Interview with “The Fungi”, A Plant Medicine Activist

I originally wrote this piece for the Decriminalize Nature Portland newsletter, back in 2020. Much of the information is still below; however, my experience has taken off since and so, edits, like what is being read right now, have occurred throughout.

The importance of this repost is the interview below. The interview holds so much information, in line with my microdose series, what I learned from the Microdose Movement course, and the guide to psychedelics that I recently published. 

I have connected with people along the way that teach me every day. One of those people is Joseph “The Fungi” Girardi, an agent of change, activist, and advisor. I am grateful to him because his passion is very motivating to me. His support of my exploration and voice have meant so much! 

Joseph is a founding partner of Green Growth Partners, a cannabis investment company headquartered in Florida. They help clients invest in Cannabis companies (primarily) traded on the public markets (stock). Due to continuous under-performance in the Cannabis sector, they are branching out to ESG investing (Environmental, Social, Governance) and focusing on businesses of the future.

I wanted to pick his brain and he graciously allowed it. When this interview happened, I was reading Psychedelic Medicine, The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca, by Dr. Richard Louis Miller. I was exploring:

Fungi, and learned: fungi is fungus, that are multicellular organisms, and grow just about everywhere- but mainly in soil or dead plant matter. They play a huge role in the cycling of carbon and other elements. I also learned that mushrooms are considered macroscopic filamentous fungi that form large fruiting bodies. Mushroom is the part of the fungus we see above ground which is also known as the fruiting body. Essentially, mushrooms are fruiting bodies, not plants, but are a part of the plant family. 

Mushrooms and Their Medicinal Benefits and learned: all mushrooms contain beta glucans, which have been found to help fight inflammation and aid the immune system. They are thought to protect against breast and other hormone-related cancers because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Mushrooms contain dietary antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, selenium, and counter the adverse health effects of free radicals.

Mushrooms and Mental Health and learned: mushrooms containing psilocybin are known as magic mushrooms. Psilocybin is considered a psychedelic and studies have shown that psilocybin is effective for treating depression and could be effective for anxiety and OCD. 

In the book that I am reading, various interviewee’s provide information from studies that support plant medicines, like psychedelics, being very effective in treating various mental health conditions.   

Interview with The Fungi

(Interview slightly edited for clarity)

What is it about mushrooms that created your passion for them?

“I have to say one of the main things that blossomed my deep passion for Mushrooms had to be my strong belief that these powerful, sacred and mystical lifeforms could help me get through my past of mental trauma, depression, and darkness, by simply accepting my hurtful past. Lo and behold, the mushrooms got me through my past of blinding darkness as I can see the light now and begin to radiate love towards the world.

Another vital thing that grew my passion for Mushrooms, is their unmatched intelligence (yes I said intelligence) because Fungi have been on this planet for millions of years, if not a billion.

You see, psilocybin mushrooms know you and I better than we know ourselves, they connect us with our true identity (soul), with each other, with nature, and with a higher power. They are working on me in that regard. Mushrooms know more than any scientist or inventor out there.

They truly know the inner workings of this universe and all of its secrets and mysteries.”

Are you comfortable providing a brief description of your first experience with mushrooms?

“Yes, I’m comfortable with that; however, someone’s first walk with (consumes) mushrooms is typically, not their most enlightening, meaningful, empowering, teaching, or transformative. Also, after each time someone walks with mushrooms, they develop a stronger rapport and closer relationship with the “Flesh of the Gods”, the name that indigenous people and Native Americans gave the mushrooms.

My first walk with Mushrooms happened in 2015 when I ate 1.5 grams of dried Mushrooms with a couple of friends (a recreational dose is typically anything between 1-3.5 dried grams). I felt relaxed and lite at first, then my eyes became sensitive to light (couldn’t look at bright lights), and my ears became sensitive to noise (especially to loud noises). Shortly after, my legs started to feel like Jello (known as “Jello Legs”) and I began to yawn nonstop. Later, one friend said something funny and we all laughed uncontrollably. It was all in all, an enjoyable and fun walk with the mushrooms.”

Can you provide names of studies/research that are tied to the medicinal benefits of fungi-psychedelics? 

“First, I’m working hard and trying to replace the term psychedelics with “Plant Medicines” because the word “psychedelics” is highly stigmatized and turns some people off the subject. So Veronica, let’s please use “Plant Medicines” when describing natural medicines from the earth, plus, it sounds cleaner and brings medicine into the conversation. Thank You!

In 2000, Johns Hopkins University was the first to obtain regulatory approval in the United States to reinitiate research with psychedelics in healthy volunteers.

In October 2018, the FDA granted a “breakthrough therapy” designation to Compass Pathways’ Psilocybin assisted treatment for treatment-resistant depression.

In November 2019, the Usona Institute’s Psilocybin treatment received a “breakthrough therapy” designation from the FDA to treat major depressive disorder (MDD).”

You advocate and take photos all over South Florida with your “Decriminalize Psilocybin” sign, why is that important for you to do?

“It’s not my sign, it’s the Mushrooms’ sign.

It’s super important for me to do because the mushrooms have helped me so very much beyond words, they took my fear away, they comforted me, they accepted me and loved me!

Honestly, I consider mushrooms my family; I have the same feelings and love for them as I do for my Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad and sister. Mushrooms are always there to console me, give me a shoulder (a pillow or bed) to cry on, they talk with me, guide me, teach and love me!

The real question is how can I not help the mushrooms and spread their profound message to society when they helped me so much? So, the mushrooms called upon me on New Year’s Eve and simply said “it’s time Joe”, a mere 17 days after my most POWERFUL walk and talk with them!

Plus, I didn’t see anyone else doing this on Linkedin or Instagram and was quite surprised. I remember thinking to myself, “how can someone not be doing this already?”

Any shifts in decriminalization movement down there?

“As far as I can see, not much. The others are out there like us, I have no doubt the mushrooms will help us find the others and connect with them. Slowly but surely, we will get there. We work on the mushrooms’ clock.”

Written by: Veronica Castillo