In my mind’s eye, I could see the vast fungal internet underneath the ground below us. I felt connected— to Bob, to the trees, to plants in general, and to myself. Yes! Here I was in me. Happy. Secure.
Time seemed like a circle rather than a line; as though part of my consciousness experienced this feeling long ago, and I was just remembering it now. Bob’s voice sounded far away for a moment, and then very close. My education as a neuroscientist seemed to be circling my consciousness, as if I stood in the middle of a merry-go-round of different research findings, gently moving up and down, up and down.
Mushrooms are a mixture of proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, carbohydrates, and a variety of trace elements. One of the active ingredients in the mushrooms we took is called Hericium Erinaceus Polysaccharides, commonly referred to as HEP. HEP leads to the secretion of neurotropic growth factor. That, in turn, increases levels of acetylcholine in the brain, which is normally secreted in great quantities during Stage IV sleep.
The dreamy quality we associate with sleep, or being in certain altered states, is mediated by this neurochemical. HEP rapidly increases gene expression of neurotropic growth factor in the hippocampus–the seat of memory. This could simultaneously improve the storage of new memories, and the retrieval of old ones, even long lost memories that heretofore seemed to be forgotten.
HEP also has neuroprotective and neuroregenerative qualities, allowing for the repair of damaged nerves and the growth of new ones. It has been shown to improve overall cognitive performance and is even effective in people up to 80-years-old who are suffering from mild cognitive impairment. Some studies have shown that it reduces depression and anxiety. At that moment, I was certainly feeling contented and unstressed.
Another ingredient in the mushrooms we took is Cordyceps Militaris, which has been shown to diminish anxiety while boosting energy levels. Think about that for a moment: more energy but also less anxious. Coffee tends to boost energy levels but at the cost of increased nervousness and anxiety.
We grew quiet. I couldn’t say how much time had passed. We looked at the bottom of our empty cups and then at each other.
“The effect is subtle,” Bob said, “but I feels like it makes my day a little bit lighter and my focus a little bit better.”
My mouth was still tingling with stimulation of the umami sensors. I was filled with the overwhelming sense of my connection to nature, to Bob, to an ant that was moving across the floor. I was one with the insects. My tongue seemed to be vibrating at the spiritual frequency of the universe.
Bob turned to me as I was studying the wood grain in the table. “You realize of course that these are not hallucinogenic mushrooms — they’re purely medicinal, perfectly legal. I bought them on Amazon.com.”
I looked up. “What?”