Episode #7 Paul Stamets Delicious, Deadly, and Mind-Expanding Mushrooms
Paul Stamets and Andrew Weil have been enamored with wild mushrooms for decades - and for good reason. Mushrooms have the potential to be delicious, deadly, and even mind-expanding.
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of vast underground mycelial (or fungal) networks that inhabit every soil on earth. In fact, it's estimated there are about eight miles of single-cell mycelium in a single inch of soil. Mushrooms have been consumed as food and medicine by many Asian cultures for centuries. Despite their global prevalence, however, mushrooms are often overlooked and sometimes feared by North Americans.
Paul Stamets is a mycologist, medical researcher, and author, who has dedicated his life to the scientific discoveries and applications of mushroom?s superpowers. He has performed novel research in many fields including medicine, biosecurity, and toxic environment restoration.
In this episode, Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Victoria Maizes speak with Paul about how certain mushroom species can improve health. Paul shares his research in immunology and the promising response some fungi strains may have against devastating viruses that harm bees, livestock, and humans. And we learn some surprising practical tips, like why you may not want to eat the common button mushrooms found in grocery stores. We also discuss the recent research behind psilocybin or ?magic mushrooms? in mental health disorders.
Please note, the show will not advise, diagnose, or treat medical conditions. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider for questions regarding your health.
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author, mycologist, medical researcher and entrepreneur, is considered
an intellectual and industry leader in fungi: habitat, medicinal use,
and production. He lectures extensively to deepen the understanding
and respect for the organisms that literally exist under every
footstep taken on this path of life. His presentations cover a range
of mushroom species and research showing how mushrooms can help the
health of people and planet. His central premise is that habitats have
immune systems, just like people, and mushrooms are cellular bridges
between the two. Our close evolutionary relationship to fungi can be
the basis for novel pairings in the microbiome that lead to greater
sustainability and immune enhancement.
philosophy is that ?MycoDiversity is BioSecurity.? He sees the ancient
Old Growth forests of the Pacific Northwest as a resource of
incalculable value, especially in terms of its fungal genome. A
dedicated hiker and explorer, his passion is to preserve and protect
as many ancestral strains of mushrooms as possible from these pristine
woodlands. His research is considered breakthrough by thought leaders
for creating a paradigm shift for helping ecosystems worldwide.
is the author of six books (including Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms
Can Help Save the World, Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms,
and Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World), he has discovered and named
several new species of psilocybin mushrooms.
has received numerous awards, including: Invention Ambassador
(2014-2015) for the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS), the National Mycologist Award (2014) from the North
American Mycological Association (NAMA), and the Gordon & Tina
Wasson Award (2015) from the Mycological Society of America (MSA).
Paul?s extensive work in the field of mycology has earned him an
official induction into The Explorers Club (2020) and awarded the 2022
Eco Hero Award. His work has entered into the mainstream of popular
culture. In the new Star Trek: Discovery series on CBS, the Science
Officer is portrayed by an Astromycologist.... a Lt. Commander Paul
Stamets. Paul's work with mycelium is a central theme of this series.
funds research to save rare strains of mushrooms that dwell within the
old growth forests. He is a collaborator with numerous scientific
organizations and research institutes. Currently he has tested
extracts of these rare strains at the NIH (National Institutes of
Health/Virology) and with Washington State University/United States
Department of Agriculture against a wide panel of viruses pathogenic
to humans, animals and bees.
?We are now fully engaged in the sixth Major Extinction (?6 X?) on
planet Earth. Our biosphere is quickly changing, eroding the life
support systems that have allowed humans to ascend. Unless we put
into action policies and technologies that can cause a course
correction in the very near future, species diversity will continue
to plummet, with humans not only being the primary cause, but one of
the victims. What can we do? Fungi, particularly mushrooms, offer
some powerful, practical solutions, which can be put into practice now.?
Victoria Maizes: Hi, Andy.
Andrew Weil: Hi, Victoria.
Victoria Maizes: I am really excited that we're going to be speaking with someone who's a longtime friend of yours, Paul Stamets.
Andrew Weil: Yep I known Paul for over 40 years and we?ve worked together, traveled together, picked mushrooms together. You know that he is just constant source of interesting ideas.
Victoria Maizes: And yummy mushrooms.
Andrew Weil: And yummy mushrooms.
Victoria Maizes: I am delighted to welcome Paul Stamets to our podcast today. Paul is a speaker, author, mycologist, medical researcher and entrepreneur.
Victoria Maizes: He is considered an intellectual and industry leader in fungi lecturing extensively about a wide range of mushroom species their habitat, their medicinal use, and their production.
