afternoon, I go out into the woods. At three o’clock every day, that’s my cut-off. I try not to have anything scheduled from three o’clock on so I can mountain bike, or work in the garden or the woods. 

I’ve been in a bubble since March 5. I’ve seen three people with some regularity. We take COVID tests so we can be normal and have dinner together. But I really miss hugging people. 

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There’s very little COVID up here in Canada. If you look at the COVID maps, Canada has done a fantastic job. They take the science seriously. I respect all people’s political beliefs, but I do want to say there is now a spreading of joy, of happiness throughout the United States and around the world. We are now restoring our priorities back to civility and respect for multi-ethnicity. This is what makes the world better: having this diversity of individuals and cultures. 

And it’s been a friggin’ Twilight Zone for a lot of us for the past four or five years. So I’m hoping this is a lesson on how not to act. I hope to return, not just prior to this last administration—it’s now for us to really ascend as human beings to a higher state of consciousness. I think the mushroom movement is representative of a hunger for a community of individuals who collectively come together to make a fabric of shared consciousness. We have the opportunity for a paradigm shift in the evolution of the human species.

Wow, there are so many threads there we can follow, but that was beautifully said. Let’s start with a little more on how you use mushrooms in your every day. Do you put Chaga in your coffee? 

I’m a smoothie drinker. I have a smoothie with blueberries, almond milk, yogurt, Lion’s Mane, and a seven species mushroom mix. Then I alternate Turkey Tail or Chaga. Lion’s Mane by far is the most well-substantiated mushroom that not only causes neurogenesis, but that clinical studies have shown slows down the inevitable decline of neuro-degeneration with age.

Read: Our Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms

What is the difference between your microdosing protocol and the Fadiman Protocol? 

Microdosing, by definition, is sub-sensory. If you take psilocybin mushrooms and you feel an effect, that’s not microdosing.

Typically with Psilocybe cubensis, the most commonly cultivated psilocybin mushroom in the world, that represents about one-tenth of a gram or less. Jim Fadiman recommends up to four-tenths of a gram. I have lift off at four-tenths of a gram. It’s not sub-sensory to me. I actually can feel it, so I’m surprised he recommends a dosage that high. You have to dial it in, though. Everyone’s different.

Tell me about your latest work on microdosing psilocybin. 

We produced an app called microdose.me, in combination with Quantified Citizen over in Vancouver, British Columbia, Eesmyal [Santos-Brault, CEO] and Kailn [Harvey, CTO]. My partner, Dr. Pam Kryskow, and I are consultants. It’s a free app for the iPhone. I announced it on Joe Rogan. We have over 14,000 people subscribed. It’s a huge data set. [4050 microdosers and 4653 non-microdosers were included in the final study.] It’s a meta-study, and it’s designed specifically to measure the effects of people microdosing. We’re submitting a paper in the next two weeks or so to two peer-reviewed journals. 

We have three different levels: microdosing at less than .1 gram, .1–3 gram, and .4 gram and higher. The app is anonymized, and went through peer review of ethics, a medical [code] of ethics to make sure it was compliant. Your personal information is not shared. You get your own information and you can start tracking yourself instantly.

One thing you can test is your memory. These flowers light up, and you’ve got to memorize the pattern of the flowers. It’s also got a tap test to measure your hearing and eyesight, which is important for people who may be diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. It’s been 30 days now so we have some results. We will also have 60 to 90 days, but our first paper is coming out now. It’s extraordinary. 

We measured mood, depression, and anxiety, and we had several hundred people who did not microdose, as a comparative. We disambiguated the database and did the comparison. 

We did data analysis to find the P-Values of significance. A P-Value of .05 means you have about 95 percent confidence that the data is strong. P-Values of significance were more than four zeros: 99.9999 percent confidence the data is strong. Substantial increase in mood and reduction of depression and anxiety. 

This is one of the most potent studies ever in the annals of medical clinical studies. We were shocked. None of our researchers expected the data to be this good.

This is one of the most potent studies ever in the annals of medical clinical studies. We were shocked. None of our researchers expected the data to be this good. We thought we’d see a little bit of an improvement, but not that high of an improvement over the baseline. We now know that psilocybin mushroom microdosing works. It is indisputable that there are benefits. 

We’ve also done in vitro propagation using [pluripotent stem] cells several times with the Alzheimer’s Institute in France. We’re working with Harvard Medical School right now—and I’m bound by confidentiality—but the results are extraordinarily exciting.

How do we get a whole mushroom through the FDA approval process? My understanding is that it’s difficult.

It’s true, but there’s a special category called botanical drugs, standardized to a “known marker” through the FDA. We’ve been told two known markers that are pharmacologically active. 

