As long as humans have existed there has been a pursuit to not only survive, but thrive. As part of this pursuit we’ve looked for hacks, ways to optimize our state to be calm, be energetic, more alert, enhance focus, have endurance, better recovery and optimize rest.
To meet the demands of modern everyday life, more and more humans have relied on an “altered state” experimenting with various stimulants and depressants to meet our goals. For the longest time this was restricted to caffeine and alcohol, everything else being taboo.
Michael Pollan, one of the pioneers of understanding our relationship with plants, illustrated in his book This is Your Mind on Plants that from the moment we wake to the moment we fall asleep, we’re usually under the influence of some plant with properties designed to alter our consciousness:
Evidently, normal everyday consciousness is not enough for us humans; we seek to vary, intensify, and sometimes transcend it, and we have identified a whole collection of molecules in nature that allow us to do that.
– Pollan, Michael. This Is Your Mind on Plants
With the advent of the information age, the insurgence of products offering an “altered state” is expanding, and there is a whole new portfolio of compounds for consumers to try. We see this as the tip of the iceberg with a plethora of additional options to come as more and more medical research continues to support their benefits.
The following is an index from Adaptogens to Psychedelics of the modern take on this “altered state” outlining what they are, why their beneficial and interesting ways of how to consume.
What: An Ayurvedic herb / evergreen shrub that grows in Asia and Africa.
Why: Benefits include having a positive effect on the endocrine, nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems by regulating metabolism and helping you relax by calming how your brain responds to stress. Ashwagandha offers protection for your cells as an antioxidant and reduces swelling (an anti-inflammatory reaction)
Why: Offers immune system support that helps reduce inflammation to relieve pain. Combats stress and boosts your nervous system, which improves how your body responds to stimuli (fight or flight). Some studies suggest American ginseng can reset dopamine levels and regulate your mood. May also help regulate blood sugar levels
Why: Relieves both mental and physical fatigue. Improves your energy and performance during stressful activities. Increase physical endurance and reduce fatigue and to improve the ability to cope with stress.
What: An amino acid that is commonly found in tea leaves, particularly in green tea. Why: It is known for its calming and relaxing properties and is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety, stress, and sleep issues
Believed to increase alpha brain waves, which can lead to a state of deep relaxation without causing drowsiness
It is also thought to increase levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and cognitive function
often used as a natural alternative to traditional medications for anxiety and stress
What: A mushroom that grows on birch trees in cold climates.
Why: It is believed to have antioxidant properties
may help improve immune function, reduce inflammation, and support healthy aging How: Good Pharma
Mushrooms - Cordyceps
What: A type of fungus that grows on caterpillars in the Himalayan region.
Why: It has been shown to increase energy, reduce fatigue, and improve exercise performance. Cordyceps is also believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. How: Alice
Mushrooms - Lion's Mane
What: A mushroom that looks like a fluffy white lion's mane.
Why: It has been shown to support brain health and cognitive function, and may help reduce inflammation and improve immune function. How: Mindright
Mushroom - Psilocybin (Psychedelic)
What: Psilocybin or magic mushrooms are naturally occurring.
Why: Consumed for their hallucinogenic effects. Studies with veterans have shown improvements to addiction and mental health disorders including PTSD. How: Multiple studies happening including those with John Hopkins
Mushroom - Reishi:
What: A popular adaptogenic mushroom.
Why: Believed to have immune-boosting properties. May help reduce inflammation, support liver health, and promote relaxation and better sleep
What: Rhodiola grows in cold regions and at high altitudes in Europe and Asia.
Rhodiola has a long history of medicinal use in Russia, Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe.
Why: Traditionally, used to increase endurance, work performance, and tolerance of high altitudes and to treat fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms. Alleviates symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and depression. Studies show that rhodiola helps improve performance during stressful situations like at work or during physical activity
As the list above demonstrates, there are a lot of plants and ingredients making their way into products. As such, a lot of VC money is flooding into these areas, particularly psychedelics. In a parallel stream a lot of research is being done to test the upside of potential benefits vs. any potential risks.
Many proponents of this space are quick to draw the connection (Example) between cannabis and all manner of other consciousness-altering compounds. It’s certainly true that the cannabis industry provided a template for how to decriminalize and eventually legalize a substance, but all of these drugs and compounds are unique and interact with our bodies and minds in distinct ways from reducing physical pain to sharpening our memories to sparking creativity.
This type of thinking also applies to consumption moments. Some emerging brands in this space position themselves as alcohol replacements, but we don’t need to limit ourselves to the map that the most popular consciousness-altering drug in recent history has drawn for us.
The world of altered mental states is so vast and complex that it’s vital to look at each potential product independently. While both the cannabis and alcohol industry can provide some insight into how currently illegal substances end up on our shelves, each new product will have its own path and story to be told.
Interact is not promoting the use of any of the above, do your research, use your judgment and speak to your doctor if you are considering taking products with anything outlined above. We are just bringing awareness and insight into a growing trend we have noticed in our industry.