Victoria Maizes: He also contributes to research showing how mushrooms can help the health of people and the planet his central premise is that habitats have immune systems just like people do and that mushrooms are cellular bridges between the two. Welcome, Paul.
Paul Stamets: Thank you.
Andrew Weil: Hi Paul
Paul Stamets: Hey Andy, how are you
Andrew Weil: I'm good, and
Paul Stamets: Victoria, its pleasure to see you again.
Victoria Maizes: Thanks. Great to see you. The last time I saw you live was at an eclipse.
Paul Stamets: Really. Oh my goodness.
Paul Stamets: A lot has happened since then.
Victoria Maizes: I want to begin our conversation today with some basic questions Andy, I want to start with you. There is a really common misconception that fungi are plants and could you really help our listeners understand how fungi are either not plant nor animal.
Andrew Weil: Well, fungi are in a separate kingdom and they're more closely related to animals and they are two plants we share more DNA sequences with mushrooms than we do with plants.
Victoria Maizes: Paul you are so fond of mushrooms that I have seen you wearing a hat made out of mushrooms. Can you tell us how you developed your love of mushrooms.
Paul Stamets: Well, I came to mushrooms at a very early age from after a summer rain and northern Ohio. We had a cottage on Lake Erie and puffballs would appear and my twin brother and I would stomp on them and I regularly found that they would explode upon impact. So I told my twin brother as many puffballs as possible.
Paul Stamets: My mother came out of the house yelling at me. ?Don't throw up all their twin brother, because the spores will make him blind.? Well, she went back in the house. And I thought, okay, that's good information. I pelted him with even more. But that's my earliest memories, but the fact that mushrooms appear so quickly now in our, in our viewscape with animals and plants with months, years of familiarity of contacts daily and mushrooms, which are come up, you know, and disappear for five days and some can feed you, some can kill us, somewhere medicinal some can send you on a spiritual journey.
Paul Stamets: For that which is so ephemeral, but so powerful. It's natural for people to fear or have apprehension about something they don't understand that so potent
Paul Stamets: And so, mushrooms, end up being an eclectic field of research and largely through Andy's encouragement and I have set my path where I am today and unveiling these this vast body and elective knowledge of fungi in our ecosystem is leading to some very novel discoveries and nature's already discovered these things were just rediscovering them.
Victoria Maizes: So we're going to dive into that. But you said something early on about the fear. There's a famous saying that I know Andy hates. ?There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.?
Andrew Weil: But I am an old, bold mushroom hunter.
Andrew Weil: I have eaten many species that were listed in books is having unknown edibility I mean of course I'm care. I knew which mushrooms can kill me and I avoid those
Andrew Weil: But I've done a lot of experimenting and there is greatly exaggerated fear of mushroom poisoning, especially in the English speaking world. Going along with that is another attitude that mushrooms have no nutritional value and that they are no medical path, but also both very wrong ideas machines have a high protein content. We're like animal food than planet food and the medicinal properties are vast. And this is a major areas which Paul has worked for a long time.
Victoria Maizes: So Andy, how did you become so enamored with mushrooms.
Andrew Weil: I grew up in the rowhouse and Philadelphia that had a very small lawn in front of it. Occasionally mushrooms would come up on the lawn and my mother would tell me not to touch them because I?d be poisoned by them. I think that made me interested. And she was afraid to buy mushrooms and supermarket. So the fact that they were forbidden and scary. I think attracted me to them again reading about them. And then around 1970 I think I was out for the first time in the Pacific Northwest in the fall. I saw a great profusion of wild mushrooms I began meeting people who collected mushrooms. And began eating wild mushrooms. It was just the whole world opened up. There's also the time when people are beginning to discover magic mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest. And I was at the same time learning about Chinese medicine and was fascinated that mushrooms were so prominent in traditional Chinese medicine. And were so ignored word in Western medicine.
Victoria Maizes: So blindness and poisoning [laughing]
Paul Stamets: Well actually Andy pioneered the Edibility Unknown Culinary feast at the Colorado College, at the Telluride Mushroom Conference and a group of us experts would choose a species has that ability was unknown and
Paul Stamets: We also have some good reasons because there is no species necessarily in that taxonomy group that were known to be poisonous, but we only know what's mushrooms are poisonous or edible from the people of the previous experiences of people eating them before us. So anyhow, it's so Andy was great and pioneering let's test this species so logically, it's unlikely. It's going to be deadly poisonous and Andy speaks of this it most deadly poisonous mushrooms typically take many, many hours before you see any symptoms or feel any symptoms you know the shortest might be 6 to 8 or use these 12 to 24 hours but if you eat a mushroom and you have adverse effects in the first hour usually don't worry about it. It's just GI upset and it passes so they did there, the toxic species have delayed symptom onset. And so, but we had lots of fun and we pioneered several new species that were not known to be edible and a lot of them just didn?t taste good, but some of them were turned out to be really good.
