Arts & Life, Features

The Magic of Mushrooms and Mental Health

It is no secret that psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, have recently been at the forefront of mental health discussions.

There has been a drastic shift in the public perception of pharmaceutical medication for mental health, and a strong desire by younger generations to find natural medicines with less adverse side effects.

The United States is dealing with an unprecedented mental health crisis, and the urge for natural medicine is growing.

This is where psilocybin comes in.

A recent survey from UC Berkeley found that an overwhelming 78% of people are in favor of making it easier for researchers to study psychedelics for their therapeutic benefits.

When asked about the future of mushrooms for therapeutic benefits, third-year studio arts major Madison Elliston said, “If there were more people who were open and willing to talk about it more, or people who were more knowledgeable—who are more verbal and out in the community more people would listen, especially with the younger generations.”

Guidance on mushrooms could benefit the public as whole, including information from cultures that have utilized these plants as medicine in the past.

Despite communities around the world who have used mushrooms medicinally for centuries, the United States has classified magic mushrooms as a Schedule I controlled substance, which is the same category as heroin and methamphetamine.

However, cities such as San Francisco and Santa Cruz have taken steps to decriminalize psilocybin and many are wondering if Los Angeles will be next.

Culture Shrooms, an educational hub and an all-things mushroom business in Long Beach, is on a mission to change the stigma surrounding mushrooms.

The store sells a plethora of only non-psychedelic mushroom products such as coffee, tea, extracts, chocolate, gummies and capsules. These products are sold with the intent to aid consumers with natural energy levels, heightened focus, stress and anxiety relief.

Culture Shrooms in Long Beach
Long Beach, Calif: Culture Shrooms is a mushroom shop in Long Beach that aims to change the stigma about mushrooms. Photo credit: Natasha Castanedo

31-year-old business owner Omar Othman began Culture Shrooms to be the first legitimate space in Long Beach for non-psychedelic mushrooms.

Othman is an advocate for treating mushrooms as a sacred plant, and has found through years of research how both psychedelic, and non-psychedelic mushrooms can benefit humans.

He hopes Culture Shrooms can provide consumers with answers on how to safely and responsibly consume them for health benefits.

“The other mushrooms (non-psychedelic), each one can help with circadian rhythm or adapting to stress and not letting your body release as much cortisol or managing stress. That’s what the functional mushrooms are good for,” Othman said.

“These can achieve that without the need for an extreme psychedelic experience.”

Heightened stress levels can lead to a multitude of other health issues such as high blood pressure, increased anxiety and severe depression. Othman believes that Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be the answer to this.

“They are the most brain stimulating, memory enhancing, focus type of mushroom,” he said.

Research has found that Lion’s Mane supports natural brain function and can help protect the brain against diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

These diseases can be attributed to a buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain and Lions Mane increases natural glutamate production, a chemical in the brain which can deter this kind of plaque buildup.

Psilocybin also enhances the brain’s production of glutamate at a substantial rate and it is one of the few compounds on earth that helps the brain achieve more neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is when the brain becomes ‘rewired’ and forms new neural pathways for longer lasting medicinal benefits.

“It’s not in the moment of psychedelic use, sometimes it can be after, weeks after, months after. It’s more about increasing the chemical glutamate in our brain and then understanding that our brain is in reset mode and then working with that reset mode,” Othman said.

The rewiring of the brain also allows humans to approach mental health issues differently than they would with traditional psychotropic medications.

Consumers are able to adapt to trauma and formulate new relationships with their emotions by reworking the neural pathways in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that controls emotion.

Kaylyn Ramirez, a third-year communications major said, “I feel like you’re more open to be your true self when you’re taking mushrooms.”

“Especially with the people that you’re around, you’re just more open to talk about yourself and to be loving, you can realize a lot of things.”

While the future of mental health in America is still unknown, one thing is for certain, the public is curious about what mushrooms can do for them, and are willing to support research.

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