I picked up some bad habits during lockdown. The worst? I regularly woke up at about 3 am and scrolled garbage for a few hours on my phone or tablet. This has led to self-loathing, exhaustion, and a general feeling that I might need to change up a few things.

One of those things might be introducing Calm into my nightly routine

Calm is a new product by Psyched Wellness that is essentially a tincture of Amanita Muscaria, the jolly little toadstool mushroom that you recognize from the Smurfs and countless fairy tales. Amanita itself is mildly poisonous and makes you feel sick. But, when parboiled, the mushroom releases muscimol, a mild sedative and, according to Wikipedia, a chemical that expresses “sedative-hypnotic, depressant and hallucinogenic psychoactivity.”

The tincture is made out of processed mushrooms from Eastern Europe and tastes something like coffee, chocolate, and soy sauce. To use it you put 2 ml under your tongue for 30 seconds and then swallow it. 

It is completely legal in the United States because it is considered a food product. The mushroom itself is not edible and the extract is considered a supplement or food product by the FDA. In short, you can order this and take it without a prescription, much like Melatonin.

I’ve used the tincture twice and gave a dose to a friend. I want to report that it works. 

The tincture hits you about thirty minutes after taking it and makes you very sleepy. You also get some very light, very manageable hallucinations when your eyes are closed – essentially the patterns behind your eyelids become more formulaic, sort of like fractals. Then you literally fall into a fairly deep sleep. I woke up at about 3 am and got on my devices for about 30 minutes until I fell back to sleep, an interesting first for me.

As you can see from my Fitbit my sleep score and sleep time were slightly better on the extract than without it. Oddly REM and deep sleep were lower but light sleep was much higher. I woke a bit more rested although I did have a bit of cotton mouth, similar to the feeling you get when going to sleep on a THC gummy.

A friend who has a terrible time sleeping reported a similar experience. In short, Calm makes you fall asleep faster and gives you a more restful sleep.

One extremely interesting aspect of Calm is the rate and quality of your dreams. My dreams under the tincture were wild and extremely vivid. In one dream I was trying to find Bob Dylan in a modern university library. During the dream, I invented a new word (“jeckelate” which means to come together as a group (??)) and saw Bob sitting in front of the library eating cotton candy. Like seriously. 

That’s why the reduction in REM sleep was so puzzling in this case because my dreams seemed extremely deep and convoluted. Given I rarely remember dreams unless they include a fun or odd storyline, to have a series of vivid dreams in a row was a real plus.

Ultimately, this stuff has some effect on your sleep. Amanita Muscaria has been used for centuries as a shamanistic medicine and this extract highlights some of those features while relaxing the mind and opening up a bit of the dream world. Unlike other sleep aids, this stuff is natural, is fun, and it clearly works.

Obviously, we don’t take sleep aids so we can have cool dreams. We take them so we can sleep. I found Calm ($50 for 30ml, $75 for 60ml) a true asset and friend. It puts you right to sleep and keeps you there for a good long time which, in the end, is all we can ask for.

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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