Victoria Maizes: Well, that leads me to a question I've been wanting to ask, which is which is your favorite mushroom to eat. And that question is for each of you, Paul, you start.
Paul Stamets: Well, I'm fascinated by matsutake pine mushrooms, because [00:24:00] in the Asian culture in the in the 70s and late 60s. There was no collecting of pine mushrooms with a Japanese called matsutake in the northwest by Americans, generally speaking, except for Japanese immigrants and and so it's not considered a good edible mushroom. But in fact, the Japanese had developed this technique of cutting the mushrooms and when you inhale, just before you put the mushrooms in your mouth. It stimulates the the receptors in your nose and actually causes a tingling sensation. And as most people know if you if you hold your nose close, you can't taste. And so the Japanese elevated this this culinary experience to a level that none of us, you know, the people that I know none of us knew about this.
And so, and when you do that, there's a robust flavor profile that then emerges that you would otherwise not experienced so pine mushrooms matsutake is still my favorite wild mushroom.
Victoria Maizes: This is the equivalent of the aroma and really enjoying the aroma of a glass of red wine before having a sip.
Andrew Weil: We?ll the Japanese say the matiztake are about aroma and I would agree with Paul that's right up there with one of my favorites. I would also put right up there white truffles. You know, I think that's also a fantastic experience of both many hits many senses. Yeah.
Victoria Maizes: Okay, let's go to the extreme opposite white button mushrooms. A lot of people that's the only mushroom they ever eat. Is there any health benefit to eating a white mushroom at all and Andy Do you want to give your usual warning about mushrooms here.
Andrew Weil: No mushrooms should be eaten raw mushrooms are relatively indigestible because they have tough cell walls broken down by cooking. Many species have toxins of one sort or another that are broken down by cooking. They have compounds that interfere with protein digestion that are broken down by cooking.
Unfortunately, the button mushroom has several carcinogens in it, most of which are broken down by cooking, but one is not. So if you're going to eat those. I think they should be cooked over high heat, well, and they have some medicinal benefits as well. Paul do you want talk about that.
Paul Stamets: Yeah, there's erophenois very potent antioxidants that are present in button mushrooms. These are these are being looked upon very carefully.
Paul Stamets: But Andy's absolutely correct. And you should cook all on mushrooms and particular button mushrooms not 70% of button mushrooms are consumed raw in salads.
Paul Stamets: And little simple experiment all listeners can do you can take as a small sheets hockey or small button mushroom and swallow it whole. And then the next morning look in your stool.
Paul Stamets: And if it's been uncooked the mushroom comes out and your school and perfect form. Now if you take that same mushroom not exactly the same mushroom similar size much when you boil it, and water for five minutes or you sautee it and you swallow it, it's digested so mushrooms are not digestible because they're, they're very, very tough fibers that constitute them. They have to be tendered by heat or acid. The only mushrooms that are typically we don't have that recommendation are for truffles and Andy's right the white truffle is my favorite truffle, by far, it's amazingly aromatic and and that?s mushroom you don't cook so um but you're not eating it for nutrition, you're eating it for fragrance and aroma.
Paul Stamets: And so, and all these mushrooms are quite miscible in and animal fats. So part of the umami bring out the flavor of mushrooms when you combine it with animal fats.
Paul Stamets: It really is. It really brings out the flavor and make some mushrooms tastes a lot better. I eat button mushrooms broiled on a pizza. But, but I will not eat them raw in a salad.
Andrew Weil: And we should mention the button mushrooms include white button, mushroom brown, crimini mushrooms, portabello. It's all the same species.
Victoria Maizes: Which is Agaricus
Andrew Weil: Agaricus
Victoria Maizes: So let's go to the opposite end of the spectrum and talk about your favorite mushroom from a health benefit perspective, you know, if you had to just limit yourself to one mushroom for health benefit, which one would you pick.
Paul Stamets: That?s really hard.
Victoria Maizes: Okay, how about two.
Paul Stamets: Well, what I'd like to answer that is what's your, what's your target. You know, what are you looking for. Are you looking for nutrition, you know, are looking for health supporting immunity. You know there's so much literature out there on just the common edible mushrooms, like shiitake, miatake, and enotaki. And you there was a professor, Dr. Ichikawa from the National Cancer Center in Tokyo, Japan. He wrote a series of articles and one. He was an epidemiologist and he was sent to the Nagano Prefecture, because there was a dearth a drop all overall cancer rates in this mountainous region of Japan. And he went there to study and he published this and after 10 years he was able to disambiguate the co-factors and found that there is a concentration to be enoki mushroom farmers and there is a statistically significant reduction and cancer across the board in that prefecture with families who consumed.
