It is without question that we have reached a very strange point in our human evolution. Simple observation is quick to reveal that the infrastructure of society is undergoing profound transformation. Between both the current global health and environmental crises, not to mention our daily humanness, we have a lot on our plates to navigate!
With high demand for swift and innovative solutions to the planetary problems that seem to have reached a new peak, it is no wonder more and more people are looking to manage stress and enhance their cognitive and neurological performance. Not to mention, also regain a deeper sense of groundedness and connection amidst it all.
As herbalists, finding support from our plant & fungal allies for these areas was a natural exploration and we came across some interesting findings that we have blended together into a comprehensive formula to support your cognitive, neurological and psychological well being.
You’ve likely heard of microdosing, or experimented with psychedelics yourself. Having spent much time immersed in festival culture as performers, educators and vendors; we have had a fair amount of exposure to various, shall we say... consciousness expanding practices. What started as recreational psychonaut tendencies turned into careers as herbalists that have since led to deeper study of entheogenic plants. These substances have been used for millena and carry a deeper meaning for many cultures.
Microdosing is a hot topic these days; from tech nerds in Silicon Valley seeking performance enhancement to folks battling treatment resistant depression and beyond, the applications of this method are broad.
So what is microdosing anyways? Microdosing is considered the use of a very small amount of a psychedelic substance so a person may experience the beneficial effects of said substance without the psychedelic experience. For psilocybin a microdose is considered 0.10 - 0.30 g (100-300mg). So a microdose starts at 1/10 of a gram of mushrooms.
Why would someone want to do this? Currently anxiety, depression and general feelings of disconnection are skyrocketing and this method seems to provide relief in these areas, as well as general increases in productivity, motivation, feelings of connection and inspiration. We found some traditional uses of Psilocybin from tribal hunters. They noted that it improved vision, acuity and focus during hunting. While we aren’t hunters, we ourselves have noticed enhanced vision, acuity and focus! In fact its use as a focus enhancer is one of the primary reasons we turned to this method.
Psilocybin Containing Mushrooms
Is psilocybin a nootropic? Technically no, but it works well in conjunction with nootropics. Science is still figuring out exactly how these kinds of mushrooms work in the body. So far we know the molecular structure is similar to serotonin, and that psilocybin works on the HT2A receptors- one type of serotonin receptor. We also know these fungi work with the Default Mode Network & the visual - limbic - prefrontal network.
This tells us that psilocybin has direct action on the amygdala (emotional processing center of the brain). Which affects emotional learning, information processing and our sensing of emotional intensity. Brain scans of people who have ingested psilocybin containing mushrooms show increased brain activity and firing of neurons in multiple areas that don’t normally occur together. What does this mean for us and our bodies?
It means new neural pathways are forming. It means that using psilocybin can get you out of deeply ingrained nervous system patterning; like trauma responses, anxiety, depression, addiction and PTSD, just to name a few.
Optimize your Microdose Experience
Just like a full blown psychedelic experience with psilocybin mushrooms, to truly get the most out of a microdosing you need to have 3 categories well thought out: set, setting and integration. The first two are crucial for optimizing your experience so that the new neural pathways you are creating are of great benefit and use to your life! The latter point, integration, ensures you are able to fully ground your new neural connections into your daily experience, thus transforming the way you live your life. This is why we created the a guided container designed to optimize your personal transformation and microdose process. For more info CLICK HERE
Other Benefits of Working with Psilocybin
Another really promising area of study emerging from the psilocybin research is the potential for short term use. Most clinical trials involve 1-4 microdoses over a period of time. Some participants are finding drug resistant depression is relieved for 6 months or more after just one microdose of psilocybin. This is incredible when you think about the vast number of people who are prescribed psych medication long term and the not so pleasant side effects of these drugs that some of folks deal with, which can possibly be avoided. Imagine a world where there is an effective alternative to taking pharmaceutical antidepressants for the rest of your life! The above research is indicating that this world may already be here and available.
Enhanced sense of connection is another positive effect of working with microdosing. Hilariously, scientists always note that they have a hard time quantifying and describing the mystical or spiritual experiences people have while using these substances. We chuckle as they try to describe these experiences in scientific language, like “contact with nature is a strong predictor of mental wellbeing”. Hm, you don’t say...
As ridiculously obvious as this may sound, what these studies also indicate is that psychedelic substances, even in microdose form, induce enhanced feelings of connectedness to nature. When we feel connected, we feel whole. When we feel whole, life makes way more sense and is far more enjoyable to navigate. In a time when many are feeling disconnected from nature and each other, these are useful medicines to guide us back home to ourselves and into an intimate relationship with the natural world we live in.