I have filed six patents on this. My patents were 16 months before COMPASS Pathways filed their first patent. I’ve been involved in the psilocybin scene for a long time. I’ve done [so] because not only is it my own research, it’s my own ideas, but it’s the Wild West right now. I’ve had to serve six or seven companies with cease and desist letters who have used my name at the top of their products. They’re selling a bottle over the internet that says “Paul Stamets Stack Formula.” They didn’t write me. They didn’t ask me. Who would do that? I have to wonder, is it because they’re greedy? They want to capture a market and make money, but they didn’t have the common courtesy of respect to say, “Well, maybe I should ask Paul whether I have permission.” 

Read: Psychedelic Gold Rush? Psilocybin Startup Compass Pathways Goes Public at More than $1B

I would have said, “No,” but you can’t just rip somebody off unless your true motive is just to exploit the market for monetary purposes. I see something much grander: psilocybin mushrooms allowed for use by the commons. Pure psilocybin is a pharmaceutical that is going to be a lot more expensive than growing psilocybin mushrooms. They’re as cheap to grow as portobellos. Think about that. 

If we only let psilocybin be available therapeutically to the rich, you can spend $5,000 to $20,000 to have a session in a controlled resort hospital. That does not serve the commons. That does not serve the poor people who are living in the gaps, who are ostracized, who have experienced generations of abuse. If a mother or father abuses a child, that child is more likely to become an abuser. If they have been abused, it’s an injustice. 

We have the Black Lives Matter movement, which has really focused people all over the world on social injustice based on ethnicity. The white majority has been steering the ship too long without giving an equal voice to other peoples. I like to remind people that we all come out of Africa. We’re all Africans.

So many people are thrown into jail who aren’t rich enough to afford a lawyer to get out. They’re traumatized. Trauma can be generational. We have to heal generational trauma, and we can—if we make these medicines available to the broadest number of people at the prices most affordable to them.

I think that psilocybin mushrooms will create a paradigm shift in the evolution of the human species. It’s important that we have Einsteins living to the end of their lives so that they can pass knowledge down to the next generation.

I think that psilocybin mushrooms will create a paradigm shift in the evolution of the human species. It’s important that we have Einsteins living to the end of their lives so that they can pass knowledge down to the next generation. The loss of intellectual knowledge due to dementia and Alzheimer’s and other types of neuroinflammatory diseases is a loss to our society. I see this as allowing a quantum leap in the evolution of human consciousness and intelligence. It’s making happier and more creative people because we need to be able to create the solutions that can get us out of the problems we’re in right now.

What does the model look like for overturning prohibition and making psychedelics available at a mass scale? What is the tipping point at which we’ll see the paradigm shift you’re talking about?

It’s happening now! There’s a revolution happening from the underground. I first got into psilocybin in the 70s—and as a long-haired hippie, I was treated like a leper when I went to medical and psychology conferences. People didn’t want to be associated with me because I was interested in psilocybin mushrooms. When I first went to TED and did my TED Talk, they warned me not to talk about psilocybin mushrooms. But the times have really changed. 

No matter what the commercialization of psilocybin mushrooms looks like—even what I do—the fact is, you can grow them at home. I think that’s what 95 to 99 percent of people will do. 

Oregon just passed Ballot Measure 109 (the therapeutic use of psilocybin) and 110 [decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of all drugs]. This is huge. Then there’s Ballot [Initiative] 81 in Washington, D.C.,[decriminalizing psilocybin and other plant-based psychedelic substances], which passed with a whopping 75% of the votes. Many states and many other countries are going to wake up to this. 

Correlation is not always causation, but from several studies, it looks like a single dose of psilocybin mushrooms is correlated with a statistically significant reduction in violent crime, larceny, and burglary. Any law enforcement officer, judge, and government official should think about how much money we can save if law enforcement can focus on more targeted relations—not busting people for a few mushrooms that will actually help reduce criminal behavior.

The use of these psychedelics, psilocybin in particular, but also other compounds such as Iboga, Ayahuasca, and MDMA, is a game-changing societal breakthrough. Coming out from that experience, you’re more compassionate, more empathetic, more generous, and kinder. This is really an important medicine for our society, and Indigenous peoples have known this for so long.

We at DoubleBlind are big supporters of sacred reciprocity. It’s really important that psychedelic users think about indigenous communities. Please tell us more about that.

Psilocybin mushrooms grow all over the world, and their use goes back to ancient Greek times, and to Northern Africa, Europe, England, Mesoamerica, South America, Mexico, perhaps the Pacific Northwest. The use of psilocybin is circumpolar. It’s a bridge that unifies us as one people together. But peyote is a very special category. For the Huichols and the Yaqui and the other indigenous people in the more arid regions of the Southwest, the peyote hunt is part of their culture. It’s their vision quest. 

We can have San Pedro, but I feel strongly that peyote is a sacrament that should be reserved for the people whose spiritual paths are dependent upon it. Peyote has a unique ethnocentricity that is absolutely critical for indigenous people.

We can have San Pedro, but I feel strongly that peyote is a sacrament that should be reserved for the people whose spiritual paths are dependent upon it. Peyote has a unique ethnocentricity that is absolutely critical for indigenous people.