Paul Stamets: Whose members of family, work out, you know, key cultivation facilities. What that means is that most farmers know this is the employees take away the blems. We call them the blemished ones. They're not perfect for market. They're still good to eat. And so they had a per capita consumption eight times greater than that of the national average. And so they're able to associate this with enoki mushroom consumption and this led to a discovery with protein poly-sacaride named after flanning, you know, the enoki mushroom.
Paul Stamets: And so when this was published in a Western medical journal is some of the first evidence that we saw that mushrooms enhance immunity as a tonic. And so these are you know modulators that help the body become more in a ready state. So there's lots of mushrooms out there. My personal favorite right now is agarikon.
Paul Stamets: It's a rare old growth mushroom. We're doing lots of research on that. But in terms of culinary mushrooms you know shitake maitake , you know, enoki, oyster mushrooms. They all have these benefits.
Victoria Maizes: So Andy I won't limit you to one, but if you weren't going to respond. One of our listeners wrote in asking about the health benefits of mushrooms. I think Paul just spoke a little bit to the nutritional benefit, the potential benefit of reducing the risk of developing cancer, but maybe you could speak to some of the other mushrooms that are really appreciated for their value in making us healthier.
Andrew Weil: Well, there's so many of these Victoria. First of all, some mushrooms lower cholesterol. They have natural statins in them the same molecules that originally isolated from molds and turned up the Staten drugs. Shiitake is one of them. Oyster mushrooms is one of them.
Andrew Weil: Lion's Mane has a unique nerve growth factor that may help preserve cognitive function and treat nerve disorders, rishi has anti-inflammatory effect that's very significant.
Andrew Weil: Three year mushrooms have anticoagulant effect that may [00:32:00] help reduce risk of heart attack, but I think then there's this general category of but what Paul would call host defense.
Andrew Weil: That is that many of these mushrooms, especially the polyfor mushrooms which are the ones that you often find growing like shelf like on better living trees and forests, you know, these are toxics, most of them a woody or bitter, so they're not use this mushroom was quite made it the extracts as these seem to reduce risk of viral infection bacterial infection may offer protection against cancer. So those effects are particularly interesting and especially in this present day when we're dealing with, you know, viral pandemic. That's a special interest.
Victoria Maizes: Can both of you speak to that a little bit more because clearly, for the woody bitter mushrooms. We're not eating them in our diets. We're taking them as dietary supplements. So where do you see the role of including a mushroom extract on in our regimen in our supplement regimen. Is it something we should do all the time. Is it something we should do during a pandemic, it's, it's something we should do in general. During flu season or for traveling.
Andrew Weil: Well, let me just say I take myself all the time. I take several apart products, you know, one called mic-immunity, which is a calculated extract a number of different species or liquid extracts Paul Stamet?s Seven
Andrew Weil: And I've used those for very long time if I'm going to be exposed to risk from travel are going to an area where there might be higher risk of infection. I might up the doses of those are add some other ones to it.
Paul Stamets: Yeah, we have actually focused a lot on the cytokines and interlukins cytokines contained interleukin so the secreted by leukocytes, this is your messenger molecules there.
Paul Stamets: Proteins that signal, your immune cells to react and we've done is up to cumulatively up to 50 different interlukins we surveyed about 15 of them. And this is what's very surprising to us as we're seeing species specificity. And what I mean by that. It stimulates some interukins
Paul Stamets: Most of these are part of your immune response. So their proflammatory that's what happens. But some of them are anti-inflammatory and this really speaks to the fact, these are immune modulators, they put the immune system in a ready state of activity so they can respond to things like viral assaults etc we've been searching for the anti virals molecules per se. But that's not really speaks to our own biology. We've, we've been consuming complex foods for millions of years without single molecules.
Paul Stamets: And there's consortium of molecules that are present or apparently gene sequences of these interlukins and some surprising ways. And so this is when talking to all these immunologist, it's amazing how complicated it is and how little that we actually know but we do know that these mushroom mycelium base extracts are not cytotoxic they upgrade immunity. And one thing I want to mention. So there's a number of physicians, no doubt, listening to this, there's LPS lipoproteins and poly saccharides are secreted by endotoxins from bacteria and one group of scientists thought that herbs and mushrooms elicit a immune response because of LPS. And we published a paper recently showing that the immuno modulation is independent of LPS is mushrooms rot quickly. So if you make a you take an extract of a rotting mushroom, you'll have bacterial toxins.
