PT361 – Jason Slot, Ph.D. – Mycology and Evolutionary Genomics

In this episode, Joe interviews Jason Slot, Ph.D.: Associate Professor of Mycology and Evolutionary Genomics at Ohio State University, and founding member and scientific advisor to the Entheome Foundation, which has the goal of publishing 200+ fungal genomes by 2023 – starting with all the psilocybin-producing species.  

Slot talks about evolutionary genomics and his process: how he looks for interesting gene clusters in the genomes of different fungi to hypothesize what these clusters could be responsible for, how different species interact, and how these genes and species have evolved over time. He discusses the state of mycology in 2022 and the booming interest in functional mushrooms; the regulations around psilocybin and how they all relate to the dispensing of mushrooms; the weirdest things he’s seen in the complicated process of mushroom reproduction; substrate supplementation (with different enzymes, tryptophans, or even DMT); and just how much there still is to discover in the world of mushrooms and other possible plant medicines. 

He also discusses illumina high throughput sequencing; tetrapolar mating systems; Paul Stamets’ P-Value scale and the hayflick limit; mushroom parasexuality; horizontal gene transfer; and a lot of other scientific aspects of the unique studies of a mycologist. If you’re interested in psilocybin-producing mushrooms and want to explore mycology more deeply, this episode serves as a great introduction.

Notable Quotes

“It’s a small field, but I think that it’s growing. I think we have a lot more interest coming in because the growth of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms is just ridiculous. It’s a huge industry in the making.”

“I do crazy evolutionary analyses with all the fungal genomes I can get my hands on, and then find something interesting in the evolutionary history, and then I find an organism that’s got that particular gene or gene cluster that I’m interested in. It gives rise to interesting hypotheses.”

“They’re organisms with their own existences. We tend to think of a mushroom as a tool for therapy, or we think of a mushroom as a product or something like that. But these are organisms with their own rights to exist and thrive as they would.”

Links

Ohio State University: Center for Psychedelic Drug Research & Education

Entheome: The Entheogen Genome Project

Psychedelics Today: Brian Pace and Jason Slot – Neurochemical Ecology, and the Evolution of Psilocybin Mushrooms

Ucdavis.edu: Illumina High Throughput Sequencing

Nanoporetech.com: Nanopore DNA sequencing

Scottsdaleinstitute.org

420dc.com: Penis Envy Mushrooms Review: The Shocking Truth Behind The World’s Most Psychedelic Shroom

Wikipedia.org: Parasexual cycle

Fungi.com (Paul Stamets)

Shroomery.org: Biotransformation of tryptamine derivatives in mycelial cultures of Psilocybe

Wikipedia.org: Horizontal gene transfer

Hostdefense.com: What Is the Stamets P Value® System?

Wikipedia.org: Hayflick limit

Convention on Biological Diversity: About the Nagoya Protocol

About Jason Slot, Ph.D.

Jason Slot, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Mycology and Evolutionary Genomics. Jason has a Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Boston University. In order to learn how to get from here to there, he drove a taxi in Boston in the late 1990s. Jason later received a Master’s degree in Science Education from Boston University, and a Ph.D. from Clark University. Jason’s dissertation work leveraged the emerging technology of fungal genome sequencing to investigate how mushrooms and other fungi adapt to new ecological niches. There, and in his postdoctoral research at Vanderbilt University, he contributed new findings and theories on the role of horizontal gene transfer in fungal evolution. It is through this lens that Jason now studies the evolutionary ecology of psychedelic fungi and the role of neuroactive defense chemicals in the evolution of intelligence. As a former high school science teacher, Jason is passionate about education at all levels. At the Ohio State University, where Jason is faculty in the Department of Plant Pathology, he has developed and taught multiple courses in fungal biology and genomics, and recently developed an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in Mycology. Jason has also served as chair of graduate studies and is currently the faculty advisor for the newly formed OSU Mycology Club. He is also an active member of the Mycological Society of America, where he has led student awards and conference programming committees. In recent years, Jason has been working to bring psychedelics to the educational offerings at Ohio State. He worked with Brian Pace to launch OSU’s first Psychedelics Studies course and was invited by Alan Davis to serve as the Director of Educational Initiatives in the College of Social Work’s Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education (CPDRE). In this role, he is currently leading efforts with faculty and collaborators to bring interdisciplinary psychedelics educational programs to the university. Beyond OSU, Jason is a founding member and scientific advisor to the Entheome Foundation, whose mission is conservation, Indigenous reciprocity, and open genomic data on psychedelic fungi, plants, and animals. In social media, Jason uses the handle @fungolution, mostly to post pictures of fungi and make observations about nature and humanity.

