The Stamets Stack: Should You Try Microdosing?

Microdosing is a hot topic gaining increasing popularity in recent times. It involves consuming very low doses of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin mushrooms and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in amounts that do not produce hallucinations or negative effects associated with these substances.

Key takeaways:
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    Paul Stamets, an author and mycologist, introduced a stacking composition (psilocybin, Lion’s man, and niacin) and protocol called Stamet’s Stack, which is based on the microdosing principle.
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    Psilocybin microdosing is the repeated self-administration of psilocybin-containing mushrooms in quantities small enough (1/10 to 1/20 of a normal dose) not to interfere with normal human functioning.
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    Stamets stack is said to have a cognition-enhancing and neuroregenerative effect, amongst other benefits.
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    Psilocybin is illegal under the law in many countries.
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    There is no definitive evidence yet for the effectiveness and safety of psychedelic microdosing.

Paul Stamets, an innovative mycologist, and author invented a new microdosing method called “Stamets Stack”. The Stamets Stack consists of psilocybin, Lion’s mane, and niacin combined to improve cognition and brain health.

Before fully diving into this article, it is important to note that psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug by U.S. law (drugs with no recognized medical uses or with a high potential for abuse).

This means possessing or cultivating psilocybin-containing mushrooms for personal use or sale is illegal. This is also applicable under various laws in most countries. However, efforts are being made to decriminalize psilocybin as studies are consistently finding that psilocybin can help in the treatment of mood and substance use disorders.

Who is Paul Stamets?

The mushroom guru. You might have seen him in the 2019 Netflix documentary “Fantastic Fungi”, which details the world of fungi.

Paul Stamets, aged 67, is one of the world’s leading inventors, entrepreneurs, mycologists, and medical researchers in mycology and also the author of six foundational books on mycelia. He is a visionary thought leader in the field of fungi and their uses in promoting ecological restoration, detoxification of the environment, and human health. He has earned significant awards and worldwide recognition, including The Gordan and Tina Wasson Award (2015).

“My mission is to discover the language of nature, and I believe nature is intelligent.” – Paul Stamets.

What is microdosing?

Microdosing is primarily the practice of taking a small dose of a psychedelic substance (usually 1/10 to 1/20 of a normal dose), such as psilocybin mushrooms. Microdosing aims to elicit the positive effects of the substances, like improved focus without hallucinations and other adverse effects.

Examples of the possible benefits associated with microdosing include:

  • Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Help with alleviating tobacco and alcohol dependence.
  • A better sense of focus.
  • Higher creativity levels.
  • Increased energy.
  • Emotional openness.
  • Enhanced self-awareness.

Other substances used for microdosing include Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and Dimethyltryptamine (DMT).

Though there are currently limited studies on microdosing psychedelics, the course is changing because of the increasing popularity associated with its positive effects on anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders, amongst others. The need to thoroughly investigate the impact of microdosing practices on mood, cognition and wellness is birthing more research studies.

The Stamets Microdosing stack

The Stamets Stack is one of Paul Stamets's patent applications pending approval. It is a protocol and combination of components thought to enhance neuroregeneration and cognition in humans.

Here’s what we know about the Stamets Stack.

Stamets Stack is thought to be a cognition-enhancing and neuroregeneration stack containing mushroom supplements, such as psilocybin mushrooms, Lion’s mane mushrooms, as well as niacin. The stack components are hypothesized to work better together as psilocybin mushrooms and Lion’s mane have a dual ability to create new neurons in the brain and repair existing neurological damage.

Niacin in the stack functions as an anti-abuse component, and it acts as a vasodilator by helping to distribute psilocybin across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and migrate throughout the nervous systems (peripheral and central) and their endpoints as suggested by Stamets.

The Stamets Stack is a composition thought to repair and improve neurological functions synergistically.

Helpful term
A stack combines a psychoactive microdosing substance with a non-psychoactive microdosing substance to create a synergistic effect.

Lion's mane

Lion’s mane is a non-psychedelic functional mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) known for many health benefits, including brain health and reduced inflammation. It is known as hóu tóu gū (monkey head mushroom) in China and Yamabushitake (mountain priest) in Japan. It has a history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to treat neurasthenia.

Many studies have been published on Lion's mane's neurogenerative and neuroprotective properties, mainly due to the presence of two constituents known as erinacines and hericenones.

Researchers conducted a double-blind study in 2009 on 30 Japanese men and women aged 50 to 80 to assess the efficiency of Lion’s mane in improving cognitive impairment. The results suggested that Lion’s mane effectively improved cognitive impairment without serious adverse effects and may be used as a food to prevent dementia.

In another clinical trial involving 30 menopausal women, intake of Lion’s mane reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Niacin

Niacin, also known as Vitamin B3, is the generic name for nicotinic acid, a water-soluble B vitamin. Niacin is naturally present in many foods like beef liver and brown rice and is available as a dietary supplement. Niacin plays a vital role in the body, such as converting food into energy, and it helps to keep the skin, nervous and digestive systems healthy.