Paul Stamets: And so will we able to show is that the immune-modulatory effects of these mushroom extracts are not related to LPS is and they specifically target immune modulation in a way that allows for a pro-immune response buffered with an anti-inflammatory response. So what this all means is that because there's somebody there ever an interlukins that are being stimulated is that we're finding different species of different interleukin profiles. What they do share a common right now is the excitation of interleukin 10 1 RA. These are anti-inflammatory cytokines and these I think could be very helpful for people, maintaining a ready state of immunity without causing a cascade of deleterious effects.
Andrew Weil: So Victoria, let me say, I think. And Paul heard me say this. When did you have a conference in Port Townsend
Paul Stamets: That was in 2005
Andrew Weil: So I spoke there about the 1918 flu. If you remember, and at that time there was very little information about that and the fact that it selectively killed young healthy people. Who died of a cytokines storm and lungs filled with fluid and this was very new information. And in that circumstance, you would not want your immunity boosted or enhance, you know, you might even want to take steroids down regulate immunity. So, you know, it's interesting to see this now being much talked about, because the SARS, COV-2 to virus has the potential to do something similar although probably doesn't provoke it as intense as that strain of flu, but I think a question that comes up from a lot of our colleagues is, is there a risk of using some of these mushrooms if you have active symptoms of Covid-19.
Andrew Weil: I think we should be talking about modulating immunity, as you said, not boosting immunity because there's you know boosted and this is something actually Andy's been advocating this a long time. These are tonics for the immune system. These are immuno stimulants. You know, insofar as your arm you know depressed, your immune system is not in the optimal ready state of being able to respond to these stressors.
Paul Stamets: And so what is a consistent with the use of mushrooms for thousands of years in Asia. These tend to tone the immune system to a healthier ready state of activity to be able to respond. And so this is where immune stimulating drugs have lots of adverse effects and are looked upon as being not appropriate, in the challenges that we face today. So, but Andy was far ahead of the field of this medicine and talking to these things as not being immuno stimulants, but as immuno tonics and I think that that's really what these things do they tune the immune system. And as we age and I hate to admit I'm getting older. But we were on a slow slope to immunological decline, and this is why and also the lion's mane is one of my absolute favorite of all mushrooms and we've been doing research tests with lion's mane and with a company called Neurofit, which is a laboratory complex in France that analyzes and looks for drug development pathways for preventing Alzheimer's or other forms of neurological dementia.
Paul Stamets: We got just fascinating results back on Lion's Mane that that supports what Dr. Kawagishi first discovered in 1994 that lion's mane causes neurogenesis. And so these are fantastic. You know, we have we have drugs, we have foods, and then we have nutritional supplements, but where's the category for medicinal foods. There needs to be a new category where you can say these foods have pharmacologically demonstrated beneficial effects, but they are not truly drugs.
Andrew Weil: Well, that's a very Eastern concept, you know, in East Asia, there is not a distinction clear distinction made between medicines and foods and many ingredients in Chinese cuisine are there as much for their perceived medicinal effect as for their flavors or textures. And in our part of the world we separate these into different category. So I agree with this whole foods would be great to get in the habit of thinking that way.
I suspect that many of our listeners are unfamiliar with the agarikon, which I know is one of your favorite mushrooms. Could you tell us something about that you know its history, what it looks like and what.
Paul Stamets: Right. I've dedicated my life to this Andy knows.
Paul Stamets: Well, agarikon and has a multi thousand year history of use first described by Dioscorides in 65 AD in the very first materia medica as the elixir of long life. It was specifically describe by Dioscorides and use for hundreds, thousands of years as an anti-inflammatory for pulmonary illnesses.
Paul Stamets: It was used to fight congestion later to be known as tuberculosis Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Paul Stamets: And this mushroom is a rare species.
Paul Stamets: Only grows, the old growth forests. I just found out yesterday it was declared and Europe on the Red List of Extinction in 2019.
Paul Stamets: And this mushroom is resident in the old growth forests of northern California, Oregon and Washington, British Columbia. I now have 62 strains of agarikon by far the largest library in the world.
Paul Stamets: Andy and I frequent an island remote island in British Columbia and there is a big repository and Andy. This is new information. We just got it yesterday, but I submitted 11 different strains of agarikon to Genbank fully sequenced.
Paul Stamets: And we see there's a differentiation and on this remote island in British Columbia four strands that we sequence are genetically distinct not even in the same sub clade. They are evolutionarily distinct. So how's it possible that the small little island 14 by 7 miles whatever it is would have says a diversity of agarikon.