Socials: Instagram / Twitter 


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PT360 – Stephanie Wang – Kanna: Love and Wholeness Through Nature’s Alternative to MDMA

In this episode, Joe interviews Stephanie Wang: Founder and CEO of KA! Empathogenics, which has created the first-ever empathogenic supplement chew with the primary ingredient of kanna. 

Similar to our exploration of kratom with Oliver Grundmann, Ph.D., this episode dives deep into a plant rarely talked about in psychedelic circles: kanna (or Sceletium tortuosum), a succulent native to South Africa. As a natural serotonin reuptake inhibitor and serotonin releasing agent, kanna’s effects sound very similar to those of MDMA (heart-opening, feeling surrounded by love and wanting to connect, an increase in energy, hunger suppression), but with a lot more: sleep improvement, a decrease in gut inflammation, increased focus and awareness, and a feeling of brain recalibration and true homeostasis (and it’s legal!). KA!’s first product is their kanna chew: a healthy, pH-neutral snack with no sugar, preservatives, caffeine, or artificial sweeteners, made with the intention to “restore full spectrum aliveness for all human beings.” 

Wang breaks down the science behind why kanna works, its history with the Khoisan people of South Africa, her first kanna plant ceremony, contraindications and what pairs well with it, how you should take it and how long it can last, and why she chose KA! as the name for her company. She and Joe also talk about their shared past with Evolver, the complexity in the simple question: “How are you?”, the care needed when making comparisons, society’s move towards self-directed healing and more natural foods, and the question of whether or not every modern culture is truly ready for psychedelics and natural plant medicines.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Notable Quotes

“It was amazing to experience kanna in a ceremonial setting where it was incredibly expansive and heart-opening. That’s literally how it feels: You just feel this oneness and you feel enormous love. You feel everything around you is love, everyone is love. And what it also had an effect on is how we were relating to each other in that setting. So imagine that you’re in a place where nothing matters. Nobody cares what you look like, where you came from, what job you have, how much money you make, what social strata [you’re in]; nobody cares. All you care about is meeting each other in that heart-centered space, in a very human and intimate space.”

“One out of five Americans (at least) suffer from some kind of mental health issue. …[Something] you talk about a lot in your show is this wholeness: we are far more than just our minds. We are bodies, we are hearts, we are spirit as well. So really looking at that as a whole is tremendously important, and kanna is one of those amazing plants that starts to connect you to that understanding.”

“What we look for a lot, in terms of our own healing, is in nature already. And instead of trying to tease out, ‘Okay, here’s the active component and let’s just isolate this, patent this, etc. and then make a drug, and then…’ – that’s, to me, an old model, actually. And what happens is then… the wholeness is lost. …There’s a reason why this particular plant evolved this way and has all these properties.”

Links

Ohmyka.com (KA Empathogenics)

Evolverhealth.com

Thealchemistskitchen.com

Realitysandwich.com

Facebook: Evolver Boston (for a piece of Joe’s history)

Wikipedia.org: Khoisan people

Iamshaman.com: Lost Khoisan Tribe (and kanna usage)

5rhythms.com

Psychedelics Today: The Intertwined Prohibitionist Histories of Psychedelics and Kratom

Vice.com: This Legal Supplement Made Me Roll Like I’d Taken MDMA

NIDA: What are MDMA’s effects on the brain?

Biorxiv.org: Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body

Electricalclassroom.com: What is kA rating?

Trailblazerspresents.com

About Stephanie Wang

Stephanie Wang is passionate about the power of plants and conscious transformation. She is the Founder and CEO of KA! Empathogenics. KA! is the first-ever empathogenic supplement chew made with 100% botanicals that features kanna – clinically proven to activate an immediate sense of grounded energy and lifted mood, helping people feel more alive, connected, and capable as they navigate everyday anxiety and stress. Previously, Stephanie was the President of The Alchemist’s Kitchen and Director of Evolver, a conscious lifestyle company in New York. She was also a content producer for the X-Prize Foundation, ABC Television, The Discovery Channel, and produced feature films that premiered at The Tribeca Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival. A native of Hong Kong, Stephanie began her career in corporate finance at Salomon Brothers, New York, and was a number one ranked equity analyst in the retail sector with HSBC Securities, Hong Kong. She is the creator and host of How Things Connect podcast.