Niacin promotes neuronal development and maintenance in the central nervous system. According to a 2019 review of niacin in the central nervous system, optimal niacin intake may delay neurodegeneration though further research is needed to support this claim.

Since niacin acts as a flushing agent and causes vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), it can carry the molecules of psilocybin and lion's mane across the blood-brain barrier and distribute them into the endpoints of the nervous system, enhancing their benefits. Paul Stamets suggests this is especially important because most neuronal development occurs in the nerve extremities.

Another crucial reason why niacin is a component of the stack is to act as an anti-abuse agent.

Here how.

Flushing is often caused by 30 to 50 mg of niacin or more, whereby the skin on the face, chest, and arms turns red due to the dilatation of small dermal blood vessels. Sensations of tingling, burning, and itching accompanies the flushing. These signs and symptoms are normal and often temporary, occurring within 30 minutes after ingestion. This is not a toxic side effect but is enough reason not to want to overdose on niacin. It causes more severe side effects in doses above 1000 mg/day, such as hypotension and impaired vision.

Psilocybin

Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms, are the clinically most researched classic psychedelics. Psychedelics are psychoactive hallucinogenic drugs that alter perception, mood, and cognitive processes.

Psilocybin is the primary active constituent in psilocybin mushrooms and is converted to its active form called psilocin in the body. It has a long history of spiritual use in Latin America.

Psilocybin microdosing is the repeated self-administration of psilocybin-containing mushrooms in quantities small enough not to interfere with normal human functioning.

John Hopkins researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind trial in 2016 to evaluate the effect of psilocybin on life-threatening cancer patients. The results found that psilocybin produced a substantial and sustained decrease in depression and anxiety in the patients.

In 2017, a pilot study was done to assess the long-term effects of a psilocybin-facilitated smoking session program 12 months or more after psilocybin administration. At 12 months follow-up, 10 of 15 participants were confirmed as abstinent, and the study held psilocybin as a potential agent for promoting long-term smoking abstinence.

Paul Stamets reported that psilocybin could make you smarter, kinder, and more courageous, as it can also stimulate neurogenesis (growth of nervous system tissue).

What is the dosage?

According to a lecture by Paul Stamets at the Psychedelic science 2017 conference, his specific stacking formula based on a 74 kg individual is given below.

  • Psilocybin mushrooms – 0.1 to 1 gram (a microdose of Psilocybe cubensis)
  • Lion’s mane mushrooms – 5 to 20 grams
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) – 100 to 200 miligrams

What are the benefits? Is it safe?

Stacking together psilocybin, Lion’s mane, and niacin offers a synergistic effect on cognition and neurological growth. Stamets said stacking psilocybin and Lion’s mane creates an entourage effect of neurogenesis (in animals) in one session of the Bioneers virtual conference.

Some benefits of the stack, as described by Paul Stamets, include:

  • Promotion of neurogenesis.
  • Reduced anxiety and depression.
  • Improved memory and cognition.
  • Improved motor skills.
  • Stabilized mood.
  • Enhanced creativity.
  • Improved hearing and vision.
  • A greater sense of interconnection.
  • Relief from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms.
  • Reduced incidence of neuropathy.
  • Increased ability to socialize, empathize, and feel courageous.
  • Enhanced self-awareness.

A question may arise: "Is the stack safe?” The answer is that we do not know for sure as there are no clinical trials yet confirming the safety of the stack.

However, the individual components of the stack are generally safe. They do not have serious adverse effects when consumed in the recommended doses.

Note

  • Niacin can cause an allergic reaction.
  • It can interact with alcohol and other drugs like antidiabetic medications.
  • For health reasons, it is not recommended for people with: Liver disease; Kidney disease; Diabetes; Gout; Peptic ulcer disease.
  • There are few studies about niacin in pregnant women, lactating mothers, seniors, and children.

Consult a healthcare provider if you are uncertain about niacin before starting Stamet’s stack.

What you should consider

The microdosing protocol recommended by Paul Stamets on Joe Rogan's show is four days on and three days off to avoid building tolerance to psilocybin. Complete a four-week cycle and take a two to four weeks break before restarting the process.

You can reduce the flushing effects of niacin by gradually increasing the dose over time.

Avoid the no-flush niacin type because it will not work with the protocol.

Note that the daily recommended intake of niacin is 14 mg to 16 mg, and the stack recommends a higher dose though it is not likely to be toxic unless in higher doses (1000 mg upwards).

Psilocybin is illegal in many countries, and unauthorized cultivation or possession could land you in jail.

Get your psilocybin mushrooms from a trusted source, as it is easy to get poisoned with the wrong type of mushroom because many mushrooms look alike.

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