Paul Stamets: So what now this speaks to discovery of penicillin Penicillium Crysogenium was discovered by Alexander Fleming. But there was no strain that was able to be commercialized. And so, even they discovered it you know 1928 or whatever it was won a Nobel Prize in 1945
Paul Stamets: It wasn't until researcher and found a moldy cantaloupe in Chicago.
Paul Stamets: And that Penicillium strain turned out to be a hyper producer that allow for the commercialization of penicillin, which many historians believe with a major factor and winning World War II. The British the Americans had it. The Japanese and the Germans didn't, so concerned with the British researchers they impregnated a collar, the collar of their shirts with spores of this rare of this rare strain.
So if their laboratories be bombed, they could re-constitute the strain. So similarly, a agarikon has an enormous diversity between the strains
Andrew Weil: What does it look like, Paul tell people what it looks like.
Paul Stamets: It looks like a giant beehive from a distance, it's, it's big.
Paul Stamets: That big hard wood conk as annual growth rings. It has been suggested to be the oldest longest living mushroom in the world and that these in the fruit body state. There is one or two other species are competing with it, but about 100 years and age. These things are massive if they fell on your head that knock you out. I mean, they're really hard.
Victoria Maizes: Paul, you gifted us one. And we still have it at our Center on a shelf for everyone who to look at when they come and visit
Paul Stamets: One of the biggest ones I have is, Andy gave me one for my birthday. That's a sign of a true friend.
Andrew Weil: Paul what are some of the properties that you're most interested about agarikon.
Paul Stamets: Okay, well let me go down. This is where you know these things are complex and their attributes, but we publish an article in the journal of Ethnopharmacology on the chlorinated cummins that come out of agarikon that are against tuberculosis XTVR multidrug resistant strains of tuberculosis we publish that because it was folklorically known to fight tuberculosis.
Paul Stamets: And so we tested that with Scott Franzblau at the Tuberculosis Research Institute University Chicago we publish that.
Paul Stamets: The other attributes and I worked with the National Center for Natural Products research. We never published this, but we found my work with the Bioshield Program. We found it was highly active against orthopox and including that cowpox and smallpox.
Paul Stamets: With bio guided fractionation it took over five years. I'm a great debt of gratitude to Semer Ross. Who led the led the bio fractionation at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.
Paul Stamets: And we isolated to novel anti smallpox molecules. Okay, so we have anti tuberculosis molecules, we have anti-hypoxic molecules. It has a very, very strong activity against other viruses.
Paul Stamets: But we don't know why. And the mode of action, it may be something we don't understand. There may be a molecules in there, but we hunted for them, we could find it.
Paul Stamets: Bio-fractionation for listeners is basically you have a natural product and you then use a polar solvent and a non-polar solvent polar would be water non-polar will be like hexane. And then you fraction it into two fractions. Okay, you have A and B. Now you test each one of those and did the activity go up or go down. Well, that's a decision tree you go down and you keep on going down that decision tree and then the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy identified to novel molecules. After the pox, we have not been able to find the molecules that are responsible for the other activity. Moreover, we're pretty certain now there isn't a single molecule is activating gene sequences that are secreting an activating there's interlukins that then allowed you, your innate immunity to target these viruses, so I could be proven wrong, but the activity that we found against flu viruses and herpes and these other problematic viruses are more much more likely to the consortium of activating an immune response than it is to one individual molecule because these molecules are present in very tiny numbers and if I often thought if there is one molecule that's responsible for that activity of these natural extracts the not molecule must be the most potent molecule ever discovered in the history of medicine. It's highly unlikely. So it looks like it's and listening of the immune response that consequentially allows your innate immunity, your host defensive immunity to be able to reduce these pathogens.
Victoria Maizes: Thank you, Paul. Some of our listeners will want to hear you explain what is the difference between mycelium and mushrooms.
Paul Stamets: Oh, I love this question.
Paul Stamets: Okay so mycelium makes mushrooms.
Paul Stamets: Okay mycelium is like the roots to a tree and the tree or the apple to the tree is the fruit. The fruit body as the mushroom and then it comes from underground, the root structure mycelium can be it's only one cell thick, the largest organism in the world as the mycelium at Eastern Oregon 2,200 acres of size that can be more than eight miles these threads of mycelium and a cubic inch.
Paul Stamets: They are one cell wall thick. Now anybody microbiologist out there knows there's hundreds of millions of microbes in a single cubic inch of soil.