KA! Empathogenics socials: Instagram / Tiktok 


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PT359 – Sawyer Hurwitz – Art, Philosophy, Sexuality, and “Psychedelics Tonight”

In this episode, Joe interviews Sawyer Hurwitz: filmmaker, producer, editor, and augmented reality collage artist who releases animated art under the name, “Psychotronic Solutions.”

He is also the director and lead editor of something we’re quite proud of here at Psychedelics Today: our new TV show, “Psychedelics Tonight”; a series of 30-minute episodes hosted by Joe and Kyle exploring lesser-explored psychedelic compounds, presented through ALTRD.TV. Episode 1, “Investigating Iboga – The African Plant with Sacred Roots,” premiered last night, and a new episode will air each Monday through October at 6 p.m. PST. Since this podcast was recorded while the show was still being filmed, they don’t go into it much, but we will be having more in-depth discussion after season 1 finishes, and want to know what you think! To watch for free, click the link in our bio or head to ALTRD.TV and search for Psychedelics Tonight. 

Hurwitz discusses his past of feeling almost addicted to LSD exploration; his art and how LSD helped him overcome the classic artist’s restrictive “I’m not good enough” paradigm; Sarajoy Marsh’s Trauma-informed, Brain-sensitive Yoga being used in prisons to essentially create wellness communities; psychedelics and creativity; Nietzsche’s notion of Apollonian and Dionysian forces; entropy and negentropy; the relationship between psychological unwinding and sexuality and his realization (during a psychedelic experience) that he was queer; and how artists can differentiate themselves in a world where art is more readily available than ever.

Notable Quotes

“[LSD] helped me relinquish the idea that I am creating and that I am anything, and instead, just succumb to the process and engage with the medium in the way that one would a lover. And again, maybe that’s too heady or silly, but just being present with the art is what I think allows it to reach its fullest blossom, and just trusting the fact that I’m doing the best I can.” 

“I think that love on a spectrum and sexuality on a spectrum is so much more chaotic than the firm binary that we’ve put [faith] into for so long. And again, if psychedelics are something that open up your perspectives, it allows you to sort of break models that you’ve been born into and raised with. And for a lot of people, that’s discovering that their experience (wherever it falls on that spectrum) is maybe outside of what we’ve been calling the norm for a long time, as opposed to necessarily what is the norm. I suspect that the norm is that the experience of love and sexuality is so, so, so, so much more diverse than we’ve been characterizing it as for a very long time.” 

“I think that a lot of the drive for art comes from a need to communicate love and connection, and in a lot of ways, that connection is the experience of God. And I think that, in a sense, art comes from almost a divine place in that regard, and psychedelics are also a tool for us experiencing that. Again, I’m not a religious person by any means, but psychedelic experiences are often spiritual experiences, and I think it’s because they touch on the same thing: what it means to live in oneness with the world.” 

Links

Psychedelics Tonight

Psychotronicsolutions.com

Instagram: @psychotronicsolutions

Psychedelics Today: PT311 – William Leonard Pickard – LSD, Fentanyl, Prison, and the Greatest Gift of All: The Natural Mind

Sarahjoyyoga.com: Trauma-informed, brain-sensitive yoga training

Be Here Now, by Ram Dass

The Way of the Psychonaut Vol. 2: Encyclopedia for Inner Journeys, by Stanislav Grof, MD, PhD

YouTube: Let’s Talk: Psychedelics and Queer Identity (a Psychedelics Today webinar)

Epochemagazine.org: Eros and Thanatos: Freud’s two fundamental drives

The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Wikipedia.org: Negentropy

Alexgrey.com

Allysongrey.com

Androidjones-obtain.com

Amandasage.com

About Sawyer Hurwitz

Sawyer Hurwitz, better known as Psychotronic Solutions, is an augmented reality collage artist living out of Los Angeles, CA. His work has shown in galleries and festivals around the world. Psychotronic Solutions’ collages are intricate meditations on topics ranging from gender dynamics to environmentalism to artificial intelligence and more. To hear more and to see his work animated, visit psychotronicsolutions.com.

 

Socials: Instagram / Facebook 

 

Screenshot from the opening of the animation, “Weird Trip.” Check out the full piece and more at psychotronicsolutions.com.

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