For those following the world of nootropics, it isn't uncommon for psychedelic science to blur the line as a cognitive enhancer. Michael Pollan's new book How to Change Your Mind focuses heavily on using psychedelics (psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca and others) to improve mental performance. One of the people he includes regularly is Paul Stamets.
Ordinarily there aren't “celebrities” of the nootropic world, but a few people fit the bill. Dave Asprey may be one, Ben Greenfield another, but in the world of medicinal mushrooms in particular, there is nobody more well respected than Paul Stamets.
During the MAPS Psychedelic Science 2017 conference, Paul Stamets released a stacking formula for the purpose of upregulating neurogenesis (new connections in the brain).
Below we'll dissect why this nootropic stack may be beneficial, some risks, and how to start.
Paul Stamets Neurogenesis Protocol
During the talk, Stamets clearly identifies not only the ingredients for his epigenetic neurogenesis protocol, but also the particular doses.
Although the protocol seems a catch-all between increasing “creativity, cognition, PTSD, and regeneration of vision and auditory neurons“, in truth the objective of the stack is primarily to increase neurogenesis in the brain over time so as to preserve memories.
This is clearly a hypothesis from Stamets and if you read until the end, you'll realize that he has a way to subjectively test the hypothesis for yourself.
The neurogenesis protocol is specific for a 70 kg (154 pound) person. Leaning towards the higher doses for heavier people is probably best, but not until trying a smaller dose first (as each person is different).
- 1 – 10 mg psilcybin / psilocin (psilocybe mushroom @ 1% = .1 – 1 g)
- 500 – 200 mg lion's mane mushroom extract (@ 1% = 5 – 20 g)
- 101 – 200 mg niacin
The protocol calls for taking this stack 5 times in a row and then 2 days off.
Microdosing Mushrooms: Psilocybin and Lion's Mane
For those with some understanding of both psilocybin mushrooms and lion's mane, both of these doses seem to be relatively low. The current studies of lion's mane mushroom (using 96% purity extract) focus on 1,000 mg per day three times (for a total of 3,000 mg).
While the studies often use a higher dose than healthy adults, the Stamets protocol is 10 x the standard. For psilocybin too, the dose is essentially a microdose. The .1 gram dose will, more than likely, not be felt by anyone. Doses of 1 grams might create some sensations early on in the cycling protocol, but will dull over time.
Although Stamets discusses the creativity benefits of psilocybin at this dosage, it will not last long and that is okay. If you are searching for increased neurogenesis, then using psilocybin has a different purpose in this stack. Tolerance builds quickly for the other mind altering aspects, but the aim is neurogenesis here.
What are the Risks?
The first risk, and arguably most important, is to your freedom. In many regions of the world, psilocybin mushrooms (and the active ingredient psilocin) are illegal to purchase or own. We do not recommend or condone using illegal drugs so it is important to pay close attention to where you are living and the local laws.
That being said, even in the United States there are places where it is considered legal. New Mexico has state laws making it legal to possess and grow psilocybin. Generally small doses also seem to be less criminalized as the stigma has started to wear off.
Aside from the legal risks, there are some interesting potential side effects of the various ingredients in Paul Stamets' stack.
Lion's mane mushroom can create upper respiratory issues as in this case study of a 63 year old man. There is also evidence that lion's mane can negatively impact hormonal balances in women. One anecdotal report suggested a woman on birth control who had her period after 5 days of using lion's mane.
These are rare occurrences, but are even less of a risk when one considers the low dose of lion's mane involved in this neurogenesis stack.
With niacin one might believe because it is a vitamin naturally occurring in many foods that it is safe and free from side effects. At doses above the recommended 1 – 200 mg it can create the niacin flush, which is a flushing of blood to the face creating redness and uncomfortable sensations.
In fact, Stamets recognizes that the niacin will be helpful in preventing abuse of the stack (due to the psilocybin) because it would create a negative physical sensation if people overused any portion.
Some people experience burning and itchy sensations even with the niacin dosage that Stamets recommends. Either way, it should be taken with caution and consideration.
As with any of these protocols and stacks, part of the process is understanding and verifying the validity of the person who created it. With the expertise of Paul Stamets, this stack comes across as way more easily trusted (and worthy of this writeup).
That being said, we do not have fMRI or other brain imaging data to suggest this combination provides any clear benefit for improving neurogenesis and certainly not his claims of this being “The next quantum leap in the evolution of the human species”
Nonetheless, Stamets has a subjective way for people to better detect whether this stack might be helping with neurogensis: testing auditory (sound) changes in the human ear.
Over time Stamets suggests the neurogenesis in the auditory centers of the brain may increase the ability to hear sounds. He suggests paying close attention (perhaps even maintaining a journal of the same sounds regularly) to see whether hearing increases, which could be an indicator of success through the stack.
Because the stack is so new and few people have provided testimonies, it is hard to find evidence of whether or not this works. A lot of people have to base their predictions for success on the reputation of Paul Stamets (which is considerable).
In one anecdotal account, a jiu-jitsu (martial arts) practitioner clearly identified subjective benefits through his physical performance (flexibility measured by particular movements), but obviously the jury is still out on whether or not this works.
For anyone with access to psilocybin and who does not feel the need to use it primarily for creative or large-scale mind altering experiences, it might be beneficial to include this neurogenesis stack from Paul Stamets.