How is it that these fine filaments of fungi can survive and such a hostile environment is because the epigenetically the stimulus of their genome against the bacterial pathogens up regulates immune defenses that prevents them from being consumed. This is why the largest organ in the world and the world that have 2,200 acres in size.
Paul Stamets: So when the mushrooms, the mycelium is rather than the ground for weeks, months, years. And then with sudden environmental change water, you know, catastrophes landslides fires all sorts of other stimuli is triggered the mycelium to produce a mushroom. Now from the mycelium is in the ground for perhaps hundreds of years comes up a mushroom that rots in five days mushrooms don't have a good immunity. They're not designed to they're inviting insects and bacteria, etc. They're part of the nutritional life cycles of the ecosystem the forests.
Paul Stamets: So mushrooms are made of laminated mycelium. This is why we take a mushroom. We take a scalpel and take a piece of tissue we put it on a petri dish it immediately becomes mycelium because it's compacted mycelium. The difference is the thing single threaded mycelium are producing extracellular metabolites. And this is part of your host defensive immunity. The being expressed that prevents them from being consumed. But when they form a fleshy nutritious mushroom that fragrant attracts microbores: humans, squirrels, birds, it wants to be consumed and wants its spors to be spread so it's it's designed in a sense to rot.
So their protein dense and nutritional dense but mushrooms themselves don?t have a good immunity.
Victoria Maizes: Your research has really looked very broadly at how mushrooms can improve the health of ecosystems throughout. So you've looked at things as varied as bee colony collapse, remediating toxic soil, renewable energy. We've spent the, you know, half hour already talking about the potential health benefits for humans. Where are you going next.
Paul Stamets: Well I this is my I don't have a PhD. So I was accepted into four or five graduate schools by married a woman 11 years older than me when I was 22 I couldn't afford to go to graduate school, so I had a I was self-taught more loss, but we just recently published in Nature scientific reports on helping bees with these polypore mushroom extracts
Paul Stamets: Now with these polypore mushroom extracts one treatment we reduce several viruses, the Lake Sinai virus 45,000 to 1.
Paul Stamets: With one treatment and 12 days in their sugar water we do is to deformed wing virus like 879 to 1 with one treatment 12 days later. All commercial beekeepers use sugar water. And we put 1% of the extract 1 drop per hundred drops into the, into their sugar feed water and then bees used to fly for nine days honey bees, now they're flying for four days.
Paul Stamets: And 1,000 flowers, a day. So there's 5000 less flowers being pollinated. These viruses now has spread to all wild bees.
Paul Stamets: The all bees in the world are infected with these viruses is the biggest threat to worldwide food biosecurity until the Covid-19 perhaps that we knew of and so I'm the lead author with USDA scientists Washington State University scientists is about nine of us.
Paul Stamets: And what this is a big deal to me because I checked yesterday, and we're still in the top 1% of all articles published in the Nature Publication Ecosystem. Only 7% of the article submitted by authors to Nature, get published. So its a very, very selective journal. Now, why is it in the top 1% of all articles published in Nature?
Paul Stamets: Is because it's the first time I know of that are natural product that can be more powerful than a pharmaceutical. And as because it up regulates immunity what Andy's been talking about all the, all these years. Is that getting the immune system in a state of readiness allows you to have defenses against these pathogens without having to resort to a single molecule pharmaceutical.
Paul Stamets: So my bee research is really my kind of big breakthrough because know its the bridge and the same extracts that reduce viruses and bees.
Are the same extracts that we proved the project Bioshield that reduces flu viruses, pox viruses and herpes viruses. Well that's viruses that harm bees, swine, birds, and people.
Paul Stamets: So I think there's a molecular bridge of the mycelium networks and the ecosystem that influences the immunity of the host population. And when we cut down the forest we're removing the menu of food for these polypore and other mushrooms that can help the immunity of the commons. So the war against nature is a word that's our own biology we denature the forest by cutting other forest. We're robbing the immune systems of nature.
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Andrew Weil: Well, I have a general philosophical question that doesn't have an answer, but I'd be interested in hearing speculation about it. Viruses are part of the ecosystem. They're always going to be there and, you know, many, many people think that you get an infectious disease because you're unlucky enough to cross the path of a bad microbe. But there's a great deal of evidence that it's possible to live in, if not symbiotic relationships at least neutral relationships with these microbes. Just as the reservoir hosts of these diseases do without being harmed by them. So it seems to me that you know a goal.
And one goal is not to figure out how to destroy the microbes, but rather to figure out how to increase the possibility of living in a non-hostile relationship with it.
Paul Stamets: I think that's beautifully put and there's actually very good scientific evidence with Turkey Tail, for instance, as a prebiotic from the microbiome.
