Paul Stamets: An inspirational advocate for Mushroom Research & Psychedelics

Paul Stamets: An inspirational advocate for Mushroom Research & Psychedelics

Timothy Payne on 14th Mar 2024

Paul Stamets is the ' Godfather' of all mycologists and one of the most influential figures in the field of fungi research. He has spent decades delving into the mystical world of mushrooms. His work has not only revolutionised our understanding of fungi but has also led him on a fascinating journey of psychedelic exploration. Stamets is the author of several titles, the first published in 1978 entitled ‘Psilocybe Mushrooms and Their Allies’ and his most recent contribution to the 2019 Fantastic Fungi (by Louis Schwartzberg & Eugenia Bone) for which Netflix released a film under the same title featuring Stamets and his work.

Early Days

A young Paul Stamets
A young Paul Stamets

Paul Stamets' pioneering obsession with mushrooms began in his childhood. In his own words, he was exceedingly shy and suffered from a congenital stuttering habit for which he’d had therapy for six years. He would often stare down at the floor instead of making eye contact. This is when he began to notice the fascinating organisms that lay at his feet: mushrooms.

It was a summer evening in Ohio. Stamet’s had previously bought a bag of mushrooms, and he stood at the foot of an oak tree after unwittingly ingesting a heroic dose. He began to climb the tree, right to the top. Looking out across a beautiful horizon, he noticed ominously dark clouds looming in the distance. As the storm grew nearer, the thunder groaned louder and the winds blew heavier. The tree was wavering, so he anchored himself by hugging the trunk.

He witnessed the sky turn to liquid, fractals caused by the shuddering lightening, while multidimensional geometrical patterns burst into his mind. He realised in a moment of clarity that he was atop the tallest tree in the area during a particularly violent storm, placing him in a precarious predicament. Instead of climbing down the tree, he decided to channel his energy towards the prevention of his stuttering, repeatedly chanting to himself, stop stuttering now.

Fortunately, the storm abated; he climbed down and walked home unharmed. The very next day, he met a girl he was particularly attracted to while out on a walk. Normally, he wouldn’t be able to hold eye contact for fear of humiliation; this would then manifest itself in more stuttering, and it would go on in a cycle. On this occasion, however, she’d said, Good morning, Paul, how are you?. He made eye contact and said, I’m doing fine; how are you? with no hint of a stutter. From that day on, he stopped stuttering. This was truly a transformative moment that catalysed his fascination for fungi. His interest intensified, leading him to pursue a degree in botany with a specialisation in mycology.

Psilocybin for Mental Health

His interest in the prospective therapeutic benefits of certain psychedelic fungi, like psilocybin-containing mushrooms, has led him to explore their effects on mental health and well-being.

Paul Stamets authored his first book in 1978
Paul Stamets authored his first book in 1978

As a leading vocal proponent of utilising psilocybin mushrooms to treat various psychological conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, Stamets believes that when used responsibly and with proper guidance, psychedelics can profoundly impact an individual's consciousness and emotional well-being. Ongoing clinical studies [1], particularly those held at Johns Hopkins Hospital, show that it’s having a real impact, for example helping patients come to terms with a terminal diagnosis. The majority of these patients report that, under medical supervision, psilocybin-assisted treatment was one of the top 5 most important experiences of their lives. This includes the birth of a child and the loss of a parent.

How is psilocybin able to impact us in such a positive way? Well, the molecular structure of psilocybin allows it to penetrate the central nervous system, suggesting its ability to rewire our neural network. We are at the frontier of our medical understanding of its effects on the brain and mind and its future benefit to humankind.

A Deeper Understanding

Paul Stamets is a leading author and expert in mycology
Paul Stamets is a leading author and expert in mycology

Paul Stamets' mushroom research and psychedelic explorations have left an indelible mark on both the scientific community and the world of psychedelic explorers. His unwavering dedication to understanding fungi and unlocking their potential for ecological and therapeutic benefits has sparked curiosity and innovation in multiple domains. As the world continues to explore the mysteries of mushrooms, Stamets' work serves as a guiding light, illuminating the path towards a deeper understanding of nature's wonders.

Amanda Fielding, founder of the Beckley Foundation, a UK-based think tank focusing on psychedelic research, commented, " Stamets' vision of mushrooms as a gateway to consciousness expansion aligns with our ongoing efforts to explore the medical and societal benefits of psychedelics".

Mycelium is able to break down toxic materials
Mycelium is able to break down toxic materials

One of his biggest contributions to the field of mycology was the discovery of a novel way for mycelium (the root-like structure of mushrooms) to break down toxic materials and restore ecosystems [2]. This innovative process, called mycoremediation, has shown promising results in cleaning up environments contaminated by pollutants.

Stamets' work has earned him recognition and respect within the scientific community and beyond. Renowned for his relentless pursuit of knowledge and his enthusiasm for the natural world, he has become a leading advocate for the potential of mushrooms in addressing environmental and health issues.

We should all agree that now more than ever, the planet is in a perilous position. Stamet’s recently declared that

unless we have a paradigm shift in consciousness, then we won’t be able to put into practice the applications and strategies to build a common community of interest.

He is the sole director of Host Defence Mushrooms, a company employing upward of 140 people, and recently co-founded another company called MycoMedica Life Sciences, which has secured $60 million in funding to fuel fungi-based drug development for the prevention and treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders.

James Joaquin, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Obvious Ventures said:

We believe the Stamets Stack has the potential to unlock new medicines that offer transformative solutions for patients struggling with some of the most debilitating conditions.

The mycological world holds Stamet’s in such high regard that a new species was recently named after him: ‘ Psilocybe Stametsii’. He’s currently in the process of finishing a new book and promoting the scientific benefits of mushrooms worldwide. His contribution is so wide that it has left a footprint on our biological understanding of nature that cannot be removed. In a field so heavily stigmatised, it is important that we carry the scientific mantle and responsibly alter our state of consciousness in a way that we can maybe one day repair the planet with the aid of our mycelial friends.


1: Roland Griffiths (2023) Former professor of Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at John Hopkins University of Medicine (12/03/2024). Available at: (Accessed 11 March 2024).

2: Louis Schwartzberg (2019) Fantastic Fungi - How mushrooms can heal self consciousness and save the planet. Available at: (Accessed 13 March 2024).