Ayahuasca kind of fits in this category as well. I was down in Cusco, Peru, and there were neon signs flashing—not one, not two, hundreds of them—advertising Ayahuasca ceremonies for eco-tourism or psychonautic tourism. It’s weird. It just doesn’t feel right.

It’s really important that indigenous peoples’ rights are respected. The advantages that indigenous peoples have are structures for the responsible use of these substances for the maximum benefit to their communities. It’s something we need to learn from and understand. And we should leave peyote alone for the indigenous peoples who need it. The rapid decline of peyote is a threat to their cultural heritage.

Read: The Peyote Plot: The Indigenous Fight to Conserve the Sacred Plant and the Spiritual Medicine it Contains

What’s next for you?

I have seven researchers, four Ph.Ds, on staff working on a paper separate from the microdose.me work. Our next paper is about stacking Lion’s Mane with psilocybin and psilocybin analogs. We found that the increase in neurogenesis was not arithmetically compounded. The cumulative effect was synergistically much bigger than the arithmetic predicted. So one plus one doesn’t equal two—it equals four. 

I came up with this formula and this idea, and what I hope to do is create a B Corp and open this up to the commons and keep it away from pharma. So now we’re talking about patents.

I’m investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into novel research because I want to move this narrative forward. I want people to trust that my ethics are going to be better aligned for ultimately, when the commons, then many of these companies that are just capitalizing on the economic opportunity. I take this responsibility very seriously.

How specifically is the Lion’s Mane Stack done?

In a 100-milligram capsule, you’d have one-tenth of a gram of powdered Psilocybe cubensis. If that feels like too much, you could go for one-twentieth of a gram. Ideally, it’s freeze-dried, cGMP, free of pathogens, and from a facility that can be inspected to make sure it’s not producing a contaminated product. Then 50–100mg of niacin (Vitamin B3), and the remaining 300 to 400 milligrams Lion’s Mane mycelium (not the fruit bodies). 

Something really important for everyone to understand is the “chain of custody.” If you don’t have a transparent chain of custody, you’re playing Russian Roulette with your source of mushrooms. They could have been in a warehouse for years or been picked from highly polluted environments. The problem is mushrooms coming from other countries where you can buy a certificate just by putting cash on the table. Thankfully, in Europe, the United States, and Canada, the regulatory environment is more reliable.

Read: The Stamets Stack: Can Microdosing Really Change Your Brain?

How can mushrooms save the world?

The biggest threat right now in food biosecurity is the loss of bees related to the loss of habitats, pollution, and the diseases that come from stressed habitats—zoonotic diseases, or diseases that pass from one animal to another. Right now bees around the world are suffering from a plethora of viruses: the Deformed Wing Virus, the Lake Sinai Virus, IAV viruses, and numerous viruses that are debilitating to the immune system, which are also inflammatory.

I came up with the idea of using mycelial extracts to feed the honeybees. We helped Washington State University raise $7 million over the past several years through the Honeybee Research Center. I’m happy to say after many years and trials, we published our results in Nature. Only 7 percent of articles get accepted into Nature. It’s a very high bar. One treatment of 1 percent reishi mycelium extract reduced the Lake Sinai virus more than 45,000 times and Deformed Wing Virus 879 times. We were able to show for the first time, I think, that a natural product can be more powerful than a pure pharmaceutical.

What can the people at home do? Can they volunteer for you? Can they help you?

We’re giving away bee feeders, 1000 so far. You can find them online. More locally, you can join or create a mycological society. The big one in the United States is the North American Mycological Association. The Mycological Society of America is also a big association of people working as mycologists at universities or by profession. 

The great thing about them is that I meet so many people who don’t share my politics, but they love nature. I end up building a bridge of communication. Saving the bees has been analyzed as the number one bridge issue between liberals and conservatives. The hippies want to save the bees, and the super-conservatives want to save the bees. Who’s against saving the bees?

Any parting words of wisdom?

I’m 65 years of age, and I’m not going to live forever. Most of you have a longer lifespan ahead of you than I have ahead of me. But this is a revolution from the underground. This is a people’s movement that crosses all cultures. It mends divides and builds bridges. It takes leaders like all of you to help nature survive. 

Respecting the rights of indigenous people, minorities, and people of all levels of affluence is so important. It’s our responsibility to help others, and I’m going to do the best I can. I hope all of you, in your own ways, reach out and give a helping hand. When you see somebody go astray, they’re not your enemy. They’re somebody who needs a little bit of help and understanding. We can all do this together. This is a revolution from the heart of nature.

This conversation originally took place in a DoubleBlind Webinar in October 2020. Access full webinars by becoming a DoubleBlind+ Member.

If you’re looking for peer support during or after a psychedelic experience, contact Fireside Project by calling or texting 6-2FIRESIDE. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for support.
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