Paul Stamets: Because these mushrooms, help them and it's a randomized placebo controlled clinical study, there's two of them that's been published recently that shows that Turkey Tail mushroom mycelium is a probiotic or a prebiotic for the microbiome enhancing the bacterium lactobacillus acidophilus by inhibiting cluster of Staphylococcus and other bacteria and one group of patients with amoxicillin. Which was, which is very powerful antibiotic against lots of bacteria, except for ecoli they found that
Paul Stamets: When patients randomized placebo controlled study that took a Turkey Tail mushroom mycelium extract it enhance the beneficial bacteria and decrease the inflammatory bacteria.
Paul Stamets: So I think Andy's absolutely hit the nail on the head as mushrooms are prebiotics helping for a healthy microbiome and since so much of your immunity starts in your gut, it's your first line of defense.
Victoria Maizes: So there is research that shows that psilocybin could be a better therapeutic treatment for some mental health problems, then a lot of our current pharmacological medications and I'm wondering if you could speak just a bit about that that research.
Andrew Weil: First of all, psilocybin is a completely non-harmful agent on the physical level, it's probably safer than any any pharmaceutical drug known. The main risks or psychological and those can be handled by attention to set and setting.
Andrew Weil: And there's tremendous potential to use that I think not only for the treatment of mental disorders, but for physical ones as well. But at the moment, it looks as if there's great momentum to have it become available for the treatment of drug resistant depression. For the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder, possibly the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. So I think it is soon going to be made available for therapeutic use.
Paul Stamets: I would agree. And there's over a dozen universities in the United States that have been approved by the FDA for clinical studies with psilocybin currently over 25 universities around the world. I populate a website called mushroomreferences.com it's unbranded it's just pure purely scientific articles. There's about 30-35 articles there that speak to the some of these studies that are ongoing sales have been analogs also enhances neurogenesis and we have found, and we have not published this, but I've spoken at Stanford Medical School recently on it.
Paul Stamets: That when we stop the psilocybin analog which are totally legal. That don't get you high but they're very, very similar to sell five. And when you stack up with lion's mane.
Paul Stamets: You have a beyond a cumulative additive effect and neurogenesis and regrowth of neurons. So I see there's a lot of opportunity, especially at micro dosing of psilocybin have an analog same combined with a natural product like lions mane for enhancing mental acuity and preventing a wide range of neuropathy. So this research is very much a big part of our focus right now we have a number of papers that we're writing and we are really excited about the results that we're seeing. I think psilocybin mushrooms make people smarter and nicer.
Victoria Maizes: So speaking about nicer. You mentioned that Andy gave you a wonderful birthday gift one year, but I happen to know that you gifted Andy with something really remarkable. Can you tell us what led you to name a mushroom after Andy.
Paul Stamets: Well, I see Andy as a scientific intuitive, even though it's highly trained in Western medicine. I have come to learn that I trust Andy's intuition. He is far ahead of the pack.
Paul Stamets: What I've come to learn about Andy is he is the bridge between Eastern and Western medicine, even though the Western medicine is reduced rate based on reductionist thinking Andy quickly saw that these are systems that are being involved and the bridge between Eastern, Western medicine is the Andy Weil bridge. It brings scientific discipline to the concept of complexity. And our immune systems are massively complex and even though we have individualized drugs are very good at certain targets. It doesn't lead to homeostasis and so building the foundation of immunity is really what I think Andy has done. He published an article very early on on the botanical Harvard leaflets on philosophy science lessons. The article largely goes unrecognized but I'm a historian of speech, so to speak.
Paul Stamets: Of this whole side of mushroom movement and it just seemed for all the right reasons to name a new psilocybin species called philosophy Wiley I which, of all places was growing and front of Newt Gingrich's a political office in Georgia.
Paul Stamets: These mushrooms got a sense of humor. And so it was so perfect. And so when I had the opportunity of naming a new species.
Paul Stamets: You know, Andy was a person I wanted to to immortalize in the field of medicine you can name a disease after your yourself and get lots of credit in the field mycology you dare not do that. It has it given as an honorary gift to a leader to memorialize forever their contribution to the science of mycology so there's no other greater gift than I could ever give Andy the naming of species up for him.
Andrew Weil: Well, I'm really grateful and also there's something appropriate about the fact that the word in Greek means bald head.
Victoria Maizes: Paul thank you so much for joining us for this very rich conversations about mushrooms about immunity and about maybe how they could make us all and the us as people and the planet healthier. Thank you.
Paul Stamets: All right. Thank you. Thank you both.
Paul Stamets: Take care. Bye bye.
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