Psyched Wellness is a company with a simple mission: to make products on the Amanita Muscaria mushroom, a slightly hallucinogenic mushroom that has long been the cornerstone of traditional medicine.

When you think of cute, fairy-like mushrooms, you’re thinking of Amanita Muscaria. These tiny red-capped mushrooms often have little white spots and look like something a Smurf would use as a trundle bed.

Commonly known as fly agaric or fly amanita, the mushrooms are slightly poisonous raw but when parboiled the poisons break down and the mushrooms are edible. Wikipedia notes:

All Amanita muscaria varieties, but in particular A. muscaria var. muscaria, are noted for their hallucinogenic properties, with the main psychoactive constituents being muscimol and its neurotoxic precursor ibotenic acid. A local variety of the mushroom was used as an intoxicant and entheogen by the indigenous peoples of Siberia.

Psyched Wellness gathers mushrooms from Central Europe and processes them into a distillate that, when ingested, is supposed to improve sleep and reduce stress.

It works, but I’ll talk about that in another post. I spoke to Jeff Stevens about the company, the mushroom, and the future of psychedelics.

NGN: So, what are you guys up to? Tell me about the process you took to make your product.

Stevens: We’re kind of in a unique space working with the mushroom, Amanita Muscaria. It was never scheduled as a drug. So, throughout the United States, we can legally sell our product. We’re unique in this space, though, because we’re the only company that has spent the time and money to get the scientific data together.

We spent two years doing scientific studies with the contract research organization KGK Sciences here in Canada. We compiled all of that safety data so which was then reviewed by an independent peer group, and we received our approval to go to market. We’ve been selling our flagship product which is called Calm. It’s a tincture stored in a 30 ml bottle. It’s designed to help people with rest and relaxation. Science certainly suggests that muscimol, being the active compound that we generate in our extraction process, helps promote rest and relaxation. Anecdotally, people have been having fantastic success with it, helping them with sleep and sleep-related issues. So we’re very excited to have that in the United States now.

NGN: There are no psychedelic properties. It’s essentially more like a CBD/melatonin-style thing?

Stevens: I would say that’s a fair analogy. The way that we extracted and packaged it, the use for our product would be similar to CBD. So like CBD 2.0, in the sense of “Here’s a natural compound from a fungi that, when extracted and used properly, it’s going to have those benefits for you.

NGN: And how do you get around the perception Amanita Muscaria is considered poisonous?

Stevens: Well, that was the opportunity. My co-founder David Chisel and I started the company, and when he actually identified Amanita mascara, I Googled it and said, “What are you talking about? This is a poisonous mushroom. You’re crazy.”

He said no. People have been consuming this for 5,000 years. Siberian shamans have been using this for ceremonies, and there’s a long history of use. So that prompted our first scientific studies to ensure that we could get a safe-for-human-consumption extract from this.

I think one of the reasons this mushroom was never scheduled as a drug is that if you were to pick it like you would a psilocybin mushroom and eat it, you’d probably get quite sick. One of the compounds in it is called Ibotenic acid, and that’s quite a nasty compound if it’s not treated and can make you quite ill. So, the extraction process that we’ve designed converts the bulk of that Ibotenic acid into muscimol. The resulting extract that we have has been determined to have no Ibotenic acid. So, we end up with a muscimol extract, which has been deemed safe for human consumption. And again, it’s a mushroom. It’s food, never scheduled as a drug.

NGN: Can you cultivate it?

Stevens: This is a very unique mushroom, a very special mushroom. It grows symbiotically with the pine tree forest and the birch tree forest. So you cannot cultivate this in the lab. You can’t just put it in a substrate and grow it. So, we’re very proud that we’ve identified a number of foragers, and we’ve helped them turn hobbies into careers. We’ve got a great network of people who are very passionate about it and looking forward to growing it with us. So, the great thing is they grow like mushrooms, right? We pick them sustainably so that the spores will drop as they’re being picked. We’re also able to maintain the highest amount of the compounds in the mushroom. We feel very good about the processes we have in place and the teams that help us.

We work with a bunch of foragers out of Eastern Europe right now. We were working with some in Russia and Ukraine, but because of the tensions there, we are working with some other groups in Poland. Again, you have to know what you’re doing.

NGN: Are you having any trouble with the recent legalization boom?

Stevens: Yeah, that’s a different category for us. We’re not trying to compete with the basement chemists. We’re not trying to compete in the recreational space. We think, quite frankly, that Amanita is not a recreational mushroom. If you take a larger dosage of it, you’ll feel quite inebriated, and then you’re going to pass out and have these crazy dreams, but it’s not something that you would want for a party environment.

So, I think it’s irresponsible of people to package it that way. We’re careful. The lab we work with told us, “We recommend you to other people who are coming to us with extract because the stuff we see is garbage.” In fact, many don’t extract. They just sell powdered caps. That’s ibotenic acid. Or we’re testing gummies that are actually psilocybin but are being sold as Amanita Muscaria. So, they’re using Amanita as a way to get Psilocybin on the shelves. That concerns us because it paints everyone with a bad brush.

We see ourselves as similar to Melatonin. We can get into the dispensary side for sure, similar to a CBD product. And we think there’s a huge opportunity to do that because there are those consumers going to dispensaries who are already open to purchasing a product that is an alternative product for their health and wellness, and they’re familiar with the tincture. So, we see that as a great opportunity as well. The sleep category is by far the largest category in the world. Everyone from the age of 15 to 95 is suffering from sleep issues. And then you get anxiety and all those other things that can compound that. I see what some of the guys that are doing in that space, and the potential liability of what they’re doing scares me. I would never, never attempt to do what they’re doing without having the proper science and protocols behind it to make sure that that product is safe.

By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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