Humans are designed for connection- hence why touch boosts mood and apparently “contact with nature is a strong predictor of mental wellbeing.” We are also deeply dependent and woven into all the layers of connection that make life possible; from microorganisms, to the trade routes that bring us produce, to all the people we know and love, and beyond. With connection being an inextricable part of life, it makes sense that feelings of disconnection are a major factor in depression and anxiety. No wonder these substances are so useful in treating these conditions!
So with all that being said, the applications for microdosing are vast and to get into all the details and research are far beyond the scope of this post. We personally have found this to be an effective tool to move through life’s challenges with more grace and drop habits that no longer serve us. We’ve also found that using psilocybin in conjunction with nootropic herbs creates a powerfully effective formula.
Nootropics are substances that enhance learning, cognition and memory, and like microdosing, have recently become quite popular. The word Nootropic comes from the greek “nous” or mind, and “trepin” to bend. While there are many laboratory made nootropics available on the market that have become popular, especially in the biohacking community, we prefer to stick to the more organic world of plants.
These substances support brain energy, brain signaling, brain cell health and longevity, brain blood supply, brain waves, brain fatigue, and brain repair. Consequently they can help us retain complex information, increase the speed of learning, improve emotional experience, and decrease anxiety.
One of the primary functions that enables the above mentioned benefits is neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is a term we use a lot, and a term that you should familiarize yourself with as you use these medicines. Psilocybin and nootropics have an action called neurogenesis which means: boosting brain plasticity by stimulating brain cell production. This basically means a stimulation and repair of neurons, as well as the creation of neurons - leading to more neurotransmitters and signaling that affects learning, memory and mood. Pretty much, this action super-charges your brain. There is a special synergy that comes with using plants with this action together; we find a much greater effect from the combination.
There are many mechanisms of action that contribute to neurogenesis, and each herbal medicine will differ and have an affinity to an organ system.
Like any natural medicine, these are not a quick fix and to truly experience the benefits of nootropics it is best to use them over a longer period of time. This will vary slightly on the herbal blend you are using; but generally you can use these plants for up to 9 months. We also love cycling through different nootropic herbs to work on different areas of the body as needed. For example, Centella really helps brain circulation and vascular inflammation.While Bacopa’s main action is increasing dopamine levels in the body. This method asks you to be in direct dialogue with your body and its current needs. We are creatures in constant flux, and our medicine & practices should reflect that too.
If you look up nootropics you can easily find extensive lists which can be quite overwhelming so we’ve decided to share with you our favourite nootropic plant allies. These are also some of the herbs we have included in our Nootropic Formula.
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
This low lying creeping plant is simultaneously unassuming and yet incredible. It Combats oxidative stress; stimulates neurogenesis; helps prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, which improves mood and; improves cerebral circulation.
On a more esoteric level, in Ayurveda, Gotu Kola is revered as one of the most spiritual and rejuvenating herbs. It is said to improve meditation by developing the crown chakra, as well as balancing right and left hemispheres of the brain. Like in the west, in this system it is looked at as one of the main herbs used to nourish and revitalize both the nerves, brain and adrenals. In doing so it can be used to treat both physical and mental fatigue. ⠀
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s mane is a mushroom that actually grows in the forests of BC! However the majority of it used in formulation is cultivated in the US and China. We love lion’s mane for its ability to stimulate brain cell regeneration as well as enzyme production that promotes Nerve Growth Factor, which leads to nerve regeneration and has been shown to be effective in treating alzeihmers! Like gotu kola, lion’s mane also promotes neurogenesis
Finally, we also really love the use of B-Vitamins in conjunction with these herbs. While they aren’t herbs themselves, they are incredibly useful as nootropics. Of course there are many different B Vitamins all with slightly different actions, but in general they help with production of neurotransmitters. They can also be stimulating as they work on cellular energy production, which is helpful when it comes to productivity and a general sense of thriving. We like these because this isn’t the kind of false energy, like that which comes from caffeine, which can be depleting. Rather, increased energy from B Vitamins comes from deep within the cell and is a result of genuine increase in vital force.
Other nootropic herbs:
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), and Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
Other herbs to support the nervous system:
Lemonbalm (Melissa officianalis), Milky Oat (Avena sativa), Maca (Lepidium meyeni), Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera), Passion flower (passiflora incarnata), Blue vervain (Verbena hastata). The latter two are in our Unwind formula.
As herbalists deeply invested in the ancient future, we wanted to share what we know to be useful in regards to microdosing & nootropics. We know that healing is not done in the body alone; it is about an integrated approach that involves mind, body and spirit. This is why we are shifting gears in our business to focus more on classes and passing along the practical tools and personal rituals that have helped us so much. We full heartedly believe that healers are not the ones who heal you; we are here to help you awaken and remember the innate healing potential you already have.
Art by Hans Walor
Leave a comment